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Velensk

General Feedback

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As a forenote: when I wrote this up I hadn't actually been to the forums so I wasn't aware that there was no place for general feedback. The content here is a bit too diverse to fit any of the sub boards. I still wanted to post it and it does contain a very brief summary of a play through of 'A Ronin's Path'. If it's too off topic I'd just request that it be moved to someplace where it's on topic.

Intro:

I figured I should write this as I have been playing and this is a beta however I must admit as I write this I have no idea what kind of feedback you’d actually take and what would be useful. A lot of the things I’d be inclined to criticize are things I suspect you consider fundamental or a part of the philosophy however in actually playing the game I found them to be either problematic or game breaking. I figure though, that I might as well describe my feelings after having played with the system a bit and then describe my issues with it and see how useful my feedback will be. I’ll focus on the most basic mechanics as a truly detailed examination of all my issues would probably be far more effort than would actually be useful.

 

As a note: I am always the GM in our group.

 

A summary of what we’ve done with the beta rules:

—I ran a single player with one PC through the module given at the back of the rule book. With some judicious interpretation of rules, we were able to get all the way to the battle where we soon discovered that if we didn’t want the battle to be mostly NPC leaders bashing each other, it would be completely impossible for either side to accomplish it’s strategic objectives using the rules in the book. After puzzling over it, I came to the conclusion that aside from how the battle was supposed to modify the skirmish that happens after, it’s actually completely inconsequential. So we skipped it and went strait to the skirmish against a single skeletal warrior (which the PC barely survived as he wasn’t much of a duelist). At this point we moved to the fight with the omni, who promptly flattened the crab commander and began the ritual with only the single nearly dead PC to do anything about it (mostly because there’s nothing in the module that says that anyone else is nearby, I don’t see why there wouldn’t be but I didn’t feel like looking up more NPC stats at that point in the night.) Oddly enough, as it looked like according the rules like the omni would simply channel it’s ritual for the required however many rounds without responding to the PC. Due to this he did actually almost succeed single handedly in bashing the omni incapacitated with just his staff (higher damage than his sword). However eventually the burning blood brought him down, the omni blew up the tower and the PC and everyone else relevant was killed. It was rather clear that the module hadn’t really been designed for a solo PC which seemed odd to me as the system seemed oriented more towards heavy roleplaying which in my experience works better with fewer players (fewer dramas competing with each other for playtime) as opposed to being teamwork oriented which tends to encourage a larger party.

—Even before I tried running that module, I was pretty certain that this game was meant to be played in a campaign designed around the specific PCs the players want to play. I had some ideas for a dramatic scenario, had a pair of players design a couple characters and then modified my idea to specifically fit them in. Quite consciously, when I created this scenario I also decided to play without much of the rules in the rulebook (I’ll explain why later). The things kept, were the rules for tests (including modified rules for strife/outbursts and options), character creation (including social stats and advantages/disadvantages), school ranks, character advancement, and the most basic combat systems. Almost everything else was dropped or heavily modified. We’ve played three sessions of this campaign thus far and have been having a good time with it but we still frequently find ourselves running into situations that the system does not gracefully resolve.

 

A point I’d like to emphasize before I get further into my critique is that we have been enjoying much of the things we have taken from this game. I found it worthwhile to write up this much because we’ve been enjoying it enough that I can’t deny the potential here. However for us, much of this potential has been realized 

 

What I look for in an RPG:

—In general I have two priorities from an RPG system. The first is that it doesn’t get in the way of playing it and the second is that it provides inspiration for the fun. Obviously we don’t need a game system to role play, however game systems provide us both with inspiration on what to role-play and systems allow us to resolve the results of our characters attempts to do things without being guaranteed the desired result. The ability to simulate how things happen with random chance actually helps the players not get in the way of playing it.

—A third point which gives systems value, is that it creates consistency between playgroups. If I were to join any group of people playing Pathfinder or Exalted, I would mostly know exactly how everything would work and I’d just have to adjust to the specific house rules and campaign in progress. This isn’t exactly something I’d look for in a system itself but it’s part of the reason I’d rather give feedback on a system I’m trying rather than just being content to play an extremely house-ruled modification of a system.

—The system you present strikes me as being rather strong in the second area I mentioned. It is clearly designed with systems and mechanics to flesh out the roleplaying experience it’s designed to be built for. However we’ve found that constantly, I’ve found that it fails hard at the first area and that it’s a bear to actually play as written.

—In general, the indication of the competence of a system in the first area, is how often do you have to look in the rules to look things up and as a second corollary, how often you want to look up a rule that isn’t there. The first will happen when the system is too complex or unintuitive the corollary happens when the system is inflexible.

—As a side note: I suspect that if you have players with a munchkin instinct, they’d find this game rather unsatisfying. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it’s part of the reason why the current group is only two rather than three.

 

General Feelings about this system:

—The link between the mechanics in this game and the setting is amazing. About the only other setting I can think of where transferring over the mechanics in even basic form would make sense was if you were to try to make a MtG system. This is the only reason I was willing to even give this a shot after reading the rulebook.

—Despite the fact that, as the rulebook describes, this is a system designed to create “samurai drama’s”, it is a system that I could never take too seriously. The fact that it treats itself so deadly seriously is part of what makes it amusing but if you did ever try to take this system overly seriously, the mechanics of the system would make the otherwise fairly believable (within the context of fantasy) world a place full of bizarre almost human caricatures. These are mechanics that encourage you to role-play but if you take them as actual rules, every character will behave in such an unnatural way that would break all suspension of disbelief. It’s alright to take the drama of the events seriously but the system that leads the characters to react to it -must- be taken somewhat tongue in cheek which, in our group at least, gives the general atmosphere a somewhat light hearted tone regardless of how serious the actual events of the scene.

—This system seems to place a huge emphasis on abstraction over simulation. This lends itself to the actual resolution of any scene seeming stilted and unnatural and was especially bad during the premade module in the back. Much of the reason why I dropped almost all the rules in the book and used my own were to re-add in elements of simulation over abstraction so that I could resolve scenes in a way that actually made sense. Oddly, despite the huge emphasis on abstraction as opposed to having detailed rules for simulation, I still found that there were far more rules, tables, and details that I needed to look up for this system than I have in any system I’ve tried in a long time. Of course, a lot of these things aren’t as complicated as they appear at first glance but there’s still a marvelous amount of abstracted rules details that can be tricky to remember and don’t always make sense in the context. [An example of it appearing more complicated than it actually is, when I first read the rulebook, it seemed like every different type of conflict scene had it’s own rules for what your assessment check informed you but a closer examination of them will show you that they’re pretty much identical it’s just that each of them has it’s own chart for some reason. It makes it look like there’s far more to remember than is actually the case]

—To reiterate the last point concisely: The system felt built to abstract rather than to simulate, but then it provides you with an immense amount of rules and details to simulate it’s abstraction despite the fact that the abstraction never made sense in the first place.

 

Issues from the most basic systems in the game:

Target Numbers

—This is a minor issue but it’s an interesting case of actual player psychology vs the rulebook. You have a rulebook that asserts several things that work in direct contradiction to everything I’ve experienced with role-players and make little sense thematically.

—The rules state except in special circumstances, the players should be told what target number they’re aiming for. By itself, this is a principle that would sit poorly with me as generally, a character won’t know how challenging to expect a task to be. This seems really odd to me, why would characters know how difficult a task will be? Particularly when interacting with another character. Why would they know how difficult it is to convince someone of something when they know little of that character’s complicated motives. Even if they can assess the situation and find out that characters immediate motive? How should they know how hard it is to find something when they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for. This overall mindset carries over into the actions. It doesn’t matter how skilled a duelist your opponent happens to be, it’s a TN 2 attack to hit them (unless they happen to be in Air Stance or be using some kind of technique), to extinguish a fire with an incantation? It doesn’t matter if it’s a candle or a castle burning down, it’s a TN 3 theology check. The difficulty of many actions is not fixed, not predictable, and is cheapened by being made so.

—I further have an issue with the assertion explicitly stated in the rules that telling the players what their TN is gives them a more interesting set of choices (presumably about how much strife they’re willing to take). With my players (and I am VERY sure that this is not exceptional), if they can succeed they will. Usually even if they’d suffer and outburst they’ll always choose to succeed anyway. If they can’t succeed, then they’ll not keep any dice that gives them strife. It really is that basic every roll. The only time that knowing the TN makes the decision even remotely interesting is if it will immediately result in an outburst at a time when the player doesn’t want to outburst (a qualification I’ll discuss in the next section). By contrast, when you don’t know exactly how difficult it would be to succeed, then you start really measuring how much you want to succeed and how wildly you want to succeed vs how much you are willing to pay.

—**As a note, in the next section I describe that the PC was outbursting constantly and you can if you wish directly relate that to their attitude towards passing tests but I’m going to point out, that even if they outburst constantly, they’d still rather succeed than not. Aside, outbursting is supposed to be part of the fun (though again see the next section). If you don’t succeed at your tasks, generally speaking either nothing happens (boring!) or things approximately as bad as outbursting happen anyway (and it’s never going to be funner to just let bad things happen to you than to cause them yourself, aside as you get to choose your outburst, you can probably choose one which doesn’t cripple your agenda too bad unless it is fun to do so).

 

Strife

—Everything is stressful. No matter what kind of test you’re making, if you care about succeeding at it (and why would you be making a test if you weren’t trying to succeed at something), you will be accumulating strife for it. During the run through the module at the end of the rulebook, the PC suffered constant outbursts (his default was shut down), but many of them happened when there was absolutely no one around to witness the outburst nor any reason why he should be getting so worked up about anything. Memorable instances occurred when he suffered a desire to withdraw from… nobody, while inspecting a door to discover something that he already knew from talking to someone else (that the door had been thrown open rather hard). Later in the same investigation, he was stressed into withdrawing from the person who cremated the body after getting him to tell him another thing he already knew from examining the blood splatters (the location and type of wounds on the body) and finally he was again stressed into solemn lonely silence at the horror of having discovered the footsteps of his quarry heading toward the wall (which you’d think would be elating considering how long ago this murder apparently left the place). Later on I think he also suffered another outburst in the middle of doing repairs on the wall and neither of us could think of any reason why his default outburst would have any effect on the proceeding whatsoever. Apparently if a Samurai does anything, he must do so with either such fiery passion of soul that it causes him to stress out or be completely ineffective.

—**The rules state that outbursts should have narrative and gameplay consequences. In abstract that can be done (for instance loss of glory even if there’s no one around to witness it) but it doesn’t always make sense. In theory a better option would be to have the player choose an outburst that would have some consequence (like running around until they find someone to rant at) however the players get to choose their outburst and in general players won’t go out of their way to make an outburst that will hurt their character or their odds of succeeding at what they’re doing particularly if such an outburst feels out of character and also like a nuisance getting in the way of doing what they were trying to do anyway.

—The strife system doesn’t seem to be designed with the consideration of handling multiple outbursts per scene nor strife reduction in mind. All the outbursts reduce your strife to 50% at the end of the scene in which you outburst, however you check for an outburst at the start of each round. This means that in theory if the round doesn’t end immediately after the outburst a PC should be suffering an outburst every round until they can do something which reduces their stress. In a narrative scene, this would in theory mean an outburst after every check you make until the next ‘scene’ technically starts. Now we didn’t actually play this way as it seemed ridicules (as in, his character would have spent almost the entire investigation in a state of withdrawn stupor). We instead played your stress went to 50% after each outburst and you can outburst multiple times. This works fine for narrative scenes, but then you get to scenes like duels. In a duel your opponent gets a killing blow the first time you outburst. That’s all well and fine but after that there’s no penalty for accumulating strife and many outbursts no longer sense.  This is made even more ridicules by the fact that in a duel you can bid strife to go first. If you go with the idea that your strife resets after an outburst that means you could in theory bid a googolplex worth of stress to go first and beyond your outburst (which a player could reasonably say [if it fits their character] that during a duel is ‘become enraged’ and not suffer any other negative consequences (though when I was discussing this with the player, I made a rule that if you ever reach twice your composure level of strife you die of a heart attack). This isn’t to say that you can’t have it be incredibly deliberating if you choose it to be (this actually happened to the PC I ran through the module as he would shut down and thus would only be able to attack every other round but playing the style he was, his character was so difficult to hit [he was always either centering or striking as air] that it mostly made the duel a very long affair which he eventually lost but not before outbursting at least a half dozen times as he bobbed above and below his composure rating regularly).

—**(As a side note: ‘killing blow’ is a bit extreme a title for a single guaranteed critical at your weapons deadlines when a Katana only has enough deadlines for a minor injury most of the time).

—Outbursts as a whole, have the issue that they are a fun mechanic in some situations but in others they simply get in the way and serve no real point. For role playing, they can (if they come up at the right time) be awfully fun and as they are a codified mechanic they can be just what you need to be pushed out of your comfortable easy roleplaying mode into a more exciting style or moment. The problem is that when the current situation is being approached as a challenge to be dealt with, they mostly just get in the way. It can be ok to have your problem solving skills be stymied by your characters human weaknesses but a lot of the time, what the mechanics deliver on that front don’t always feel appropriate or contribute to the experience.

 

Opportunities

—I actually love this idea, however the implementation of it in this game is more than a little bit messy. All the issues I have with the system all actually stem back to the same basic problem but for very different reasons depending on the situation. Basically, it’s impossible of players to be informed on how they can spend them.

—Some options, exist in the module or should exist based on the situation I am aware of but the players aren’t. A good instance of this is the sword polishing kit during the investigation in the module. If I tell the players that they can spend water ‘ops’  to find something. They will search around until they find it and will use their water ring even if otherwise they might not. On the other hand, if they did happen to just use a water ring and roll an option, how would they know to spend it on finding something. How would they know to -not- spend it on something else? Basically, when in this situation as the GM I have to basically tell them when they are in that situation that there is a special option available and a player in that position will not let a ‘special option’ get away but there’s nothing in the rules that even indicates that I should do that. I don’t need rules to tell me to use my common sense but I also don’t want to constantly having to be inventing new rules a systems to deal with basic issues when I’m trying to run a game.

—The other major problem, is that there are actually options listed everywhere for everything. There’s the generic ‘you can always spend your options for this’ found near the start of the book but there are also different ring options for every skill category, many actions, and most techniques. There are too many of these to easily represent for close reference without printing out and sorting through tables. Most players can probably remember the ones on their techniques (there’s also a place to write these down), and most veteran players can probably get to know the ones that are universal to any check with each ring but even if you wrote the book, could you tell me without looking what are all of the ways I can always spend my options if I am making an Earth (Recall [from the scholastic skills]) Seafaring check to remember when low tide is? **As a technical note, if you’re using a scholastic approach to a trade/labor skill do you get the options from the scholastics or the trade/labor skill group?

—The players being encouraged to come up with creative uses for options has also led to situations where the game comes to a long halt where a player pauses to come up with something and then ends up not doing so.

 

Combat in General

—I could go into a lot more detail here than I have but I suspect it’d end up an unfocused ramble so I’ll try to keep it brief. Basically, at no point am I bothered more by being asked to use a intricate set of rules to simulate an abstraction that doesn’t actually make sense than with the combat scenes. This is actually less of a problem than strife, tests, and options, as it’s actually easier to fix all of this while still remaining within your framework. However just to illustrate some points I’m going to throw a couple loopy examples at you.

—**In battle, the obviously best practical way to work the system is to designate every single member of the army a leader of a cohort that consists of himself. After all, cohorts don’t actually have any size or strength, each one is merely an entity within an army that can act and be targeted but all the casualties are dealt to an army itself and it’s capabilities determined by it’s type and leader. An army with 300 leaders can make 300 assaults per round at the command skill of the individual leader and each of those assaults will inflict casualties at the same rate per success as if you’d only had a few leaders (though obviously characters with higher command skills and rings are more likely to succeed but there is no cost of failing an assault other than the fact that you didn’t do anything with your turn which is a lot easier to deal with if you have 300 turns to throw at the task instead of 1 per PC.

—**By similar mechanical design, if both sides have a single leader, regardless of the size and aggressive power of the armies involved it’s unlikely that either side would be able to inflict enough casualties to successfully ‘grind the enemy down’ or other similar objectives. 

—**Range bands in skirmish, as written in the rulebook are a different kind of mess mess. Now this one is easy to fix by modeling the skirmish as a 2-d space on a scale but if you go as written and you assume that every entity on the field has a range band to every other character on the field, you either have to start working trig regularly or assume that when a character moves on one or more ranged bands, that his relationship to the other characters does not change even though this creates a spatial paradox. This means that if you’re range 1 from a friend, and range 4 from an enemy, you can do a normal move to close to within spear range of that enemy but you’ll still within sword range of the friend who is at bow range of the enemy. (though even if you do model it as a 2-d space, you still get to where if you started at bows distance from an enemy and within touching range of the friend, you can end up at spear range from both of them)

—Obviously, you can’t make rules for everything anyone would want to do in combat but here there’s a lot of basic things I haven’t seen rules for even though you’d think this setting would have them. For instance, they have a Daisho but unless it’s hidden somewhere in techniques I don’t actually see any rules for using two weapons at once) or flanking specific enemies in skirmish. 

—**To make a point on the last one I’m going to relate something that could well happen for that ‘flanking’ example. 

GM: To try to flank make a TN 2 tactics check in your stances ring, then if you succeed you may make an attack at TN -1

Player: If I fail the tactics check, do I still get to swing at them?

GM: I don’t see why not, you merely failed to flank them you’re still coming at them either way’

Player: Then why wouldn’t I just always try to flank them every attack? That’s going to double the combat rolls for each turn if we do that.

GM: Well, normally the cost is you have to get around to the other side of your opponent which isn’t always a safe endeavor.

Player: Well if both me and my mate are at sword range of my opponent, can’t I just move 2 and be at range 1 of my opponent from the other direction?

GM: …Sure… Actually we’ll just make that tactics check to be a ‘can I move through my enemy without dying horribly’ check and skip it for all future rounds while you’re on the opposite side and just say the TN for hitting becomes 1. That’ll be your entire action. Just know that it might not work if you try it at a convention.

—None of these issues are beyond my ability to adapt into something usable for the situation my players are in (I’m fairly certain there’s a reason why for all categories of conflict your listed action options are all described as ‘examples’) however I’d really rather not have to. Even if the system I come up with is ultimately one that suits me better than however you improve your system, it still voids a lot of the point of using an RPG system. 

 

Overall

In some ways I’d say that I quite enjoy your game except that the game I’m playing only resembles the game described in the rules. I am not sure how much of this is that the game is in beta, how much of it that the game is only meant to be taken as a very loose guideline, and how much of it genuinely is meant to be played the way that it’s written. My hope is that a lot of it that it’s beta. If it’s more the second, that seems to put a lot more work on the GM than is necessary and make it hard to play the game with other groups. If it’s more the third, then I will say that I suspect you have an extremely niche title here, which is a pity because I feel that there’s a lot here that would appeal to more than the most hardcore of drama queen role-players but I suspect that other types will be turned off by some of the other issues. 

—My group is enjoying being involved in a tense mystery and legal drama with their haunted and superstitious Phoenix shugeneja and impatient Unicorn bushi but their enjoyment is coming more from the setting and roleplaying than the mechanics by which most sense are resolved. It is worth noting that the player currently playing the Unicorn bushi normally prefers high action role playing games but he’s been having a lot of fun with this one despite the fact that the sum of combat that’s happened over 3 sessions is a single duel (which he wasn’t directly involved in) and a series of two skirmishes in close succession. He was also the player who played through the module at the back though his reaction to the module was middling at best (of course, when playing through the module I was still trying to mostly stick to the rules as they were written in the book).

 

Very Minor Nitpicks

—A number of the school abilities can be used once per scene and decrease the TN of a specific type of check by school rank. For low levels, this is decent, however I’m wondering how useful it’ll be at higher school ranks. Once you’re school rank 4 or so, you can reduce pretty much any reasonable checks to TN 0 and there’s not really no distinction between that and rank 5 aside from the fact that your odds of pulling off truly ridicules results becomes slightly better. It’d be more practical if you were able to split this bonus between different checks.

—Lady Shinjo’s Outrider school has as part of it’s curriculum for Rank 1, Pelting Hail Style, a kata which cannot be learned until you’re at school rank 2.

—I really don’t like ‘scenes’ as a measure of time. A lot of effects can be done once per scene but the duration of a scene is anywhere between half a minute and several weeks [for downtime scenes]. It’s another one of the games mechanics that creates dissonance between the narrative and the results. Oddly enough, this is still one mechanic I’ve kept using even though it’s an easy one to replace and although I don’t actually organize my session into scenes directly. I guess mostly because I don’t want to figure out how much time ‘once per scene’ is supposed to actually represent. How long is it appropriate until another ‘Path to Inner Peace’ invocation can be cast again? I have no idea.

—Path to inner Peace doesn’t sound like a water invocation that heals wounds, it sounds like it should be a void invocation that heals strife. I have no problem with there being a water invocation that heals wounds but I feel it should be named something different.

—Why is the ‘extinguish’ invocation so difficult to cast? I guess probably because it never specifies how big a fire it can put out. I feel the TN for that kind of thing ought to be relative to the size of the fire one is trying to put out but as it is, unless the world is burning down around you, it’ll almost never be worth the strife it’ll cost to get the successes to cast that spell (or at least, not worth the strife using the model for outbursts that I’ve been playing with).

—I know I’m not remembering all the nitpicks I’ve found. If this feedback is well received I may take the time to go looking for more of the ones I’ve forgotten.

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Path to inner Peace doesn’t sound like a water invocation that heals wounds, it sounds like it should be a void invocation that heals strife. I have no problem with there being a water invocation that heals wounds but I feel it should be named something different.

Path to inner peace was, since the 1st edition rpg, always a water invocation spell that kept the soul of the target in its body and holding said body together by the energies of water. The 5th edition version stays true to that. Void spells are super rare overall, and in previous edition, worked by returning your body to a former state back in time.

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On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

With some judicious interpretation of rules, we were able to get all the way to the battle where we soon discovered that if we didn’t want the battle to be mostly NPC leaders bashing each other, it would be completely impossible for either side to accomplish it’s strategic objectives using the rules in the book.

Pretty much. Moto Morikazu with the other lot assisting him can just about succeed in an assault on the walls, but the battle as written is unlikely to be materially affected by a single PC. The fact that objectives don't scale their casualty requirements with the number of cohorts involved is, I feel, an error.

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

So we skipped it and went strait to the skirmish against a single skeletal warrior (which the PC barely survived as he wasn’t much of a duelist). At this point we moved to the fight with the omni, who promptly flattened the crab commander and began the ritual with only the single nearly dead PC to do anything about it (mostly because there’s nothing in the module that says that anyone else is nearby, I don’t see why there wouldn’t be but I didn’t feel like looking up more NPC stats at that point in the night.) Oddly enough, as it looked like according the rules like the omni would simply channel it’s ritual for the required however many rounds without responding to the PC. Due to this he did actually almost succeed single handedly in bashing the omni incapacitated with just his staff (higher damage than his sword).

  • The only other character mentioned who should be in the watchtower is Keinosuke (assuming you didn't kill or cripple him earlier).
  • There should definitely be other troops in the watchtower. I'd just describe them getting narratively butchered by the Oni.
  • The rules for the Oni are...weird. If the PC stopped the skeletal Bushi, then Tonomatsu is alive, and the Oni will attack her. It starts the ritual only if she's already incapacitated by the time it gets there (because one of the Skeletal Bushi got away). It's not stated what happens if the Oni incapacitates her once the fight is underway. But, yeah, it can be assumed it'd ignore the PCs unless they do a critical hit or specifically provoke it.
On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

However eventually the burning blood brought him down, the omni blew up the tower and the PC and everyone else relevant was killed. It was rather clear that the module hadn’t really been designed for a solo PC which seemed odd to me as the system seemed oriented more towards heavy roleplaying which in my experience works better with fewer players (fewer dramas competing with each other for playtime) as opposed to being teamwork oriented which tends to encourage a larger party.

  •  Kazanagan no Oni's burning blood should - at least the first time - be intercepted by Keinosuke.
  • If it's suffered a critical strike, he should have stopped the ritual and turned on the PC. Still, the odds are it'll take out a single PC, especially if already wounded.
On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

Oddly, despite the huge emphasis on abstraction as opposed to having detailed rules for simulation, I still found that there were far more rules, tables, and details that I needed to look up for this system than I have in any system I’ve tried in a long time. Of course, a lot of these things aren’t as complicated as they appear at first glance but there’s still a marvelous amount of abstracted rules details that can be tricky to remember and don’t always make sense in the context. [An example of it appearing more complicated than it actually is, when I first read the rulebook, it seemed like every different type of conflict scene had it’s own rules for what your assessment check informed you but a closer examination of them will show you that they’re pretty much identical it’s just that each of them has it’s own chart for some reason. It makes it look like there’s far more to remember than is actually the case]

Agreed. The basic rules for all conflicts - intrigues, duels, mass battles, skirmishes - are all pretty similar and there are really only a handful of differences between them:

  • Initiative - Skirmish uses initiative 'properly', duels use initiative but modified by the staredown, mass battles use the Commander's initiative only, and intrigues have no initiative but have a status-based rule for who can interrupt whom.
  • Objectives - Everything except skirmishes have them, but they're not always defined that well.
  • Actions - are actually pretty common, they just get renamed.
  • 'Hit Points' - Your resilience, the objective's rhetorical point requirement, and the discipline of the enemy army are all, essentially the same thing - all that varies is what the score you're trying to get to is and whether it's shared between players.

This is an issue with the way the game is written - maybe in the non-beta version, we'll get better player aids; my personal bugbear is that the tables of places you can spend opportunity are split between about three different places, when a playsheet with the consolidated things you can spend 'a fire opportunity' on is probably more useful.

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—The rules state except in special circumstances, the players should be told what target number they’re aiming for. By itself, this is a principle that would sit poorly with me as generally, a character won’t know how challenging to expect a task to be. This seems really odd to me, why would characters know how difficult a task will be? Particularly when interacting with another character. Why would they know how difficult it is to convince someone of something when they know little of that character’s complicated motives. Even if they can assess the situation and find out that characters immediate motive? How should they know how hard it is to find something when they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for. This overall mindset carries over into the actions. It doesn’t matter how skilled a duelist your opponent happens to be, it’s a TN 2 attack to hit them (unless they happen to be in Air Stance or be using some kind of technique), to extinguish a fire with an incantation? It doesn’t matter if it’s a candle or a castle burning down, it’s a TN 3 theology check. The difficulty of many actions is not fixed, not predictable, and is cheapened by being made so.

  • Agree that they won't in-character know the difficulty of a check, but given that the system is meant to make them make hard choices about how much they want to succeed, they generally need that information to make the "and keep" bit of the system anything more than a guessing game.
  • Without knowing what they need to pass a check, they are essentially forced into taking every success going, at the expense of any opportunity, and bugger the strife incurred by doing so, which essentially makes a sizeable part of the 'success economy' in the rules pointless.
  • The 'it's a flat TN2 to hit an enemy' is true....for a certain value of true. In a duel, for example, the centre action is probably more important than the strike action, as it makes you hard to hit and dumps strife onto your opponent, pushing them towards a finishing blow.
  • Extinguish is a flat T3 theology check where it's a challenging task. Extinguishing a candle, on the other hand, should probably be a TN0 - no check required - test unless there's a good reason why extinguishing that candle is vital or dangerous. More importantly, Extinguish is a range 0-3 technique - meaning 'thrown object' range; so whilst you can damp down a fire in a room, putting out a burning castle will require  success and one or more range increases (opportunities) as well.
On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

The strife system doesn’t seem to be designed with the consideration of handling multiple outbursts per scene nor strife reduction in mind. All the outbursts reduce your strife to 50% at the end of the scene in which you outburst, however you check for an outburst at the start of each round. This means that in theory if the round doesn’t end immediately after the outburst a PC should be suffering an outburst every round until they can do something which reduces their stress. In a narrative scene, this would in theory mean an outburst after every check you make until the next ‘scene’ technically starts. Now we didn’t actually play this way as it seemed ridicules (as in, his character would have spent almost the entire investigation in a state of withdrawn stupor). We instead played your stress went to 50% after each outburst and you can outburst multiple times. This works fine for narrative scenes, but then you get to scenes like duels. In a duel your opponent gets a killing blow the first time you outburst. That’s all well and fine but after that there’s no penalty for accumulating strife and many outbursts no longer sense.  This is made even more ridicules by the fact that in a duel you can bid strife to go first. If you go with the idea that your strife resets after an outburst that means you could in theory bid a googolplex worth of stress to go first and beyond your outburst (which a player could reasonably say [if it fits their character] that during a duel is ‘become enraged’ and not suffer any other negative consequences (though when I was discussing this with the player, I made a rule that if you ever reach twice your composure level of strife you die of a heart attack). This isn’t to say that you can’t have it be incredibly deliberating if you choose it to be (this actually happened to the PC I ran through the module as he would shut down and thus would only be able to attack every other round but playing the style he was, his character was so difficult to hit [he was always either centering or striking as air] that it mostly made the duel a very long affair which he eventually lost but not before outbursting at least a half dozen times as he bobbed above and below his composure rating regularly).

You might want to check the Beta update; this at least is something 'corrected' - an outburst now drops strife to zero but as long as you are strife>composure you cannot keep dice with strife results on them. This is a much bigger deal (especially with ring dice).

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—**(As a side note: ‘killing blow’ is a bit extreme a title for a single guaranteed critical at your weapons deadlines when a Katana only has enough deadlines for a minor injury most of the time).

Note that a Finishing blow deals a critical with severity double your weapon's deadliness. That means a katana wielded double-handed deals a severity 14 critical (Swift Death).

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—I actually love this idea, however the implementation of it in this game is more than a little bit messy. All the issues I have with the system all actually stem back to the same basic problem but for very different reasons depending on the situation. Basically, it’s impossible of players to be informed on how they can spend them.

I tried to produce an 'everything you can spend air on' (or whatever) reference sheet - it seems to be a nice tool.

But yes, it's probably the most long-winded bit of a check.

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—Some options, exist in the module or should exist based on the situation I am aware of but the players aren’t. A good instance of this is the sword polishing kit during the investigation in the module. If I tell the players that they can spend water ‘ops’  to find something. They will search around until they find it and will use their water ring even if otherwise they might not. On the other hand, if they did happen to just use a water ring and roll an option, how would they know to spend it on finding something. How would they know to -not- spend it on something else? Basically, when in this situation as the GM I have to basically tell them when they are in that situation that there is a special option available and a player in that position will not let a ‘special option’ get away but there’s nothing in the rules that even indicates that I should do that. I don’t need rules to tell me to use my common sense but I also don’t want to constantly having to be inventing new rules a systems to deal with basic issues when I’m trying to run a game.

Other way around.

  • The players describe what they're going to do, narratively.
  • You, as the GM, 'translate' that into skill and ring - they don't tell you they're going to search using their water ring, they tell you they're going to search, and you tell them that that's using water because survey (search an area for non-specific 'stuff' of importance) is a water approach. If they get an opportunity during that roll, then I would say "you have a special option" because at that point they can - and players being players (and hopefully not missing a blatant hint) will - take it.
  • If they don't do any action that can be described as 'searching', then why should the opportunity come up?
  • That's why the approaches are so key, and should really be put more in your face and listed by ring, not skill. For the scene in the inn:
    • Assess is air. That's the 'scrutiny' stat for looking closely at something you already know is there. (You're not going to miss the blood spatter, but seeing it isn't understanding it, so this is the stat best suited to examine it)
    • Survey is water. That's the 'awareness' stat for looking around an area to find if anything important is present. (Hence 'easy to miss' details like the damage to the door or Keinosuke's whetstone box are found with water.)
    • Recall is earth. That's essentially comparing what's in front of you to what you already know and/or previous experience.
    • Fire is theorise. That's trying to figure out from the evidence you know about what might have happened, without looking for more evidence.
On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—The other major problem, is that there are actually options listed everywhere for everything. There’s the generic ‘you can always spend your options for this’ found near the start of the book but there are also different ring options for every skill category, many actions, and most techniques. There are too many of these to easily represent for close reference without printing out and sorting through tables. Most players can probably remember the ones on their techniques (there’s also a place to write these down), and most veteran players can probably get to know the ones that are universal to any check with each ring but even if you wrote the book, could you tell me without looking what are all of the ways I can always spend my options if I am making an Earth (Recall [from the scholastic skills]) Seafaring check to remember when low tide is? **As a technical note, if you’re using a scholastic approach to a trade/labor skill do you get the options from the scholastics or the trade/labor skill group?

No. But that's why I want to see all the 'elemental' opportunities together. A first draft of our playsheets  (which irritatingly missed 'trade skills'):

22550017_10159498370635392_8801891913679

I would say opportunities are defined by approach:

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When producing, double the amount of work you are able to complete in the given time.

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Thoroughly review a topic in your mind to discern whether there is information left to be gained from it or not.

When the task is 'recall a fact', I'd say the second is the more sensible opportunity to use.

 

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—**In battle, the obviously best practical way to work the system is to designate every single member of the army a leader of a cohort that consists of himself. After all, cohorts don’t actually have any size or strength, each one is merely an entity within an army that can act and be targeted but all the casualties are dealt to an army itself and it’s capabilities determined by it’s type and leader. An army with 300 leaders can make 300 assaults per round at the command skill of the individual leader and each of those assaults will inflict casualties at the same rate per success as if you’d only had a few leaders (though obviously characters with higher command skills and rings are more likely to succeed but there is no cost of failing an assault other than the fact that you didn’t do anything with your turn which is a lot easier to deal with if you have 300 turns to throw at the task instead of 1 per PC.

—**By similar mechanical design, if both sides have a single leader, regardless of the size and aggressive power of the armies involved it’s unlikely that either side would be able to inflict enough casualties to successfully ‘grind the enemy down’ or other similar objectives. 

Yes. But then every mass combat system tends to the ridiculous when you poke at it. Having one cohort per player or significant (non-minion) enemy does essentially turn it into a generic skirmish with different actions and hit points, but the lack of scaling of objectives is an issue. I would like to see these objectives change to a value which either reflects the number of PCs or a proportion of the enemy's army strength or whatever (like it's 1/4 of army strength to exterminate a cohort).

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—**Range bands in skirmish, as written in the rulebook are a different kind of mess mess. Now this one is easy to fix by modeling the skirmish as a 2-d space on a scale but if you go as written and you assume that every entity on the field has a range band to every other character on the field, you either have to start working trig regularly or assume that when a character moves on one or more ranged bands, that his relationship to the other characters does not change even though this creates a spatial paradox. This means that if you’re range 1 from a friend, and range 4 from an enemy, you can do a normal move to close to within spear range of that enemy but you’ll still within sword range of the friend who is at bow range of the enemy. (though even if you do model it as a 2-d space, you still get to where if you started at bows distance from an enemy and within touching range of the friend, you can end up at spear range from both of them)

This I agree with. It's a similar issue in Edge Of The Empire and - for that matter - Traveller. It's fine when everything's relative to a single point (the player's ship) but when you start trying to track multiple points, it gets awkward if you demand to have a continuously tracked and consistant range.

I would only ever use range bands 'on demand' rather than tracking them moment by moment; so that if you break ranks with your mate to run over and stab them with a spear, you'll be at range 4 of your friend the next time (if) it matters.

Essentially, it's never recorded, but whenever someone asks "how far away is 'x'"

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—Obviously, you can’t make rules for everything anyone would want to do in combat but here there’s a lot of basic things I haven’t seen rules for even though you’d think this setting would have them. For instance, they have a Daisho but unless it’s hidden somewhere in techniques I don’t actually see any rules for using two weapons at once) or flanking specific enemies in skirmish. 

You can have two weapons drawn at once (in one-handed grips) but you don't specifically gain a benefit from that other than the ability to vary the weapon you're striking with.

There is a two-weapon-wielder technique, Spinning Blades Style

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—**To make a point on the last one I’m going to relate something that could well happen for that ‘flanking’ example. 

GM: To try to flank make a TN 2 tactics check in your stances ring, then if you succeed you may make an attack at TN -1

Player: If I fail the tactics check, do I still get to swing at them?

GM: I don’t see why not, you merely failed to flank them you’re still coming at them either way’

Player: Then why wouldn’t I just always try to flank them every attack? That’s going to double the combat rolls for each turn if we do that.

GM: Well, normally the cost is you have to get around to the other side of your opponent which isn’t always a safe endeavor.

Player: Well if both me and my mate are at sword range of my opponent, can’t I just move 2 and be at range 1 of my opponent from the other direction?

GM: …Sure… Actually we’ll just make that tactics check to be a ‘can I move through my enemy without dying horribly’ check and skip it for all future rounds while you’re on the opposite side and just say the TN for hitting becomes 1. That’ll be your entire action. Just know that it might not work if you try it at a convention.

Well, 'flanking' to me would be reflected by either move up and attack or move up and assist.

If you actually co-ordinate with one another, then that's assisting - yes, you only get one strike between you but it's at +1 rolled and kept skill die.

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—A number of the school abilities can be used once per scene and decrease the TN of a specific type of check by school rank. For low levels, this is decent, however I’m wondering how useful it’ll be at higher school ranks. Once you’re school rank 4 or so, you can reduce pretty much any reasonable checks to TN 0 and there’s not really no distinction between that and rank 5 aside from the fact that your odds of pulling off truly ridicules results becomes slightly better. It’d be more practical if you were able to split this bonus between different checks.

Agreed that the difference between rank 4 and rank 5 outriders and elementalists is largely irrelevant unless you're facing some deeply unreasonable checks - but at rank 5, you probably should be!

Also note that nothing gets modified to TN 0 without GM's approval - so it'll actually start popping up between rank 3 and rank 4 characters, too.

At the same time, note that the school rank isn't the only thing improving, you'll have more skills, techniques and ring ranks, so even if the school ability hasn't scaled that much you'll still benefit, and an outrider still maintains the ability to pull off a cavalry strike against a TN6+ target (very possible with a centred, air-stance opponent, for example).

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—Lady Shinjo’s Outrider school has as part of it’s curriculum for Rank 1, Pelting Hail Style, a kata which cannot be learned until you’re at school rank 2.

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To purchase an advancement, a character must meet all of its prerequisites or the advancement must be listed in the character’s current school rank.

i.e. if it's in your advance table, you can buy it early compared to everyone else.

On ‎26‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 4:17 PM, Velensk said:

—Why is the ‘extinguish’ invocation so difficult to cast? I guess probably because it never specifies how big a fire it can put out. I feel the TN for that kind of thing ought to be relative to the size of the fire one is trying to put out but as it is, unless the world is burning down around you, it’ll almost never be worth the strife it’ll cost to get the successes to cast that spell (or at least, not worth the strife using the model for outbursts that I’ve been playing with).

Any fire within range 0-3 (thrown objects) - so essentially, if the room is completely on fire - possibly even a small house.

Our shujenga used it to good effect in the battle when a wave of goblin bezerks covered in 'magic mud' (essentially naphta-soaked clay) assaulted the breach.

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  • The only other character mentioned who should be in the watchtower is Keinosuke (assuming you didn't kill or cripple him earlier).
  • There should definitely be other troops in the watchtower. I'd just describe them getting narratively butchered by the Oni.
  • The rules for the Oni are...weird. If the PC stopped the skeletal Bushi, then Tonomatsu is alive, and the Oni will attack her. It starts the ritual only if she's already incapacitated by the time it gets there (because one of the Skeletal Bushi got away). It's not stated what happens if the Oni incapacitates her once the fight is underway. But, yeah, it can be assumed it'd ignore the PCs unless they do a critical hit or specifically provoke it.
  •     Kazanagan no Oni's burning blood should - at least the first time - be intercepted by Keinosuke.
  •     If it's suffered a critical strike, he should have stopped the ritual and turned on the PC. Still, the odds are it'll take out a single PC, especially if already wounded.

Tonomasu was alive when they got there but was killed in two rounds by the Oni. Keinosuke was not there due to the fallout of the duel (despite having won it). The PC was already badly hurt from fighting the skeleton so it didn’t take much to incapacitate him. I think technically the PC did land one critical hit (using opportunities) however doing so with a boa didn’t do anything. The Oni was something fairly close to taking wounds equal to it’s resilience just from being whacked every round (probably two staff hits away with 2 rounds to accomplish it).

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—Agree that they won't in-character know the difficulty of a check, but given that the system is meant to make them make hard choices about how much they want to succeed, they generally need that information to make the "and keep" bit of the system anything more than a guessing game.

Without knowing what they need to pass a check, they are essentially forced into taking every success going, at the expense of any opportunity, and bugger the strife incurred by doing so, which essentially makes a sizeable part of the 'success economy' in the rules pointless.

—The 'it's a flat TN2 to hit an enemy' is true....for a certain value of true. In a duel, for example, the centre action is probably more important than the strike action, as it makes you hard to hit and dumps strife onto your opponent, pushing them towards a finishing blow.

—Extinguish is a flat T3 theology check where it's a challenging task. Extinguishing a candle, on the other hand, should probably be a TN0 - no check required - test unless there's a good reason why extinguishing that candle is vital or dangerous. More importantly, Extinguish is a range 0-3 technique - meaning 'thrown object' range; so whilst you can damp down a fire in a room, putting out a burning castle will require  success and one or more range increases (opportunities) as well.

Our group plays exactly the opposite. My players -won’t- grab every success if they don’t know how many they need but will instead guess based on how hard they think the task is. But if they know they -can- succeed they will. Seems to me like the difference is between wanting to succeed and being afraid to fail. My players aren't afraid to fail, but they always want to succeed.

You may have missed the point of me talking about fixed TN. The issue wasn’t that in a duel everybody hits on a 2, it’s that it’s strange that the difficulty of the task has little to do with your opponents abilities and is predictable.

**Center was indeed important in the duel, but it was also the reason why it took forever. I missed the fact that killing blows double the severity of the strike as a result although both sides go their ‘killing blow’ early in the duel, the duel dragged on for about another dozen rounds. Had I noticed that rule, the duel most likely would have ended in a mutual kill. The PC in question, between centering and using ‘strike as air’ was constantly at about TN 5 to be hit which Keinosuke struggled to reach. However the PC could only attack after centering a couple times because he’d ‘withdraw’ whenever his strife was too high. As a result, it dragged on endlessly until Keinosuke got 6 successes on a single attack (and took a bazillion stress but since he merely enraged during stress so it didn’t matter)

The book says nothing about Extinguish being TN3 when it’s difficult. It simply says make a TN3 Theology check.

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You might want to check the Beta update; this at least is something 'corrected' - an outburst now drops strife to zero but as long as you are strife>composure you cannot keep dice with strife results on them. This is a much bigger deal (especially with ring dice).

That is a good change. I have not looked at the update.

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  • The players describe what they're going to do, narratively.
  • You, as the GM, 'translate' that into skill and ring - they don't tell you they're going to search using their water ring, they tell you they're going to search, and you tell them that that's using water because survey (search an area for non-specific 'stuff' of importance) is a water approach. If they get an opportunity during that roll, then I would say "you have a special option" because at that point they can - and players being players (and hopefully not missing a blatant hint) will - take it.
  • If they don't do any action that can be described as 'searching', then why should the opportunity come up?
  • That's why the approaches are so key, and should really be put more in your face and listed by ring, not skill. For the scene in the inn:
    • Assess is air. That's the 'scrutiny' stat for looking closely at something you already know is there. (You're not going to miss the blood spatter, but seeing it isn't understanding it, so this is the stat best suited to examine it)
    • Survey is water. That's the 'awareness' stat for looking around an area to find if anything important is present. (Hence 'easy to miss' details like the damage to the door or Keinosuke's whetstone box are found with water.)
    • Recall is earth. That's essentially comparing what's in front of you to what you already know and/or previous experience.
    • Fire is theorise. That's trying to figure out from the evidence you know about what might have happened, without looking for more evidence

I read the rules and understood exactly how it’s intended. It does not play that way, at least not for my group. The players, having an understanding of what is going on will phrase their approach in terms of the mechanics it will invoke. Some times if they don’t see how to apply the mechanics to what they are trying to do they’ll describe what they’re trying to do and then I can do that but in the vast majority of instances, the players will make it clear what type of approach they are taking. What’s more, they don’t particularly like being in situations where they cannot pick what approach they are taking and understand the mechanics behind it.

EDIT: Thinking this over, there's a natural difference in how we play from how the rules are written that's so basic I did hadn't even though of it by now. The natural rhythm for our group is that the players will choose what kind of approach they wish to take and what their goal is and I determine what the -result- will be. The reason the players don't use the same ring for everything is because they know that the result of using the wrong approach will not be the one they are looking for. It's so intuitive to us that one does not choose the result of ones actions but instead the approach one takes to that action (which will hopefully lead to the desired result) that we don't even consider doing it any other way. To be honest, even if the rules state otherwise, I would not consider playing any other way.

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Yes. But then every mass combat system tends to the ridiculous when you poke at it. Having one cohort per player or significant (non-minion) enemy does essentially turn it into a generic skirmish with different actions and hit points, but the lack of scaling of objectives is an issue. I would like to see these objectives change to a value which either reflects the number of PCs or a proportion of the enemy's army strength or whatever (like it's 1/4 of army strength to exterminate a cohort).

I’m going to thoroughly disagree that every mass combat system is ridicules when you poke at it, though I’ll agree the ones for RPGs tend to be bad.  This is often due to the desire to keep characters capabilities intact. While running other RPGs I’ve actually just used existing war-game systems to represent the battles (with players having control over specific pieces and usually some unique capabilities representing their character, and some circumstances [such as a players unit being destroyed] represented using the RPG’s mechanics). Almost invariably when I’ve done that, it’s been a very good experience. I’m not sure how well this would work with your system, as even if on a thematic level it’d make sense, it’d be thoroughly jarring mechanically. Even if you made a war-game in which the commanders of the units could easily be represented by/get their stats from a L5R RPG character and be affected by strife and what not, it’d still be a complete change in tone.

—You are entirely correct that actually turning every character into an actor would essentially turn it into an unmanageably massive skirmish with different hit points and objectives. As a GM, I would never allow a side to do this. However, it doesn’t change the fact that this is what the system would encourage if taken seriously in it’s current form.

—I have no plans to run a battle in my current campaign. If a battle did somehow happen, I’d probably look for some other way to represent it.

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Well, 'flanking' to me would be reflected by either move up and attack or move up and assist.

If you actually co-ordinate with one another, then that's assisting - yes, you only get one strike between you but it's at +1 rolled and kept skill die.

What they’re hoping to do is a co-ordinated attack that should reasonably be more effective than two normal strikes because it comes from multiple directions simultaneously. A ‘assist’ for +1 dice wouldn’t please anyone playing, they’d rather just each get their shot. There are no mechanics to handle this nor many other tactics which could reasonably be employed. I would not say that's a major failing of this system as no system can properly anticipate and systemize every trick the players could come up with (and if it could, they'd stop being tricks), however in many systems there're more elegant ways to handle the effects and costs of such things.

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Our shujenga used it to good effect in the battle when a wave of goblin bezerks covered in 'magic mud' (essentially naphta-soaked clay) assaulted the breach.

In our play through we skipped the battle for reasons I mentioned. Looking through it again, I see absolutely nothing about those things existing. If they did exist, to me that would almost be the module (or GM) saying, oooh look, your ability is useful! That’s not a bad thing, nor is the theoretical chance to extinguish the Oni’s fire (should only take a successful casting and two options). However the difficulty should be stated in the rules to be variable if it is intended to be (as you indicated earlier).

-----------

As a side note: A table like what you showed for Earth is about as nice as I could ask for this system and is in fact something I was considering making, however, it's still cumbersome to have 5 of those charts floating around the table for constant reference. At least with those charts however, I'd think the players could get to the point where they can remember what they can spend options on without referencing them, whereas if they instead have to search throughout the book they'll probably never learn it.

Edited by Velensk
extra crucial concept

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50 minutes ago, Velensk said:

EDIT: Thinking this over, there's a natural difference in how we play from how the rules are written that's so basic I did hadn't even though of it by now. The natural rhythm for our group is that the players will choose what kind of approach they wish to take and what their goal is and I determine what the -result- will be. The reason the players don't use the same ring for everything is because they know that the result of using the wrong approach will not be the one they are looking for. It's so intuitive to us that one does not choose the result of ones actions but instead the approach one takes to that action (which will hopefully lead to the desired result) that we don't even consider doing it any other way. To be honest, even if the rules state otherwise, I would not consider playing any other way.

True, but they're describing their approach narratively.

If they say "I'm scrutinizing the blood spatter" then the GM turns that into approach and skill: scrutiny=analyse=air, blood spatter=injury=medicine (for example).

If they can find a genuinely different approach to provide the same result, more power to them, but (as an example) with recall defined as earth, I struggle to see how you can get a different ring on the check to remember something

 

50 minutes ago, Velensk said:

Looking through it again, I see absolutely nothing about those things existing

Description of goblin shamans (of which old prickly is one). Not that its a big deal.

50 minutes ago, Velensk said:

The book says nothing about Extinguish being TN3 when it’s difficult. It simply says make a TN3 Theology check

True, but that assumes a certain base difficulty or importance - see the rules about when to and not to make a check.

A strike action is TN2 by default, but literally hitting the side of a castle (lets say with a message arrow with an insulting haiku tied to it) is not something the GM should be expecting a check for, any more than killing a sleeping, unaware sentry outside a conflict scene should require you to work through the critical table.

 

Re flanking - they can attack and then assist each other as an opportunity effect if they insist on both having a swing - for the handsome price of * if the attack missed or ** if it hit. Alternatively they can just be generally threatening but not swing (meaning no strike but garuanteeing the assist)

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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True, but they're describing their approach narratively.

If they say "I'm scrutinizing the blood spatter" then the GM turns that into approach and skill: scrutiny=analyse=air, blood spatter=injury=medicine (for example).

If they can find a genuinely different approach to provide the same result, more power to them, but (as an example) with recall defined as earth, I struggle to see how you can get a different ring on the check to remember something

I'm not sure what your point is? In fact I'm so not sure what you're trying to get at that I'm not even sure if the arguments I'm about to make will be arguing in favor of your point or against it. Most of what I get is that there's some kind of dissonance between our experiences/assumptions that does not seem easily definable.

For most things the players would do, they lead it with the approach they are taking to it as they are aware that it affects how things will be resolved. They will very consciously choose phrases or outright invoke the approach name. There are very few things where there is any doubt as to which approach it is. Generally, the only time I have to tell them what kind of approach they're taking is if they don't actually know what the goal is they're trying to achieve. For instance, in my campaign the PCs stumbled upon some foreign mechanisms and they said they were examining them. I told them that the unicorn player could make a Earth 'Culture' check to see if he recalled hearing anything about the devices as part of being a unicorn samurai. However, for the vast majority of checks, the players know what their goal is and will state the approach they will take in achieving it in their declaration of attempting to do whatever it is.

I feel that in general, the module (and to a lesser extent, the system) make far too many assumptions about the approach the players will take. This is not a problem outside the capabilities of a GM to account for but it does contribute to the whole thing feeling unwieldy. My player did not every say that he'd examine the blood spatter. He started by saying something close to "I, carefully, search the room." To me that sounds like a air check, or possibly earth and thus should be incapable of finding the case despite doing something that should lead directly to it (by the way, there is no 'search' skill, fortunately that character was a dragon investigator so I could just tell him to use his school's rank). To give another example, at one point he said "I try to theorize what happened" calling out his 'fire' approach directly. Now as there was listed in the module the idea that one could use a fire aesthetics check to figure out that the door had been thrown open forcefully TN 3. He succeeded at the check (and suffered an outburst) to figure out something that he already knew from listening to the dragon lady.

A fun example would probably be from later in the module when choosing tactics for the battle (the intrigue scene) the player figured out quite early that the monk would simply oppose whatever plan he proposed. At that point he stopped trying to persuade anyone of anything and instead said that he was just going to -trick- the monk into arguing for the tactics he wanted (which [as we were still saying what TN were outloud]) he soon found was easier for him (Air was his strong ring) than trying to target the commander. There exists no action for this option but there is no reason why a player shouldn't be able to do this. In fact, options like that seem to be what this system -should- be built for. So I let him, he made one somewhat difficult check successfully (to outline all of his false strategic decisions convincingly) and then spent the rest of the argument intentionally failing to argue effectively for those decisions while the monk earned all his rhetoric points for him.  

Nothing I described the players doing is unreasonable nor crazy, however when accounting for things like this, I frequently feel like I have to bend the system out of it's natural shape to accommodate their intents and desire to take advantage of what seems to us like the natural strength of such a system.

Edited by Velensk

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3 hours ago, Velensk said:

sounds like a air check, or possibly earth and thus should be incapable of finding the case despite doing something that should lead directly to it (by the way, there is no 'search' skill, fortunately that character was a dragon investigator so I could just tell him to use his school's rank).

For what it's worth, that's water. Water is survey  (looking for things that you don't already explicitly know are there). Air is scrutinizing a thing of importance you've already found.

 

3 hours ago, Velensk said:

Now as there was listed in the module the idea that one could use a fire aesthetics check to figure out that the door had been thrown open forcefully TN 3. He succeeded at the check (and suffered an outburst) to figure out something that he already knew from listening to the dragon lady.

That's more an issue with having only one player and the module   (foolishly) assuming you coming across evidence in a specific order. If he already knew what happened, then a theorize check to figure out what happened is of trivial importance, TN0, and no dice are rolled.

3 hours ago, Velensk said:

A fun example would probably be from later in the module when choosing tactics for the battle (the intrigue scene) the player figured out quite early that the monk would simply oppose whatever plan he proposed. At that point he stopped trying to persuade anyone of anything and instead said that he was just going to -trick- the monk into arguing for the tactics he wanted (which [as we were still saying what TN were outloud]) he soon found was easier for him (Air was his strong ring) than trying to target the commander. There exists no action for this option but there is no reason why a player shouldn't be able to do this. In fact, options like that seem to be what this system -should- be built for. So I let him, he made one somewhat difficult check successfully (to outline all of his false strategic decisions convincingly) and then spent the rest of the argument intentionally failing to argue effectively for those decisions while the monk earned all his rhetoric points for him.  

I would have said that's defining a new objective: get Gakuto to argue for the choices you want to make.

Definitely a new persuade objective, which you'll achive with the Con approach  (air) to get him to falsely belive your position. I think the default recommendations for a persuade objective is the targets vigilance?

And if successful, obviously you can sit back and stop rolling dice as he'll win the argument for you. But it's a race because you need to get 5 rhetorical points on this objective targeting him before he can get 12 on his objective targeting tonomatsu.

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What you are describing is an interesting issue with your system based on language. You are saying that searching should be water because water has an approach to scholastic endeavors called ‘survey’. Even if you could convince me that searching a room was a scholastic task (a point on which I’m dubious) the word survey doesn’t mean anything of the sort to me. To survey is to take information from a wide variety of sources to get a feel for which opinions/ideas are most commonly had and which are most correct [this makes sense as a scholastic approach]. In English, it has the secondary meaning of to look over large portions of land and see what’s there [not really a scholastic approach but a task]. This second meaning is tangentially related to searching a room (though it implies a very different set of skills and time commitment) but it’s also the definition that would be lost were I to translate the game.

—The way the players describe going about their investigation sounded closer to the two rings I mentioned. Without coming to the conclusion that searching a room is supposed to be a ‘survey’ I’d never have any reason to tell them to use water.

—As for what approach should be needed for this task: It shouldn’t matter. So long as you are searching the room with any degree of thoroughness, you should almost find the polishing kit automatically or near automatically.

 

I write this next section mostly to make the point I was trying to make from the start clear and not because I don’t appreciate your responses. In your responses, there has been a bit of advice to me on how to manage the system (for instance, when you say that it should have been a change in objectives). These things tend to be things that might have been nice to understand before playing through the module and do show that your system is a bit more robust that it might otherwise seem, however, it doesn’t change the fact that after playing through that module, I have no desire to use your system as written again. Much of the things you give me advice on are things that I have removed from my modification of your system because they did nothing for me or my players. The game as we play it now, isn’t divided into scenes (or if you want to be picky has scenes that change type, escelate/de-escelate randomly, and otherwise treat the stated scene structure as if it doesn’t exist), doesn’t have the players state objectives, there are no rhetoric points, nothing but the most basic of the combat rules have been kept. The only rules for conflict resolution that were kept were assessment checks (though they were modified), stances (actually left untouched), stareoffs for duels, and the standard actions for dueling are mostly the same. EVERY other rule for conflict resolution felt either poorly constructed or pointless outside a premed module environment.

—The reason I kept the things I kept is because they served a purpose. Assessment check have been repurposed to act as general ‘spot’ checks [something the game otherwise lacks] and can be done at pretty much any time but are also used in situations where initiative is relevant. Stances make the decision of which approach to take in a confrontation more interesting by giving concrete advantages to each approach beyond what the GM thinks the other characters would respond best to. The advantages are fitting and the immersion by giving each approach it’s own character in a situation where many approaches are viable and also help the feeling of problem solving. Stareoffs are a good way to represent the tension and I honestly couldn’t think of other actions that made sense for a duel (though striking works somewhat differently).

—I could actually go through and list the reasons why I dropped everything else. In general, it’s strange the things this game seems to think it needs to simulate or have rules for. In a roleplaying game, one doesn’t need to simulate an argument, one can simply run the debate. The only abstraction needed is to allow the characters to be more elegant/effective than their players would be and the only simulation needed is to determine whether or not their arguments are effective and/or more effective than a particular adversary. As it happens, the games base system provides just that, with a ton of flexibility without needing any additional rules. There exists no state of having ‘won’ an argument, there is simply the results of arguing and what the players have decided that their characters are trying to do. If a side has accomplished it’s goal or some of it’s goals they could be said to have won but there’s no reason why a scene needs end at that point (though someone who has lost the audience’s attention may do himself no favors by continuing to press the matter). Likewise, if who won a duel isn’t obvious from the outcome, then obviously neither side won hard enough regardless of how the ‘points’ are measured. Range bands aren’t quite the only issue with skirmish and the lack of scaling for battle objectives isn’t the only issue with battle (again, a side in a battle will have objectives but the way they’re enshrined as a gameplay mechanic feels stiff and unreal)

—I can see the point of having many rules for exactly one thing: making modules that behave more consistently. However, I really don’t think premade modules are the way to run this game unless they come with premade characters. Even then, I don’t think going for consistency in the experience across multiple groups is a goal this RPG should be aiming for.

—Basically, we liked the basic system and character creation of this RPG enough that I was willing to build almost an entirely new elaboration on that basic system on top of it. Although I hope that’s somewhat flattering, it also represents how frustrating my players and I found with everything else about the system.

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1 hour ago, Velensk said:

What you are describing is an interesting issue with your system based on language. You are saying that searching should be water because water has an approach to scholastic endeavors called ‘survey’. Even if you could convince me that searching a room was a scholastic task (a point on which I’m dubious) the word survey doesn’t mean anything of the sort to me. To survey is to take information from a wide variety of sources to get a feel for which opinions/ideas are most commonly had and which are most correct [this makes sense as a scholastic approach]. In English, it has the secondary meaning of to look over large portions of land and see what’s there [not really a scholastic approach but a task]. This second meaning is tangentially related to searching a room (though it implies a very different set of skills and time commitment) but it’s also the definition that would be lost were I to translate the game.

Fair enough. 

The main tool I've been using to pick approaches when we've been playtesting the rules has been the table of skills and approaches on P81. 

This one defines the Survey approach as:

Quote

Survey the surroundings for clues about it

(which feels like the 'get to a high point and survey the landscape' meaning - which I admit is a relatively uncommon useage!) as opposed to 

Quote

Recall it from memory

(you cannot recall the presence of the box because you don't know it's there)

Quote

Analyze a specific thing for details about it

(Again, you need to find the box before you can analyse it) 

 

At the same time, it's an issue for each GM to figure out themselves. Other people might see it differently; I can imagine a logical argument that 'the thing being analysed' could be defined as the room, making it air (although the room is the setting for the scene, which I'd say is a bit to general to be 'a specific thing' rather than 'the surroundings')

 

1 hour ago, Velensk said:

I write this next section mostly to make the point I was trying to make from the start clear and not because I don’t appreciate your responses. In your responses, there has been a bit of advice to me on how to manage the system (for instance, when you say that it should have been a change in objectives). These things tend to be things that might have been nice to understand before playing through the module and do show that your system is a bit more robust that it might otherwise seem, however, it doesn’t change the fact that after playing through that module, I have no desire to use your system as written again.

It is in no ways 'my system'; I'm no more than a playtester, just as you are. 

If it's unfair to note, that, historically has been a problem I've observed with a lot of Fantasy Flight Games RPGs (this isn't the first Beta I've been involved in and I've had most of their RPGs from WHFB 3e on).

  • Rules - pretty good verging on excellent (especially given a couple of iterations to knock the rough spots off)
  • 'World-building' in the form of narrative background and artwork - utterly superb. The Dark Heresy series in particular has jawdropping art.
  • Pre-written adventures - mostly awful. The overall plot and setting are often good but their actual execution is often execrable, and extremely intolerant of diverting from the intended narrative route, coming up with alternate plans, coming across clues in the wrong order, or failing a one-shot pass/fail "where do we go next" test - in short, Players being Players....
1 hour ago, Velensk said:

In general, it’s strange the things this game seems to think it needs to simulate or have rules for. In a roleplaying game, one doesn’t need to simulate an argument, one can simply run the debate. The only abstraction needed is to allow the characters to be more elegant/effective than their players would be and the only simulation needed is to determine whether or not their arguments are effective and/or more effective than a particular adversary. As it happens, the games base system provides just that, with a ton of flexibility without needing any additional rules. There exists no state of having ‘won’ an argument, there is simply the results of arguing and what the players have decided that their characters are trying to do. If a side has accomplished it’s goal or some of it’s goals they could be said to have won but there’s no reason why a scene needs end at that point (though someone who has lost the audience’s attention may do himself no favors by continuing to press the matter). Likewise, if who won a duel isn’t obvious from the outcome, then obviously neither side won hard enough regardless of how the ‘points’ are measured. Range bands aren’t quite the only issue with skirmish and the lack of scaling for battle objectives isn’t the only issue with battle (again, a side in a battle will have objectives but the way they’re enshrined as a gameplay mechanic feels stiff and unreal)

I think that, probably more than anything else, could do with some guidance - setting mass combat, or intrigue objectives (including their difficulty) is probably worthy of a sizeable chapter in a putative-but-probably-inevitable GM's Guide supplement.

1 hour ago, Velensk said:

—Basically, we liked the basic system and character creation of this RPG enough that I was willing to build almost an entirely new elaboration on that basic system on top of it. Although I hope that’s somewhat flattering, it also represents how frustrating my players and I found with everything else about the system.

Hope you enjoy it! 

Don't take any comments as meaning we've not had frustration with the system too. The flipping back and forth for opportunity tables feels like it's become a running joke.

I also love the character creation. Quickly scratch-writing a character is one thing, but this set of rules actually makes you think about how you fit into the world - in terms of family alignment, relationships, etc as well as just the stats and skills associated with "Am Lvl 5 Barbarian. Have Axe."

I would strongly recommend a bullet-point list of house rules that you really like, though - because we're still at the stage where the designers are likely to gratuitously plagiarize...sorry....draw creative inspiration from :ph34r: any especially eye-catching elements into the final version.

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