Lifepath Systems

I really love lifepath systems. When writing Steampunkfitters I made sure to include one. It seems a number of other people do also from all the mentions of them I’ve been hearing recently. For the Artifact, this is a problem though. Most characters are military, usually starting military, so they’re young and haven’t had too much happen to them. The other problem is that one of the strengths of starting a character for The Artifact is that they are starting with a clean slate in a new world. If anything, the whole game is something of a reset button for the character’s life.

Now there are a few lifepath items I’ve included in the bonus tables and limitations tables. Things like the character has family at home they’re supporting, and that they found a map to treasure fill out what are supposed to be the highlights or lows of a character’s life so far.

I’m trying to think if there’s anything else that could be done. Sometimes, you have to accept that a game element that you love isn’t going to fit with a game’s style. In this case a lifepath system just doesn’t seem to fit.

Does anyone know of an unusual lifepath system that would fit this kind of situation? Let me know in the comments.

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Conscripts

Some of us remember our parents. At age four we became wards of the state. We are the ones chosen to protect our families and our nation. At an early age, we are all the same, silly children playing games. Carefully chosen games sure, but don’t think that we were raised on misery and conflict. We are the conscripted.

Very soon though, we begin to see the difference between us and them. They grow quickly, soon towering over our heads at age 8. They are more agile than we are, they are even smarter than we are. They will become the Warriors, while we will man the Hunters, Cruisers and the Demolishers. The Kelahn, the priests, teach them not to push us around, that we are brothers but they are angry by nature. I am only glad that before the change, my best friend was Aheshpei, who I watched slowly become one of them. He took care of me, calling me little brother, even though I was a year older.

Over the years, I put a few things together. Aheshpei and the others like him could not remember their fathers if they had them. They remember younger brothers but never sisters. The Kelahn did not like us talking about it. They seemed to know when Aheshpei would start to talk about his life before 4 years. They would come and split us up, give us more work to do.

None of the others the ones who became Warriors could remember their fathers except one. Cheshah who was younger than us by four years remembered his father. He remembered a kind man that loved his mother dearly and that he loved to take Cheshah out to play. He remembered men from everywhere would run up to his father and ask for help on this matter or that. Cheshah’s father would talk with them and hold crying children. He doesn’t remember much about those conversations, only one word, the men would call his father Kelahn, priest.

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Editors, start your engines!

I’m tearing into the Player’s Handbook finally. I thought I’d share a bit of my technique. I don’t know if I’m doing anything unusual here (or wrong) but it works for me.

I obviously try and keep things error free and consistent while I’m writing but that’s never enough to get it right. It is important though to do a healthy amount of error checking as early on as possible. Without worrying about quality, editing later would be a nightmare.

Stat blocks are usually my downfall. Along with importing old text, I hate having to re-write, and I should just get over it. Stat blocks need exacting consistency and vehicles are really huge stat blocks so you can guess where a lot of my errors are. I usually copy one stat block and then modify the contents, but that introduces the problem of having fields that look like they’ve already been filled in, when it’s really old data. Things like prices, or the mass of an object can get overlooked.

For some reason, with me, having a printed book in front of me is better than looking at a book on my iPad a thousand times. I read with more clarity on dead tree and marking up a page is easier than any pdf editor I’ve seen. For short documents in the 20-40 page range, I print out the book, usually with two pages to a sheet of paper and make a booklet by folding the pages in half. For longer works, I’ve used lulu.com in the past to print out the book. I’m moving to Amazon Createspace, but they’re less forgiving and more of a hassle to deal with. There are more hoops to jump through. That’s good for a finished product, but I’m looking for a quick and dirty mock up.

Once I have my dead tree version in hand, I use a red pen or marker to start noting any errors I see. I’ve used blue or black, but it’s easier to lose notes made in more mundane colors. Especially when I’m noting that I missed a space. Red, almost universally stands out more.

Most of my notes are simple. If something is out of place, I’ll use an arrow to point to where it should be. If something is incorrect, like a number, or spelling it gets circled. In most cases, I remember what was wrong just looking at the circled item. In some I forget why I circled it, but after examination I can figure it out. Other times I need to write an actual note to myself about what I want to do with an edit. One of my common notes is “awk” as in awkward. After reading a sentence or a whole paragraph, it doesn’t convey the thought clearly or concisely. It’s awkwardly worded. This note usually requires that I throw the current paragraph out and start over, it’s not retrievable. A fresh take is the only thing that’s going to unstick my brain.

There are of course lots of simple notes, like adding an “s” or an “ing” to the end of a word, usually because the spellchecker didn’t like the suffix and dropped it. I know that I was up late writing when I see that I okayed the change. Write it in red after the word an move on.

So once I’m done with my edits, I go into the digital file and start making the changes I indicated. When I make the change, I write the date next to my edit. This lets me know that I actually fixed the problem and when.

I’ll usually go through the book again afterwards to make sure I didn’t miss any edits and that I still agree with them. If I find that I’ve missed some, I repeat the process over again, until my check runs clean.

Then the book is ready for prime time. (I hope.)

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Hoping to get back in the swing of things

I’m not even making excuses anymore. At this point I need to finish the new Player’s Handbook, I need to finish the Imbalance of Power sourcebook, not forgetting to put into it a lot of the new stuff I posted here for the Chezbah. I know, I’ve been slacking.

The Player’s Handbook needs a decent amount of editing. That will take a while, but it’s fairly straightforward.

The Imbalance of Power, or as we like to call it, the five year sourcebook (because it updates the initial setting by five years) STILL has problems with the feel of the tech introduced. I haven’t quite hit the sweet spot when it comes to getting the rules right. It also needs a lot of testing to get the new threat right.

There are also aspects of the world that still haven’t been developed fully. I have ideas for the Tanroc Fredar that I’d love to explore. There’s a new enemy that’s coming, in Imbalance, but I haven’t been able to fully describe them.

I have been working out some thoughts on Legions, the sequel to The Artifact. For one, the name needs work. The original name for the setting was Galactic Legions, but we always just called it Legions. Beyond that, “Galactic” sounds so. . . 80’s  Sci-fi. I’d like something that shows the desperation of the races in the setting. I was a little tickled by Exiguous Legions but. . . I’m not so sure. Beyond that, there were a few races that were coming to dominate the game’s landscape in terms of power. Oddly, one of those races was humans, but there are 19 races, all interesting, but too limited to compete with the big boys. I contemplated just leaving the rift and having in essence two separate game experiences but I think I have a solution now.

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Look what I got in the mail!

 

Hardcopys

It’s always exciting to get new hardcopies in the mail. I also got a black and white economy version of the core rulebook but that looks mostly the same as the existing books.

The Player’s Handbook needs some work before I can release it. The cover lettering is slightly off on the spine, and the interior needs quite a bit more editing before it’s ready. But! It’s one more step that will bring it closer to happening.

The character book is a 40 page book. Half is character tracking and the other half is maps for recording information about games. Now, who am I going to give this one to for testing? Hmmm. Unfortunately I couldn’t push the price any lower than $3. I was hoping to have it at about half that, but $3 isn’t too much to worry about, right? Some people spend that much on a coffee every day.

The economy book has a minor issue here and there. It shouldn’t take much to fix. Some of the artwork is rather flat looking  without the color but it’s not likely I’ll be able to do anything about that.

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New Hardcopy Options On The Way

It’s been a while, what have I been up to? Not a lot. I started a new game, started a new job, made a really different tool for playing RPGs and totally rebuilt the character sheets for The Artifact.

In the next few weeks I hope to make those reworked character sheets available for purchase. That’s right, purchase. The new sheets won’t be sheets, they’ll be mini booklets. Theres much more space and a lot of rules are included in the book where you need them, when you need them. I’m hoping to make them as inexpensive as possible so if a character dies, the player won’t think of it as a huge loss. If there’s any way to do it, I’d like to sell them in ten packs.

The other thing I want to do is correct some errata in the current PDFs and books and in the process offer a black and white version of the main book as an economy option, and make the Players Handbook available as dead tree version. Because I really want one.

That’s what’s up.

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More Stress Driving Progression Thoughts

Still on yesterday’s subject, I realized that the player would have to track their total stress for that game because they can rest or eat or do whatever to reduce stress. That sounds tedious and boring. So how else could we structure this?

The other question is, what is the threshold for getting the experience point? One point of stress? Too low. Five points? Still too low. Ten points? Maybe, but that would potentially put it as the same level as a low attribute. So reasonably then, the level of a low attribute could be the threshold.*

That doesn’t fix the problem of tracking stress, but lets go back to the lifting weights analogy. If I lift a dumbbell once, take a nap, then lift it again, take a nap, etc, would I get any physical benefit? Not likely. I have to lift that dumbbell until I’m tired. So in the stress model, I don’t track my total stress for the game. I track if I hit the threshold of the lowest attribute in that stress class at any time during the game.

The same thing goes for over stressing myself. If I hit the stress level of the highest attribute, I injure myself and lose the XP bonus.

*This could have the effect of incentivizing keeping some low attributes. I can’t tell if that’s a feature or a bug.

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Stress Driving Progression

I had this idea today to make stress, at least partly drive progression. My thinking went thusly. The stress rules in 3e are really transformative to the game but it seems hard to get the players to use it. The idea that a player doesn’t have to fail a roll unless they want to (or are exhausted) is really crucial.

Doing things like lifting weights makes you tired, you’ve stressed your muscles out. So really, taking stress should offer some growth. Only, if you go too far, you’ll injure yourself. There should be a sweet spot in stress that would give growth, but the players shouldn’t go nuts taking stress.

There are three kinds of stress, Physical, Functional and Mental. If hitting a sweet spot gave an experience point apiece, it would seem an acceptable amount. But what is that sweet spot? My first thought is something equal to the attribute, but that may be too high. Maybe something up to the lowest attribute in the stress class but going higher than the lowest attribute negates the bonus. That would allow the player to take one stress and get an experience point, which seems too easy.

If I really wanted to be exact, it would hurt the player to go over the lowest attribute, signifying that they injured themselves. Only, that doesn’t seem like players would really enjoy that.

But this could replace the Active Participant experience criteria. It would go from something subjective that the GM decides, to something the players could prove.

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The Tomb

Voice recognition – Starting

Sound Database – Starting

Austin Avery 79% – We found it Hank, the Rantaa’ tomb! This is insane! The whole thing fills the hex. There are walls set up in geometric patterns. Huge walls fifty meters tall, covered in Kelrath writing. There’s a huge structure over a kilometer tall at the center of the hex. We can’t figure out what you’d use such a huge building for in a tomb. Erik is translating some of the wall’s text and Jason is trying to use the E-Suit to open one of circular plugs in the wall. The writing seems to say that thats where the Rantaa’ are entombed. The Kelrath would be furious if they saw us here.

Sound – Fuel Detonation 120 db 65%

Austin Avery 82% –  (shout) What happened? What happened?

Erik Magnusson 64% – The plug was trapped. Jason. Jason do you read me? Jason, come in.

Unknown Voice – I’m okay. Uh, the suit’s shields took most of it but I still felt that. I’m just checking the damage.

Erik Magnusson 68% – Typical, the Kelrath always have defenses. The plug was probably a fake tomb or it belonged to a minor official. It’s doubtful they’d detonate a grave of anyone important. That means that only a fraction of the plugs might have anything in them.

Austin Avery 78% –  That’s not good. It also means we’ll probably run into more Kerdi after that noise.

Unknown Voice – The damage doesn’t look ba. . . (sound quality below threshold)

Austin Avery 78% –  Dicky, start scanning the radio for more Kerdi. They’ll probably come from above. Whatever, I don’t want to hang out here, let’s move into the center and see what else we can find. We have to find out what’s with that center structure. Keep alert and let’s move.

Recording – Paused

Shutdown command given

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A Chezbah Campaign?

I’ve never lifted the veil on the Chezbah far enough to allow a player character. For me, that’s been a no-no because it would let the genie out of the bottle. The Chezbah are exotic because they are unobtainable, unknowable, unreachable.

But now I’m starting to rethink that. I have a specific need to playtest Chezbah technologies because I want to see how players would exploit the tech, get the strategies they would come up with. In a way, I want to hand over the keys to the unobtainable because I think the players will come up with better strategies than I will. I’ve come up with the obvious so far, what I think will be fair. Now I need a players mentality to try and grab onto all the advantage they can get.

I’ve written a few times about the technology called Warping. We’ve always thought about play testing the tech from the perspective of the players going up against it but I think it will be more revealing to see the players using it. To have them create the strategies that the Chezbah would use to spam against future players.

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