Friday, April 26, 2019

Harvesting the system from City of the Crepuscular Queen

I'm interested in systems that resolve combat in a less granular or faster way than, say, 5th edition DnD, but still give a sort of DnD feeling. I think gg no re's City of the Crepuscular Queen does this quite well - the system in it, I mean. It's very similar to Dungeon Squad or In the Light of a Ghost Star, though the way HP works is very different, and combat resolution can be a lot faster. Admittedly one can speed up combat the way those systems do - just give everyone few HP and let damage be fairly normal, and combat will be fast! But I am nothing if not a magpie for systems. Here is what I have harvested from the mind of the fellow who made the system, Daniel from Detect Magic.

General resolution - you roll a d4, d6, d8, d10, or a d12, and you want to roll 4 or more to succeed. You never modify the roll. If you would normally roll a d8 and have an advantage, you roll a d10 or d12.
You roll a d8 if what you're doing is related to your class/profession. You roll a d6 if, say, you're a rogue in a stand-up fight, or the wizard trying to sneak around. You roll a d4 if you have really bad odds - maybe the wizard sneaking through a brightly-lit prison. You roll a d10 or higher if you have special equipment, lots of time / little stress, if you're a fighter and other fighters are helping you, etc. Wizards roll to cast their spells, rogues roll to sneak (if sneaking is actually dangerous in the situation).
You have 9 'hit points,' which I call save points, because they're not like HP. If you fail a roll, generally you lose 1 save point and you start rolling the die you just rolled, and you keep losing save points until you roll a 4 or higher. So, a fighter fighting, you rolled a d8 and got a 2. You lose 1 hp, and re-roll the d8. You keep losing 1 hp at a time until you roll a 4 or more. This means dangerous things can take you out - if you're fighting, you got hurt or killed, if you cast a spell, it ate up your health and you had a magical mishap, if you were sneaking, you got ambushed and attacked.
However, if you succeed, you will take out lesser foes or do serious damage to greater foes. You don't roll once per attack, the system is closer to rolling once per major part of the combat - taking out a lesser foe if they're in a group, lopping off some part of the big monster, casting a spell to demoralize a bunch of enemies and have them flee, killing the low-level solo critter and winning. There's no 'lose 4 HP out of 35, next round' moment.
Armor would give you some extra save points in a fight, good weapons can help you fight better, and so on. Encumbrance is a list of up to 20 things you bear, and if you get into a chase, you need to roll a d20 over the number of things you have to get away. I would give strong-ass fighters (ie any fighter in this system) a +3 to that roll. 

It's definitely possible to roll and not lose save points - say, if you lie to someone, you don't immediately lose save points. But the situation should change for the dramatically worse.

Also the CCQ episodes have ideas of Moments, where you narrate a slice-of-life bit of what's going on during a rest, or you reveal things about your character's past, or relieve a burden. A burden is something that drives your character. Relieving one has no mechanical benefit but it's something that they're trying to do. The idea with these is there's no mechanical reward or 'evaluate other people's role playing', thank God, but it's just something baked into the system that one does, in order to flesh out one's character more. 

I made a very simple character sheet for this system and am going to give it a go with some folks soon.

May wind up doing more of the Dungeon Squad warrior/rogue/wizard stats and use these rules for advantage / disadvantage, focus on how CCQ's system runs combat - which I think Daniel expounded on more in Simple Fights

Monday, April 22, 2019

Researcher Topics-of-Study for The Stygian Library

I'm going to run some friends through Emmy Allen's awesome Stygian Library. They'll all be fighters or wizards or explorers/rogues but will also have a topic of study. The setting is an anachronistic mish-mash of things, ruled over by an Overlord, who has made life so staid and regular that the only way to get ahead is to explore the places where reality has broken down and some Other world has intruded. Anyway, here's the list of topics.

  1. Astrophysics
  2. Golden Barge construction theory
  3. Literature
  4. Theology, Confirmed
  5. Approved History
  6. Biology
  7. Necromatic Symbolism
  8. Magic Theory
  9. Metallurgy
  10. Architecture
  11. Poetry
  12. Crank conspiracy theories
  13. Secret anti-Overlord activism
  14. Ley Line tracer
  15. Mutation Theorist
  16. Mechanical Engineering Philosopher
  17. Psi Theorist
  18. Dreams
  19. Divination
  20. Post Structuralist Analysis of Television Shows
  21. Dragonography
  22. Mechanical Dopplegangers
  23. Mirror Universes
  24. String Theory
  25. Dance
  26. Music
  27. Cinema
  28. Chemistry
  29. Library Sciences
  30. Ghost Analytics
System will probably be a lot like In the Light of a Ghost Star and cribbed notes from gg no re's City of the Crepuscular Queen. That system is neat, in that you have a DC of 4 for every roll and you go up and down the dice chain based on your profession and how hard things are. A fighter rolls a d8 to fight, a wizard rolls a d8 to cast. A rogue rolls a d8 to sneak and a d6 to have a stand-up fight; a wizard probably rolls a d4 to melee people. Chases are rolling a d20 over the number of items you're carrying. Telling really bad lies to someone may be a d4 to succeed (at best), whereas doing something for your profession that you have a lot of time to set up might give you a d10 or a d12 to roll.

Most everyone will roll a d8 for their research topic as well, though the idea is that a fighter with Magic Studies as their research isn't a better wizard than the wizard. It would probably be that they could roll a d8 to know things about magic, do research on it, but they don't have much of the knack themselves. Likewise a martial arts-studying wizard is not going to have fun in melee, but they might be able to roll a d8 to detect and call out weaknesses to the fighter and give them an advantage.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Reality is Breaking Down Actual Play

I ran the Shift RPG for my niece and nephew a bit ago and had good fun. I made some modifications to it, as they had never seen some of the touchstone media for that game - no Inception, no The Matrix. They played smugglers just trying to retrieve and move a MacGuffin from one sector of The City to another.
The City, Subway Map
It was good fun, the game is set up such that the players describe a plan and try to roll under the 2 most relevant stats. When reality changes, the characters change - stats change for sure, and the players got to decide if they'd create new alter egos or not. We went from a dirty cop detective and faux student to a martial artist and a Flat Earther conspiracy theorist. The Flat Earther rolled well on a reality shift and, using the excellent Fractured Reality table from Cavegirl's Gaming Blog, made the world actually flat, and became a Round-Earth Conspiracy Theorist. The niece immediately tried (and succeeded) in shifting reality to make this Not The Case, because Flat Earth is a bad conspiracy theory.

I learned about Raw Water - an actual thing, people believing that it's 'better' to have unpurified water - because of course my nephew is awesome and knows about crazy beliefs.

The game system wants each player to think of regrets / mistakes and have those manifest in the world at times, cause problems, give the PC more insight into the shifting nature of reality. I gave the players a d12 (?) list of potential problems they could summon forth, but for the most of it they relied on me having weird stuff in the world, and I was happy to slowly ramp things up from a triffid apocalypse setting, through eco-collapsing archival worlds, to a Squid People Police State where mind-controlled prison labor kept things going. 

They did summon up a swarm of locusts to eat triffid-apocalypse pod people though. That was great. And the dirty cop detective got the feeling that everyone, herself included, was a pod person. And there were pod people after they reality shifted away from that stuff, because pod people are fantastic.

d12 antagonistic incursions caused by Your Issues
  1. Bull
  2. Train
  3. Bear
  4. Locusts
  5. Rival dreamer
  6. Former friend
  7. Huge market crash
  8. Tidal wave
  9. Weird eclipse
  10. Secret police agent
  11. Kaiju
  12. Vampire
They got captured by squid-people police looking for the MacGuffin. They awoke in a small security zepplin, broke free of their bonds, and used a machine gun to force the pilot and copilot to ditch. Then when encountering security balloons, they tried to fake their own deaths/crash but smashed into the security balloon, whose Squid Person overseer jumped into their zeppelin and fought them. Good stuff. 

The game system encourages players to 'solve' what's going on, but my players where happy to be professional smugglers, get the goods delivered. They did have great theories - the conspiracy theorist thought everything was happening on a big sound stage, all as fake as the moon landing. The detective / martial artist figured the world was like a smartphone that had been dropped in water and was glitching out, an amazing and dark analogy. 

Overall, a very fun one-shot with very little prep on my end. Edit: Probably the only thing I'd change was using that pointcrawl map as a subway map - if I want players to get out and explore or have encounters in each district, I shouldn't give them a big easy 'stay on the train' option, or should have thought of reasons to get off the train, or train encounters. But given this was a one-shot we barely had enough time for, I think what I did was for the best.