Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Damascus and Galilee Addendum

Looking over what I posted about Damascus and Galilee, several things strike me as being not covered in enough depth:

Safed is the world center of rabbinic learning in 1560. Safed is almost entirely Jewish, and there are many rabbinical schools here, some of them tiny, and others world famous. It is particularly interesting as the world center for Kabbalistic studies. It is also an important crossroads town, and very wealthy. Toron is also primarily Jewish, and there are important Jewish populations in Damascus and Tiberias as well.

Though it appears from the map that the majority of the Emirate's population is in the Galilee. this is not true. This is due to the difference in land usage between the Outremer Christians and the Arabs. Damascus is an enormous city, and probably more than equals the entire population of Galilee. Most of the non-urban population of Damascus is in small villages throughout the area, none large enough to be noted. In Galilee, there are more large towns and fewer small villages, and though Tiberias is a city, it could be tucked into Damascus entire without anyone even noticing.

Galilee might be primarily Christian overall, but Gadara, Hattin, and Krak Yakub are mostly Muslim towns. Dara is on the Damascus side, but the town is half Christian. There are probably as many Christians in the city of Damascus as there are in the city of Tiberias. There is nothing mono-cultural here.

The Christians here are mostly of the Latin Church and Eastern Rite Catholic in the towns, and Coptic, Syriac, and Armenian Apostolic in the countryside. There are several pockets of Greek Orthodox here and there as well. Most Muslim are of the Sunni branch of thought, but there are Twelver Shi'ite and Ismaili pockets here and there, and Druze in the mountains near St. Mamas and Krak Yakub.


Monday, March 29, 2010

What is a "System"?

What is exactly meant by this term? Yes, games have system, we know this, but what is system and what isn't system? For most people, when they say "System", they mean resolution mechanic. To them BRP is percentile roll under Target Number equal to skill. Yep! That's system!

So any game that uses percentile roll under is ripping off BRP, but that only measures chance of success. What about damage/quality of success? Is that part of the system? Uh, yeah, that's system too. How damage is measured is also part of it.

But then, what about initiative? Is initiative part of the system? Umm, OK, sure! So system is chance + quality + initiative! That works, right?

Well what about chargen? Random roll, point allocation, random lifepath, determined lifepath, write down key words, draw a picture - these things are part of the system, right? Umm, yeah - I guess so. Traveller wouldn't be the same without random lifepath. OK, so Chargen is in!

How about advancement after character generation? Earn XPs for killing things? For treasure? Every session? Check off a skill you use? Or maybe one you fail at? Advance over time? Advance as the story calls for it? Is this System too? Yeah, this is probably system too. This is a lot more complex than you might think!

OK, how about Situational Modifiers? Personality mechanics? Attacks of Opportunity? Range zones? Sensory/Notice checks? Hit Location? Vehicle rules? Shut up! Shut up! Yeah, these are system too. It all affects the flavor of the game.

So if I change one of these things, like the vehicle rules, I'm changing the system? Yeah - no! You're not! Vehicle rules are peripheral!

OK, so some parts of system are more equal than others? Yeah! Got it in one!

So, what can I not change and still have the same system? Uh, the resolution mechanic? That's core!

OK. If I change the resolution mechanic, but leave everything else the same, it's a different system? Yeah! Right! I think!

Then the resolution mechanic defines the system. Yep! Wait! No! Crap! I'm back at the beginning again!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Damascus and Galilee

Damascus was the home city of Saladin. When he took Jerusalem, he controlled everything between Aleppo and Aqaba. Technically, his brother was to be Emir of al Kuds and King of Jerusalem, but he controlled his brother. It was not to be. The Ismailis swept down from the mountains and took Homs and Hamah when Saladin was assassinated. What could have been a great power between Egypt and Baghdad was gone in an instant, riven into city states, none of which were powerful enough to dominate the others.

Damascus is a huge, rich city on the Nahr Barada river, which empties into the desert in s series of marshes and intermittent lakes. Damascus has long been known for its legendary swordsmiths, and the best swords still come from here. The Emirs of Damascus control a large area on the verge of the desert, and Damascus is an important focus of the caravan trade across the desert and into Acre. The Emirs are generally friendly with Acre, and hostile to the Emirs of Homs and el Kuds - AKA the Kings of Jerusalem.

Galilee was a mostly Christian Principality around the lake of Galilee and Jordan River, part of the kingdom of Jerusalem, theoretically stretching from St Mamas in the north to Gadara in the south. The princes of Galilee were powerful lords in their own right, though they didn't have the freedom of action of the Counts of Tripoli or the Princes of Edessa and Antioch. Tancred, Prince of Galilee in 1425, broke his vows of fealty to the new King of Jerusalem, calling him a parricide and thus cursed by both faiths. This was, apparently true, but no king likes their faults pointed out so blatantly.

This led to war, the King of Jerusalem against the Prince of Galilee. The war was bitter and bloody, but only resolved when the Emir of Damascus came to the aid of the Prince, and together they defeated the King of Jerusalem near Belvoir in the Jordan Valley. The Prince tendered his fealty to the Emir of Damascus, and was granted much freedom of action in return.

The kings of Jerusalem have never stopped claiming Galilee, and periodically warfare flares between Galilee and Jerusalem. The borders tend to be fluid, depending on the strength of the parties concerned.

The Emirate of Damascus, and the Principality of Galilee:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Supers and Vampires

There are a couple of teams at work on separate projects designed to use the StarCluster system which you probably don't know about. They are each going to be responsible for what they produce as I am not involved in more than an advisory capacity.

Michael Scott (Star Patrol, MiG KiLLERS, Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier, and co-author of In Harm's Way: Wild Blue) and Randolph Allen are writing Society of Night, a game centered on a Vampire society hidden within our own, and based on the original Blood Games rather than Blood Games II. They have various levels of vampire involvement, from normal people to born Vamps. The project is fairly well along now, and is called Society of Night. I'm not at all sure of their publishing plans. Scotty is a veteran game designer - the Star Trek Adventure Gaming RPG was published in 1978 - and has a lot of connections. It may come through Flying Mice and it may not.

My son Klaxon Bowley (Co-author of Book of Jalan, Sweet Chariot, Papageniopolis Station, Guide to Created Creatures) and James Belmonte, a long-time member of my group and veteran alpha tester, have teamed up to create a Supers game based on StarCluster 3. They are extending the Paths concept of Blood Games and using inherent scaling. They have overhauled the skill set to pare it down to a set of 24 skills. The game can scale from Pulp to very high power levels easily. Klax has long wanted to do a supers game, and has been my co-designer on a number of projects. Now he's the lead designer, and doing some very interesting things. I don't know if their project has a working title yet.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

StarCluster 3 and Organizations

The In Harm's Way series of games revolves around military service. One of the features of this style of play - military roleplay - is the central fact that the PCs come into the game already part of something bigger than themselves, their service. The PCs have access to service assets, work together with other parts of the service, and can mix and match troupe members as needed.

In the game In Harm's Way: Wild Blue, I introduced the Company rules, so that the Players could run their own mercenary company. I developed and expanded on that with OHMAS, where the Association that the players were members of became absolutely central to the game. This concept has worked so well for me that I am bringing it into central focus in StarCluster 3.

I have been running RPGs for 33 years now, and one of the major pains for all of them is how to get the PCs together. Typical PC parties are so disparate, so unfocused, that any sort of reason they work together is a polite fiction. The meeting in a bar is, of course, a classic. So is the chance assemblage of strangers who are all survivors from some disaster. The bad thing about these classic setups is there is no reason for the PCs to stay together once the immediate challenge is done.

Creating the organization first gives the PCs a focus, a reason to work together. It gives a framework for adding others, for troupe play if desired. It gives access to organizational assets. It provides a rationale for continued cooperation. It also - if constructed by the players - gives an indication of what kind of play they are looking for from the GM.

Maybe the organization is a news agency. Maybe it's a government funded scientific research company. Maybe it's a courier service, or an espionage agency, or a TriVox entertainment provider, or a licensed mercenary company, or a bioroid design bureau. Whatever you would like to create should be doable.

And of course, should you prefer those strangers to meet in a bar, that's doable too.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Outremer - The Djinn

Blood Games I and II featured Vampires. They were the creatures of darkness most important to the game, and had a large amount of the text devoted to them. In OHMAS, it was Fairies - they dominated the setting in many ways, subtle and not so subtle, and also had a large chunk of text devoted to them. For Outremer, it will be Djinn.

Djinn are developed mostly from Muslim thought. Djinn are creatures with free will, like humans, and unlike angels*. They are created from smokeless fire - pure energy - as humans were created from clay. They can be adherents of any religion, and have had their own special revelations and prophets as well as learning from Human prophets.

In Christian thought, the name Genie is derived not from "Djinn" but from the Latin word Genius - a distinctive spirit who guards and inspires peoples, cultures, and individuals. Because of the similarity of sound and concept, Djinn and Genie became entwined together, and Djinn took on some aspects of the Christian Genie as Genies took on aspects of the Muslim Djinn. In Outremer, the two concepts have entirely fused.

There are four ranks of sapient Djinn - Ghuls, Djinn, Marid, and Ifrit - and two ranks of Djinn animals - yes, there are Djinn animals which exist in the same relation to Djinn as animals are to Humans. All of these can be summoned and bound. According to Islamic tradition, Solomon was a great sorcerer who bound hundreds of Djinn into servitude to him. Djinn can mate with humans and produce offspring while in human shape. The Queen of Sheba was said to be the daughter of a human and a Djinn.

This concentration on one special type of creature in each game seems to be an unintended feature of the Blood Games series. It isn't intentional, yet I couldn't conceive of writing OHMAS without Fairies, and I can't conceive of writing Outremer without Djinn. It just wouldn't work right. I wonder if this is an important part of the concept, or whether one day I will be able to design a Blood Games game without concentrating on one creature, but for now, I'm going with it.


* In Muslim Tradition, devils - called shaitan - are not fallen angels, but Djinn who have refused obedience to Allah. Iblis is their leader. Angels do not have free will, and thus could not have refused to obey God.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Odd Squad

OK, so I told you a bit about my current IHWSC campaign. The PCs are a group of Marines on planet - they call themselves the "Odd Squad" - and the bridge crew of the frigate Copperhead. The PCs were dropped on Basher - the crater world I talked about last post - in drop capsules fired out of the drop tubes of the frigate as she passed by the planet. In the drop, the young NPC ensign died - it was his first drop and he screwed the pooch - and the other PC officer died soon after, while crossing the rim wall. So the PCs were being led by a PC corporal.

They knew there was a military intelligence person inside, who had given the ship the warning - why she had dropped the Odd Squad to investigate - so in order to find this agent in a crater with 100s of millions of people, they sent out an anonomized message on the word net in the same code used to contact the ship. He contacted them in return - he was hiding in the capital in a government building, with security searching for him. He had data he had to get to the Copperhead ASAP. The Odd Squad told him to hold on and await rescue.

They found a tube-train station and broke through an air shaft, riding the top of the trains all the way to the capital, switching trains when necessary. They come up though another air shaft into an alley near the government building. They hit a security squad at the entrance and blew through them like wolverine through a wet paper bag. Luckily for them it was a holiday - Glorious Founders' Day - and few people were at work, but they had to gun down a couple squads of security. They located the spy, who turned out to be a Navy Lieutenant. He now had to get his message to the Frigate, and all they had were ground to orbit comms.

They called up maps from the World net and found Panatek - communications company like Sprint or AT&T - had a building nearby. They escaped the government building and walked into the Panatek building, wearing full Marine combat armor, and requisitioned it. The building was in two halves - one on the ground about 10 stories high, and another floating above it about 20 stories high, connected by A-grav elevators. They were most of the way to the upper building when the elevators stopped. They figured the bad guys were on the way, so they tore the door off the elevator and floated up the open shaft to the studio floor. They positioned men to guard the elevator shafts, then the officer walked into the studio and delivered his message. The government of Basher, a member state of SaVaHuTa, is attempting to form an Empire by taking over another world - strictly forbidden.

On the Copperhead, several light seconds out, the bridge crew hear the info and get the uploaded data. They talk among themselves - with the Lieutenant on mute - and decide they have to warn SaVaHuTa. They inform the Lieutenant that they cannot pick him and the Odd Squad up because they need to race for the jump point, otherwise the Basher Space Defense Force will have time to get big ships in their way. Besides, trying to pick anyone up from Basher would be tantamount to committing suicide. He is given command of the Odd Squad and told to delay, destroy, and create confusion until he can be picked up.

Meanwhile, the Odd Squad defeats two armored insertion strikes simultaneously, leaving their Corpsman badly wounded. The Lieutenant tells them the bad news, which they cheer - these *are* Marines, after all, and it gives them license to go wild. They reprogram the central computer, hijack the top part of the Panatek building, and float it off down the streets of the capital, with HAPPY GLORIOUS FOUNDER'S DAY messages scrolling all over the configurable color coating on the building, as if it's a holiday float. Then they reconfigure the powerful communications emitters and receivers into active radar - recording, inverting, and rebroadcasting any radar signals hitting it, rendering it invisible to radar. Besides, they have about 2500 civilian hostages who work in or were visiting the Panatek building.

The police try to stop them as they drift towards their next target, but they are pretty much harmless to a plasteel building 20 stories high. They beat the military to their target - a battalion munitions dump. They crash through the roof using the bottom of the Panatek building as a battering ram. They take out the two following military vehicles with a shoulder launched rocket system, meanwhile wiping out the 20 MPs holding the arsenal within a single round.

Next they reprogram the battalion's robots, and with their help, loot the arsenal. Then they head off into the nearby lake and sink themselves into it until only the tip of the building is showing. They are feverishly working to mount all the hardware they looted onto the Panatek Building. Meanwhile, the Copperhead has won the race, and has to get through only one PDS ship to get to the jump point. That's where we ended.

This is what I have to deal with every week! They're brilliant, inventive, insane, and drive me crazy! I know you GMs are all saying "better him than me!" about now.


Friday, March 19, 2010

On Randomly Generating Worlds

In In Harm's Way: StarCluster, one of the possible results in the random world generation is "Normally uninhabitable, with a single large habitable feature". This came up as a result in our current game. This single feature had to fit a Tech Level 10 culture (the highest) with 100s of millions of people. Now, one of the glories of this kind of random generation is forcing you to think outside of the box. It's how I came up with Chariot in the original StarCluster setting.

Chariot, the very first world in the very first system I rolled up, has an average temperature of over 90 degrees F, a poisonous atmosphere, a population of over a billion, and a Tech Level of 5 - steam power. How could a huge culture with steam as it's typical power source - basically a Victorian culture - live on a planet with a poisonous atmosphere and an immense amount of solar radiation? I almost trashed the system I had come up with, but then I thought about it and left it as I rolled it.

That planet, Chariot, eventually turned into one of my favorite settings - a world where people lived on the tops of mountains and never went into the valley, because the poison in the atmosphere was argon, normally inert, but when the pressure went over 3 bars, it became toxic. So the atmosphere was dense - at the lowest possible human habitable areas, it was three times the pressure at sea level on earth. Argon is generally a product of radioactive decay, so a world with high amounts of argon would have high amounts of uranium. So much uranium that it would be sometimes found in natural reactors, moderated by ground water, and usable in it's raw, rich, ore form to boil water to make... steam! Aha! That also increased the chances of mutation, already high, so mutation would have to be a major factor... the chain of reasoning went on and on, culminating an a truly glorious world to adventure in.

So, back to the current dilemma. I asked for ideas around the table. The most popular idea was for a desert world, bare rock and sand. Maybe there would be life at the poles? But the players didn't like that idea - the screwy day-night cycle of a polar civilization didn't appeal to them. Besides, there would be two poles, not a single feature. Then one player suggested a vast crater, shielded from the sand and winds. But how would it be habitable? An asteroid hitting this planet would just make a big dry hole! Another player said "What about a comet? Comets are mostly ice, and high rim walls would tend to keep most of the water inside the crater."

Perfect! So now we are adventuring in a huge crater - so big you can't see across it. There is a high rim which precipitates most water out into the crater. In the center is a big massif where the land rebounded after the strike. Around that are huge lakes, feeding the cloud/rain cycle which dumps water on the rim walls. The lakes would give life to the crater. Huge cities are located here, and vast farmlands, yet outside, life would be precarious at best, a few clumps of green on the other side of the rim wall, trickling out into the stony desert. Awesome!

Here's a map of the habitable crater on Basher:


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Second Guesses

Now I'm second guessing myself again. This time it's about releasing StarCluster 2E for free DL. When I first released SC 2E back in 2004, I made a freely DL-able version called StarCluster Light. It was stripped down from the full 2E, but contained all the rules. It proved very popular, and a lot of people used it instead of the full SC. So what am I second guessing myself about?

This - StarCluster Light was a current, valid indication of my designing and writing ability. It was valid to use as a preview of SC 2E, as it was written at the same time as 2E. Now, SC 2E is six years old. In those six years I have changed immensely as a designer - hopefully for the better. My layout is better. My writing is smoother. My ability with systems has grown enormously. SC 2E says where I was 6 years ago, not what I can do today. I'm thinking people are going to pick it up, sneer, and say "How quaint and old-fashioned! It's like something from a time warp!" and they'd be right.

Thing is, that's not why I released it for free. I wasn't thinking it would be a way to look at what I can do! I was thinking "Hey! This would be useful for folks who have IHW:SC and want to play civilians until I release SC 3E." and "Besides, I know some people have wanted it for a while and now they can get it!" Now I'm thinking I should have just taken it off the market completely. This is why I suck at marketing. I have no clue!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Knights of St. Thomas of Acre

As I can't reply to my own Blog posts at work, and as this requires a full explaination, I am posting a reply to Marchand's reply to my previous post on Acre as a post in itself. That was an awkward sentence!

Marchand wrote: "Just a quick historicalish question - as a religious order, how did the Knights of St Thomas survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries?"

Hi Marchand! Nice to see you here!

This is an excellent question! The answer is, of course, that they didn't. They were dissolved along with the other monastic orders in the reign of Henry VIII, and were reconstituted as an order in 1555, at the request of the Duke of Acre by Queen Mary. On Elizabeth's ascention to the throne, the knights were required to take oath to her as head of the Church, wherupon some left the order, joining one of the other orders in Outremer, while others remained. New recruits taking their oaths include a new oath of obedience to the Head of the Church of England. The Knights of Thomas are maintained and supplied entirely from Acre, unlike the Catholic orders which are maintained from their lands in Europe as well as their lands in Outremer.

So the current Knights of St Thomas are not the same organization as the original order founded in the Third Crusade. Some brothers returned to the order when it was reconstituted, but most of them have since died, retired, or refused to swear the new oath. The current Order is only 5 years old in 1560, the "Year One" of the game.

The English branch of the Hospitallers, the Order of St. John, has also been reconstituted in 1559, but has not yet made a presence in Outremer as of 1560.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Outremer - the Duchy of Acre

The Duchy of Acre was carved out of the old Kingdom of Jerusalem by Richard Courleon, Prince of Edessa, as he raced to the rescue of Baldwin the Leper King in Caesarea. Richard claimed the coast from Tyre to Carmel as a fief of England. When Richard became Richard I, King of England, he passed the Duchy to his youngest son Baldwin, and to Baldwin's heirs.

As a fief of England, the government of Acre has been remarkably stable for the past 380 years. It's biggest changes came about as a result of the reformation, when Acre became the only Protestant land in Outremer. The Knights of St Thomas of Acre, once a Catholic order, but now Protestant, are headquartered in the northernmost city of Tyre.

The Duchy of Acre is small, but rich - considerably richer than England, in fact. It is the terminus of the silk trade from China, and the main port for Damascus, further inland. The revenues of the Duchy are enormous, and the Duchy imports most of the food needed to feed it's huge population from Edessa, Cyprus, and Armenia. The Dukes of Acre brought in steelworkers from Damascus very early on, becoming the arsenal of Outremer. In the last century, gunsmiths have begun to rival blade-smiths for both honor and money.

Acre, Tyre, and Haifa are all seaports, and the wealth of Damascus and points east flow through these ports. Relationships with the Emirs of Damascus are usually very good, though relations with the rest of Outremer vary. Most states are jealous of the wealth of Acre, but all want the fruits of her foundries.

Here's a map of the Duchy of Acre:

And here is the current Duke and Duchess of Acre:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Character Generation

There are essentially two ways or paradigms of Character Gerneration - one where you are creating a character, and one where you are re-creating a character. Hear me out! If you already have a firm character concept, you are essentially re-creating the character that is in your mind - so the choices you make are based on how to get the character to look like what you have already decided. If you don't have an established character concept, then what your character is like is based on the choices you make as you go through life. Some people go one way, and some the other, and some fall somewhere between.

Some chargen methods are better at one than the other. Point allocation chargen, for example, is better at the former paradigm, while random and/or lifepath chargen is better at the latter, though you can work it either way - it's just going against the grain a bit. This does lead to problems occasionally, as people don't understand what they are trying to do, and why making this character is so difficult in this system, or why they get puzzled and confused over how they are supposed to pick and choose this or that skill or power.

The default assumption for random chargen is that you are starting with a tabula rasa, a clean slate, and each operation builds upon the last, culminating at the end in a character. It's a process of discovery. You have no more idea than anyone else what the character will be at the end. Much is usually left to discover in play as well. Personalities, loves, enmities, and such are usually not generated.

The default assumption for lifepath generation is that you have a general direction you want to go in, but the particulars are not determined. By picking a path, you limit your choices to those germane to the path, so the character has some general form before actual creation. It's a bit of a compromise, which can be slanted one way or another by making it random or determined. With random lifepaths, you pick a direction - a path - but the choices within that direction are random. With determined lifepaths, you pick what you want from lists, so it is less discovery and more crafting. Many lifepaths can also furnish the character with life events, histories, and even personalities.

The default assumption for point buy generation is that you know what you want to end up with, and the chargen system is there to make sure everyone is approximately equal. Since you have a limited number of points to allocate, you build as close an approximation of your final goal as possible with your points at hand. The joy is in the crafting, the building, of the character. Most times point allocation systems have a method of gaining extra points by taking disadvantages, theoretically furnishing the character with some hooks as to history and personality, though it needs interpretation.

No chargen system is ideal for all gamers. Which method you pick shows a lot about what your default gaming values are - discovery, or crafting? - and whether character balance is important or not. There are many shades of compromise too - this is a spectrum, not a set of discrete points! This point all too often gets lost in debate, especially internet debate.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

University Degree Programs in StarCluster 3E

Here's an example - off the top of my head. This can be applied to any college. Electives would be a separate list of skills available from any school.

Engineering University:

Skill List: Analyze, Communications, Computers, Construction, Electronics, Logistics, Mathematics, Mechanics, Observe, Operate, Organize, Physics, Repair, Research

Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering (Example)
Mechanics+3, Methematics+ 2, Analyze+2, Electronics+ 1, Computers+1, Research+1, +3 Electives

Bachelors in Electrical Engineering (Example)
Electronics+ 3, Methematics+ 2, Computers+2, Mechanics+1, Analyze+1, Mathematics+ 1, +3 Electives

Bachelors in Civic Engineering (Example)
Contruction+ 3, Mechanics+2, Computers+2, Electronics+ 1, Logistics+1, Mathematics+ 1, +3 Electives

Bachelors in Specialty Engineering
1 X Skill+3, 2 X Skill+2, 3 X Skill+1, +3 Electives

Masters in Specialty Engineering (2 Years)
2 X Skill+2, +2 Elective

PhD in Specialty Engineering (3 Years)
2 X Skill+3, +3 Electives

So, Bachelors+Masters = 6 years, Bachelors+PhD = 7 years

So, the game book would have the Skill List under the school, as it is currently structured, but the GM and Player would structure their own degree program using the formulas above.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

StarCluster 3E and Education

I'm going to be revising how I treat Education in SC3E. Colleges will operate just like accelerated training does in IHW: Wild Blue or IHWSC - you get a group of skill ranks - for the first year, and are able to select from what the College offers or from the Generic College Skill List for the other three years. Graduate education will operate similarly.

So, you take background skills to get to age 18, or take a Template. Go to College if you want. Take an advanced degree if you want. Get into a profession. Switch professions if you want. Stop when you are ready to play. Makes things a lot simpler, and keeps non-military professions more on a par with the military professions skill-wise.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Outremer Quasi-Paths and Player Options


Quasi-Paths are a new concept in Outremer. The players noted that they would like a lower-powered alternative to the standard Paths of Power. They said that the Quirk rules were cool, but they had no control over their powers. Then one of them said something about "Quasi-paths" and it was off to the races.

Quasi-Paths have only 1 magical power. They are less powerful than Paths, but have more control than Quirks. Having only one power, those taking the Quasi-Paths are free to concentrate on other things in addition to building up their powers.

Snake Charmers - Open only to Muslims. Snake Charmers can enchant snakes to do their bidding, and can communicate with them.

Puppeteer - open to all, but dominated by Christians. Puppeteers can physically control other people.

Fortune Teller - open to all, Fortune tellers can foretell the future.

Healer - Open to all. in addition to normal healing, Healers may use the Laying on of hands to heal and cure.

Mystic - Open to all. Mystics may see and speak with Ghosts, Spirits, and Djinn.

Old Paths

I am bringing back the Esotericist, Magus and Minstrel from OHMAS. The Esotericist and Magus were originally from Blood Games II as well.

Player Options

There will be a new Player Option - the Half-Djinn. Half-Djinn are the offspring of Djinn and Humans, and may choose one of the Djinn powers - Flight, ShapeChange, Control of Fire, or Control of Winds - to use themselves. Half-Djinn can be Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, and may not take a Path.

I am also bringing back the Half-Angel and Immortal from Blood Games II.


Outremer Paths

I layed out some ideas for Paths of Power in Outremer. Klaxon and I had talked it over, and some were his suggestions, and some were a mish-mash of both. As we presented them to the rest of the group, we got a lot of useful comments. We ended up changing some, amalgamating others, and pushing a couple into a new category, created ad-hoc there at the table. Here's what we cane up with:

Kabbalist - Open to Jews and Christians. kabbalists use wards and seals, and are very well educated. They have access to Hebrew Astrology, and may create Golems. Thye are similar to Savants in OHMAS.

Sorcerer - Open to all, though dominated by Muslims. Sorcerers summon, bind, and command Djinn. These are analogous to the Warlocks in OHMAS.

Alchemist - Open to all. Alchemists can summon and bind Djinn animals - related to Djinn as regular animals relate to humans - into mechanical constructs, distill magical potions and powders, and create poisons and drugs.

Crusader/Jihadist - Open to Christians as the Crusader, and to Muslims as the Jihadist. The Crusader/Jihadist is much like the Templar, with similar physical enhancements, and the miracles of Healing, Inspiration, Purify, Shield, and Locate.

Relic Hunter - Open only to Christians. Relic Hunters find and use relics - the fingerbones of saints, books and papers used by holy men and women, blessed weapons, et cetera. Their belief in these relics create a "placebo effect" magic.

Oracle - Open to all. oracles can use Astrology, Sight, and Hunter-type LUCK. Their luck rating is reciprocal to their MAG rating, so the stronger tehy are in one, the weaker they are in the other.

Next - Quasi-Paths

Friday, March 5, 2010

The StarNova Resolution Sub-System


Ok - how about this for another resolution sub-system? Skill check is roll 1d6 per skill rank +1 die, plus Attribute Bonus, sixes explode. Add results, roll total over 9 for success, all ones is a botch. The total of the roll is Quality of Success - AKA Base damage - in combat add Weapon Damage Bonus. Constitution is 2X Physical Attributes - average human Constitution is (7.5 X 4) X 2 = 60. Attributes are capped at 15. Edges and Traits add 1 to the roll for each point used. Optional - Mooks go down with 35 points of damage in a hit, die with 60, and anything less is a wound. Mooks fall over with three wounds. Initiative is roll 1d6, highest goes first, players can trade points to roll and vice versa.

I put this sub-system together in my head as I walked home from work. It was raining lightly, so I couldn't read as I normally do while walking. I began breaking it down into ranges of expected results, which gave me the Constitution multiplier and the TN. The TN is 9 because the unskilled person without high attributes needs an exploding six, plus at least an average roll on the bonus die, to make it. At Skill rank +1, it's still difficult, but not nearly as hard as for the unskilled person.

I really like that skill is much more important than attributes - it's one thing I never liked about skill+stat+roll systems. I also like the skill gradient - a master can be devastatingly good, while a tyro is only dangerous if he gets lucky. This would be one bloody system in combat. This could very well make it into StarCluster 3E.

Thanks to Narf the Mouse over on The RPG Site for the suggestion! He asked about a roll-and-add d6 system with exploding sixes, and this popped into my head.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Resolution sub-systems for SC3E

I'm going over my options for resolution sub-systems for SC3E. I would like to use different resolution systems for SC3E than those included in IHWSC, which are the well-tested StarPerc, StarPool, and Star20 systems.

One system that is a shoo in is the StarKarma diceless system. This is a non-random system using skill rank + attribute bonus + effort markers, with effort being a renewable resource. This is very close to completion, and just needs some final playtesting to clean it up.

Another option is the StarBalance system, with attribute bonus + skill rank + (dX-dX). This gives a result that averages attribute bonus + skill rank, but depending on the die used, can vary widely. This one is less developed than StarKarma, but looks very promising.

Yet another candidate is StarRisk - a system where you can choose to succeed automatically with a mild success, or shoot for something better and risk failure. This system is somewhere between StarKarma and StarBalance in the development cycle, but I really like some aspects of it.

There is also StarStory, which is embryonic, but intrigues me. I'm not a story-oriented GM, but others are, and I think I this system would be good at this. This system would definitely require more work before it is viable, though.

There are also two variants on Star20 - Star20.1 uses 1d20 rather than 4d6-4, and Star20.2 uses 2d10 - but are otherwise the same.

Right now I'm leaning toward StarKarma, StarRisk, and StarBalance. Any comments? Preferences?


Monday, March 1, 2010

The Quality of Failure

In my games I tend to separate the concepts of chance of success (did I do it?) from quality of success (how well did I do it?), but internally in my own group I also use the concept of Quality of Failure - i.e. "just how badly did I screw up?" this is a powerful concept, and one that can be lots of fun to employ. On a failure, I like to let the player roll how badly the character failed, then let them describe exactly what happened. For example, if you fail on a skill check in a StarPerc (percentile) game, I may ask the player to roll percentile again, with 00 being a complete cock up and 01 being almost a success.

The point here is that failure can be entertaining, not just "you fail." Sometimes you do everything right and still don't succeed - and sometimes you do everything wrong and the only thing you can do is laugh at yourself. Both things have their own interest and entertainment value. You can reward particularly entertaining failures however your group rewards coolness - a fate/plot/hero point, laughter and high fives, a freebie later on, whatever works for you.