Wednesday, 25 February 2015

AFF2e Sorcerers are Muscle Wizards

In which I argue that Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e (AFF2e) Sorcerers are ‘Muscle Wizards’, but first I bore you all with a discussion (moan) about transferring rules from the ‘closed’ system and world of a gamebook to the ‘open’ system and world of a tabletop RPG.

AFF2e has four types of magic – Minor Magic, Wizardry, Priestly Miracles, and Sorcery. The first three were designed with a multiplayer, tabletop RPG in mind, while Sorcery is the product of the Sorcery! gamebooks by Steve Jackson, and while this is the source of its great flavour, it is also its great weakness. It is a weakness, as the use of Sorcery in a gamebook allows the ‘dead’[*1] GM to operate a pretty tight control over the use of magic. Steve Jackson limited the player’s access to spell components, the choice of spells in any particular circumstance, and decided on the outcome of spells as he saw fit, unburdened by an ‘objective’ rules system.   

So, in a gamebook, the player can’t declare that he is going to search the fancy dress shops of Arkleton to find a green wig, or divert from his quest collect a sack full of teeth Goblin hunting. You've thought of an innovative use of a spell which will ‘break’ the encounter? Tough. Either Steve Jackson didn’t think of that, or he did and decided not to offer it as an option. You don’t get the option to simply fly over the walls of Khare, or cast MUD at the feet of every monster. And whatever options the player is given, Steve Jackson has used pre-emptive GM fiat to ensure that the results come out the way he wants them to.

And that is fine and dandy. Such is the way of a gamebook.

In an open-ended tabletop RPG, players are free to declare that their characters are going to collect a sack of sand, and ‘spam’ the MUD spell during every encounter. Or that they will hunt Goblins and conduct post-mortem dental surgery, ensuring that the party can outnumber any opponent with some Jason and the Argonauts-style sowing of teeth. This is not to say AFF2e’s Sorcery is ‘broken’, only that it needs co-operative players, and likely some invention on the part of the GM as to what actually counts as a spell component. Do the Goblin teeth used in GOB need to be free of decay? Does the ‘sand’ used in casting MUD need to be filtered silica? Etc.

“Why are you trying to limit players’ powers?” I hear you ask. “Enable their power fantasies and make the players feel awesome!” you shout. But the other voices in my head tell me to make life difficult for the players. And when the arguing voices in my head quieten for just a moment, I remember that limiting the players’ access to Sorcery magic is true to the ‘fiction’ – but that as a ‘living’ GM I have to make my decisions explicit to the players in order to allow them to make meaningful decisions.

But (and here is where AFF2e Sorcerers turn into Muscle Wizards) spell components are not the only limiting factor in Sorcery. The magic systems of many RPGs treats magical capacity as a finite resource, typically by way of ‘magic points’ or ‘mana’, which is often separate from the spell caster’s physical ‘resources’. But in AFF2e, casting a spell eats away at a Sorcerer’s STAMINA (AFF2e equivalent to, say, Hit Points). So an effective AFF2e Sorcerer must have a high STAMINA score – and one way of looking at that is that other words he or she needs to be one of the most vigorous, fittest men or women on Titan. 

Wizards? Pah! Old, weak men digging over dusty books.

Sorcerers look like this!

Now, I am partial to the idea that magic should have a physical cost in my fantasy – both fiction and gaming. I enjoy stories in which Merlin has to recuperate after working some great, taxing magic. When I read Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, I found myself wanting to model not just the visceral combat, but also the sort of magic that left the Magi Bayaz at death’s door, comatose, after saving the party from an ambush. Having magic ‘damage’ STAMINA is one way of doing this. But, just as with D&D Hit Points, in game terms STAMINA is all or nothing – while we may understand having a single point of STAMINA as being close to dropping from exhaustion, there is no mechanical impact in having 1 STAMINA point as compared to having 24… er, other than to significantly decrease the chances of the character surviving the next physical strain to which he or she is exposed![*2]

[*1]As opposed to a living GM, sitting at the table, applying rules, making rulings, improvising, and accountable to the players.

[*2] This is something that it is easy to miss – and all too often is – when playing (and criticising) a game that has a D&D-type model of ‘attritional damage’.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Songs of New Games and New Years

New Year, New Games. Okay, the really radical thing that I am planning to do (gaming-wise, at least) is to learn to run, play, and appreciate Fate. That's radical for me, anyway. I'll probably wimp out and end up playing something closer to Fudge, but hey...

If we rule out games of King of Tokyo, Tsuro, Ingenious/Mensa, and Snake Oil with my wife, my mum, my aunties, my brother, my sister, and my cousins, then tonight was the first tabletop gaming of 2015. And I don't think we should rule out those games. So this was the first geeky, fantasy-themed gaming of 2015. A couple of games of Songs of Blades and Heroes with D.

This was the first time that we had played SoBaH, and I am pretty impressed. It is easy to learn, quick to play, and able to accommodate pretty much any figure - and 'character' concept - that you pull from the box. I can see it reinvigorating my miniature gaming - I can't even imagine assembling and painting several whole units at the moment, and mass-battle games swallow up too much time to squeeze them in with any regularity.

Our first game of SoBaH pitted a group of Dwarfs (mostly my old Citadel minis) against a small band of Beastmen raiders. I used the Hyena-man statlines from the rulebook as stand-ins for the Beastmen. We played at about 200 points, and - possibly due to the small scale - the game was convincingly won by the Dwarfs. I gave the Dwarfs a 'Commander' with the 'Leader' ability, and with with reasonable 'Quality' across the board already, the Dwarfs were able to hold their discipline and get a lot of 'Activations' each turn. At a higher points total, and with a more interesting scenario than 'FIGHT!', the Dwarfs might not all have been able to stay within range of the Commander's 'Leader' ability. But as it was they were able to make up for their 'Short Move' by their reliability and ability to take orders. The Dwarfs held their line until the opportunity to charge arose, and once of few Beastmen fell their morale broke and they scattered from the field of battle.   

For the second game we opened up the board and played a slightly expanded Beastmen tribe against a small, shambling warband of Undead - including the Harryhausen-esque Reaper Bones Skeletons. This was a more interesting force to play, as it included the poor 'Quality' but hard-hitting Zombies and a Mummy, as well as the weak but relatively reliable Skeletons. Much rested on the Activation rolls (6+) of the Zombies as they came shambling up the right flank while the Skeletons made a nuisance of themselves in the centre. We drew the game to an end when we realised that the Beastmen, having finally taken down the Mummy and most of the Skeletons, could, if they wanted, keep out of combat with the Zombies all night long. 

Our next game - which will likely be Chaos Warbands done SoBaH style - will definitely involve some more interesting objectives than simply 'Kill 'Em All'. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Ballad of Xortan Throg

Every now and then I write up session reports for the games that I run. Often, weeks pass and they end up unwritten, lost like tears in the rain. This is particularly the case when I run one shots, or short adventure sequences.


However, over the past couple of weeks we've been playing some more Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e – the game which occupied several months of our gaming time as the party recovered the Crown of Kings [final play report here]. These games will make AFF2e it the 'most played' system for our group over the past couple of years, beating a variety of D&Ds and OSR games (even when grouped together), WFRP, and games from the d100 family. That surprised me.

As you might have seen, I have been mulling over the possibilities of AFF2e quite a bit lately ('capping effective SKILL', 'task resolution' and 'more task resolution'). Most of these are prompted by my thinking that AFF2e might be a reasonable choice for a sandbox campaign, and a wish to iron out the kinks. While I am not sure that AFF2e will beat a good ol’ B/X derived D&D variant for sheer sandbox utility (reasons partially outlined here) with super easy NPC, monster, and encounter generation (assign a SKILL and STAMINA score, and… well, not much more), and with the tools for a longer term campaign in the Heroes' Companion (holdings, hirelings, etc.), AFF2e might not be a bad choice. And, being temporarily down to two players for the moment, and only having three or maybe four even on a good day, I figured that a system in which starting PCs were already pretty accomplished would fit the need of the moment.

So, yeah, AFF2e, sandbox, player freedom, blah blah blah. And then I pluck a 'programmed adventure' – you know, a railroad – off the shelf.

Not just any adventure, though. But the adventures in Dungeoneer. And given that I have Blacksand! and the (pretty rare) Allansia I have all the material for an 'adventure path' that heavily restricts player agency. Yeah!

Nah, but surely I could subvert that, no? As the campaign develops and as the players get a sense of the world, they will develop ideas of their options outside the scene by scene[1] progression of the AFF campaign. Anyhow, a fortnight ago we played Tower of the Sorcerer, the introductory adventure from Dungeoneer. And the map looks like this:

So, yes. Not much Jacquaying going on in that dungeon, but we played it straight. And there are moments when you can really appreciate how Gascoigne and Tamlyn were introducing new players to RPGs with this adventure. Sure, there are few moments in which the players are able to exercise real choice, but aside from missing that key feature of an RPG, it can serve as a useful education.

Let me go through the 'scenes' in turn.

1. Into the Forest
The PCs are introduced to their quest as they ride through the Darkwood Forest with Prince Barinjhar of Chalice, Morval the captain of the Royal Guard, and a handful of soldiers. Plenty of exposition, delivered through conversation between Barinjhar and Morval, but in truth there isn’t much for the PCs to learn. That Xortan Throg employs Goblins, and rides a Griffon, and sometimes his agents ride Giant Lizards, okay. But anything else? Well, there isn’t much information needed as there aren’t many choices for the PCs to make, so this is largely colour. Colour provided by a haughty prince and a gruff NCO.

To justify this beginning I had Grisheart – the swashbuckling swordsman played by A – and Kumchet Wavemane – the scholarly sorcerer played by D – having agreed to take the mission while deep in their cups in a tavern only last night. They are working off their hangovers as they ride, and this explains why the mission is only being explained to them as they near Xortan Throg's tower and why they only have 11GP between them.

And the mission? Rescue Princess Sarissa of Salamonis, who was set to marry Barinjhar. Why has Xortan Throg kidnapped her? Who knows.

2. Into the Crag
So, the PCs are given the task of sneaking into Throg's tower through a cave in the base of the crag, which Barinjhar heads to the front door to parlay and distract. Here, the PCs are introduced to a semblance of dungeoneering, but in truth nothing they do matters until they arrive at a cave. In that cave, which they must cross if they wish to progress, they will be ambushed by Goblins. They will be. How many Goblins? Lots and lots. And what can the PCs do? Well, according to the book, they can pointlessly roll dice until 'each Hero has killed two or three Goblins', after which 'the rest of the Goblins flee back into their tunnels. However, the Heroes ‘are not supposed to die here', so you can have the Goblins flee sooner. 'It’s your film' [1], is the advice. In other words, there is no way for the PCs to avoid this fight, and only one permitted outcome of this fight. The players make no decisions of consequence, and the dice that the players roll don’t matter.

I despise these types of encounters. But in this case, in which the designers presume that this will be some players first ever encounter with an RPG, the purpose of this encounter is to teach the players and the 'Director' the mechanics of AFF combat.

Of course my players subverted it. A had put a point into giving Grisheart 'Language – Goblin' at character creation, and so as the Goblins came streaming from their tunnels he shouted, 'All hail Xortan Throg!' Well, let’s dig out the old D&D 2d6 (so perfect for AFF2e) Reaction Table and see what happens. Confusion, a bit of time for the PCs to make their way over the cavern. And information exchange, as Grisheart bamboozled the Goblins, who had been told to expect adventurers, with the claim that they had come to see Xortan Throg to help him with his adventurer problem. A few Provisions sweetened the deal, literally.

In truth, I was always minded to allow the players to bypass this encounter in some way, if they came up with a reasonable plan – anything but have the players play out a scene in which nothing that they do matters.

3. The Wizards Tower
This scene involves a number of encounters.

The PCs have to get past a portcullis trap, signposted by a black-red bloody smear on the floor. With careful observation (no rolls - they are looking right at the spot and asking of they see a loose flagstone) they are able to bypass the trap by simply jumping over the trigger.

The PCs will pass two doors, behind which cower peasants, broken men plucked from a nearby village for experimentation. Although the book tells the Director that the PCs will hear no sound from behind these doors, I allowed them to hear a sobbing. You have to give players some information upon which to make a decision. They picked a lock and provided some comfort to one of the wretches, his mind broken.

Then there is a Nightmare-esque sword trap, in which two giant animated hands swing swords across the corridor in quick, deadly arcs. Both Grisheart and Kumchet decided on the simplest solution, which was to use their Dodge special skill to slip past the blades. Equal or beat 14… oh, not a scratch.

Then there are two doors which present the players with an interesting choice, a choice which teaches a lesson that all players should learn. Behind these doors are the Giant Lizard and the Griffon. Now, the PCs could probably beat the Giant Lizard (SKILL 8) in combat, or even subdue it and use it as a mount. But the Griffon is a different prospect. SKILL 12, STAMINA 15 and with 2 Attacks, the Griffon would probably have done for Grisheart and Kumchet. The lesson that Gascoigne and Tamlyn are trying to teach here is this; 'You don't have to open every bloody door. If it sounds and smells like there is a big monster behind that door, and if you have been told about that big monster earlier on, well, DON’T OPEN THE DOOR!'

And that is what my, more experienced players already knew, and so we didn't have a TPK here.

Then there is a final trap, an illusory fireball. This took Grisheart and Kumchet a short while to work out, but a scrap of material torn for Kumchet’s robe was the clinching evidence.

So this scene presents a few more choices for the players to make, and lessons that it is essential that players new to RPGs learn. They have to reason their way past three traps, which will involve asking the Director for more information, interacting with the environment both as players (are there any… does it look like…) and as PCs (Kumchet tears a strip from his robe and…). This is not just a useful lesson for fantasy RPGs in which there are traps, but any RPG as the ‘description-question-description cycle’ of the 'information game' is often missed by new players who treat the first description as ‘total information’ and jump straight to statements of action.

4. The Guardroom.
Another fight, this time with an indeterminate number of Orcs and Grudthak the Ogre. Gascoigne and Tamlyn have given Grudthak some pretty decent lines, and this should teach new Directors to give their NPCs, even those that are most likely destined to die before the encounter is done, some colour. And the Orcs and Ogre are also doing something as the PCs arrive – eating a roast Goblin and gambling – which again is a good model for the new Director to follow when the come to design their own adventures. 

Grisheart and Kumchet cut down the Orcs – SKILL 5 in no time – and Grudthak politely (well, not really, he’s insulting the PCs all the time) waits until the PCs have finished with the Orcs and can gang up on him. He might be SKILL 8, but he’s no match for- KCH-ZZAP! Yep, no match for a ZAP spell causing 3d6 STAMINA damage, and so Kumchet drops to big guy just as he is warming up.

Swigging from his Potion of Stamina (ZAP costs 4 of Kumchet’s 12 STAMINA points), the doors on the far side of the guardroom swing open and a voice bids the PCs 'Welcome!'

5. The Wizard’s Chamber.
Okay, so now we have Barinjhar and Xortan Throg describe their evil plan to the PCs. Barinjhar has arranged for the disposal of Princess Sarissa so as to avoid Chalice falling under the domination of Salamonis. Fair enough, I guess, but he should have just killed her. The PCs have been hired to lend credibility to Chalice’s rescue attempt. And Xortan Throg? Well, I guess he just hates Salamonis.

Now that is one evil wizard!

Exposition over, Barinjhar leaps into the fight. At SKILL 11, he is a tough opponents, and I have given him decent armour too. Grisheart struggles – having an effective SKILL of 9 – and Kumchet helps out with some magic. Throg, meanwhile, sits and waits – unless a PC attacks him. When the PCs have dealt with the prince, it becomes clear that in the finest Fighting Fantasy traditions Throg, though exceptionally powerful, has a vulnerability. Each time that he casts his Force Bolts at the PCs, the incense burners on either side of his throne flare up. A and D are no mugs, and so charge at the incense burners, dodging Force Bolts along the way. In AFF2e Force Bolts cannot be dodged, but then who said that evil NPC magic has to work symmetrically to that used by PCs? Incense burners smashed, Grisheart and Kumchet have no problem dispatching Throg, But, whaaa-? It turns out that he was nothing more than a hollow mannequin. They rescue the princess, and to nobody's surprise, an image of Xortan Throg appears in the fireplace to vow revenge. Job done.

Post-Credits Scene: How is Tower of the Sorcerer? Well, is linear, and there is not much player choice. BUT, the adventure introduces new players and Directors to both the game mechanics and the 'information game' at the heart of RPGs. It teaches players that not every door need be opened. It shows Directors that they can add colour even to an encounter with a handful of humanoids in a square room. And in the encounter with the 'Big Bad' it presents both players and Directors with the idea that an encounter need not be resolved by the PCs lucking out on the roll of the dice, whether against a high SKILL opponent or a special skill test with negative modifiers. Indeed, resolving an encounter through dice is rather boring. But encounters can be about playing the information game then making choices that circumvent the powers of the enemy. Or whatever is the particular hazard or obstacle. Oh, and Tower of the Sorcerer can be – quite comfortably – played in an evening, an underlooked quality in a beginning RPG adventure that will involve participants who don't know the rules and who are likely unused to sustained play.

Final Credit: Grisheart and Kumchet will return in Revenge of the Sorcerer…  

[1] AFF1e's great drawback – in my view – was its insistence that an adventure in an RPG was like a film, with the Games Master being a 'Director'. Okay, there are a few mechanical issues too, but the 'RPG as film' conceit bleeds though into the advocated Games Mastering style, with advice to the Director often – but certainly not always – veering close to the negation of player agency in the pursuit of a particular 'story' outcome. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Foaming Shadow - Skeleton Encounter #5

Finally, here's a fifth skeleton encounter that fits on two sides of an index card, to follow the previous:

#5 The Foaming Shadow

As the PCs travel by ship they or their crew notice that a shadow under the surface of the water, is tracking them. The crew speculate that this is a whale, or a giant shark, or some chimeric sea monster. Those observing closely will see that the surface of the water is broken by roiling bubbles. At least one old sea dog will surely know the following legend... they did hire an experienced crew, didn’t they?

The PCs’ ship is being pursued by a sunken ship crewed by the undead. The ship was once the Basilisk, captained by the notorious pirate Spittlebeard. Notoriety can be a dangerous thing, and the city states of the coast commissioned a fleet to hunt the pirate. The Basilisk was driven into a deep inlet. The fleet set her ablaze, their catapults launching jars of flaming oil. The legend goes that not a single pirate attempted to escape the flames. The Basilisk with her crew, and all her treasure. This encounter can be used to provide a hook for an underwater adventure to recover the lost treasure of Spittlebeard, but none is carried on the wreck of the Basilisk.     

The PCs can attempt to flee the shadow under the water (see Expert p44). Treat the Basilisk as a LONGSHIP. If the PCs fail to escape, the Basilisk will surface – within grappling range – in a great burst of steam. 50 SKELETONS swing and climb across, and, when close enough, leap over the gunwales with daggers held in bony jaws. The Basilisk itself is but a skeleton of a ship, merely charred ribs, keel, stern and bow (with Basilisk figurehead). The ship, and the SKELETONS, are wreathed in barely visible hell-flame.   

SPITTLEBEARD= AC: 5, HD: 5, HP: 30, MV: 60’/20’, ATT: 2 Cutlass +2, DAM: 1d8+2/1d8+2, SV: F5, MR: 9, AL: C, XP: 300

These Skeletons are possessed by the lingering personality of SPITTLEBEARD, who has made a pact with a Great Evil in order to continue an unlife of plunder. Dressed in tattered finery, he can speak and reason, but is quite mad, having just two desires, to collect gold, silver and gems, and to kill while doing so. PCs may be able to exploit either of these desires, and SPITTLEBEARD will flee (MR: 9) if the battle looks like it will fulfil neither desire. SPITTLEBEARD carries a map to his underwater lair – presumably a place of interest to a Great Evil – and fights with a CUTLASS +2.

HWWJD? (more on AFF2e Skill Tests)

One of the ways to judge what kind of modifier should be applied to a Skill Test in AFF2e is to consider John of Salamonis, an ordinary human with some expertise in the task at hand (effective SKILL 7), and ask how difficult should this task be for him. As described in my last post, he has roughly a 60% of success at an unmodified Skill Test, which accords with the kind of score I usually give to a competent (but not ‘expert’) practitioner in a BRP/d100 game. Which is nice.

But let’s lay it all out in a table:
* In my own games, effective Skill for any task, including combat, is capped at 12. Achieving SKILL + Special Skill scores of greater than 12 allows Adventurers to have better chances of dealing with the kind of heroic level obstacles that impose large negative modifiers.

So, the top line gives us the modifiers that might be imposed on John of Salamonis. The second line gives us his chances of success (vs a target number of 14) as we vary the difficulty of the task. But we don’t need this level of accuracy when we are ‘eyeballing’ task difficulty. So the third line gives us his chances rounded to the nearest 10%, just as I handle BRP/d100 NPCs. As we see, this means that each extra +/-1 modifier can be imagined as adding or subtracting 10% from his chances of success. Which is nice.

Well, except for the jump from 60% to 40%, and that is fine as in my interpretation it represents the difference between an ordinary task being performed under ‘adventuring stress’ with one that has some distinct difficulties. Note that the 100s and 0s in that line represent circumstances in which John of Salamonis will only fail on a fumble (double 1s), or succeed on a critical (double 6s). Again, the actual chances are pretty close to BRP/d100s 5% fumble/critical range. Which is nice.

So when determining modifiers, rather than looking up tables mid play, I try to simply ask, ‘HWWJD?’ How Well Would John Do? If we think our competent everyman would have a 20% chance of success, we should apply a -3 modifier to the task. If we think he would succeed on anything but a fumble (double 1s), we need to give the task a +4 modifier, at least, if we bother rolling at all. And so on. These are applied to the effective SKILL of the Adventurers, which might well be greater (and sometimes, less) than 7.

I advise working out the task difficulties with John of Salamonis in mind, rather than by reference to the Adventurers’ effective SKILL. This is because if I prefer, as much as possible, to have the task difficulty fixed with regard to the fictional world – and John of Salamonis is a fixed point. If I work out task difficulty by considering the chances of Adventurers I do, unfortunately, find myself tempted to fit the world to the Adventurers. If a player has chosen to play a character with a high Sneaking Special Skill, his Adventurer should be able to achieve different things than if that player had instead created an Adventurer with a high Law Special Skill. The task difficulty should be set vs John of Salamonis, not vs Adventurer capabilities. However, the fourth line of the table does provide a guide to the chances of success broken down by effective SKILL (SKILL + Special Skill + modifiers).

(I promise to stop. Well, maybe. Most of these kind of posts are - quite obviously - me talking to myself, laying out the kind of material that I then turn into bullet points, mantras, tables etc. that end up stuck to my 'Referee Screen'. Or the bundle of notes I am using, whatever. It is intended to help me run a game more smoothly and to act as a check against me slipping into the kind of illusionism that negates player choice.)

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Skill Rolls in AFF2e

In which I talk about the way in which I handle Skill Rolls in AFF2e, especially the ‘problem’ of what to do with low SKILL characters who are meant to be experts in a particular Special Skill. In short, don’t roll, and if you do roll, roll high unopposed.

1. Special Skill Points represent competency. This is independent of general SKILL levels. As per AFF2e p.25:
1 = Basic Training
2 = Fully Trained
3 = Expert
4+ = Master

2. Don’t roll the dice. Adventurers should succeed automatically when using Special Skills within the bounds of their competency. The dice should only be rolled when Adventurers are acting under unusual stress or attempting tasks beyond their competency. This means that an Adventurer with SKILL 5 and a Special Skill of 4 is far more able than an Adventurer with SKILL 8 and Special Skill of 1. In mundane situations, the first Adventurer will rarely be called on to roll the dice. As a ‘master’ most tasks will be within the bounds of his competency. The second Adventurer will only automatically succeed at tasks within the competency of someone with basic training. But when the situation is not mundane…

3. Roll the dice. The dice should be rolled when the situation is unusual or perilous, or when an Adventurer is attempting a task beyond their competency. In these situations there will be no difference between the chances of success enjoyed by the two adventurers described above. The Adventurer with SKILL 8 is able to make up for his lack of professional expertise in such a situation by his or her sheer grit, natural talent, ability to work under pressure, and/or downright heroism. The Adventurer with Special Skill 4 can make up for his lack of natural talent with his professional training. So, in such situations, does the Adventurer succeed or fail?

4. Does the roll beat 14?  All non-combat tasks should be resolved by rolling 2d6, adding SKILL and Special Skill, adding or subtracting any modifiers, and attempting to equal or beat 14{*}. This means that a character – let’s call him John of Salamonis – with an effective SKILL of 7 (an average human – SKILL 5/6 – with some training Special Skill 1/2) succeeds just a bit less than 60% of the time.

5. Modifiers to Effective Skill (see Capping Effective Skill)

A Legendary Feat [-8]
As an example, this is the modifier to an Awareness test if a sneaking character is invisible. This would reduce the effective SKILL of John of Salamonis, and most people and creatures of Titan, to 0. This means that, if the Referee rules the action possible at all, the chance of success is just under 3%. An Adventurer would need an unmodified effective Skill of 11 before this chance is improved (to 8%).

Almost Impossible [-6]
As an example, this is the modifier applied when fighting in darkness. This would reduce the effective SKILL of John of Salamonis to 1. Again, this means that the chances of success (vs. a target number of 14) is just 3%. However, expertise and talent tells more quickly, with Adventurers with an unmodified effective SKILL of 9 having an 8% chance, rising to nearly 17% at 10, and nearly 30% at 11.

Extremely Difficult [-4]
As an example, this is the modifier applied to Swim or Dodge tests when encumbered by a very heavy weight. This would reduce the effective SKILL of John of Salamonis to 3, which means that he has an 8% chance of success.

Difficult [-2]
As an example, this is the modifier applied with fighting while drunk. This would reduce the effective SKILL of John of Salamonis to 5, which means that he has a 30% chance of success. He will fail more often than not, but will succeeding often enough.

…er, but hang on. What about positive modifiers? What happens when things are easier than normal? In most cases, I argue that this should mean that Referee simply rules that the Adventurers succeed. Even the chances of our everyman, John of Salamonis, shoot up to over 70% with a +2 modifier, over 90% with a +4 modifier, and 97% with a +6 modifier (assuming double 1 is an automatic failure). The exception is, of course, effective SKILL in combat, in which positive modifiers do play a part (though I propose capping effective SKILL for human/mortal scale Adventurers at 12). In this case, the roll is not to beat a target number of 14, but the Attack Strength of the opponent, which can be much higher. The modifiers for combat are well detailed on p59 of AFF2e.

But note. Combat is the only place for ‘opposed rolls’ when I run AFF2e. When Adventurers are engaged in a contest vs the environment the roll is unopposed. Equal of beat 14, with modifiers for difficulty. In all non-combat contests vs NPCs, Adventurers likewise roll to beat 14, with modifiers for difficulty. I do not construct NPCs symmetrically to Adventurers. They have SKILL and STAMINA scores for combat, but their non-combat expertise is handled by key words and associated modifiers, which apply to the effective SKILL of the Adventurers, not the NPC. So, if an NPC description has that the NPC is keen eyed, I will also write that all Sneaking tests conducted against that NPC are at -2, for example. I don’t have to give him Awareness 6 to make up for a feeble SKILL score. Or the other way round – If Adventurers and NPCs are not symmetrically constructed I don’t need to worry about the effect of giving an NPC a high SKILL score – this only represents combat effectiveness, as per the original gamebooks.

It really does make statting up NPCs a piece of cake.

{*} The AFF2e rulebook has a suggested target number of 15, which means that there is a big difference between the default ‘roll low’ system and the alternative ‘roll high’ system. With a target number of 15 for the ‘roll high’ system, a character with effective SKILL 7 would succeed just over 40% of the time. In the default system, a character with an effective SKILL of 7 would succeed in rolling 7 or under 60% of the time.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Can I join the band?

I've had Dungeon Crawl Classics DCC RPG for a while now, and In the past I have run the funnel The Portal Under the Stars as well as a few levels of B4 The Lost City converted to DCC RPG. I hadn't looked at it in ages though. I could never find affordable 'weird' dice to complete the 'dice chain', which is an important part of DCC RPG. Simulating the weird dice using the 'standard' weird dice didn't quite click, but now I have these (pretty hefty) things I'm up for giving it another go. Especially as there are a few things about DCC RPG that scratch particular itches for me - but that is the subject of another post. This is simple dice porn.