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From the prow of your ship you see the island come into view. At first it is nothing but a glint on the horizon, then a shining sphere.. a ...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A note about AAIE at Gen-Con 2017

Gen Con is almost upon which was my personal goal for  AAIE to  be wrapt. I don't think the  editing of AAIE is  quite done more to the point I know I personally have not done the amount of art I would have liked to. Unless something amazing happens I'll change the timetable in my mind. Not being done quite yet isn't a big deal, at the end of the  day  AAIE is a homemade project with  no discernible anticipation beyond the people directly working with it.  No harm no foul as they say.
Related: 
A note about Gen-Con 17
If you are at Gen-Con on Wednesday Night look for Neal running a table of AAIE for five players somewhere in that vast sprawling con. I think he will have contact information for the Dustpan games website and whatnot with him. Unfortunately I won't be there because of work, money, anxiety, all those things that conspire to keep me away from a huge con like Gen-con.
If by chance you do see Neal at the con tell him I said, "Thank you for running the game." Then tell him you ... "know Johann Tyree."



So I'm truncating this post here, I plan to continue it at another point.
Fact is it's Tuesday Night... and If this doesn't get scheduled to be posted Wednesday morning everything I wrote at the top will be moot..

Thanks for reading  .
Mark.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Anatomy of Weapons (AAIE)

No AAIE New updates, Editing continues The goal is still to be done by Gen-Con.
Some of the new players from the games that happen on saturdays  have been leveling up their characters. So far the level up system  has not received any complaints. I think advancement one of the  stronger or at least more concise sections of the  game so I'm glad it's going smoothly.


Weapons in AAIE are separated into four basic categories.

  1. Peasant weapons are the weapons a character gets stuck with if that character charter was unlucky enough not to gain a legit weapon skill during initial character generation. Peasant weapons are admittedly pretty silly. A chunk of wood, a dead chicken, a frying pan, are all possibilities. They are distinctive in that most peasant weapons have a secondary mundane use. A pitch fork can be jabbed into a foe or used to pitch hay; a rolling pin is still a rolling pin even if a character chooses to  hit  slug goblins with it. Also distinctive is that peasant weapons have the advantage of ease. In Other words a character with no weapon skills can still roll a peasant weapon the use it proficiently. It's the difference between  picking up a skillet then clubbing a guy with it, versus picking up a sword while knowing how to use it. Eight of the 20  default peasant weapons have positive perks. One the "log" has a negative trait "only able to attack every other turn" while also having the stun Perk.
  2. Light weapons: Light weapons are the smallest of what might be considered martial weapons. This is the  first class of weapons in which a character needs to have a skill in order to use the  weapon effectively. The small weapons as a class have some advantages. Some of them are easy to conceal, such as daggers or even hand axes. Some of them have perks such as "second attack" that can extend the weapons damage potential if the player rolls well enough.The attribute Athleticism is used to determine a character's attack bonuses with  more of the light weapons than any other class of weapon. In fact twelve of the  twenty  light weapons have athleticism as their attached attribute. A rapier for example is a light weapon with it's attack modifiers based of athleticism. With  a few lucky the rolls to trigger the  "second attack" perk rapier can be every bit as effective as a heavier long sword. 
  3. Medium Weapons: Medium weapons are where most of the  "sensible" choices reside. A sturdy long sword a nice battle ax that sort of thing.  character needs to have a skill to wield these sorts of things effectively (without suffering disadvantage) Medium weapons tend to  have the  best balance between  damage along with perks. In other words more medium weapons have perks like "do an extra 1dX damage," or "gain a second attack."  These perks expand the damage dealing  range of the weapon while allowing the base damage to be nicely average. Workhorse weapons is a good way to describe the medium weapon  class.
  4. Heavy Weapons: These are the  big boys of melee weapons. Great swords, Great axe, morning star, those kind of  death dealing devices. A character needs to have a skill to use a heavy weapon effectively. Those careers which grant heavy weapon skills during character generation are few. Heavy weapons  do more damage, that's the first big benefit they  grant a character. The second benefit is heavy weapon are where the  major combat perks start to crop up. Perks like knock down, crush (weakens armor), push back, even stun crop up on the  heavy weapon chart. The drawback is the  majority of the heavy weapons are linked to a character's brawn  attribute. If a character rolled up lucky enough to have a heavy weapon but unlucky enough to have a low brawn, chances are the character will miss quite a bit with that big slab of steel. A whopping seventeen of the twenty  heavy weapons have perks attached , while a few have limitations like "too large for confined spaces.
  5. The final basic  type of weapons are ranged weapons. The  obvious advantage of ranged weapons is ... range.  Not to  run too far afield let me take a quick aside to  look at range in AAIE. Range is broken into abstract categories. From nearest to farthest they  go like this: Melee, close, medium, lastly Long. It takes one action to move from long range coming to medium or from medium to close range. Close range  can be come melee range if an attack is declared. Melee range denotes two entities actually locked in a fight, not just being near to each other. Being able to stand at long range plunking enemies twice before they get into close range is a nice ability to have. Again the  character creation system is a barrier here. There're not that many career paths that give the ranged weapon skills out for free.  Just like other martial weapons in order to use ranged weapons effectively  the character needs to have had some training.
    These weapons are mostly focused on athleticism, though heavy crossbows give a nod toward our more brawny friends.
There are two other "sub" classes of weapons which are found only in the  town section of the  game. 

  1. Extra heavy weapons: Which are a silly bunch of  extremely large weapons for extremely large combatants. The extra heavy weapons section is  typical AAIE silliness wherein I take the normal weapon concept then push it out a bit further into the stupid zone. These come with the limitations such as minimum brawn scores needed to wield or "always attacks last" The primary upside is they do big damage. The secondary bonus is now a character can swing an anvil on a stick if they're so inclined. 
  2. There are orcish weapons. Orcish weapon's details are generated randomly. Basically The  orc crafter takes a few pointy things, ropes them together to form something  extra pointy. The interest here is that orcish weapons might be statistically better than other things of their same  size class or price. Alternately they might be much worse when min maxed based on price vs effectiveness. Again this is all a bit silly, but if the  players want to throw spiked Gnome skulls at their enemies, the orc crafts person is the quickest way to possibly make that happen.
That pretty much sums up how weapons are classified. 

Weapons are the characters gateway to extra perks. If you were one of the two people who read the "anatomy of a perk" post I wrote a few weeks back you may remember that perks are "extras" that are triggered by good die rolls. As a system perks are very combat focused, weapon perks are understandably  almost exclusively combat focused.
A character using a skill to make an attack while wielding a weapon which  has two perks attached will have five perks to choose from on  a highly effective roll. Assuming that none of the  five perks are duplicates, having a weapon with it's own perks greatly expands the player's combat options. 

Another facet of the weapon perk concept is it will provide a mechanical bonus not predicated on improving the percentage chance of success. A perk isn't a plus one. Adding a new perk to a magical weapon is a perfectly viable option. I feel it's more interesting than the flat  plus one sword model. First of all the player has to roll well enough to trigger a perk  which means the bonus is not automatic with every swing. This might be counter intuitive. If a magic item is magic all the time why the hell would we predicate it's use on a good roll? I get that point. I even agree to a point. My only answer for that point is "This isn't that game."  This is a game based on the idea of things not going right all the time. While it is mechanically one hundred percent possible to provide a magic sword to a character that does extra damage with every successful hit, I would have to ask why some other more experienced  adventurer doesn't have that awesome sword already? Weapon perks allow for cool effects that don't always happen which fits the tone of the game. Besides there are rules for creating random magical items in the game as well, which we will cover in another "anatomy" post. 

On Skill Rarity:
As I stated above characters get skills via the character generation process which doesn't guarantee a decent weapon skill. This is in line with the core concept of the game. Most of the characters are not qualified to be adventurers. Running around with a frying pan trying to conk  various baddies over the head is the aesthetic I was going for. While this might seem frustrating at first making good use of the town to hire skill trainers can make getting a better weapon skill attainable (Expensive but attainable.)


That is a basic primmer on  AAIE weapons from light to heavy. Plus a nod to the stranger varieties found in the  "The Town." 
The  general take away  is character weapons are most limited at the beginning before the town is built out. At the early stages of the game the players have to rely on raw luck concerning what weapons their characters can use effectively. Once the  town has resources like trainers the weapon skill options open up for all future charters. Combine that with other town add-ons like  weapon-smiths the available options expand even more.


Thank you for reading, have a great weekend.
-Mark

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do you even campaign bro?

cam·paign
kamˈpān

noun
1.
a series of military operations intended to achieve a particular objective*, confined to a particular area*, or involving a specified type of fighting.
"a desert campaign"
synonyms: military operation(s), maneuver(s); More

verb
1.
work in an organized and active way toward a particular goal, typically a political or social one.
"people who campaigned against child labor"
synonyms: crusade, fight, battle, push, press, strive, struggle, lobby
"they are campaigning for political reform"



When using the term "Campaign" to describe a roleplaying game the phrase"Particular Objective, confined to a particular area" part puts me off. Moreover I think it's just a convenient term held over from the hobbies wargaming roots.

What I normally run is not by definition a campaign. There is rarely a particular objective. I generally put situations in front of the players then conduct my GM'ing duties largely based off what they choose to do. The character objectives rarely single out any specified goal. The goals tend to be loosely tied together, by picking one the players will likely have an effect on the others.

The "particular area" part of a campaign is a bit dicier to dismiss out of hand. On a large scale as Gm's we are limited by those areas which we have prepared enough of in advance to be effectively used in game. Unless your Gm is Alexis from the Tao of D&D who has set out to map the entire globe, the GM's advanced prep is going to limit what areas characters can effectively explore. I wouldn't try to stop players from going anywhere they wanted, but I know pre-prepped areas play out better than non prepped areas. With tis in mind I tend to prep as much area as possible even if it's only in broad strokes. I can mine into an area's details as they arise but I need to know at least broadly what an area holds before the players arrive.(To burn down the library, that's what they do when they arrive... bastards.)  At a smaller scale, I usually don't care if the  players take an adventure hook or not, so I can't say I  ever have a specific location in mind when I start a new game.

The term campaign makes sense when the Gm has laid out a specific goal, with a specific location where that goal can be met. Back to those military roots. In 1798 Napoleon wanted to divide the british empire when he campaigned into Egypt. He also wanted to establish trade, making himself look bad ass (taller) would have made him happy as well. Point being  we have a specific goal, we have a location, we have a campaign.
Writing about a real historic "campaign" isn't that different from a language point of view as "Save the prince that's being held captive in the castle." It doesn't matter if it takes one game or if there are a hundred twists along the way which make the goal of saving that prince take twenty sessions, the  specificity  makes it a campaign. With any luck Admiral Nelson sink the parties boat while they're off saving the prince.
Absolutely the last time
I will use "bro"
on this blog.
EVER

So I guess the  answer to the title of this blog is  "Nah Bro" I don't exactly campaign.

So what is it I want to run?
Starting to run something new is the endgame in all this thinking.

I think the closest term is a "sandbox" game. It's a term I like. I like the idea of a sandbox better than I like the idea of a "hex crawl." I know the terms represent different techniques but something about the  word "crawl"  has never inspired me. I don't want the heroes crawling belly down through the muck for a whole multi session game. To me sandbox denotes something to be dug into, where toys are found, castles are built. I know it's a stupid distinction but it's how my brain works.

I very much want to run a game where exploration is the main driver.  Perhaps finding certain things, perhaps exploration for it's own sake.
Not knowing what lies around the next bend really fires my cylinders more than any other trope in fiction. I wrote a bit about this concept back in July of 2016. That post was more or less an open question to you the readers. Some good points were made, about not allowing  travel to be too easy. particularly,

 "If you zoom that out traveling by vehicle craft, you lose that chance to stumble across the details of a location. They are going to be hitting big landmark after big landmark. That's when exploration can get a little bland." (Geek Ken)

That point resonated with me. The D&D group from my long standing game has a flying ship sure. Their purpose in life in not exploration. They have been out to reform ley lines along with a few other goals (not getting eaten by a blue dragon being the  main goal last time we left off.) They have a course plotted, they have for a while.
Thinking ahead to running something new, considering I want exploration to be a big part of the game I'll have to avoid making travel too easy. For the same reasons I'll also have to prep much more than I have in the recent past. AAIE is a low prep game. My D&D game has been built out over  many years to the point where I don't have to prep all that much for it anymore. A new thing will be a completely different animal from either of those.

I will also have to think about Genre. As I'm a bit burnt out on fantasy right now. I'm not any good at horror more to the point I don't think horror supports my exploration theme. Steam or diesel punk are possibilities, though not my favorites. I'm not sure post apocalyptic hasn't been done to death. I like the idea of near future, not too heavy on the science fiction settings. Sci-fi could possibly make  moving around too easy anyway, unless I came up with some artificial constraint on  travel. A ship wreck , or some other such contrivance. I always wanted to run a game based on the Lewis and Clark expedition, only in an america filled with legendary creatures. I would have to work hard to find/ make a system to support that idea. The research would be a blast.

As you may have guessed:

  • I am writing this post without having spoken to any of the potential players.
  • Without having decided on a system to run. (I have a no list but I don't have a yes list)
  • Without having wrestled that  three headed bugbear known as "Scheduling"  (Scheduling has killed more games than the 80's satanism scare ever did...)
  • Without having decided on an actual  Genre.
  • I guess a reader could determine this is all very preliminary. That reader would be 100% correct.
I hope to  formulate some ideas in the  next week or so. When I do I will share them here as breaks from all the  AAIE nonsense.

That's it for now, just sharing some of the things germinating in my  brain.
As always thanks for reading.
-Mark.



Sunday, August 6, 2017

AAIE, The Town

No AAIE updates this post .

Over my past few posts I have written about  various aspects of the AAIE game , how I came up with them and what my intentions were when I wrote them. Any long time reader of this blog (if you are I'm so so sorry) might have noticed that much of AAIE runs counter to the other designs I have written about. 

The most obvious area that AAIE is different is in the area of player control over the creation of their own characters. Having completely random characters can be both freeing  and frustrating. There's no such thing as a lovingly crafted AAIE character. There's no such thing as an AAIE character that completely matches the players vision. In fact the game is set up in a way that some characters are barely even viable adventurers.


For me the lack of player control created a gap in the original game. After giving it some thought I decided that I had to write a second section that would give the players something to call their own. Otherwise AAIE would just be a meat grinder with  characters being rolled up and quickly dying, only to be replaced with another faceless slob. While that formula might be fun for a one off game, I never felt it would have any legs as a long term RPG.


My solution was "AAIE The Town." 
The town takes up the second half of the game document and begins with a description of the starting Inn. The inn is that ubiquitous place that adventurers in RPG's meet and where rumors are spread about deeply buried treasures. It's a cliche. As a gaming cliche I love it, it fits AAIE's motto of "Leave no Cliche Behind" perfectly. The town starts as just this initial inn located at a crossroads. Adventure locations get placed near enough for the players to travel to from the inn, but not close enough for the  inn to be threatened by whatever the  players stir up. 

The players can use treasure they find on their adventures to buy buildings and services for the town  after each adventure. It works on the theory that the returning adventures are going to spend gold in the town , and that gold will attract more people to the area. Historically anywhere in the world that wealth can be pulled form the  ground, it has brought sudden development. Think the California gold rush, silver rushes as far back as the mines of Laurion helping to fuel the wealth of  Athens, or more recently the  1990's diamond rushes in northwest Canada. The logical leap that needs to be made here is that the players spend money  to buy and upgrade buildings as a representation of their economic impact on the area, not always as a direct purchase by the characters. Characters go into some god forsaken cave, they kill a multi legged tortoise god, and  steal his giant emerald eyes. Word gets out and a blacksmith and her family move to the area. Then perhaps some farms sprout up in the recently cleared woods. An apothecary shows up. So on, so forth.

hidden Apothecary and operating theater
 old St Thomas Church London
The town is a players way of moving towards what they want their future AAIE characters to be
better at or have access to. Each addition to the town opens up new options for a players current AAIE character and expands the options of all future characters played in the same game. A level 1 apothecary can provide healing potions. That service will always be there even if the characters who paid for it are long dead. A player wants access to more weapon skills? Upgrade the inn so a fighting trainer moves in. Want to expand the abilities of Wizards? Build a school.

Some of the town options get a bit detailed. Additions like the Furrier that will pay for the skins of exotic animals add to the adventures available to players. The  Kobold clan that can be attracted to the town which will provide the labor needed to build roads and  mine raw materials, the effects of  which are to generate income form the town out side of the payers actions. Things like the Seedy Pub and the caravan add new products and even new playable races for the  players to experiment with. Moreover when a player buys a building they have the option of retiring their current AAIE character and making that character the owner of said business and  thus a town NPC.

It is important to  remember the town represents permanent additions to the game that the players can call their own. A player may remember that they bought the black smith shop. When they buy an upgraded sword the player knows that the only reason they have that upgrade is through their own actions. The only time a GM may add a building or service to the town his or herself is if the players decide to buy a bank for the town. At that point a pool of gold is created that the GM can spend between games for upgrades to the town as they see fit. (Dead character's gold goes into the bank,  from which the players or the GM can make withdraws to buy town items. Before the bank is bought a dead character's gold simply dies with them.)

The town is a tangible measure of the  players activities in the game session to session. It gives the, an anchor in the other wise mad random  AAIE world. The recurring town NPC's become well known, and even well liked by players. 

One of my favorite NPCs from our game is Gren. Gren and her brother Ott were stable hands at the
inn who the  players hired as retainers for one adventure.  It did not take very long for the adventure to go bad and characters started dying. Ott failed a morale check early on and ran home.  Gren on the other hand passed all of her checks with  flying colors. Not only that she never got killed, which is amazing in it's own right. When the party returned to the Inn Ott swore he would never adventure again, but Gren had developed a taste for it. When the party bought a barracks for the town so they could hire better retainers, naturally Gren signed up to be a town guard. When the head town guard was hired by the party as a fighter retainer and met a horrible end at the claws of some random beast, naturally Green  stepped up and became the town's head-guard. At this point I don't think she would go on an adventure with the players, she is entrenched in the town, and doesn't need to adventure. New characters coming through are just more  new comers that she needs to keep an eye on. It's great little story and it all happened very naturally through  the  players interacting with the town.

Like all things the town comes at a price. The town represents a measurable jump in the amount of bookkeeping the GM must to to play AAIE. I would argue that even a full fledged AAIE town with multiple adventure sights, plot lines,NPCs, and buildings is still less prep than a full blow game of D&D. My reasoning being that an AAIE town grows one bit at a time in a natural fashion so the GM never has to do it all at once. I could be wrong, millage may vary and all that. The bulk of the pre game work is  stocking  stores with  new items and perhaps figuring some income for the town if that's something the town is capable of. 

There will be more on the town latter on. Until then here is the graveyard entry for our current games town.
Ohhhh Darwin we hardly knew ye...
Thanks for reading.
-Mark

  • Vud the wizard. (PC)
    • There lies poor Minotaur - you died bravely and your steaks were quite tenderized.
  • Rollo Baggins (PC)
    • He opened the door too fast, in fact he rushed, he would have made it but his head got crushed.
  • Here lies Dean (PC)
    • The inn keeper hated slightly less than the giant.
  • Here lies Gleason the Peasant NPC Retainer
    • You hear the brick hit the floor, and poor Gleason is no more
  • Here lies Payne NPC Retainer
    • Rolled by a door, dripped to the floor
  • Here lies Major. NPC Retainer
    • His last words were "You should have let me run away!" Burnt up real bad.
  • Here lies Shlouf The guard (NPC Retainer)
    • He found his death in a bad place he ended up with a melted face.
  • Here Lies Ames (NPC Henchman)
    • A man who could carry all of your shit, He opened the door and was smashed just a bit..
  • Here lies Fidditch MacQuidditch: (PC)
    • Attacked with his mace but found his own face. His fate sealed tight when his teeth took flight.
  • Final resting place of Darwin Punchalot: (pc)
    • Darwin died as he lived, on his feet.
  • Here lies Ichabuck: (pc)
    • Ichabuck Russlefoot of her Majesty's Royal Institute of Astute Learning, the Third: weaver, wanderer, scholar ... pile of ash
  • Here be the remains of Durgus: (pc)
    • Hit by a lightning bolt, quite dead.
  • Here Lies Murkin: (PC)
    • The milk was strong in this one.
  • Here Lies Tumric: (Npc Retainer)
    • The bravest retainer of all. chewed to death by rats.
  • Here Lies Brad: (PC)
    • Died young in a tragic balloon/detect evil accident.
  • Here lies Millicent the Minotaur: (PC)
    • It was the damn elf's fault
  • Here lies Ocus, The Minotaur: (PC)
    • Lost in Archeron
    • [Simple engraving of a Minotaur head with "Fuck You" written on the horns]
    • Tastes like cow
  • Here lies Spriglywinks: (PC)
    • Tried to cast a spell
    • It didn't go well
    • He lost his head
    • Now he's dead
  • Here lies Hans the Brewer: (NPC)
    • He wasn't good at his job so he fell and broke his neck.





Tuesday, August 1, 2017

ON pacing, ON-line play, On Initiative

AAIE... Update:
I have been told character generation is  edited... That's a good half of the job or at least close to it done .. so it's a good sign.


We played AAIE on saturday , and let me tell you  it was something:

Anyone Who has read this blog for more than a year or so  (bless your heart) will ko that I am not a huge fan of playing online. However with life being what it is gaming online is the  best and perhaps only way I'm getting a session together anytime soon.
My biggest trouble with online games is pacing.  At the  table I feel i'm pretty good at keeping a game moving. I like to play with pace speeding up the descriptions when things get frantic, and slowing down  when things are calm. Online I don't think it translates as well. 

Online there are  train wrecks that a DM just can't foresee.
Some one's mic cuts out.
Someone can't hear.
Roll 20's voice chat gets squirrely and cuts one player out of a conversation.
A player needs to go put the trash out. 
A player posts a funny but distracting Gif to the chat box.

Whatever.. it all happens..
It's the nature of online games. None of it helps maintain good pacing or promotes player engagement.

No amount of GM prep can help when one of the players has mic interference and begins to sounds like a robot when they talk. ( Fish, and plankton. And sea greens, and protein from the sea. It's all here, ready. Fresh as harvest day. Fish and sea greens, plankton and protein from the sea. And then it stopped coming. And they came instead. So I store them here. I'm ready. And you're ready. It's my job. To freeze you. Protein, plankton... )

This is a real F8ing thing?  Don't ever magnify anything.
The game:
The  characters picked up where they left off last time, They were trying to retrieve and recover a brewery  which  for a number of convoluted reasons had been sucked into a pocket dimension ruled by gnomes. What the party didn't know  is that the  gnomes were actually producing beer to  feed a giant necrotic bane maggot deeper in the tunnels. The maggot was created by a Mad wizard Elf-squid (who is a former player character who mutated himself horribly and went insane a different game session.) The mad-mad-mad wizard had captured the leaders of the five Gnome tribes (all save one) and taken their wealth in tribute. The wizard was plotting  how to capture the final gnome king when the players  arrived and started mucking about. The bane Maggot along with  some undead creeping vines  was the  guardian of the gnomes and the treasure. If this all of this sounds silly congratulations you're on to me. It was a silly scenario as is the norm with AAIE games.

This plays into a session of AAIE at Dexcon where Neal's friend Kelly ran a game in which the  town was overrun by Gnome tribes arguing about their leadership... What a perfect time for an evil Mad-mad-mad-mutant X-player character to strike. As a rule the more these adventures can be tied back to the  town or back to other adventures the  better the whole thing works.



We had five players.
Neal, Jay, Marcus, Jens, and Charles.
Roll20 Voice. 
At the table five players would be a great number. A small enough group that everyone is guaranteed some time to shine, but large enough that the adventure can have some meat to it. Like I said above however playing online makes managing  five players a bit more challenging.
First off google hangouts only supports five talkers. Counting me we had one too many. We switched to roll20 chat and that's finicky about the browsers it works with and I think the  gentlemen in germany were getting shafted by it. Jay came to the rescue by quickly creating a discord channel for us to use. Mid game everyone had to jump to discord. While the quality of the discord VoIP was far superior to roll twenty, some of the players had never used it before. one more hurdle to jump. Lastly some people are just naturally louder speakers than others. Neal and Marcus for example speak more quietly than say  Jay or Charles. At the table this makes very little difference, on the  computer where everyone has mic levels and different set ups it can be a pain in the  ass.

Most of the game was trying to make sure everyone got a chance to  be involved. A tricky balance involving  moving initiative around, calling on players in differing orders based on the  situation and basically trying to create pace by  knowing who was ready to act right away and who wasn't.
Sometimes that works, and  sometimes it doesn't. 
It doesn't help that I have always hated the D&D initiative system and tend to ignore it whenever I can get away with ignoring it. 

For example when the  king ot the sand gnomes got knocked down , Jay's character picked up his crown and I went with that.  A second later it was obvious Jen's character was going to grab for the fallen crown as well. I could have rolled the situation back and had Jens and Jay roll contested athletics checks to see who was getting that crown first, but I had already  stated Jay picked it up. It was my mistake. It also happened in mid turn with  a bunch of angry gnomes facing off with the party from behind a barricade of beer barrels. Luckily Jens is the type of guy who rolls with such things and we didn't have to break up the scene. (Best part of playing with a bunch of  other GM's, they tend to know what's going on even if they don't agree with it.) I can see where going strictly by initiative order and  saying "ok that's your one action," and "that's your one action, ok now it's your turn" would have been better in that situation. I just hate the idea of  breaking the tension and general franticness of the scene. It became:
 With an angry mob of gnomes crowding the barricade the  gnome king  climbs to the top of a barrel and begins to speak in perfect common...
"Surface dwelling invaders what do....OOMPH!"
Jay's Character throws the rock at the  gnome king, hitting him square in the  forehead and knocking him off the barricade. The gnome king's crown rolls off his head, Jay's character stoops down and picks it up.
It was cinematic even if it wasn't exactly correct.


Another example of pacing that I think did work, was while the party was fighting the maggot, Marcus wanted to cast a spell. He was however a bit undecided on how and what. I skipped him and came back to him at the end of the round. Nathaniel (Marcus's character) is an inexperienced wizard in a dank cave fighting a hideous giant  maggot which just spit high proof alcohol all over everyone. I consider skipping Marcus to move on to  other characters just  a sign of Nathaniel being a bit shook. There is no reason to hold everything up and wait when the next player is going to run in and stab the thing with a glaive. Give the wizard some room to breath. 
In the end he summoned a Gnome skeleton. the skeleton attacked the giant maggot and critically failed it's roll. The magott summarily swallowed the gnome skeleton whole and regurgitated it as a projectile a few rounds latter.

Somethings we got a chance to test:

Environment Perks:
This worked fine for me. The Maggot spewed high proof alcohol as a breath weapon. The left of ver residue being highly flammable for a few rounds. Eventually Nathanial set it aflame so the Pool of alcohol perk became the Pool of fire perk. The maggot got to invoke it at one point  biting a character and tossing him face fist into the  flames... Lucky for that guy he was a priest of flames (neals character) and called on his god to  help him (he took half damage.)
the Environment Perks worked quite well  game wise as it gave me a way to mechanically link my descriptions back to what was going on in the fight. I think this will become a much bigger part of what I do when running games in the future.

Wild Dice:
Priests have this interesting power where they may reroll of any one die in any round a number of times equal to their leadership stat. What's more they may  grant to s re-roll to another player. It's this game's version of bless. The  unfortunate thing is that even though it has been part of the game from the very beginning, it often gets forgotten. Not this game it was used and used well by both priests in the party. I don't think it unbalanced the game. Two out of the three times the wild dice were used the re-roll improved the result which was rolled. Once it had no effect at all, which is fine.
My favorite part is asking, "How does you god help the other player with this roll?" I just know that I'm always going to get some interesting answers form that one. (Jen's character's god is "the Eater of Funk" so yeah things get strange)

Magic:
Any time someone new is exposed to the casting rules the results amaze me. AAIE magic is freform in the  extreme and just the idea that the character has these "words" and  the player can  use them in any way they see fit to create spell effects often comes as a complete surprise. I can see why  some players would hate it, and others will embrace it. I for one don't want to change it a bit.


Well that's it for now.
Thank you for reading.

-Mark.





Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Anatomy of Balance in AAIE

AAIE Update: I hear the two games of AAIE at Dexecon went well, it was one of the rare play-tests after which I did nto get a small "Please add or adjust X,Y, and Z" For the play-testers so I guess that's a good thing...I'm sure there will be more feed back when I get to talk to Neal.
I'm running a small online game Saturday morning  with one person who has not played AAIE before. I'm hoping to get more feedback after that game as well. Naturally, when I do I'll post it here.
Also:
Got to play a game with Charles Akins from "The Dyvers Blog", Jens D, from "The disoriented Ranger" and Jen's pal Marcus on Saturday Morning.

A fun game was had..


I read this post  over on the "Mythlands of Erce" blog. It inspired me to  post about my views on game balance in AAIE. Consider the points made in that post * a jumping off point for this one.
In other words I'm not going restate what MoE already stated. I get what game balance is. I'm going to write about how it is used to  drive a certain play style in AAIE.

Admittedly some of AAIE is pretty slapdash. Given how the game came about, its tone, its subject matter, and its style that's almost a given.  With that said, I think I put more thought into the balance of AAIE than almost any other portion of the game. In one way game balance can be a knob. **  With  Freewheeling games at zero, and more strictly balanced game (Like D&D 4th edition) at the opposite position. Somewhere around the  proverbial "Eleven." However, I like to think of  game balance as being more like a mixing board covered with dials and sliders that only a PHD like Dr. Dre can possibly make sense of. *** The  mix touches everything about a song it's not just one dial. Game balance is very similar in how even small tweaks can affect how a game plays out.

The first slider considered in the balance of AAIE was character survival.  As a point I wanted this slider to  swing wildly depending on the character. The nature of the game dictated that not every character will be a success or even a viable adventurer. Some characters made a bad life decision when they had the thought, "Hey! Raiding the crypt of the moth coven is a way easier way to make a living than being a grave digger for the rest of my life!"
For people who like to  view games through the lens of old school games, think of it like rolling up D&D stats 3d6 in order and keeping whatever comes out. Having Done that, I have rolled some incredibly bad characters. I have also thrown a few in the bin.. AAIE doesn't let the player throw a character in the bin. For example, some characters will end up with more resolve points than others, they are naturally braver and more capable of facing adversity. In AAIE this slider is not game "Balance" it's more like  purposeful character unbalance.

A part of character creation that does throw some side eye towards balance are the attributes. Part of the original "joke" of AAIE is how attributes are rolled on different dice based on the  character's race.  A Dwarf may have to roll d8 for Resolve, but only D4 for athletics for example. It is a layer of unnecessary  complexity , that fits the original "poking fun at ye-old'e games" concept. However this did give me the opportunity to balance  the races against each other very specifically. The major races of  AAIE all have maximum attribute values that sum to the same number. Meaning a human character that has max on on all of her attributes will have the same total value of attributes if you add them all together as a dwarf, or an elf. The only difference will be how the attribute values are distributed. There are some small variations on this theme concerning optional races. Some of which trade lower attribute totals in exchange for more or better racial traits, but generally the attribute balance holds throughout the game.

While it's not stated in the game text under the hood I grouped attributes broadly  into Action attributes, skill, skill attributes, and save attributes. Action attributes are the ones most commonly used in (you guessed it) actions. Brawn used for  melee attacks, Athletics for ranged combat, attractiveness for social actions. Skill attributes are knowledge, intellect, and leadership used for  tasks like spell casting, interacting with  hirelings, and  lore. While the  save attributes are resolve, focus, and myst, which are used when a character needs to save against some kind of horrible misfortune , that cannot simply be dodged. If you are wondering yes, blatantly stole this style of grouping from  the Mayfair exponential system, scrubbed off the vin numbers and drove it to the chop shop. WHy this  groupings are important to this article is that they help certain races have the potential to be better art different roles. A Dwarf that rolls very well for attributes will always be a better at actions than an elf that did the same. While that high rolling elf will always be better at skills than a similarly well rolled dwarf.

Further, attributes max out at eight **** and directly modify the difficulty of rolls. It is a point of balance that pluses and minuses beyond the value of attributes don't exist in AAIE. Characters at level one and at level five, have the  same general modifiers to their rolls. What changes are the special abilities they have available to them to solve problems, not the overall chance to succeed. This balancing act causes a play style change. Even a higher level character has to  work towards their strengths and away from their weaknesses where attributes are concerned. If the warrior has a 1 in athletics, that warrior is never going to be any better at shooting bows. Sorry.



Combat:

Another big balance knob on the mixing board is combat. With AAIE I made a decision to keep resolve points***** relatively low for both enemies and  player characters. Damage on the other hand can be quite high especially where high level monsters are concerned. The result is combat that rarely goes beyond three rounds win or lose. Infact three to five rounds was my target length for combats. I want players to know if they are out matched quickly (so the players can  choose to run or to stand and fight). If the Characters are not outmatched I want them to dispatch the opponent quickly. Going back to the first paragraph where I stated not every character will be particularly viable as adventures, one can assume weak characters will get cut down fairly often, and  fairly quickly. This is akin to the DCC funnel concept. Some characters are going to  die before one has what it takes to stick. Another reference to  Old school gaming, where charater death was expected, and  characters weren't all perfect crystal constructs destined be nursed until level 20. Sometimes the  warrior is armed with a frying pan and has five resolve points, other times the warrior is armed with a battle ax and starts with  forty resolve points. It's admittedly huge swing, and combat is balanced to take down those weaker characters quickly, especially if they get into melee. Resolve pools that top out at around 100 (Give or take for special circumstances) for  monsters and characters alike. High level monsters with a single special attack can do almost that much damage on one perfect roll. ****** 

It all moves the game toward a scene of frantic activity during combat. The players know they  have to either get away quickly, or  face whatever the monster is going to dish out. That decision needs to be made quickly, as even the best character can't stand in combat for very long if the monster is dishing out high damage. The Gm running the combat should feed into this frantic vibe. Giving fast paced description and asking for as many rolls as possible for rapid fire actions actions is suggested. Even if the gm runs at a different pace the game balance itself adds the desired "fight or flight" tension. The balance between character resolve and monster damage helps creates that tension.

Thanks to Neal, players can have new characters at the push of a button, which enhances the funnel like feel of the game. Originally  My idea was players would have to make the best of what ever character they rolled up, and the character creation process while fun when done as a group, would also be long enough that players would want to try to keep their characters alive. However with the one click character generator, players feel far more comfortable just wading into the jaws of death. I was a bit against it at first I thought it changed the  core feel of the game too much. I was wrong. The ability to make characters quickly makes the game better in the long term.

I have more on this aspect of the game, but this is long enough as it is.
At least I hope it's clear that balance can be a myriad of things in a single game. All of these small decisions add up (hopefully) to create the play style envisioned by the author.

Perhaps I'l do an "AAIE Balance" part two some day?
Either way..
I hope you enjoyed
-MArk.








*The  best part of it is the Mythlands of Erce is written  far better than this blog, so the points made about game balance on that platform are clear and concise. What I'm about to write by comparison is .... well ... "my stuff."
** So can I.
*** I know  Dr. Dre is not an actual doctor. However, he is a lyrical surgeon as well as a beat clinician. I feel that's close enough.
**** Ok Ten if you're a Tortel and have a high resolve, but that's the only one, and Tortels suffer in other areas because of it.. 
***** (think hit points for the sake of this article. it measures ability and will to fight. if a character's resolve falls to zero they may simply crawl home, or  on occasion get gnawed to death by a  pack of  rats.)
****** Monsters get a number of damage dice based on their level, it is possible (not likely) to have a random monster that can do 10d10 damage in around. However it is up to the  GM to determine before the game how those dice are divvied up amongst possible attacks. Dragon breath for example.... or some other crazy attack  might  do that kind of damage.. Depends on how demented your GM is.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Anatomy of a Perk: (AAIE Game stuff)

Game Update: Neal still editing, Game is being run twice at Dexcon This weekend: July 8tyh and 9th I think, once by Neal and once by one of his friends..



The second part in my "The Anatomy of" posts. This series is about  the parts of AAIE and what the heck I was thinking about when I slapped them together. *
The first part about Abilities can be found here. **

Perks, how to get them, and what they do for you:
Perks are an in-line reward mechanism. What I mean by "inline" is that the rewards happen during play, not as part of the level up system.
When a player rolls They first check to see if the action they are attempting is a success. If the action is successful and the  players effect die is high enough *** the player earns a perk. (or triggers a perk if that's how you want to say it.)

Perks are special effects that Player abilities , equipment, and even the  environment provide access to. It's most common to have three Perk options when using an ability. As it is the maximum number of  optional perks that can be attached to any one action is  five. While the maximum that can be triggered at one time is two. What this means is that most of the time when triggering perks the player will have options and will get to pick what works best for their character or the part as a whole. While ti takes a bit of luck to trigger a perk, it gives the games combat some depth beyond a simple decision to attack, or not to attack.
Combat perks include such classics as stunning a target, doing extra damage, pushing the opponent away, knocking the target down and  some others. Perks tied to abilities may be the same as the combat perks or  may  include perks specific to the  ability being used. Many priest abilities work on this principle. For example, the  priest ability "cure poison" has the following three perks associated with it.
  • Perk 1: heals 1d6 resolve to the target
  • Perk 2: Extracts the poison so it may be kept.
  • Perk 3: Restores 1d6 of the targets focus in the process
Remember the perks are only available on a successful roll. The perks above assume the poison has already been cured, these are results above and beyond the common successful result when using an ability. in this case the Player could choose the first perk, and grant a small amount of healing to the recipients resolve pool. I mean the  poison must have had some vector to get into the target and must have left some effect, so chances are the recipient is hurt at least a small amount. 

The second perk allows the retrieval of the poison for the priests own use, whether it be benign or  nefarious. This perk is completely unique to this ability. It not only allows for some cool description of how poison might be collected from a target, but also allows for the  creative use of the poison down the road. 

Lastly the third Perk allows the  player the option to  restore a bit of the  recipients Focus pool. Am AAIE  priest exclusive, the restoration of focus is a representation of a priest's abilities calming and mind clearing effects.

A very strong roll will allow a player to trigger two perks. In which case a players using the ability above Could choose to use perk one and two  making themselves an all around healer or  any other combination of the three available perks. 


In the event a perk is triggered the player describes how it happens. While there are mechanical effects when a player triggers a perk, for example character hits with a hammer and the player chooses "knock down" as the triggered perk. It is more important that the player gets to say how the enemy was knocked down. That player gets to decide what that looks like in the heat of battle. This  bit of focus on the player and their character, as brief as it might be, is a bit of reward in it's own right.


Furthermore, when ever the  Gm gives up control for a second and says "tell me how it happens" to a player there is  a chance that things will veer off into totally unexpected direction. In AAIE those hard curves into totally  unexpected directions are the goal posts by which the success of the  game will be measured. The  intentional inclusion of unpredictability built into the game is what makes it not to everyone's taste but also what makes it what it is.


Thanks for reading.
Mark.





* hint: I was thinking about food.
**Public service message: Warriors strike is the exception to the rule, if a warrior starts with it, it's super useful. 

***How the dice work will have to be some other, equally dry post.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Useful links for items and services.

Apparently these have been around since 3.5 D&D and I have never seen them.
Great work here ..
Very useful for AAIE, D&D , Any fantasy game...

Good Baron Dave's Equipment and Services List
Good Baron Dave’s Catalog Of Sundries, Volume 2
and Good Baron Dave’s Catalog Of Sundries, Volume 3

The Anatomy of An AAIE Ability (real game stuff!!)

The AAIE update Part: As I promised this is mostly an AAIE blog now Sooooooo....Everything with AAIE is plugging along outside of my direct view. (EEEK) I'm waiting to see what the guys have done. I threw away more than half the drawings I had done for the  game over last weekend in a flurry of self hate. I do that.... I'll start over.


The Anatomy of  An AAIE Ability:

Abilities in AAIE  are granted each time a charter levels up, are based on the character class, and are just like everything else determined completely at random.
Abilities allow characters to perform special actions, create situations and bring changes to the  world around the,. combat abilities generally allow the character access to additional Perks if the player rolls well enough. 

Often the use of abilities will cost the character points from their focus or Myst pools. This bit of resource management means that some characters are able to use some abilities more frequently than others. Some characters are better suited to certain types of abilities than others. This being AAIE the player doesn't have much control over what abilities they get so what a character is good at and what they actually end up doing might not line up exactly *** 
Perks (for the record) are a set of three bonuses, If a player rolls a successful action and a high enough effect (More on how the dice work in a future post) the player may score up to two perks on the action. The player may pick which perk or perks to use and describe how they occur in play. perks may be gained by Abilities and equipment,any single action may have no more than 5 perks available, no more than two perks are ever triggered on any singe roll. (Unless the GM sees some reason why their should be more than two perks triggered, naturally... Gm's can do that sort of thing**)



Lets look at the  most basic of all the abilities a character might end up with.
Below you will find the  text block for  Warriors strike a possible warrior class ability. The original text is in default black, I will comment each line in text Looking like this.

This will be a bit of a deep dive on one ability. How I see it working, and why it is what it is.
Warrior Strike. 
This is the warriors go-to strike, It is the rarest of abilities in that it's free in every way, and only provides a way for fighters to get perks on almost every strike. 
Attribute: Brawn
Difficulty: Vs opponent Armor Score

Costs: none
Common: You do normal damage.
Perk 1: Stun opponent
Perk 2: Push opponent back (1)
Perk 3: Add 1d10 damage.
Critical: X 2 damage.
Fumble: Use the combat fumble chart.

Warrior Strike. 
This is the warriors go-to strike, It is the rarest of abilities in that it's free in every way, and only provides a way for fighters to get perks on almost every strike. 
This is a brief mechanical description a bit devoid of flavor , it tells the player exactly what the ability is intended to do.

Attribute: Brawn
Every  ability is linked to an attribute, if the  player is using this  ability then the GM subtracts he  linked attributes value from the rolls target difficulty. The sneaky part of this is that weapons are also linked to attributes such as "flail" being linked to athleticism. Having this ability allows the player to  choose to use the  ability and modify their attack roll difficulty by their characters brawn, or to not use the ability and use what ever attribute the weapon originally called for. In D&D terms it makes every weapon "Versatile."

Difficulty: Vs opponent Armor Score
When using an ability the player and the GM need to know what the roll will be against. In this case the difficulty of the  roll is determined  by the targets armor score. The GM might modify that difficulty based on  the given situation, however for this ability  (and most combat abilities honestly) the starting point is the  targets armor.)

Costs: none
This section would usually contain text like (Focus 1d6) or (myst 1d6 per spell level) or  similar. Those costs would be rolled when the ability is used and subtracted from the  applicable pool (myst, focus, or both.) However this ability is the rarest of things in that it has no attached costs. Representing a warriors advanced arms training and  ability to  land solid blows in combat. Warriors strike is the  equivalent of an innate ability. Having no cost makes this the  most prized of the  warrior abilities even if it is one of the most basic.

Common: You do normal damage.
This is the result if the  player rolls a successful attack but does not  roll any kind of extraordinary success. In this case the  character domes their normal damage by weapon type.

Perk 1: Stun opponent
Perk 2: Push opponent back (1)
Perk 3: Add 1d10 damage.

Here are the three possible perks a character can score using this ability. If the attack roll is a success and the  effect of the  roll is high enough (remember, hi-jink dice stuff) The player may choose to inflict up to two of the perks on their target. 
The first perk is a stun which gives the target "disadvantage on their rolls next round" While this sounds ripped right out o' 5th ed, it works a bit differently in  AAIE **** This  can be a significant advantage to the character attacking.

The second Perk is Push opponent back (1) range category. This is great if the  warrior has a weapon with  reach, or even better is some other party member does. A bit of a tactical choice. Depending on situation using this perk may cost the  target it's next round moving back into melee range. For example if the target is fighting with only claws and bites.

The third perk is a pure shot of extra damage. A solid hit that does 1d10 more resolve damage then the base weapon. No need to explain why that might be useful.

The first thing to remember is this, if the  player rolls well enough to earn one perk  he or she may  choose to inflict any one of those three perks. If they roll well enough to earn two perks then the player can  pick any two of the three perks to inflict on the target. 

The second thing to remember is the player gets to describe how the perk is inflicted. A solid shot to the side of the head, the  creature trips backwards, a blow to he groin, a well placed rapier thrust to the solar plexus, however the player describes it happening is how it is.


Critical: X 2 damage.
If the player rolls EXCEPTIONALLY well they will get a critical success! in this case the player may Pick two perks to inflict on the the target and  do double damage. This all stacks. So a player might do 1d6 damage (Base weapon damage) + 1d10 damage (PERK 3) Which is then Doubled (because of the critical hit,) and furthermore stuns the  opponent (PERK 1) As you can see rolling a critical with warriors strike can ruin the day for whatever foe you just swung a dead fish at.

Fumble: Use the combat fumble chart.
On the other side of the coin if the  player rolls colossally bad, then they  get to look at this fumble section. Some skills (Priest skills  are big on this)  have skill specific fumble results. In the case of warrior's strike the player refers to the combat fumble chart which  is 100 entries of wacky results that generally kill you. Keeping in mind fumbles happen very rarely. (I used Anydice to figure to about  0.073 percent of the time.)  

The end result is Warrior's strike is a versatile, free ability. If a warrior is lucky enough to have rolled it as an ability then they should remember to use it. (on every attack). It's useful if only used to provide the player the freedom to pick  brawn as their attacking attribute regardless of the weapons originally linked attribute.  The three perks which can be earned on good rolls offer a warrior a range of combat options. These options range from de-buffing their target with a stun,  strategically moving their target farther away, or purely laying down extra hurt with bonus damage. While other abilities might offer these perks no other ability allows offers them in this combination or for free.
Further the critical hit and fumbles are unexceptional. Meaning that if a player rolls a critical hit without using any ability they  will still do double damage, and if they fumble in combat they will likely still roll on the combat fumble chart. So the risks and rewards of this ability are weighted heavily in the middle (the chance to earn perks) and flatten out at the extreme ends of the result spectrum. In short there's far more to be gained than lost by using the Warriors strike ability.

So that's the anatomy of one of AAIE's  abilities.


The rest of gaming life:

I haven't been able to run anything lately. Schedules have been bad, and honestly I have not had all that much personal interest. Anyone who has followed this blog* will know I go through these doldrums fairly regularly.

As I always say: "this will pass," "summer is a tough season for gaming,"and so on...



 I have been reading back issues of Dragon Magazines trying to spark some inspiration and not having much luck. Old dragon mags are fun tough, that used to be such a great resource. I can't imagine we will ever see it's like again. That's a digression I could make a whole blog post out of..


I jumped on a chance to try a few sessions of Fate with some twitter contacts. Fate is a game which I only played once and have wanted to have another go at. Considering this Fate game is an online game with people I have never met before, the scheduling will require a fair amount of time between meetings, character building, and playing. That is on the shadowy horizon. I'm looking forward to it.

Observations so far.
  • As a person, I don't translate well over  The computer... At least I don't think I do. 
  • I'm not good at making up Fate Aspects.. There is a knack to it which I have not picked up yet.. I will, but I haven't. The Fate Core text isn't super helpful in this regard. Again I think it's up to the  group to determine what works, so it would be asking a great deal of a book to be all that specific for a particular game situation.
  • The people in the group all seem  very creative and  very nice.
  • Tiny Marshmallows may end the world.

Lets see where it goes.



*If you follow this blog, I'm sorry.
**Gm's are freaks
*** What the character should be and what the character is will rarely line up.... That's the  point... trying to work with what you got.

**** I had my disadvantage mechanic, first way back in the  block game soooooooooooooo I'm keeping it :)