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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Another Defensive Move For 3e

There are bunches of attack moves to spend successes on. Defense consists primarily of negating an attacker’s successes. But what if there was more you could do?

I’m not sure about this idea, but I had a thought that a defense fractional success might be used to cut damage in half.

Mechanically, you wouldn’t want to use a success on this unless you were sure you weren’t going to be able to negate all an attacker’s successes. But instead of an all or nothing winner take all roll, what if the defender could cut damage in half?

The down side to this is that it would make combats longer. Something I’m not keen on. The upside is that it would allow the players to survive longer and rewards a good roll, even if it’s not the best roll.

Being able to negate an attacker’s successes is pretty useful already. This would add a really powerful ability to characters. Perhaps this could be included as a Dodge skill focus? I’d be a lot more comfortable with that.

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A Social Interaction Engine

I’d love the ability to use social interaction and have a tactical system associated with it and not the players simply winging things. I think that players (including GMs) enter playing a character with far too much of themselves bleeding through. I don’t want to take control from the players but I would like something that gave as much texture to social interaction as physical interaction gets.

Being keen on simulation, I research psychology and neurobiology to gain insights into how to model interactions. In my studying there was a particular finding on willpower that fascinated me. In some situations, making choices cost mental energy but for people with strong beliefs on a subject, the choices are nearly automatic, they can resist temptations of certain sorts all day long and feel fine.

Knowing how to describe that in a game would be really useful. I made a crude approximation of it for the 3rd edition system with principles and priorities but I had a new thought on how to model it today.

It involves knowing the desires of a person. Having a desire for something means that a person has to use mental energy to resist a temptation. If a person will be deprived of something they want, they’ll fight to get/keep it. This can work two ways though. Say that I want chocolate cake because it’s a food I like. Then say that I desire to lose weight. The two might cancel each other out to an extent and so making a choice is difficult. It would take an effort.

Now what if I could add things like “really doesn’t want to exercise” to argue with myself that I shouldn’t eat it. Then maybe “hungry” could kick in and “It’s a small piece of cake” could deliver the knock down blow. Resisting now will be especially costly.

What this becomes is a list of draws on the character, not barriers that protect them. However if something takes the character away from one of their draws, the character gets a bonus to resisting. If it goes against several draws, the choice is automatic and can’t challenge the character.

So what this looks like is a system of tags that add or subtract from the argument for and against. The problem is that in any person’s own mental argument, there could be dozens of desires that come into play and naming them all would be difficult to impossible.

So either a simplified list would be needed or some way of intuitively calling them up would have to be created.

One idea that comes to mind is that most desires are in balance, it’s the really strong desires that sway things one way or the other. Then a character could have a short list of desires and only deal with those.

But to have this work well, the players have to see having desires as a net benefit. They need to mechanically benefit the character in most situations and only be harmful occasionally. In part, that means the GM not overusing them to the players detriment. Players may also view it as taking away some agency, so there has to always be the choice of resisting at a cost.


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The Imbalance – Warpies

For the next Artifact sourcebook, there’s a jump in technology that moves the main story forward. It may look like power creep but it’s really core to the main story. Earth forces will adopt and adapt technologies found on The Artifact but the Chezbah have also been working on their own technologies.

Leading scientists have come to believe that The Artifact was built to alter matter for an unknown purpose. The name given to these alterations has been called “warping”. Loc and apparently a small number of other groups have had access to this technology but using it has been problematic. Although some technologies have been built around the warped matter such as the War Engines or Titans as they’re called by Earthers, no one has been able to give humans the ability to control warps. That is until recently.

Loc has made a breakthrough in enabling humans to produce their own warps. A number of his priests have been training to use the technology and they are first seen in action in 2090, in the Imbalance sourcebook. Earthers start to call these priests “Warpies”.

What is a warp and what can it do? More importantly, how does it happen? A warp is altered matter. Matter is always in motion in directions, or dimensions that humans don’t perceive directly. What we do see is the effects of the motion. This includes matter having gravity, it’s motion through time and space, particle decay and electromagnetic fields. If the motion of the matter is altered, the properties of the matter is altered.

For in game effects, this means that there are certain effects that a Warpie can accomplish. This includes moving through these other dimensions, a process called shifting. They can alter the effects of energy, either amplifying it or dampening it. They can twist the fabric of space into impassable “dark fields” with concentrated gravity fields. They can make short jumps through time and space. Each effect is modular and can be combined with other effects to accomplish different goals.

A warpie could double the power of a weapon and then double it again for a single turn, or they could double it and then make that last ten turns. They can increase the hit points and armor of a vehicle. They disrupt the normal conventions of the game, and that’s on purpose. The Artifact was never intended to be a static story where the world stayed the same. Instead, the idea was to move along with humanity’s adoption of this alien technology that’s just beyond our control.

I’ve only recently come up with a structure to define this technology. I’ve struggled with it for more than a decade, constantly refining it. Well, now it’s time to sit down and get it done.

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The Fringe Gets A Cover

The FringeThe Fringe 3e

The Fringe was the first sourcebook I published for The Artifact but it’s never had a cover. Today that’s changed!

A bot pilot flees from a horde of Chezbah Intercepters.


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Amplifying and Atrophying – A different take on progression

I was tossing around the idea of getting a character to progress not just mechanically but having the story they tell, change over time. I want mechanics involved though, because mechanics are one of the tools the players use to assert their agency on the story.

In some games, the player builds a character out of predefined elements by spending points. Xp are points, so what if the player progressed by spending xp on things that change their character? Cheaper buys would be more of a give and take. More costly buys would be better for the character as a whole. I don’t know if it’s necessary to have dozens of options. The more attributes and abilities you have in a game, the more options you’d need though.

What are we talking about then? My first thought was a buy like “Battle Hardened” where the character gets tougher, mentally and physically but becomes scarred as a human being. Maybe “Pumping Iron” makes the character stronger but their mental abilities of skills drop a bit from lack of practice. A buy where the character becomes more charismatic might mean becoming more mentally flexible and so loose some of their mental toughness.

Implementing this in The Artifact is a little tricky because of the progressive nature of xp buys. If my Constitution is 90 and my Charisma is 10 and I take a buy that boosts Constitution 5 points but drops Charisma 5 points, it sounds like an even trade. I’ve actually made out by a lot because those Constitution points are really worth 3 Charisma points apiece.

I like the idea but I’m not sure how to implement it. It could be as simple as saying one attribute is raised and another lowered the same amount. Instead of the regular 3 xp it costs to raise an attribute, the cost could be brought down to 1 xp.

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The Fringe for 3rd Edition – Rough Draft

It took a while to reconstruct this document so I’m happy to have something editable to work with. The original fringe setting source book was the first sourcebook released for The Artifact and hasn’t been updated since.

The Fringe is about the people that live on the edge of inhospitable environments. Most people rarely go near hostile places like the methane wastes but some stout souls actually call it home. Orbit around the planet is also a difficult place to survive because of enormous orbital cannons that the major powers have employed to protect their territories. The I-CA has chosen to take them head on so they can stake their claim on the surface of the planet.

The document still needs a cover (it’s never had one) and there’s still some tweaks to be made but it’s well on it’s way to being finished. Enjoy!

The Fringe 3e-Draft

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Long Shot

Equipment ranges are governed by Range Classes in the Fraction Column System. The ranges are based on rough amalgams  of different distances I found in research. In normal use the ranges make sense but in a few edge cases though I’ve become aware of people busting these distances. Very frequently they’re exceptional cases, but they do happen.

I thought about changing the range classes, but that doesn’t seem practical especially at this point.

My other thought is to say, by spending fractional successes, one could extend the range of the equipment. I’m not sure how difficult to make that though. On the low end the thought is that by spending 2 fractional successes, you can double the distances in a range class. That would make tripling the distances in the range class possible if the character gets one fractional success from an advantage.

That seems to be almost right, but it’s an odd process. Do you spend the successes before or after rolling for range impairment? Do all rolls of this type get an extreme range Impairment? Do they get two? I think that requires us to play the rule and smooth out the process.

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