Friday, September 30, 2011

Refitting Star Wars d6 - One Final Take

So I spent a fair amunt of time and words trying to pick my way through the D6 Star Wars skill list but I'm still not totally happy with it. Savage Worlds seems like it might be a better bet if I'm going to go for a lighter system and there are fan conversions out there for it that I like. I do have one more idea though:

The Minimized D6 Star Wars Skill List


Blaster - this covers all guns
Dodge - defense vs. ranged attacks
Fighting - HTH combat
Thievery - all manual pickpockety type skills


Cultures - races and clans and nations - the people
Planets - the geography/astrography parts - the places
Streetwise - knowledge of the underworld
Survival - knowledge of the wilderness
Bureaucracy - knowledge of governments
Business - knowledge of corporations


Ship Pilot - all ships
Ship Systems - shields, sensors, communications, whatever
Ship Gunnery - all ship guns
Repulsorlift Ops - driving for anti-grav vehicles
Beast Riding - driving for animals
Ground Vehicle Ops - driving for wheeled/tracked/hover/walker vehicles
Vehicle Systems - sensors, shields, communications, etc.


Persuasion - convincing people to do things
Willpower - keeping people from convincing you to do things
Stealth - sneaking past people
Search - keeping people from sneaking past you


Athletics - climbing/swimming/running/jumping
Stamina - how long you can do things like the above


Ship Tech - fix ships
Vehicle Tech - fix vehicles
Personal Tech - fix personal equipment
Droid Tech - program and fix droids and computers
Demolition  - blowing stuff up
Medicine - people tech, for fixing people
Security Systems - the electronic version of Thievery


Yeah, they stay separate - it might help keep some balance in there.

...and there you go. A vastly whittled down skill list that will make characters much more broadly capable. Most of the more active skills can be used as opposed rolls - Stealth vs. Search, Persuasion vs. Willpower, Blaster vs. Dodge. It means a lot less aggravation when no one has the particular skill needed but it allows you to keep using the existing system framework. I'd consider cutting the initial skill allocation down to say, 5D instead of 7, but even keeping 7D could work if you look at it as making more experienced characters than before.

This caters to a more loose style of game and is probably very dependent on the DM's attitude towards the mechanics. At this point, I think this is the version I am most likely to use. I'll try to work in a game this weekend and see how it goes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Refitting Star Wars d6 - Skills Part 2

For the earlier parts click here and then here.

Perception Skills

Bargain - I'd rather make it a specialization of either Businness or Persuasion. To keep it under Perception it would have to be a Persuasion spec. Let's do that.

Command - We will probably be thinking up new uses for it later, but is this really a Perception skill?

Con - seems a lot like Persuasion so let's make it a specializrtion

Forgery - it's pretty narrow for a Star Wars campaign but let's leave it for now

Gambling - sure

Hide - folded into Stealth below, gone

Investigation - Didn't we have Law Enforcement up there earlier? Oh well, let's leave it in just in case Space-Batman wants to play.

Persuasion - add Con, Bargain, and Intimidation as specializations, otherwise leave as-is

Search - Another skill that feels more D&D than SW to me but we do need something to oppose Sneak. This does seem like the default use for a stat named "Perception" though

Sneak - roll up all aspects of hiding, silent,  and hidden movement into this one skill

I'm also moving "Intimidation" here as a specialization of Persuasion. Even if you have a 2D Perception, throw 1 of your 7D for skills into it and all of a sudden you have 5D of Intimiadtion. That should get you off to a pretty good start.

Strength skills

Brawling - this is now the Strength-based unarmed combat skill and is used for both offense and defense

Climbing/Jumping - Incorporated into a new "Athletics" skill

Lifting - rolled into "Atheltics"

Stamina - fine as-is.

Swimming - rolled into "Atheltics"

New skill: Athletics - specializations include Climbing, Jumping, Lifting, Swimming

Why do this? Well, because of the hierarchy of how things work in D6. Abilities cover the broadest areas of expertise as they are the automatic default for all of the skills they cover (a nice change from most systems where there is a penalty for defaulting to a stat) but they are the most expensive thing to improve on a character. Skills allow a character to improve in a broad area under one ability and are easier to improve. Specializations allow a character to bump up a fairly narrow area of expertise but are the easiest thing to improve.When you move something from a skill to a specialization you are making it easier to stand out in that particular area of expertise. Characters begin (when they use a template) with pre-set Abilities and 7 dice to spend on skills. Thaqt basically means that they can pick no more than 7 areas to be "good" in. They can trade 1D of skills for 3D of Specializations though so by making some things Specializations we actually make them more likely to be take by characters because they cost less. With this change if I want to make a character who is really strong (but not necceassarily a better climber/jumper/swimmer/brawler) I can put a couple of dice into the "Lifting" specialization and have another 1D left to spend on another Specialization somewhere else and still have 6D to spend on Skills, whereas before I would have to burn 2D on Lifting and have only 5D left for other choices.

A lot of this is up to personal preference and should be driven by what you want to emphasize in your game. I think most of the Strength skills are not all that useful in a Star Wars campaign compared to say "Blaster", "Dodge", and "First Aid" but they do add some flavor to a character so I'm lowering the cost to encourage players to still take a die or two in them if they feel like it should be part of their character. I have a similar take on my changes to Ground Vehicle Operation. The vast majority of vehicles we see in the Star Wars movies are repulsorlift craft and that's where most of the emphasis should be. By folding Wheeled, Tracked, Hover, and Walker into GVO as specializations it means a character doesn't have to spend those valuable skill points on just one narrowly focused skill that's unlikely to come up much. Instead, a character with even a 2D Mechanical can throw 1D into this and be competent at all of these less common types, and then throw 1D of specialization into Walkers and you have a good walker pilot who can also drive the sandcrawler you picked up and one of those funky wheeled things like Greivous has in ROTS.

I really think that many of the non-combat skills should be bumped down to specializations because if you don't a lot of players will focus on those combat skills and end up defaulting to the non-combat stuff. By making these skills cheaper it's more likely they will be taken. We can also help in this area by combining things like offenses and defenses into one skill, meaning that those concerned about combat have one less skill that they "must" buy. That's 1D of skills that might just get spent on something interesting.

Moving on:

Technical Skills

Armor Repair - fine

Blaster Repair - fine

Capital Starship Repair - fine, we can keep repair skills for ships split as we did with piloting and gunnery etc.

Capital Starship Weapon Repair - fine

Computer Programming/Repair - lose the repair part, split it into a spearate Computer Repair skill - everything else is split, there's no reason this should be unique

Demolition - fine

Droid Programming - I'm OK with this being separate

Droid Repair - fine

First Aid - see below

Ground Vehicle Repair - covers same vehicles as GVO skill

Hover Vehicle Repair - rolled into GV repair

Medicine - see below

Repulsorlift Repair - fine as-is

Security - fine as-is

Space Transports Repair - rolled into "Starship Repair"

Starfighter Repair - rolled into "Starship Repair"

Starship Weapon Repair - sure

Walker Repair - rolled into GV repair

Alright there's a lot here and it's very tempting to roll everything into one giant "repair" skill and make all of those former skills into specializations. I don;t weant to do that because I think that makes it too easy. Instead I'm trying to stay consistent with the operational skills and have a comparable repair skill for each piloting type skill.That's why I'm keeping Droid and Computer stuff separate too - make a character pick one, or pick both at the expense of something else if they really want to be the programming guru. I see computers as concerning the type of things installed on ships and vehicles and bases while droid skills deal only with droids. They are different enough that I think making them separate makes sense in-universe and makes it more interesting.

The biggest change here  is First Aid/Medicine. The rules have First Aid as a regular skill that can only do limited things and to get better you have to take the "Advanced" skill of Medicine. Advanced means that it costs double. It also has a prerequisitie in that you must have X number of dice in First Aid to be able to take it. This is incredibly stupid and prety much the opposite of what I would call good design nowadays. One, it forces someone who wants to have decent medical skill to spend an incredible number of skill dice in it, more than any other area of focus, ensuring that A) they can't do much else and so reinforcing the Dedicated Healer curse we saw in D&D and B) MAKING IT HARDER TO KEEP CHARACTERS ALIVE! How stupid is this? Let's make players jump through a bunch of ridiculous hoops and be one-trick ponies if they want to be able to help severely injured PC's! Hye while we're at it why don't we just put in a level system while we're at it and give them Raise Dead at 9th level like a Cleric! This is a system where theoretically no player had to be a heal-bot but then for some reason they decided to add in a bunch of special rules and complications to make that extremely difficult. In a game where one bad roll can take you from "Fine" to "Dying" it seems to me that characters are going to want to be able to help each other the most when things are the most severe and that's where the Medicine skill should come in - but it won't, because no one is going to take it when it costs them a bunch of  other things. A player could put 1D into Piloting, Gunnery, and Repair for any type of ship for the same price as 1D First Aid and 1D Medicine.

So here's how we fix it: Medicine is a normal Technical Skill now. First Aid is a specializtion of Medicine and can do all of the things it can do now for any species in the game . Other specializations would be used for particular species like "human" or "wookie" and most planet-bound medics would have at least one species specializtion as I would guess that the wookie doctor on a Kashyyk sees 90% wookie patients. So now even a character with 2D in Technical could spend 1D on the skill and get 3D in Medicine, then spend 1D on specializations to get  +2D First Aid (5D) and +1D Human (so 4D when operating n Humans) and could easily represent basic combat medic or paramedic training on an otherwise non-technical character. Look, they are a fairly competent medic and still have 5D to spend on Blaster, Dodge, Martial Arts, Sneak, and Search.

Finally, let's talk about the Force. I love the three skill structure in place and think it's pretty much fine as-is. What I don't like is the overly expensive entry similar to what we saw with Medicine. Yes, I know Jedi are overpowered in some ways but let's remember that much of the story of Star Wars is about the Jedi! They aren't some interesting side-track like the Techno-Mages in Babylon 5 - they are the stars of the show! The more recent three movies and the Clone Wars stuff is full of Jedi - force-pushing, mind-tricking, saber-swinging Jedi! They do a ton of cool stuff and kick a lot of ace and players are going to want to play them and they should be allowed and encouraged to do so! Starting them out at a Padawan level of power is fine - most of the templates in Star Wars seem to be placed at a fairly beginner level for their profession anyway - but they shouldn't be gimped right out of the gate by having to give up attribute points for each force skill. Instead, we're going to say that being force-sensitive costs 1 attribute die and allows the character to buy Control, Sense, and Alter at the same cost as any other skill. They do begin at 0D, so putitng 2D into each one means that you start with only 1D left for other skills (Lightsaber!) but it's at least possible to start as something other than Wannabe-Jedi or Drunken-Jedi with partial training and delusions or guilt. I'll work up an Unfrozen Jedi Squire template and post it up this week. Otherwise I would say pick any existing template, knock off 1D of Attributes to make it "Jedi" and then go for it! I can see Brash Pilot working pretty well, among others.

A word on character balance and the Jedi: Not everyone wants to play a Jedi and they sometimes get jealous that the Jedi can do things that their more mundane character cannot. They may bring up "game balance" or "spotlight hogging". As far as balance goes, well, not all skills are equally useful. Compare Repulsorlift Operation to Ground Vehicle Operation - guess which one is going to come up more in most campaigns? Someone who puts dice into GVO instaed of RPO is deliberately making a mechanically suboptimal choice. They probably have good reasons for it, and I would not laugh at them for doing it, but they don't get to cry about balance later. The same goes for force skills - 4D of Control lets you do some pretty cool things, lots more than 4D of Business. However, if those Jedi are putting all those dice into the force skills they are probably not all that great at other things - so take those things! Medicine! Starship piloting! Blaster! (8D in Blaster lets you perform some pretty serious miracles of your own and from a safe distance). Han Solo would fit right in next to the young Obi-Wan from AOTC or ROTS! Make your character into something that you find interesting and that can contribute to the team and the spotlight hogging will be minimal and the game should run very well.

Alright, so we've sorted out Skills with an eye towards making them broader and more useful while keeping some backwards compatibility. Tomorrow, I will wrap up by throwing out a different approach that some people may like even better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Refitting Star Wars d6 - Skills Part 1

This will make more sense if you read the introduction here

Let's talk about skills: there are too many of them. In the d6 system skills are linked to a relevant ability, so we will review them in the same format.

Dexterity Skills

Archaic Guns - this is a perfect example of a skil we don't need. Do we see any flintlocks in the movies? No. Why is this in the list? How often is it going to come up in a typical campaign? It's gone.

Blaster - of course. PC's can speicalize in any number of specific weapon types - pistol, heavy pistol, rifle, carbine, repeating blaster, etc.

Blaster Artillery - yes

Bowcaster - alright, it does give wookies their own thing but who else is ever going to take it? Mechanically all it does is force a wookie character to pay a skill point tax to raise their blaster skill as well if they want to be better than the default with any other gun they happen to pick up. If I'm running the game I'm dropping it and folding it into Blaster, but if someone wanted to keep it in the game I could see why. I'd be tempted to just say Wookie PC's get a free +1D Blaster specialty in "Bowcasters" and call it done.

Bows - how often so we see bows in the movies? The ewoks have some in ROTJ but that's about it. More importantly, is a PC ever going to take it? I doubt it. I think I'm going to drop it as a skill and if someone wants to be awesome with bows in a Star Wars game then maybe we need to have a talk and reset some expectations.

Brawling Parry - Does this really need to be a separate skill? Why is Brawling a Strength skill but Brawling Parry is a Dex skill? I don't like it mechancially or conceptually. Instead of this we're going to add a skill called "Martial Arts" which is really just a label for "Dex-based hand-to-hand-combat skill", and it can be used offensively and defensively. We see Obi-Wan and Jango Fett going at it in AOTC and I'm not going to assume the Jedi is using Strength over Dex.

Dodge - yep

Firearms - again, why is this on a PC skil llist? Have other people commonly had players wanting to use bullet guns in their Star Wars campaigns? How often do we see them in the movies? If so, would they have even thought of doing that if it wasn;t on the skill sheet? I really dislike it when the game mechanics bend the universe of the game like that. Number of significant characters in the Star Wars movies who use slug weapons: zero; Number of characters in your campaign who should be using them: pretty much the same, so zero.I think maybe the sandpeople use them in TPM but that's debateable. If your flying around in a YT-1300 fighting stormtroopers and infiltrating imperial outposts, you aren't going to be using bullet guns except as an annoying affectation. It's gone.

Grenade - I don't really like it as a separate skill but they do exist in the universe and I suppose if someone wants to waste points getting really good at throwing them then I should allow it. I would use it for any small round thrown object if a player decides to get good at it. Clearly Ewoks have about 9D in it as they are taking down stormtroopers with thrown rocks in the one battle. How about we fold this one in as a specialty under Thrown Weapons.

Lightsaber - Another overly-specific skill. It's a specialty of Melee Combat (below) and gone as a separate skill.

Melee Combat - The skill for using weapons in hand to hand combat. If you have a high level of skill here you're just good with everything. If you want to be good at just a specific weapon or two, then take a specialization - swords, vibroblades, vibroaxes, knives, lightsabers, force pikes, clubs, gaffi sticks - pretty much anything you can think of can be rolled into this as a specialty.

Melee Parry - rolled into Melee Combat above. Gone

Missile Weapons - this is the skill for grenade and missile launchers and while there's not much of it in the original trilogy, there is some in the second trilogy and there's a lot of it in the Clone Wars series. I think I'm OK with leaving it in, especially if the game is going to have a military theme .

Pick Pocket - this seems kind of dumb to me in a Star Wars game and it also seems like it's mainly here as a nod to D&D players and it also seems like it's overly specific but I'm not sure how to expand it. Let's leave it in for now.

Running - this is a Dexterty skill? Everything else on this list involves hand-eye coordination, not raw speed. It gets folded into "Athletics" under Strength.

Thrown Weapons - This is supposed to cover knives, spears, slings, etc. I can see the utility of thrown knives here, and we do see some spears and things in some movies, and a lot of those Gungan weapons (I know I know) would probably use this skill. If we're going to fold grenades in as a specialty here then I think it's worth keeping.

Vehicle Blasters - I don't really like the name but there it is. The only real difference between this and Blaster Artillery seems to be what the gun is mounted on and at first I was ready to roll both of those into a "Heavy Blasters" skill with specialty in Light, Medium, and Heavy categries for each of Vehicle and Artillery blasters. I still think that is not a bad idea as I think there is a lot of overlap between the two. However, I'm willing to concede that there is a significant difference in knowing how to shoot a big set in a building aiming at spaceships in orbit  vs. shooting a big gun mounted in a fast flying vehicle aiming at troops on the ground. Plus there is some backwards compatibility concern there, and if your game has a military theme it helps keep some niche protection in there too. So yes, it's stil la separate skill.

 So the list of Dexterity skills looks like this now:

  • Blasters
  • Blaster Artillery
  • Dodge
  • Martial Arts
  • Melee Combat
  • Missiles
  • Pick Pocket
  • Thrown Weapons
  • Vehicle Blasters

Knowledge Skills

Alien Species - Sure, this works

Bureaucracy - Yep

Business - From megacorps to independent free traders - sure

Cultures - this is fine but my view of this is that it tends to be planet or organization-specific, whereas Alien Species is race-specific. It's fairly clear to me but I've seen players get bogged down in the two.

Intimidation - This is a Knowledge skill?!? Doesn' this seem like the kind of skill mostly practiced by those a little lower on the "Knowledge" scale? We're moving it.

Languages - fine as-is

Law Enforcement - this seems prety specific to me but considering how many campaigns center around smuggling, investigations, and infiltrations I'll go ahead and leave it in

Planetary Systems - this to me is more about the astrogational and  geographic details of a system, to help keep it clearly separated from Aliens and Cultures skill. This is the skill that gets used more in space before you land (perhaps to decide where to land) then Aliens or Cultures takes the lead once you leave the ship.

Streetwise - oh yeah

Survival - sure, it's the outdoorsman skill of Star Wars

Value - Not a huge fan of the name and it's not something I typically need to have a skill for in my games. If you're a smuggler then I assume you have a broad knowledge of what things are worth. If you're a scout then you might not. I mostly saw this during the days of D&D 2E when "Appraise" was a popular skill and there are problems with it - First, there is usually no stress associated with it as it's not used in combat just a whole lot. Second, if they are suspicious, everyone in the party will take a shot at it to reach a consensus value. I can see some fun with it in the event of a blown roll but if I would only use this as a separate skill if I was running a Traveller-like free trader game set in the Star Wars universe, and the likelihood that I would run that is next to nil - Traveller does that kind of game much much better and it's really not what Star Wars games are about - worrying about power costs, landing fees, cargo prices and grubbing for every last credit just doesn't feel like SW to me. I'm making it a specialization of "Business" if someone wants it.

Willpower - sure, I can live with it being here.

So our new Knowledge skil list looks like this:

  • Alien Species
  • Bureaucracy
  • Business
  • Cultures
  • Languages
  • Law Enforecement
  • Planetary Systems
  • Streetwise
  • Survival
  • Willpower

Mechanical Skills

Archaic Starship Piloting - REALLY?! Someone thought we needed this? Please...gone

Astrogation - this looks a lot more like a knowledge skill to me as it's presented as something the computer does in advance, then once you arrive at your destination Piloting takes over as as the mechanical application of driving a ship. Moved to Knowledge.

Beast Riding - sure, it's like Pilot: Animal

Capital Ship Gunnery - Since ships do play a big part in the game and it does allow for some niche protection we will keep this as a separate skill

Capital Ship Piloting - I just don't see this coming up very often. ROTS is the only time I can think of it and even then it doesn;t work out too well but in the interest of specialization and fun for the DM ("You don't have CapShip piloting?") we will leave it in here.

Capital Ship Shields - same as above

Communications - fine as-is

Ground Vehicle Operation - this becomes a much broader skill with available specializations in Wheeled, Tracked, Hover, and Walkers. This does eliminate the ability to specialize in a particular vehicle of those types but they tend to not be the focus in a game anyway when compared to the more common repulsorlift vehicles.

Hover Vehicle Operaton - folded into GVO above for whatever ridiculously limited case one can make for it

Powersuit Operation - this is a rare enough skill that I think it's worth keeping as a separate skill

Repulsorlift Operation - this is good as-is and allows for specialization in specific vehicles

Sensors - fine as-is

Space Transport Piloting - fine as-is and allows for specialization in particular models

Starfighter Piloting - fine as-is and allows specialization in particular models

Starship Gunnery - fine

Starship Shields - fine

Swoop Operation - way too specialized to be a skill - it's a specialization of Repulsorlift Operation above

Walker Operation - folded into GVO above

Our new list of Mechanical skills would then be

  • Beast Riding
  • CapShip Gunnery
  • CapShip Piloting
  • CapShip Shields
  • Communications
  • Ground Vehicle Operation
  • Powersuit operation
  • Repulsorlift Operation
  • Sensors
  • Space Transport Piloting
  • Starfighter Piloting
  • Starship Gunnery
  • Starship Shields

Alright that's a lot for one post - we'll finish up the list tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Refitting Star Wars d6 - Modifiers and Actions

I started off this month talking about "messing with" d6 Star Wars. This is (finally) where that part starts.

One of the things I really liked about the original Star Wars system was its simplicity and consistency. The whole game worked around the principle of "choose relevant ability and roll a bunch of d6's against a target number".

  • It was easy to grasp - more dice = better
  • The math was simple and didn't get in the way- I've played it with 6 year olds
  • It played fast with little need to look up stuff in books and few charts or tables
  • It gave players a lot of choices in combat - how many actions to take? Whether to take a big defensive action? Close in or fight at range?
  • It fit the universe - the system scaled up and down nicely from people to capital ships and it handled variety as well from foot races to speeder chases to space combat  

I really liked it. Then the inevitable complications set in.Overly specific skills. Lengthly lists of modifiers to certain checks. Numerous speical case rules. Pretty soon people were flipping through books just like when we played AD&D - that's not what this game is supposed to be! I pretty much quit caring about it and moved on, leaving Star Wars alone until the d20 version came out and gave it a fresh start.

I still like the ideas behind the d6 system though, and I really would like it to work the way I remember it from years ago and the way it should. So I started making little notes here and there about how to fix it. I have not tried to run a game with all of these changes in place, so some of this is still experiemental, but I intend to try out the full package very soon. Some guiding principles:

1) If it never happened in the movies then it probably doesn't need to be in the game. This covers everything from technology to skills. Too much of the clutter seems to come from something in a comic book or a novel that 90% of the fans haven't seen and don't care about.

2) Narrow and specific are not what this game is about. Long lists of modifiers are unneccesary and slow down play, and no one seems too terribly worried about what kind of blaster they are shooting or what kind of ship or vehicle they are flying so skills should be broadly applicable

3) Assume competentce on the part of the characters when it comes to most things. An assumed "Yes" is more Star-Warsian than an assumed "No". Balance may have to be sacrificed in some regards.

So a lot of the changes I propose are going to be tied up in the skill list, both what should be a skill and how those skills should be handled in play. I'm going to trim the list way down first, and then I'm going to dump all those lists of specific modifiers for specific tasks and go with a suggested set of general modifiers. I also tweak the action rules a little bit to clean those up too. 

Dump all the long lists of -1 for this, +2 for that, and +3 for something else. Considering the game already has flexible difficulty classes, you only need a few levels of modifier:

Minor Advantage or Disdvantage: +/- 1D
Moderate Advantage or Disadvantage: +/- 2D
Major Advantage or Disdvantage: +/- 3D

It seems obvious but it's not used enough in the game - instead there are long lists of modifiers under specific skills as though this is tyring to be some kind of simulationist set of rules all of a sidden. 

With this far more general approach there are some compromises but it speeds things up a ton in play by eliminating the need to reference most charts and making it easy to for the DM to improvise. My concept here is that in the Star Wars Universe a "normal" person has 2 or 3 dice in a skill and an "Easy" difficulty is, say, 7, so that an average character should be able to handle that most of the time. Having a schematic for a particular vehicle or device would be a minor advantage when making repairs, performing repairs in a workshop would give a Moderate or Even Major advantage. Trying to repair something with partial or inadequate toools or parts is Minor or perhaps Moderate but do-able,  but doing something with no tools or parts is very difficult. however for a Tongue-Tied Engineer and his 6D repair skill, he can attempt to rebuild a blown-apart droid (Difficult) with almost no tools (-3D) and still have a halfway decent chance to make it happen. 

Having a stable set of modifiers matters, especially in a cinematic game like this. The more competent you are, the less bothered you are by the circumstances of the test because at the lowest levels of skill, a die or two of difference is huge, but ny the time your up to 5 or more dice, losing 1 or 2 of them doesn't stop you from making routine checks, but you're still going to feel a -3D. Once you get to 8D or so, you can still pull off "Very Difficult" tasks on a routine basis. I was originally going to go with set numeric modifiers (maybe -2/-5/-10 or even -5/-10/-15) but I like the variability of subtracting dice. Unexpected things happen and I like the idea of tougher = "I roll fewer dice" better than I like tougher = "I roll my usual dice with a penalty". Besides, Difficulties are set at specific numbers  - modifiers should be die codes like the skills themselves, and it meshes with the multiple action penalty better anyway. I intend to make this consistent across my revisions and any d6 game that I run.

Moving your normal Move stat no longer counts as an action. You can crawl at half speed as a Move as well. A Run does count as an extra action and does involve an Athletics check.Terrain is rarely a factor,  but if it does come up it will typically be handled as 1/2 of normal movement or something similar. Considering how much time is spent on deckplates or other artificial surfaces it probably won't come up a ton in many games. 

Melee Combat
This is now automatically the attacker's weapons skill against the defender's parry skill and there is no distinction between armed and unarmed. This defense roll does not cost the defender an  action. I really dislike the artifical target numbers for melee combat for mechanical, cinematic, and even realism reasons. People rip on D&D's Armor Class mechanic but at least it's based on the defensive capabilities of the target. This set number is not based on either the target's abilities or the wielder's capabilities - it's just a number! If you assume a stationary target, it's really not difficult to walk up to something human-sized and put a good solid lick on it whether it's a fist, a baseball bat, or (theoretically) a lightsaber. If we are assuming a non-stationary target, then let's use their melee defense ability - that's what it represents and that's what it's for! Plus the special rule for lightsabers that makes them injure their wielders on a miss by 10 or more is just stupid. In six movies plus a whole bunch of Clone Wars material we never see anyone injure themsleves with a lightsaber, so why is it in there? I'm sure it was a game balance thing but that's just not good enough so we're dumping it - bye!

I realize that doing this means we lose the option of the Full Parry in melee as we no longer have a base difficulty to build on. I don't really like this as I want peopleto have an all-out defense option, so let's do this: A Full Parry means that you roll double your normal Parry dice. So, if you have 6D in Lightsaber and are surrounded by sand people, you can throw 12D and yell for help and probably take little to no damage. If you have 2D with the vibroblade you just picked up and go full defense then you throw 4D and, well, cross your fingers.

Ranged Combat
This will still use the range to set the base target number, with an option for the target to dodge at the cost of one action and replace that base difficulty with the result. We will also retain the "Full Dodge" option where as an exclusive action a defender can make a dodge roll and add it to the base target number - they can't do anything else that round, like "Run" so this makes for an interestng choice as to whether it's more important to cover distance (Run) or avoid being shot (Full Dodge).

I am tempted to make the Full Dodge option work the same as the melee version above but I'm afraid that it would make characters with a low Dodge skill very vulnerable to ranged attacks, which are already common and already deadly. It would be easier to remember though. 

Let's make the double-Dodge the rule for this remake and have the range + dodge as an optional rule. There. I am at least being somewhat consistent.

Alright that's enough rules-mongery for today. I will focus on the skill lists tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Running the Realms - Dwarves, Accents, and Easy Stereotypes

Somewhere along the way dwarves got tagged with Scottish accents. I'm not sure when. It definitely wasn't present in the '77 animated Hobbit movie. I would blame Warcraft but looking back Salvatore's The Crystal Shard from 1989 has dwarves saying "Aye" and "Lass" a lot so it's around a little earlier than I had thought. Gimli is in the same ballpark in the LOTR movies in the early 2000's and I'm comfortable blaming Warcraft after that.

Anyway in the Forgotten Realms there are two major types of dwarf - Shield Dwarves and Gold Dwarves and that probably began in the AD&D days when we had Hill Dwarves and Mountain Dwarves as player races. Savatore is writing about Shield Dwarves who live up north in the mountains, stomp around in chainmail with axes and hammers fighting orcs and giants and say "Ach" a lot. Fine, they're Scottish. It's easy enough to do and widely accepted enough that it's an easy hook when running a Shield Dwarf NPC or player character.

There is that other race however. They mostly live down south near a huge rift in the earth in the middle of major grassland. The Gold Dwarves have gone sadly unappreciated in my games as in 25 years or so of either playing in or running the Realms I have never seen a player make up a Gold Dwarf character. I think a big part of this is that they don't have an easy hook. Shield Dwarves fill the stereotypical "Fantasy Dwarf" role and have the popular accent so how do we encourage more Gold Dwarf presence in Realms games? Let's give them an accent and a cultural touchstone!

First, let's see what we know about Gold Dwarves:
  • They love in an area of large plains 
  • They dig into the earth in search of wealth
  • They have an independent streak 
  • Gold dwarves are stout, tough individuals like their shield dwarven brethren but are less off-putting and gruff in nature. 
  • Humans who wander into the gold dwarven strongholds may be surprised to find a people far more confident and secure in their future than most dwarves. Whereas the shield dwarves suffered serious setbacks during their history, the gold dwarves have stood firm against the challenges thrown against them and so have few doubts about their place in the world. As a result, gold dwarves can come off as haughty and almost eladrin-like in their pride, believing themselves culturally superior to all other races and lacking the fatalistic pessimism of their shield dwarven cousins.
  • Gold dwarves are a deeply materialistic race who believe that the resources of the natural world exist only to serve the purpose of conscious beings. 

Those last three items are from the Forgotten Realms Wiki which is handy because it supports the direction I am going. Area of big plains, like to pull natural resources from the earth, friendlier, and confident in their subculture's abilities and future?

Gold Dwarves are clearly Texans! Let's embellish:

  • There must be some trade caravans crosisng those plains - no reason they couldn't be driving some cattle as well. Dwarves like a good steak!
  • When not in heavy armor they might wear flat wide-brimmed hats to keep the sun out of their eyes and dusters or ponchos as well.
  • They have a distinctive accent that stands out quite readily from the usual Scottish thing. 
  • They might have more of an interest in ranged weapons than their more mountain dwelling cousins.

 So there's the hook for this week - Try presenting Gold Dwarves in your game as Texans instead of miniature Scottish Vikings and I would bet very heavily that they get a lot more interesting. And the interactions between the two subgroups...

"Och, aye, welcome to the clan hall"

"Well howdy y'all, thanks mucho"

Oh that is RP gold just waiting to be mined.

Motivational Monday