Monday, March 28, 2011

[Greyhawk] Clerical Turning

The effect of a Cleric (or Paladin) turning Undead is implemented as a Social Combat attack by a Cleric versus a one or more Undead, opposed by the Resolve skill.

A turning is accomplished by a cleric using the "Turn Undead" stunt, where the cleric's Resolve skill (with a trapping of Faith) is substituted for Intimidation.

Use of the Turning Undead stunt counts as an Action by the cleric as per normal.

Upon resolution of the Turning attack, there are the following possible outcomes:

The cleric has done sufficient stress to generate a Consequence, which could then force the undead to offer a Concession or be Taken Out.

Partial Success:
Social stress was generated, but not enough to generate a Consequence. The undead cannot attack the cleric physically and is now considered "held at bay" and the Intimidation battle can continue. Note that if the undead chooses to disengage from the Intimidation battle and try to attack someone else, it can still be Intimidated by the cleric.

There's been the suggestion that a fragile aspect could be placed on an undead trying to disengage from a Turning, "trying to tear his eyes away from the Cleric", but playtesting will determine if that holds up.

No stress shifts were generated, and the cleric can no longer attempt to Turn any undead present in that scene.

Epic Failure:
No stress shifts were generated, and the Undead generates Spin. The cleric cannot attempt any further Turning in that scene to any Undead present and the Undead with Spin gets the +1 as per normal. Have something appropriately nasty happen to the cleric! The cinematic idea of the undead grasping the cleric's holy symbol and having it burst into flames might be fun!

Requirements for Turning
A Turning requires that the following:

  • Stunt "Turn Undead" (only available to the Cleric or Paladin class)
  • A material component (the cleric's holy symbol)
  • Somatic component (the cleric actively brandishing the holy symbol)

(See below for an option to add a verbal component.)
Consequences from Being Turned
If an undead can accept a social Consequence, it can then choose to either:

Accept A Turning Consequence
Something like "Cowering", "Driven to its Knees", "Covering its Eyes", "Shrieking in Agony" or even a physical consequence like "Blistering Skin" would be appropriate. The consequence could then be tagged as per normal.

NOTE: Use of Grit Rules (or Undead "Grit"):
Certain NPCs or monsters can potentially have Grit, a number usually at 1 or 2. The number represents how committed the entity is to the conflict. That value represents the number of Consequences the character will elect to take before offering a Concession.
Grit is contextual as most monsters "will not go to the mat over trivial matters."
EXAMPLE: A vampire out wandering around may have no Grit, whereas when protecting their coffin, they could have a Grit of 2 (very committed).
Remember that Grit is not a matter of how many Consequences are available, but rather how many Consequences they will accept before offering a Concession.
Offer a Concession
In the event that the Undead chooses not to accept a Consequence it can offer a Concession to the cleric. If an undead CANNOT accept a Consequence, there's no opportunity to offer a Concession and you go right to "Taken Out".

The nature of the concession offered by the undead depends somewhat upon the alignment of the cleric:

Undead Concession Offered to a Good-aligned Cleric:
Undead who offer a Concession to a cleric of Good alignment will compel the creature to move directly away from the cleric and stay as far away as possible for the rest of the scene, moving at full speed for the duration if at all possible. After the scene, the turned undead will be able to come back again, but they are subject to further turning by the cleric. Any Consequences on the undead in later scenes could be tagged for an improved Turning.
Undead Concession Offered to an Evil-aligned Cleric:
Undead who offer a Concession to a cleric of Evil alignment will cause the creatures to take a neutral attitude to the party and the cleric for the rest of the scene.
Neutral undead will ignore the cleric and his or her party. This Concession is only valid as long as the Undead are not the subject of a hostile act by the party or the cleric. Examples of hostile acts are:
  • Entry into an area which the undead were created to guard.
  • Attempts to remove guarded items or treasure which the undead were created to guard.
  • Preventing the undead from carrying out commands from which they were created to guard.
  • Outright attacks (physical or magical).

Taken Out Result from Turning
In the event that a Concession is not offered or is refused by a cleric, the Turning continues. Note that a refusal of a Concession should be taken into further consideration later on (see below). In the event that a Consequence CANNOT be absorbed by the undead, it is considered "Taken Out". While the exact circumstances of the Taken Out result are up to the cleric, they should obey the following guidelines:

Taken Out by a Good-aligned Cleric:
Undead who are Taken Out by clerics of Good alignment, are then considered destroyed.

Taken Out by an Evil-aligned Cleric:
Undead who are Taken Out by clerics of Evil alignment, are then at the mercy of the cleric's discretion--they can be destroyed or are automatically considered Minions for a period of time that depends on "how bad" they were taken out.
  • The rest of the Scene (overflow of 0-1)
  • The rest of the Day (overflow of 2)
  • The rest of the Adventure (overflow of 3)
Once that period of time passes, the undead will either need to be re-controlled, destroyed, or otherwise turned. The GM should keep in mind that undead that have a degree of free will likely keep in mind their treatment for purposes of assigning any grit.

Turning-related Attack Modifiers

"Powerless before my Faith!"
In the event that a Cleric's Resolve / Faith skill (without any modifiers) is greater than the target's Social stress track (without regard to any existing damage) by 3 or better, no die roll is needed--they are automatically Turned, and the cleric receives a Concession.

If a Cleric's Resolve / Faith skill (without any modifiers) is greater than the target's Social stress track (without regard to any existing damage) by 5 or better, no die roll is needed--they are automatically Taken Out (as described above).

Adding a Verbal Component
In addition to the Material and Somatic components, a cleric can choose to add a Verbal component. If the cleric chooses to (and is capable of) speaking holy names, etc in a strong projecting voice, allow the cleric a +1 modifier.

Diametrically Opposed Alignment
It is possible to tag a target's diametrically opposed alignment (Law vs Chaos and Good vs Evil) to gain a +2 on the turning. This tag cannot be used for defensive purposes.

A Cleric with Skill of Intimidation
Having the skill of Intimidation might qualify as a bonus (complementary skill) on the Turning, but it cannot be substituted in place of Resolve / Faith.

Undead Tagging an Environment Aspect
If there is some aspect of Evil within the location or the Scene, the undead will be able to utilize a free tag for their opposed skill. However an evil cleric within the same area could tag that Aspect and earn the +2 for purposes of Control, instead of the Undead using it to resist. Similarly, an aspect of Good upon the environment or scene could be tagged by a Good cleric for use in Turning.

Repeated Turning
When dealing with multiple undead in a group, as long as a clerical turning is successful against ANY of those undead, the cleric may attempt to Turn any remaining undead as his next action until such time as the group is entirely turned, or he fails to turn any.

Note that undead minions under an undead leader, may use their leader's resistance to Intimidation.

Cleric Incapacitation
Any clerical compulsion (Turned or Controlled via "Taken Out" result) will be nullified in the event that the cleric who did the turning is killed or otherwise rendered unconscious (except for normal sleep). If this occurs the GM will consider the following factors when determining the actions of the freed undead:

  • Are the undead mindless or do they have a certain amount of free will?
  • What was their treatment at the hands of the cleric?
  • How much risk were the undead subjected to?
  • Possible reactions could range from mindless undead simply doing nothing, losing all animation and direction to vengeful undead attacking an incapacitated cleric and/or his party.

"Duelling Clerics"
Any clerical Turning or Taken Out result could be countered by another cleric (evil or good). However as stated previously, controlled undead would then be using their leader's Resolve / Faith as their opposed skill instead of their own.
EXAMPLE: A good cleric turned a group of undead and they began to flee. An evil cleric gaining control of those turned undead would then have countered the good cleric's prior turning and could use them as minions within that same scene.

EXAMPLE: An evil cleric with undead minions are being Turned by a good cleric. The undead will resist the turning based upon their leader's (the evil cleric) resistance to the good cleric's Intimidation.

[FATE Core] Skills, Trappings, and Stunts

Interesting post by Lenny Balsera the other day about the importance of skill trappings in FATE -- and one that aligns very nicely with the importance of trappings in FATE Kerberos, which is, let's say, encouraging. I'm confident about it, of course, but part of me is always wondering, "Yeah, but what will so-and-so think of it?" Replace "so-and-so" with any pre-existing FATE author, lather, rinse, repeat. It's more than just that, though: It's looking to those people and asking myself if what I am doing/have done with my own version of FATE is in the conceptual ballpark of what they've done with FATE. I'm not afraid to -- pompous as this will sound -- break new ground, or go exploring on my own, but I feel... more confident (?) about it if it seems like I'm extending or enhancing a portion of a map that's already been drawn rather than trying to erase and redraw it. Does that make sense?

So while while what Lenny posted is far from a one-to-one with FATE Kerberos, the emphasis on trappings -- FATE's red-headed stepchild, IMO, taken for granted compared to aspects -- is extra reassurance (on top of a successful playtest and development process) that the way FATE Kerberos puts trappings front and center is just a logical outgrowth of what's come before and not some crazy, left-field idea.

Anyway. I'm talking this to death. But the development process was, for me, dominated by a single dilemma: doing something different with FATE without alienating current FATE gamers. And Lenny's post confirms some of the thought process that went along with that "something different." So... good!

Monday, March 21, 2011

[Kerberos] And With That...'s finished.

About twenty or so minutes ago I sent off all of my FATE Kerberos materials to Shane Ivey for his perusal, so... it seems that, for the time being at least, I'm actually done. Having trouble processing that, but I can't deny the facts. However will I adjust to not going to bed every night at four in the morning?

Friday, March 4, 2011

[Kerberos] Playtest Packet #7 Away!

The seventh Playtest Packet for The Kerberos Club: FATE Edition has just been sent out to the playtesters. If you're on that list but you're like, "Hey, I didn't get anything!" -- well, first give it a minute. I mean, I know it's the Internet, but it's a 1.7Mb document, and sometimes the tubes get clogged. If you feel you've given it sufficient time and it's still not dinging your inbox (if you know what I mean), drop me a line and we'll get it sorted out.

(Yes, I'm as surprised as you are that I'm posting about this before posting a wrap-up of last month's OrcCon. It's coming soon.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

[Greyhawk] Fantasy Race Packages

As part of writing up Spirit of Greyhawk's Class Packages (Fighter, Thief, et al) I thought it made sense to do some proof-of-concept writeups on Fantasy Race Packages first.

This turned out to be a good decision (for once!) because it did highlight a few things that the Class Packages are going to need to keep in mind.

Here's some highlights on those "few things":

Skills Starting at Different Places on the Ladder

There's a general assumption in Fate that the default level for any unimproved skill is Mediocre (+0). Scattered throughout But there's a caveat that certain skills can only be learned with very specialized training and might default to a number lower than (+0). Expanding upon that, fantasy race packages will have certain starting skill levels that default to a number other than zero, whether negative or positive.

For a while, I thought this posed a problem to the Skill Pyramid and Class Advancement. If you recall from my last article, the level of characters' classes is determined by their Apex Skill. Once you start throwing in the potential for skills starting at levels other than zero, this can pose some confusion to the pyramid.

In other words, if you have an "2nd Level" Elf Fighter that has an Apex Skill of Missile at +2, along with race package skills of Agility (+1), Endurance (-1), Stealth (+1), what does that do for the pyramid?

The traditional (SotC) view of the Pyramid with respect to the example mentioned above might look like this for a 2nd Level Elven Fighter:

  • Missile (+2)
  • Melee (+1), Alertness (+1), Stealth (+1), Agility (+1)
  • Endurance (-1)

So Missile, Melee and Alertness skills were purchased via normal Skill point acquisition during the course of advancing to 2nd level Fighter, but Stealth, Endurance and Agility were received as part of the Race Package.

While on the surface there's nothing really wrong with this view of skills, once you get into advancement, I think there's a couple issues to be dealt with:

  • The character wouldn't really gain any credit in his pyramid for using acquired Skill Points to buy off negative skills.
  • At lower levels, there can be some confusion as to what a player's Apex Skill is going to be.

One way to resolve this issue is by looking at the Pyramid and what it represents in a slightly different manner. Rather than consider the Skill Pyramid as showing the net skill LEVEL, the pyramid could instead reflect skill INCREASES that have been purchased for that character.

Restated: you have the same net skill levels, but the skill pyramid would now look like this...

  • Missile (+2 levels purchased)
  • Melee (+1 level purchased), Alertness (+1 level purchased)
  • Stealth (+0 level purchased), Agility (+0 level purchased), Endurance (+0 level purchased)

...and the pyramid becomes clearer with respect to Class Advancement.

This change in focus also helps when addressing situations where a player would instead chose to instead buy off the negative Endurance skill level (instead of increasing Alertness).

Using the new example, the pyramid would go from this (under SotC)...

  • Missile (+2)
  • Melee (+1), Stealth (+1), Agility (+1)
  • Endurance (+0)

To now look like this...

  • Missile (+2 levels purchased)
  • Melee (+1 level purchased), Endurance (+1 level purchased)
  • Stealth (+0 level purchased), Agility (+0 level purchased)

This is one way to address that +1 skill level on Endurance the character purchased (to get it out of the negative part of the ladder) goes toward supporting the Pyramid.

So now the Pyramid becomes more a matter of what the character's advancement and keeps the accounting on advancement clear and consistent without having to get too fiddly. For future reference: this may have an impact on what a SoG character sheet might look like. :)

Aspects with Stated Benefits / Limitations

Note also that certain fantasy race aspects come with listings of what the potential benefits/limitations of the aspect might be, consistent with the source material. They are listed for those who might not be entirely familiar with how they were originally written in the source material. Consistent with other Aspects, their application in a particular situation is subjective and open to interpretation. However with respect to a character's race, these aspects cannot be bought off using Experience and don't count towards a character's maximum aspects.

With that out of the way, here's a couple Race Packages--I've included the two that have the most moving parts.

Fantasy Race Package "Elf"

(Net Cost to Character Fate Point Refresh: -5)

Class Restrictions (+1 to Refresh)
An elf cannot select the following class packages: Druid, Paladin, Ranger, Illusionist, Monk

Class Limitations (+1 to Refresh)
For the following Classes, an elf has these maximums for that class' Apex Skill:
Cleric (+4), Fighter (+4), Wizard (+6), Assassin (+5)

Skill Modifications (-1 to Refresh)
Agility (+1), Endurance (-1), Stealth (+1)

Race Stunt "A State of Grace" (-1 to Refresh)
Elves take no penalty to Magic Skills when wearing armor or wielding weapons. Keep in mind that the restriction on Magic when combined with weapons / armor as it exists in this particular gameworld is tied to the cumbersome nature of those things, not an aversion to metal by magical forces.

Race Stunt "A Mind Apart" (-1 to Refresh)
When dealing with Sleep and Charm magic effects, elves have two significant benefits:
  • +2 to the elf's opposed skill roll. This is a passive effect.
  • If the casting is successful and the elf is affected by either a Sleep or Charm spell, the effect lasts 2 shifts less on the time chart, if the elf spends a Fate Point.

Race Stunt "Race Weapon Proficiencies" (-1 to Refresh)
When wielding the following weapons, elves are considered as having one skill level higher than their normal Melee or Missile Skill:

  • Short Sword (i.e., +1 to Melee Skill)
  • Long Sword (i.e., +1 to Melee Skill)
  • Any Bow but a Crossbow (i.e., +1 to Missle Skill)

This is a stackable bonus, but for game purposes consider this advantage as being due to the benefit of accuracy/dexterity, not strength.

Race Stunt "Infravision" (-1 Refresh)
This race can see in the dark and take no penalties to Alertness when in mundane (non-magical) darkness.

Race Stunt "To See the Way" (-1 to Refresh)
Elves have a +1 skill bonus to passive Alertness for purposes of detecting secret doors. This can be upgraded to +2 to active Alertness for the cost of a Fate Point, and the elf is considered to be actively seeking for such things.

Extra Languages (6 Languages, -1 Refresh)
Elvish (native), gnome, halfling, goblin, hobgoblin, orcish, Common

Race Aspect "Interaction with other Races"
  • Tagged for positive social reaction against: Elf, Gnome, Half-Elf, Halfling
  • Compelled for negative social reaction against: Dwarf, Half-orc
There is no cost for the Aspect and the character can neither "buy off" this aspect nor does it count any against any maximum number of aspects.

Dealing with a Negative Refresh Total

The elf package is definitely the race package with the highest cost to a character's Net Refresh Total and would imply that most elven characters will have a negative Refresh until they are significantly advanced where their class-based Refresh would increase to offset the Race negative.

This means that SoG will have to allow for characters playing with a Negative Refresh. In practice, the player of that character is going to have to rely entirely upon free tags or compels in order to accumulate/use Fate Points.

Upon getting to a Refresh, a character with a negative refresh is going to lose that many Fate Points, but never going below zero. So if an elf character had accumulated 3 Fate Points but has a Refresh of -4, then at Refresh the elf character loses all 3 Fate points for a count of 0, not -1.

The end result of this is that until an elven character reached a sufficient class level to have a positive refresh, he would be pretty motivated (forced) to be at the whims of his compels. Indirectly (but in a very real sense), this is likely the true benefit to playing a human: at the low end of the scale, you really do have "free will" compared to your non-human counterparts.

I also feel that this serves as something of a reinforcement of the relatively rarity of elves in the world, along with reinforcing the general feel of elves as a somewhat "brittle" and "static" race.

From the players' side, the extra challenge of a negative Refresh might also serve as a barrier for some folks, especially those who might not be the most efficient at leveraging aspects of scenes and opponents.

NOTE TO LONG-TIME READERS: Some of you might remember that SoG spellcasting is planning to use a "Fate Point commit" mechanic. In other words, you must commit (not necessarily spend) a Fate point to cast a spell. I still plan to use that, but haven't yet figured out how that works with respect to characters with a negative refresh value. Maybe make it cost a Consequence of some kind?

Fantasy Race Package "Dwarf"

(Net Cost to Character Fate Point Refresh: -3)

Class Restrictions (+1 to Refresh)
Dwarf cannot select the following class packages: Druid, Paladin, Ranger, Wizard, Sorcerer, Monk

Class Limitations (+1 to Refresh)
For the following Classes, the dwarf has these maximums for that class' Apex Skill:
Cleric (+4), Fighter (+5), Assassin (+5)

Skill Modifications (No Effect to Refresh)
Toughness (+1), Empathy (-1)

Race Stunt "Magic Resistance" (-2 to Refresh)
Whenever any Magic effect is cast against a dwarf, the spell caster must roll a +1 or better to succeed, instead of a 0 or better. However if the roll succeeds, the shifts still count as if the caster rolled normally. Important distinction: Magic Resistance in this gameworld is only of use to AVOID being hit by magic, not as a reduction in the shifts of effect.

Extra Languages (5 extra languages, -1 to Refresh)
Dwarven (Native), Gnome, Goblin, Kobold, Orcish, Common

Race Stunt "Infravision" (-1 Refresh)
This race can see in the dark and take no penalties to Alertness when in mundane (non-magical) darkness.

Race Stunt "Humanoid Combat Proficiency" (-1 Refresh)
Add +1 to combat rolls when fighting half-orcs, orcs, goblins, or hobgoblins. This bonus is an expression of the knowledge of tactics, fighting styles and the weak points of these humanoid races.

Race Aspect "Short & Stocky"
There is no cost for the Aspect and the character can neither "buy off" this aspect nor does it count any against any maximum number of aspects, consistent with Consequences.
There is also the possibility that a more crunchy version of this could be implemented when a size/scale chart is nailed down.

Race Aspect "A Life Spent Underground"
  • Detect grade or slope up or down.
  • Detect new construction, passage, or tunnel.
  • Detect sliding / shifting walls or rooms.
  • Detecting traps involving stonework
  • Determine approximate depth underground
Agoraphobic, Bright lights bother you, you lose your way in the woods, other negatives that come from a life lived away from the light of day.

There is no cost for the Aspect and the character can neither "buy off" this aspect nor does it count any against any maximum number of aspects, consistent with Consequences.

Race Aspect "Interaction with other Races"
  • Tagged for positive social reaction against: Gnome, Halfling, Dwarven
  • Compelled for negative social reaction against: Elven, Half-orc
There is no cost for the Aspect and the character can neither "buy off" this aspect nor does it count any against any maximum number of aspects, consistent with Consequences.