4e Hacking

Hacking in the current edition has a problem. Although it works, not many players use it. In short, it requires patience. The time scale for hacking is much longer than combat and that means it’s ineffective in a crisis. Because of that, it’s not a skill players fall back on.

I don’t have a good idea of what I want to do yet. I have the intuition that I want to do something like where I’m going with social conflict where the hacker picks conditions to put on the hacked system. Instead of trying to take control of the system, the player uses their skill to either gain from the system or limit it’s use.

I don’t have a full idea of what that’s going to look like yet but I have some ideas. The two conditions I’m thinking of are as follows.

Information – The hacker can get information on what is happening on the system or what happened in the past. I’m almost thinking that I’d like two separate conditions, one for current monitoring and another for reading what happened in the past just to make them distinct but that may not be needed.

Complication – This takes a lot of forms but the thought is that the hacker does something to make the system harder to use. This could include making it harder to use sensors or aim weapons. The hacker would put an impairment on using a skill that would be used on that system. Again, I’m trying to figure out if this should be multiple different conditions or just one.

I would like to have more so I’ll keep working on this and try to expand it. There’s still the problem of time scales. I might have to relent on that, maybe changing the framework of hacking. I’m not sure about that. Playtesting might illuminate that.

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Tweaks to the 3.1 Player’s Handbook

Interestingly, the consequences in the equipment building section of the 3.1 Player’s Handbook worked out better than I thought. I did intensify one (the time consequence) which was a surprise to me. It was always the option chosen which means it’s too weak. I’m also looking at weakening the energy consequence because it’s always avoided, meaning it’s too strong. I’m not sure how to state the consequence eloquently yet though, I’m working on it.

The other change is that builds are starting out with a number of Challenge Points (CP). In playing with the rules, very small builds came out too small. I needed to introduce a curve to the mass and energy use in very small builds and giving a base CP does that nicely.

I’ll re-release the 3.11 ashcan when I figure out what I want to do with the Energy consequence.

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One more experimental idea

This one I’m really not sure of. It messes with the stress economy and the attribute balance but it makes some sense. I’d like to test it out and see if it makes game play better.

If a player spends an extra action (from their initiative roll) on a roll, they get a automatic success.

This does a few good things.

  • It could speed up a round by getting players to spend actions on important tasks that they’d be re-trying anyway.
  • It would simulate someone taking some time to do make sure they did it right, like aiming a shot instead of pray and spray.
  • It would help Tarnoc whom the dice hate (if he can manage to make a Ref roll).

It could also do some bad things.

  • It would make Ref the most important attribute. It may already be, but it would make it so that any task could get a success by just spending an action on it.
  • It makes taking stress less desirable. You have another method to fix a roll, one that doesn’t have an ongoing cost.

Like I said, really not sure of this, but I do want to play with it. It could be that something similar could give the desired effect, but not have the downsides. For example, could I simulate multiple rolls an the improved chances in just one roll? An “aimed shot” used to give you +15 to hit but cost two actions in second edition. This would be similar, tipping the success rate while reducing rolls.

Another option might be taking a pause. Spending an action to almost have a micro rest that would reduce a stress point. Weirdly that sounds both not useful enough and too powerful an effect at the same time. Maybe that should be tested too.

There’s a few questionable ideas that might need the dents knocked out of them.

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Driving the 4e changes

On the plus side of driving for 4 days, me and my son talked a lot about games and I’ve got a list of things to implement for 4e.

One of those thoughts is a little incongruous for The Artifact as it is now. In 4e it might become more normal. In Technical Challenges you have Consequences, basically a story prompt that carries a mechanical effect in the game. Nothing weird, it’s just that regular combat doesn’t have that… yet.

We talked about how in combat and even in social conflict you could be put in a bad position. We called it “out of position” and talked about the various ways that it could cause a problem for you. At first it was something I thought about inflicting on someone else but it would be better if it was something a player elected to take. That made sense for combat. If you’re being fired on and you maneuver into a bad position to avoid it, you’re electing to not be shot.

My thought is that taking the Consequence gives a character a defense success for that turn. In return it usually limits your ability to act, so it would reduce the character’s actions by 1 for the next turn.

Next we talked about Kerdi. They’re a little odd in their stats. They’re overly powerful for infantry but are ineffective against E-Suits. I think we may have hit a good balance for them with some changes. I’ll implement these changes in the next PDF I put out of the game book. (3.2?)

One, they have too many hit points for their size, they’ll probably be reduced to 80HP. That puts them in range of infantry while still being really tough.

Two, their weapons are all wonky. It was an improvement in 3e to have their heavy cannons but not enough. They have lasers, let them use the lasers on infantry and completely convert their plasma into an anti-vehicle role. I’m thinking of giving them four shots at triple the damage of their current guns (90 at point blank). That should give them a chance to do some damage to armored targets. I think describing them as patient and only using the plasma cannons when they think they need to is enough to keep them from blasting PCs with 90 point plasma cannons, for a little while anyway.

I’m also thinking of setting a social contract in motion mechanically at character generation. I’m thinking of having the players pick a mode of play. The Artifact is a zero to hero game as it is but that isn’t for everyone and I’ve occasionally thought about starting characters off a little higher up for some fun. Now I’m thinking, why not give that option to the players instead of leaving it up to GM whim? The players could vote at character generation and pick a mode of play. The changes don’t have to be mechanically dramatic, a +10 to two attributes and a +1 rank would put the players into a role where they’re already competent. +20 and a +3 rank would give them a lot of extra muscle early on.


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Addition to the Random Tables

I finally remembered to add a few tables that flesh out the general condition of surrounding Hexes. The neat part is that some of the options give some real flavor to traveling through a region. Things like “Ancient mummified bodies are found, particularly in residential hexes where there are millions.” Which is something that has been talked about in the history of the planet but very rarely brought into play.

When GMing I usually describe the Hexes as if they’re pristine but dark, while I’ll talk about crumbling structures. The new tables will fill in those default options and give a lot more flavor to the terrain of the underground.

Random Generation Tables

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4th Edition Range Classes

I’m thinking of going in one of two directions for ranges in 4th edition. One is just fixing some abnormalities in the Range Classes but the other completely re-works things.

The first option has to do with adjusting Range Classes A and D. Normally the Range Classes are three times the extreme distance of the class before them. A and D don’t follow this convention. To fix that, A would be adjusted so that it’s extreme range bracket would be 100m instead of 30m. D would be cut in a third and go from 10 Km to 3 Km. E would then take the place of D and so on up the letter chain.

The other option throws out Range Classes entirely. Currently there are 8 discrete bits of information for a player to remember for a ranged weapon (PB, Short, Med, Long, Ex, Range Class, Range bracket distance and bracket Impairment). I’d like to cut that down to 2 and keep most of the flavor.

The way to do that is to give the ranged weapon or device a range that roughly corresponds to it’s Medium range bracket. For each success used, the base range is added onto the effective range. In other words a weapon with a range of 600 meters hits out to that range with a single success, but can hit out to 1200 m with two. With a very good roll and some Advantages (5 success), it could hit out to 3km. Which is around the current world record shots.

This handles range and difficulty, but a big part of the range classes are the damage gradients that gives a lot of tactical flavor to the game currently. This is where the second bit of information comes into play. Each weapon would have it’s own Damage Drop value.

For something like the Projectile Rifle the Damage Drop would likely be a -2 with a Range around 250 meters. This means between 251-500 meters the damage would drop by 2 points, from 501-750 it’s damage drops by another 2 points.

For a Scimrahn Plasma Gun, the Damage drop would be a -5 with a range of 30 meters. At 31-60 meters the damage drops by 5 and so on.

The Laser Gun would have a Damage Drop of -3 and a range of 2500 meters. This is a lot flatter of a curve than it had before but we can’t have everything.

I’m not sure how to handle explosives like grenades and missiles yet.

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4th Edition Rule Changes

I’m working on further changes for a fourth edition. The biggest structural changes is in the numbers used.


I love the granularity of the percentile system. What I don’t love is the two digit math that it requires. It’s not a huge deal for any individual roll but it becomes tiresome over the length of a game. This is to make the math in the game simpler. Unfortunately there is a reason I used a percentile system in the first place and this change is going to remove some structures I love.

Did I mention no more d10s bouncing off each other and flying across the room? Yeah, I won’t miss that.

Instead of a percentile system, The Artifact is moving to a d10 range. This will mean a lot of changes. For the most part, this means that Fraction columns will no longer be universal. You’ll always have the full value of the column but an attribute of 1 (the current value of 10) will not have a 1/2 column. Attributes lower than 4 will not have a 1/4 column result and lower than 8 will not have a 1/8th column.

 Full   1/2   1/4   1/8 
Con 3 1
Str 2 1
Ref 5 2 1
Agi 6 3 1
Dex 4 2 1
Cha 8 4 2 1
Int 1
IQ 3 1
Psy 4 2 1


The skill list is being cut down by half, so that will simplify things a lot. However because of the changes to the attributes, skills are going to have to do some more heavy lifting. I’ve wanted skills to more fully integrate with the fraction columns since I started. Reducing the skill list is going to make that possible.

To fill in the lack of fraction columns, skills will have four values. 

Pilot Automobile +3 +2 +1 +1

Most NPCs will have a main skill that corresponds with what they need to do a job.


Fractional Successes have been a part of The Artifact for a long time. They’re going away though. 

The thing is, the “fractional” part is a bit superfluous. It is descriptive but the point is that they give you a number of successes. 

The stat block will look more like this now. These are Success Columns.

  1     2     3     4  
Con  3  1
Str  2  1
Ref  5  2  1
Agi  6  3  1
Dex  4  2  1
Cha  8  4  2  1
Int  1
IQ  3  1
Psy  4  2  1

I didn’t like how the names of the fraction columns had to be translated into a number of successes. Although most players had no problem with it, some struggled.

Social Exchanges

Social rules are changing, a set of conditions will be used to structure interactions. This is something I’ve been trying to figure out for a long time. I always wanted some kind of moves or tactics for social interaction. Hopefully these will provide them.

To initiate a Social Exchange the character rolls for a Charisma or IQ, adding in applicable skills. The attribute used changes the possible effects of the exchange. If the check is passed, they select a condition that they will present. The condition lasts for one turn per success.

The defender rolls against Psyche or IQ. Any successes reduce the length of the effect.

If the initiator is successful, they present their chosen condition. The defender may accept it or reject it and pick another condition from the list and take a penalty. The penalty is one mental stress per success left over from the roles.

The conditions and their effects are as follows.

Attachment (Cha)

The effected feels some kind of attachment, whether amusement, affection or camaraderie with the initiator. The effected gets a 40% Impairment to any hostile action against the initiator while this condition is in effect.

Aggression (IQ or Cha)

The effected feels hate, anger, loathing, or indignation toward the initiator. They must focus hostile actions on the initiator and have a 20% Impairment to IQ and Intuition based tests while this is in effect.

Passive (IQ or Cha)

The effected is either soothed, perplexed, lost or troubled. They lose two actions each turn the condition is in effect.

Coercion (IQ or Cha)

The effected is intimidated by fear of loss or enticed by some kind of situationally significant bribe. Large bribes may give an Advantage to the initiator’s roll. The effected loses 1 action if they do not use it to carry out a task specified by the initiator as long as the condition is in effect.

Conformity (Cha)

The effected is under peer pressure to act as others in their social group or class is behaving. They must follow a behavior that at least appears to be what the majority is doing as long as the condition is in effect.

The initiator can only present a condition if they rolled under an appropriate stat. The effected may choose any of the conditions they desire, including conformity but they conform to their own group. If they are not allied with the initiator they will do what they feel is expected of them by their allies.

If the initiator can get the same effect on a character three times, they form a relationship based on it and get a bonus to initiate that condition again. Mark down the relationship and the condition it gives a 20% Advantage to initiate an exchange presenting that condition on the initiator’s character sheet. Each subsequent three rolls on the relationship increases the Advantage by 10% to a maximum of 60%. They may track up to five of these relationships at any time.

Attack Conditions (WIP)

The following conditions are replacements for hit location tables for people and vehicles and critical hit effects for individuals. This removes a required roll. These need polish but their intent is mostly there.

Target hit

The target has been hit by the attack. The first success must be spent on this condition. For multi-round bursts one in five attacks hit their target per success spent. Weapons with a rate of fire higher than one can spend an additional success to hit another target with one in five of the rounds fired hitting that target. If the target takes damage from this attack they also take 10 physical stress.

Avoid Armor

Cut Armor Rating of a target in half. Selecting a second time cuts the AR in half again.

Avoid Shields

Avoid half the hit points of a target’s shields.  Selecting again avoids shields entirely.

Damage Gear

Damage something worn, carried or handled by the target. Half damage goes to the gear. If this option is selected again, all damage goes to the selected gear.

Wear Down

Cause stress or ensure a critical hit. Induce 10 Stress of choice or ensure a critical on a vehicle. (can this be selected if the attack did no damage due to armor? For people that makes some sense, for vehicles, not so much.)

Extra Damage

Subtract target’s shield HP, Armor Rating and armor HP then multiply remaining damage by 1.5 for one target. If selected again, the remaining damage is doubled for that target. Attacker picks hit location.

Lower Damage 

This condition can be freely selected as long as the target was hit, this condition does not cost a success to take. Reduce damage done by half but gets another condition. If selected again, damage is reduced to one quarter. Beam weapons can use this condition to do half damage to two targets and if selected again, do quarter damage to three targets. Defender picks hit location.

Vehicles and Shields

In very early versions of The Artifact, shields were supposed to be resource hogs. Early attempts at making that a thing in game were very complicated. Recently I thought of putting the Action economy to use to accomplish this goal.

Vehicles will add actions to the pilot’s actions per turn according to how many shield generators they currently have. 

Vehicles must use actions if they want to raise a fire arc’s shield each turn. This includes the possibility of raising double shields on a fire arc, costing two actions.


Filed under Experimental Mechanics

A useful tool gets a reboot

The Artifact random encounter tables have been updated to 3e rules and got a big addition. These tables have been really useful in our games and now they’ll be even more indispensable.

The Artifact Random Generation Tables

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Rojec Alpha

The Rojec Alpha for Imbalance of Power part 1


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Rojec Beta

The Rojec Beta for Imbalance of Power

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