Wednesday, 29 April 2015

World of Sci-ness: initial ideas for a World of Darkness sci-fi hack

So, White Wolf games. It seems like they can mostly be summed up quite generically:

  1. You are a(n) [entity]...
  2. ...embodying a particular archetype of [entity]...
  3. amongst humans in a gothic, urban version of our world...
  4. part of a secret subculture of [entities]...
    1. ...divided into bickering factions...
    2. ...with its own unique laws and secrets...
    1. ...explores the nature of humanity and [entity]hood...
    2. ...tussles with moral and philosophical quandaries...
    3. ...and goes around doing missions for people because they kind of want you to I guess.

You know what they don't have yet? Aliens. Let's make aliens.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Unlikely inspirations, episode 1

In this sporadic series, I'll present some plot ideas drawn from unusual sources. I'll aim for something that's a usable kernel rather than a mere scrap, but equally it's not going to be a fully-fleshed out plot - I generally won't be doing that unless I'm using it for a game of my own, in which case, you'll get to see it afterwards.

The general idea is that I'll throw out the gist of a scenario (in a fairly general sense of 'scenario'), and challenge readers to identify the source of the idea before I reveal it. If I'm feeling particularly strong, I might even offer interpretations for more than one game.

With that out of the way, let's proceed to our starter for ten...

Monday, 13 April 2015

Some thoughts on podcasts

So, since I tend to listen to a lot of Actual Play podcasts, I'm going to scrawl down some thoughts about doing this. Well... rants.

Since I occasionally post podcasts, let me begin by emphasising that I don't in any sense hold up my podcasts as an example of Doing It Right. In a perfect world, there are many things I'd do differently, and maybe I'll go into that later.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Power and Utility for Wizards and Warriors: ideas

So, last time I wrote a massive screed critiquing the class balance in D&D. See under "fruit, hanging, low". I am nothing if not up to date - which has worrying implications.

I should make some suggestions, then. I'm not saying I'd include these if I ran a game of D&D, they're just some general preliminary thoughts.

Some thoughts on rebalancing

So, if I were going to try and rebalance this, what would I do?

One obvious possibility is to open up new options for non-casters. Magic already lets mages more or less do everything. Well, the literature easily supports an argument that mages concentrate so much on magic they really don't have time for anything else, while warriors get other stuff. While they don't have much in the way of unique abilities, warriors are good at contributing to combat. What else can we do?

The idea here is to divide the game into a series of spheres, and then actively consider what each character type can do with each sphere. None of this business of assuming the fighter just fights things. Here, you'd aim to let a warrior choose some unique skillset that allows them to contribute to exploration, to social interaction, to combat.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Power and Utility for Wizards and Warriors: critique

I've been reading a LOT about this stuff on 5e forums, especially here, and so have some opinions to spout.

Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards is a very well-established trope of D&D, and it's still a bone of contention even in 5th Edition. Oddly enough, 4th edition was probably the best at keeping parity between classes, because of its power structure. Even then, wizards came out on top in terms of utility and flavour. Being able to inflict ten different types of damage, and target four different types of defensive stat, is simply better than being able to inflict one or two types of damage and target one or two defences; the wizard can avoid strengths and take advantages of weakness. Frankly, the wizard was also more interesting in fluff, because hurling an array of different spells tends to sound more interesting than a dozen ways of saying "I stab it".

So, what do I think the problems are?

For the purposes of this discussion, "mage" just means spellcaster while "warrior" simply means any non-spellcaster. Things like clerics have interesting middle grounds, but they're powerful spellcasters and that's a primary feature.

The first part of the problem is that "mages" get a whole new subsystem of the game to play with, accessible only to them. Meanwhile, "warriors" do not have any subset of the game which mages cannot interact with.

A second part of the problem is scope. There is no broad type of effect, and very few specific effects, which warriors can produce and mages cannot. Meanwhile, there are many effects mages can produce that warriors cannot.

The best example I've seen of this is someone pointing out that a high-level mage can produce an exact magical duplicate of the party fighter, allowing them to contribute literally everything that the fighter can on top of a vast array of other magical powers.

This is slightly truer in current editions. In some editions, rogues could find and disarm traps, which nobody else could touch. In practice, many traps would still be amenable to common-sense solutions, even if no rogue was present. It was also possible in most cases to simply soak up damage from all but the most lethal traps.