Friday, April 20, 2012

Gross Typos, Mis-Calcs, and Errors

Finally had a chance to do some play-testing of CDF last night…first opportunity I’ve had since over-hauling the magic and initiative systems. The play group was limited to myself and one other player, but this is mainly my own fault: I was about 30 minutes late to the bar and I believe the other guy who intended to show probably left, thinking I wasn’t going to make it (I had no way to contact him when I was running behind). Apologies, Red.

Anyway, testing is testing and doing it with one player was a good enough start. I had Josh note down the character stats from the Urban Sorcerer archetype, and got ready to cue up the adventure…only to find that the character profile was all screwed up. WTF?!

Argh…turns out several of the archetypes, including two of the three magic ones, were a mess, and all needed re-examination and re-work. Again, this is all on me…I know the archetypes (slapped hastily into an appendix) were added fairly quickly, and several were borrowed from earlier iterations, conversions, and PC notes, but I thought I’d double and triple checked the priorities and ability scores. But there it was…sorcerers with cybernetic modifications, despite a complete lack of cybernetics, and priorities doubled up or noted wrong. Hell, all of the archetypes list Wisdom as ability (B/X base, remember?) despite this being swapped everywhere else in the rules for a new stat called Willpower. Ugh!

The sorcerer archetype was the worst of the screw-ups, which is especially disheartening as I know the other play-test group (who I’ve yet to debrief) was really looking forward to using the sorcerer in-play. Crap, crap, crap. Ah, well…maybe they fixed it on the fly, as I was forced to do last night.

So how did the play-test go? Well, let’s see…Josh’s sorcerer was driving escort on his scooter bike (a Honda Elite, says Josh) when some gangers on bikes show up and start chasing ‘em down. Initiative is rolled, gangers go first, Josh takes a bullet and dies.

Hmmm…that was quick.

Actually, it wasn’t much different from a 1st level character eating a spear from a goblin in the first round of combat…such does happen in a B/X game. In this case, the gangers did need a 19 to hit, so it was a lucky roll. And anyway, that’s part of why I included a “karma” mechanic, which Josh promptly used to save his bacon. ‘Course, he’s limited to only one such use, so this is kind of like an NFL coach using his challenge flag on the 1st play of the game…I might need to look at re-vamping that also (especially for short-handed game groups like we were).

Josh then blasted three of the guys with a fireball, pulled his handgun and blew away a fourth (over the course of two rounds), prompting the survivors to turn tail and flee after failing a morale check. That part worked well, as did the “snap shot” rules. I liked how it played out (and yes, it was nice and quick, over-all), but I completely ignored all the optional combat rules (I mean, that’s why they’re optional, right?) and I’m starting to think maybe I don’t even need them…maybe combat is just fine withOUT extra complications.

I might just re-vamp the whole combat system.

[while this might sound extreme, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and analyzing of combat systems the last week or so, especially in reconciling the (separate) issues of melee and modern weapon combat. For the most part, this has been done in aid of the new (war) game I’m working on, and I’m sure that some of the sensibilities from THAT are carrying over into my thoughts on CDF. I don’t think the games have to look alike…I don’t even think they SHOULD…but it definitely bears some extra scrutiny]

Let’s see, other things that came up: evasion rules. One thing I did NOT ‘port over from B/X were evasion rules because, well, in all honesty I don’t run away that much and the concept might be a blind-spot particular to me. However, the issue came up TWICE last night…once when trying to outrun the gangers, once when a platoon of cops showed up to disrupt the “buy” that was going down (and Josh decided…wisely…to cut and run rather than shoot it up).

And I’ve got nothing. Oh, I’d had something in an earlier iteration of the game that was subsequently removed…I just figured I’d compare foot speed or vehicle speed to see if one side was faster than the other. But what about people trying to escape/get lost in a junk yard labyrinth (as was the case here), where open ground and foot speed aren’t an issue of debate but rather quick wits and athleticism? I ended up making a couple house rulings that worked for us, but some guidelines in the scope of the rules would be useful. THAT needs to be updated, too.

Next week, I’ll be leaving town for a few days (heading to SoCal to see my father and put in some beach time with the fam), but I think I’m going to shoot for one more day of play-testing on Tuesday. I can see a lot of things that need “tightening up” but I want to put together some more notes from actual play before I start drastic purging of the rule book, and I think that one more session will give me enough data to do some good ruminating while on vacation.

I’ll keep you posted.
: )

Thought for the Day:

Twilight 2000 may be the most well-done modern combat game I’ve seen in RPGs; even if it’s not truly “realistic” it FEELS like it is. Assuming you’re willing to sacrifice “realism” for playability, T2K should be the absolute maximum amount of combat rules needed for your RPG.

The combat rules in T2K take up 8 pages, including about a page-worth of illustration, and includes such topics as indirect fire (like from howitzers and mortars, things not often encountered in a modern RPG). Take out that, the illos, and the vehicle hit diagram and you’ve got probably 6 (8.5” x 11”) pages of actual rules for handling personal combat. By contrast, my 64 page game has close to 7.5 pages of rules for combat, and it’s designed to be loose and cinematic (no hit locations, armor-penetration damage, etc.). Just what the hell am I trying to accomplish?

[actually, to be fair, there are an additional 5 pages of combat rules…not counting illustrations…in the referee’s manual. However, these cover things like chemical warfare and gas, land mines, vehicle combat, and animal attacks (dogs and bears). Altogether, 12 pages of combat rules form a substantial percentage of a game as small as Twilight 2000. On the other hand, we ARE talking about a WAR game. Is your RPG about soldiers at war? How much space do you need to devote to combat rules?]

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