Sunday, July 27, 2008

My modified Changeling combat system

Last week, I mentioned briefly that I had devised a system for combat that suited my idea of how combat should work. I suppose this week, it would be a good idea to share that with you. So I will.

Ok, so this is intended for use in Changeling. I'm sure it would work equally well in the other Storyteller System games, especially the 2nd edition original World of Darkness lines. But I have no doubt that it could also be adapted for other systems as well. As noted earlier, this is an amalgamation of the Storyteller System, GURPS, Exalted, and Blue Planet's Synergy System.

First step is to determine initiative. I sill like the old "Roll Wits + Alertness (difficulty 4)" idea, although you can just as easily use the Revised edition's "Add Dexterity + Wits + the result of 1d10" version. In the former situation, you'd subtract your result from 10, and in the latter, you'd subtract from 20. This gives you the number of the starting "tick." The GM will count from zero, and when he reaches your tick, your character takes his action. After you've completed your action, you add the "action speed" of the action you just took (like maybe a two for shooting a gum, or a 5 for swinging a battle-axe, or a 10 for climbing a tree, or so on... I haven't ever actually seen a list of the suggested action speeds from Exalted, so I'm just guessing here) to the tick you just acted on. This can be modified by your Wits, or Dexterity, or both, to indicate that some characters can move and react faster than others. Like maybe if you have a Wits + Dexterity of seven, you can subtract one from all Action speeds. Or something like that.

By the way, I saw a suggestion that rather than counting and keeping track of numbers, you simply have a wheel drawn on a piece of paper, with a token for each character (PCs and NPCs both) on the wheel... the fastest character goes on a random spot with the other characters an appropriate number of spaces further along the wheel in a clockwise manner, and a "point marker" indicating where the current tick is. When each character completes his action, you move his token an appropriate number of spaces further along the wheel. This way, you don't have to worry about numbers, and can easily skip over ticks where no one acts. I thought it was a good idea.

Anyway, so once it gets to your turn, you have to act. With most actions (non-combat actions, such as driving a car or operating a computer), you simply roll and either succeed or fail. With combat actions (shooting a gun, swinging a sword, punching, et c.), you'll have to work out attack, dodge, and damage. Here's what I have in mind:

First, each character gets one basic action and one "defensive" action. If the basic action is a combat action (an attack of some sort) then he can use the defensive action for one of these actions:

  • A second attack
  • An active defence (dodging, parrying, blocking with a shield, et c.) against a single attack between this action and his next tick
  • Moving at half the normal movement rate
  • A +2 dice bonus to the attack
  • +4 damage if the attack is successful

Alternately, the character can use the basic action to defend (dodging, parrying, blocking, et c.) and use the defensive action to dodge, parry, or block a second incoming attack. He can also sacrifice the defensive action for a +2 bonus to the defence.

Ok, so here's how attacking works: The attacking character rolls his attack roll. The defending character rolls his defence, if he has an action available for it and chooses to use it. The defending player's successes are subtracted from the attacker's. If the attacker has successes remaining, then the attack is successful. Add the remaining successes from the attack roll to half the damage rating of the weapon being used (round up), subtract the defending player's Stamina + Armour if he has any, and that's the target number for the "damage roll." The defending player rolls 3d10, counting the above number as the difficulty.

If you get three successes, nothing happens. If there are two successes, the player suffers a point of wounding. Mark this on the character sheet's Health Level as normal (In this system, you only use this to keep track of your wound modifiers - it has nothing to do with death, crippling, et c.). On one success, you suffer a point of wounding, and the area hit by the attack is disabled (decide this however you see fit). If you get no successes, then you suffer a point of wounding AND you are knocked unconcious. If you do not receive medical attention immediately, you take one point of wounding every five ticks.

If you reach Incapacitated on the Health Level chart, you must roll Stamina (difficulty 7 + one fifth the the number of ticks since you reached Incapacitated) to stay conscious. This is assuming you're not already unconcious. Once unconscious, you will die in 25 - (your Stamina x5) ticks unless you receive medical attention.

There. That's my system. What do you think?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The nature of the hobby?

You may have already read this, but there was an interesting article a few weeks ago describing the way that gamers can be a bunch of pretentious blowhards. The author accomplished this by examining this analogy: RPGs, like cookbooks, are a series of seemingly rigid rules that, in practise, "require a certain amount of adaptation for your own tastes." So if people treated cookbooks like they treat gaming books, it would sound pretty horrible, wouldn't it? You can read it to see for yourself.

If you don't remember, I posted some time ago about the different gamer types. The vast majority of gamers are either butt-kickers or power gamers. By far the minority are the storytellers and method actors. (Granted, for the purposes of this argument, I am ignoring the casual gamer.) Given that the butt-kickers and power-gamers prefer hard core rules systems, which empower their particular emotional desire to game in the first place, while storytellers and method actors dislike hard core rules on account of their desire to play less combat-centred storylines, it is not surprising that this should be the case. For the butt-kickers and power gamers, the rules are everything, because it's the exacting script by which they create havoc and chaos.

But you can see the point, can't you? Sometimes they tend to focus on the rules to the exclusion of their own ability to enjoy the game. They tend to forget that the rules, especially in RPGs, are meant to be modified to suit the needs of your particular group. But with the need for rules that most gamers feel, especially the fanatical devotion to the canon as laid out by the authors of the game in question, adaptation and modification are not seen as options.

Which is a shame, really. I myself still play 2nd edition Changeling. Most of the fans of Changeling set about to alter the rules they play with to accomodate the 3rd edition changes being made in Changeling's sister games, Vampire, Werewolf, and Mage at that time. If that's what they want, fine. But most of the changes were changes that I didn't like (most notably the damage systems, which I've ranted about in other places, so I'll spare you for the moment). So I left it as it was.

I have strongly considered finding a way to fuse the Blue Planet damage system onto the Changeling system, and I also like the Exalted system of initiative. I have devised a streamlined system of combat adapted from the Storyteller System, GURPS, and my own ideas of what combat should be like. I haven't had a chance to try these, since I've not had a group for which to run a Changeling game since I devised the idea. But I have certainly altered the rules to fit the needs of my game.

That may make me an outcast among other hardcore gamers. But oh well.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Damage Systems

Something that never occurred to me until I played Blue Planet: Humans don't have a sliding scale of damage. If you shoot a person in the hand, then the other hand, then the foot, then the other foot, you're not really bringing that person any closer to death. Perhaps the person is more likely to die from shock, but generally, if that's likely, then they would probably die from shock after being shot once in the hand. There are documented cases of that happening.

On the other hand, a single shot to the torso is quite likely to kill a person, especially if it hits lungs or the heart. A head shot is most likely of all to kill a person. But the weapon isn't doing more damage, it's just hitting in different places.

Sure, you could say that rolling more damage indicates that the bullet strikes a more vulnerable spot. For example, in D&D with its flat scale of a certain number of hit points, a sword strike that does one point of damage might be described as hitting the person in the finger, while a hit that did ten points could be said to have struck the ribcage. And maybe that works, but I still find I'm not overly fond of that idea.

GURPS has a bit more depth. They still have a set scale of so many hit points, but the advanced rules system (which is optional, for those who want this level of complexity in their rules) includes hit location. A normal attack is rolled on the hit location chart, and certain areas have limitations. For example, a hand can only take damage equal to one third of your character's total hit points before it is disabled, and can take no more damage. Further points of damage to that area, from the original attack or any subsequent attacks, are ignored. Contrariwise, damage done to the vital areas is doubled, and the victim must roll to remain conscious. And so forth. An attacking character can choose to target a specific area (like the head), with a penalty to their attack roll dependant on the area being attacked (-2 to the roll, for example, to attack the torso, but -5 to attack the hand or -8 to target the vital organs; I may be misremembering the exact penalties, but you get the idea).

That system works better, in my opinion, although it's a lot to think about, a lot to keep track of, and a lot of die rolling for each combat action. Granted, combat is the core system out of which role-playing games grew, but that's a rant for another time. Here, I wish to describe a system that I found that I think works very well: the system in Blue Planet.

The basic idea here is that each weapon is given a "lethality rating." Each time you are attacked, you roll 3d10 with a target number equal to the weapon's lethality rating, minus your constitution bonus and any armour that you may have. If one die comes up as a "success" (that is, has a result lower than the target number), you suffer a light wound, which is a -1 penalty to all rolls until that wound is healed. If two dice come up as a success, then the wounded area is disabled. If three dice come up as a success, then you are going to die unless you receive immediate medical attention (and sometimes, even that won't help).

This elegant system emulates real life damage much better than the Hit Point system, I think. It's possible (although unlikely) to die from a single knife wound to the foot, and it's also possible (although again unlikely) to suffer multiple major gunshots to the torso and still stand to keep fighting. Both of these scenarios have been seen in real life.

No more worrying about "I'm on my last hit point! If I take any more damage, I will die!" I personally like this system. I would worry about the wound penalties piling up after a while (i.e., what happens when you've taken fifteen light wounds, and are rolling at -15 on a d10? I mean, sure, if you're taking that many wounds, you're likely to have suffered a critical wound already, but it is possible, you know!).

Anyway, that's my thought on damage systems.