13 December 2009

The Rules so far.

Character creation was a bit ad hoc. I had a skill list but the guys went with a more Indie mix of "Mistress in every port" and "Good judge of character" sorts of things. Everybody started with three points in each humor.

When a skill check came up we used a D10 plus the humor associated with that skill against an easy/normal/hard target number. One of the important features was that the player set the difficulty for the challenge. That way the challenge felt appropriate to the character concept. We were still in the talking about every challenge at length stage, but they didn't even seem to be uncomfortable with it. I can see that GM description will sometimes be a control issue, but it worked with no difficulties here.

Every skill challenge had an associated humor. After the challenge that humor went down one and a different humor went up based on the outcome of the challenge. For example, sneaking the ship into the Ottoman city would be a skill associated with the phlegmatic humor so the player would look at their sheet and see that they had a 3 in phlegm. They would then decide that sneaking into the city while it was heavily patrolled was a hard challenge and roll D10+3. If the roll was higher than 12 the roll was a success and the player would transfer one point from phlegm to sanguine. If the roll had failed the point would go from phlegm to black bile.

A note we seem to be going back and fourth between the humors and the fluids freely so what I will call black bile someone else calls melancholy and so on. I don't know if this is a problem or not but will try to decide on one or the other later.

Combat is currently a card based system which covers dueling and other sword fighting. The players are dealt a hand of cards. 5 cards if the character is a swordsman and three if the character is a mook. An additional card is placed face up on the table to make for terrain advantages. If either player plays a card with the same number on it they get to take another card.

The players cross swords by playing one card face down for advantage in the fight. They turn the cards over and the player with the lower number may add a card to meet or exceed the higher card. If they meet the process is repeated. If the card is exceeded that player takes the advantage. All cards are discarded after comparing.

The player with advantage plays another card face down and the defender plays a defense card face up. The advantage player turns their card over and the defender has the opportunity to add cards if their total does not match or beat the advantage player. If the defenders card exceeds the advantage player's the advantage turns. If there is a tie the advantage is lost and they go back to crossing swords. If the defender cannot match the advantage players card with a second card they take a touch. If they cannot play any more cards the advantage player strikes as many blows as they have cards left. Wash rinse repeat if necessary.

It ain't much but it got us through. The players feel that there needs to be more room than the D10+humor scale allows for now. If you use a skill the point loss makes them feel weak. They have asked me to try a scale between humor points and points in the roll. they would like something like 10 humor points to start with and a sliding scale of points to bonus conversion. with at least three uses of the skill to bring the bonus down below three.

12 December 2009

First Playtest

We had the first playtest. It was a little better than, "Mr. Watson. Come Here. I need you."

Peter's charater, Malitsio, a smuggler and his counterpart Mercutio played by were at the top of the Italian space elevator leaving on a mission for Mercutio's company, A Thurm and Traxis company called Janus. They took off in Mal's ship for somewhere in the asteroid belt. Their first stop was the Ottoman controlled moon which was crawling with patrols for some reason. They tried to sneak into the city but were hailed and boarded. Mal paid off the customs eunuch and they made their way to the city, which turned out was in revolt. Some of the little moon people had revolted and holed up in a mining town in a crater and we holding off the Ottomans. Mercutio met with the local Janus rep and was asked to take a crate the size of a washing machine out to the crater for the rebels. After trying to build a set of wings to glide the crate in while they are leaving, a plan which doesn't come to fruition, Mal finds out from some underworld connections that there is a land route into the crater and sends the guy in to tell the rebels that they are coming. They disguise the crate as a Palanquin and walk it in. as they enter the crater they find the body of the underworld guy that Mal sent in ahead of them. Mercutio decides to go in ahead of the others to find an old girlfriend who was in the mining town. He is set upon by a mob of the moon guys and scares them off in combat. they tell the Lunies that the package is there and high tail it out.

It seemed like fun and had the Travelleresque feel I was shooting for. I will explaine how we did it in the next post.

11 December 2009

Wind Up Robots

One of the "in space" tropes I want to include is Automatons. The idea of wind-up people is a clockpunk staple. I have been looking into how daVinci looked at machines that did this kind of thing and think there is enough to allow it.

On the color side the first thing is that there would be public winding stations. Either working from water-wheels or Hero's engines. The second is that whoever started making wind-ups in the game world was looking around for a simple way to model the personalities and chose the roles from the Commedia del Arte.

There are a number of basic models;

Il Dottore - a doctor
Il Capitano - a soldier
Pantalone - a merchant
Arlecchino - an entertainer
Satiro - a sex worker
Pulcinella - a butler
Zagna - a maid
Zanni - A menial

Plus there was another type that was something else befor. A
Coviello is a freed automaton.

At this point I don't have any rules to cover how playing an automaton is different from playing anyting else but we will get there.

Fencing with Cards

One of the things I really want in the game is a combat system that feels good and doesn't take all day. I recognize that fight scenes take more time in a movie than the fight would for a reason. They are exciting and if done well visceral. I want to bring that to the fighting in SM.

To that end I have been thinking about a system where based on humors and skills a player would get a hand of cards. There would be taunting (which I will explain after it gels a bit) then the players would fight. one player would start by placing a card into play and his opponent would try to meet or exceed the card with up to two cards to parry the blow. People who have played Dogs in the Vinyard will be familiar with this format. There are a few things added. First there would be cards for the environment. Based on the setting for the fight several cards would be played to the table allowing either player to use them in the fight. second off certain skills would allow the players to use more cards in either their attack or defense. A spanish style defense would allow three cards to be played in response. things like that.

Two points, first that this will allow both play to first touch, to the death and anything in between. I want there to be tons of fighting and few deaths. Honor is the thing to fight for. Second is that the fight will still have an effect on humors. the outcome of the fight will take a point from one and give to another same as anything else.

Taunting will be a system where your honor will take a hit if the challenge is not met. and some characters will get extra card in the fight for breaking down and starting to fight when they don't want to. If your character is hot headed this is the bonus you get for playing him against your better judgment. Like I said it isn't soup yet but I like the smell of things so far.

The Four Humors

The first concept for the game was to base it on the four humors.

Humour Season Element Organ Qualities Ancient name Modern MBTI Ancient characteristics
Blood spring air liver warm & moist sanguine artisan SP courageous, hopeful, amorous
Yellow bile summer fire gall bladder warm & dry choleric idealist NF easily angered, bad tempered
Black bile autumn earth spleen cold & dry melancholic guardian SJ despondent, sleepless, irritable
Phlegm winter water brain/lungs cold & moist phlegmatic rational NT calm, unemotional

Each skill in the game would be associated with a different humor and using that skill would cost the character one point of that humor. Based on the outcome of the skill test the character would receive one point in another humor. For example, if Mike's character Miccilino was attempting to break into the vault of his nemesis Sesimurdo to steal back his invention. For the moment lets assume that the skill associated with lock picking is Phlegm (just 'cuz) the character would loose a point of Phlegm. If he succeeds he gets a point of Sanguine and if he fails he gets a point of Melancholic.

At no time did I want to "make" the players or the characters act out the humors. Rather, I wanted the humors to show the relative ability of the character to perform certain tasks based on the humors.

The point was that after every scene the character would have gone into conflict spent a point of one humor based on whatever skill the player chose to use and received a point of another based on the outcome. The thinking behind this was to drive players to move from using the same skills all of the time making the characters seem less typecast.

At this point I have no idea what the numbers would be, if you can spend or receive more than one point in a conflict, whether the points can go to zero or lower. I just want the capacity to be there to use this cool system of thought to give the game part of its otherworldly feel.

while researching I found this odd bit on Wikipedia:
Fahråeus (1921), a Swedish physician who devised the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, suggested that the four humours were based upon the observation of blood clotting in a transparent container. When blood is drawn in a glass container and left undisturbed for about an hour, four different layers can be seen. A dark clot forms at the bottom (the "black bile"). Above the clot is a layer of red blood cells (the "blood"). Above this is a whitish layer of white blood cells (the "phlegm", now called the buffy coat). The top layer is clear yellow serum (the "yellow bile").
Which I think would be an excelent addition to the science of the day. Doctors can perform a simple blood test and determine your relative levels of each of the humors. Just color but the sort of thing that science would do for them.

10 December 2009

Hello New World

This blog aims to be a design and consolidation space for my game of clockpunk space adventure. At this point the game is pulling my mind in a number of directions and I want one place where I can refer the people who want to help me to discuss them.

I will try to get all of the parts which I have thought about on here as soon as possible. They are not fully baked yet let alone cool enough to build a ginger bread house from. Don't worry about that at this point I am looking to get all the things I want in the game together then we will decide how to do it all.

The bits of the idea for the game had been sitting in my head together for a while. I played in a Flashing Blades campaign up in Ann Arbor and found the setting delightful but the system ugly. I had been thinking about how to bring swashbuckling adventure into a game that was fairly static. About the same time Paul Czege had been talking about doing an old school Traveller game and I was really into it but it never materialized. While thinking about Traveller, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that the system was for a future from our past and was no longer our future. We already have computers that put anything in the game to shame and communications devices that weren't even thought of. Somewhere around this time I was also thinking about clockpunk. the three things seemed to fall together and in about two conversations became what the game was going to be.

The design goals for the final game are two fold. First I want the setting to be as much about the future of that time period (the 1600s) and not about the future of our time period. By that I mean that even though we live in a world where atomic theory explains the make up of the universe ( or quantum mechanics, or string theory) the world of Leonardo da Vinci was not that world. at the same time I want it to be a very science fiction-y world doing science fiction-y things. Robots, space travel, aliens, ray guns will all have a place in the world, but so will Aether, the four humors and Aristotelian motion.

Second I want a game where the parts make you feel like you are doing the things in the fiction. By this I mean that I want the fencing to fell like fencing and the inventing to feel like inventing. At the same time I don't want anyone to have to become an expert on fencing or alchemy to play the game. At this time I think that there will be mini games to play when doing some of these things. There is a card game that will stand in for fencing that will have the lunge and parry feel without having to learn to fence or to know/guess what your opponent is going to do.

Some of the things I want the game to address: patron systems, romance, exploration, clockwork people, swashbuckling adventure and other planets.

I will try to address the setting next and start to populate the blog with resources to get us all together.