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 I'm not actually dead (4E legacy project update)

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Chris24601
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PostSubject: Re: I'm not actually dead (4E legacy project update)   Tue Jul 07, 2015 7:28 am

First, I technically still have a "Save Ends" equivalent, although its got a different name and mechanics it performs the same function.

The reason for this is that "save ends" is a horrible mechanic that runs counter to human psychology. My experience at multiple tables is that people don't like to think about bad things for them so they often forgot about negative conditions affecting them unless reminded. One would think this could be some clever attempt to cheat by ignoring conditions except that the same players ALSO consistently forgot to make their saves to end conditions at the end of their turns.

So I changed the mechanic is called "Sustain Miss." Instead of the target's rolling to save, the attacker gets to re-roll the attack check as a free action during their turn. If they hit, the effect persists until their next turn. If they miss the effect ends.

This has several positive mechanical effects;

1) It puts the burden of tracking conditions on the person with the most vested interest in seeing them continue. Often the person who laid down a condition had to remind the target anyway so this just formalizes that process. The attacker has an incentive to continue the effect and so is less likely to forget to make their sustain check and if they forget the sustain the effect ends.

2) It smooths out the duration mechanics. "next turn" durations already last a full turn, but the old "save ends" could end at the end of the very next creature's turn if they make their save (not fun if you just laid down an effect so your allies could freely withdraw, because it ended up being useless). By changing to Sustain Miss, you guarantee that the effect will last at least one full round.

3) It creates some variation in the durations. Because the sustain requires you to re-roll the attack check, a target's defenses matter to the duration. A poison effect against Fortitude will more easily be shaken off by someone with a good Fortitude than someone with a poor one while with save ends there's an equal chance for each to end it. Likewise, the poison of creature three levels higher than you is more likely to have a longer effect because it has a bonus to its attack vs. Fortitude while the poison of creature three levels below you would be easier to shake off because its bonus is lower.

4) It further normalizes the "Attacker Always Rolls" mechanic by having them roll to sustain an effect instead of switching over to having the defender start rolling to end it. Consistent mechanics are a good thing.

That's why Save Ends went away and got replaced with Sustain Miss. As with 4E though, Sustain Miss is a higher order effect that can only be applied to your strongest conditions if you burn a daily resource. It becomes a choice of "Immobilize (ENT)" or "Slow (sustain miss)" or burn a heroic surge to make it "Immobilize (sustain miss)" and having interesting choices about how you spend your resources is good design to me.

Saves do also persist in a fashion via the "Recovery Check" mechanic as well. These are equivalent to the extra saves granted by various powers or features, but with the added benefit of being able to break ANY effect (so it could be used to end a 'dazed (ENT)' as easily as a 'dazed (sustain miss)'. Since, except for a few capstone class benefits, recovery checks burn resources to perform (either actions, focus or both depending on the source of the ability), its still costing someone in the party something to end an effect early, its just not the cost the attacker wanted them to have to pay.

----

As to damage; I started with a notion that was fairly close to yours... about +1/2/4 for the equivalent of A/E/D effects. The problem was that the original mechanics made a choice out of extra damage or interesting effects. So the damage got adjusted to +2 per level (with half of that coming from extra damage dice) and with the exception of a few specific class attacks, focus use is about laying down tactical conditions to help you win the fight instead of dealing more damage.

There's also the simple fact that, up to a point, rolling more dice is fun. The biggest problem with my original math was that there were level 15 characters that were only rolling a single d6 for their damage rolls. How boring is THAT?

Now for PC's damage is 1 die at levels 1-2, 2 dice from 3-7, 3 dice from 8-12 and 4 dice from 13-15. That's enough dice to be fun, but not too many to make the math a pain, and it keeps the math working as a bonus.

As you pointed out about your systems 20 vs. 30 levels, my damage numbers aren't any more extreme than 4E's if you remember that I'm squeezing everything from 30 levels into 15 levels (3 five level tiers).
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PostSubject: Re: I'm not actually dead (4E legacy project update)   Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:12 pm

Little style update.

I've been rewriting the rules for clarity of late because I've learned of a group of about 40 role-players in the area that write and then playtest the heck out of systems for about a month each and the opportunity to get that many eyes on my project would be a godsend in terms of finding errors.

As such, I've been writing things out in full and have, in general, been working on sprucing up the legibility of the project.

I figured I'd share some of what I've gotten done (including some racial fluff) so you can see something a little closer to what I'm hoping the project will end up resembling.

Note that the "Big Grey Bars" are placeholders for future artwork that I'll either create myself or include as part of a Kickstarter project to produce printed copies of the book.

Here's a link to the test pages... https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8uzbbLvQJOLekJtSjMtbk5QRG8/view?usp=sharing
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PostSubject: Re: I'm not actually dead (4E legacy project update)   Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:14 pm

Hm, in my time with 4e I've found that until-next-turn effects can be confusing to track for the same reason as sustain-miss effects, but your reasoning does make a lot of sense. It certainly makes defense penalties a lot more viable!

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PostSubject: Re: I'm not actually dead (4E legacy project update)   Sat Jul 18, 2015 10:50 pm

Oh, conditions in general are a pain to track, but save ends was even worse because at least SNT/ENT effects have a set duration (and if you forget about them for one round they're over anyway).

The trick I've learned that's sorta a house rule at our 4E home table is that the attack is responsible for tracking the conditions they impose. If their target's player forgets an effect and the attacker doesn't remind them, then the effect doesn't apply.

Basically I'm making that the general rule for T&T... the person who benefits from the effect is responsible for remembering it. If the target remembers, great, but if they forget its the attacker's responsibility to remind them not the target's responsibility to remember.

Psychologically, it asking people to keep tracking of a positive (a benefit to themselves) rather than keeping track of a negative (a penalty to themselves) and it also keeps the player focused on the game during other people's turns, particularly those of the creature's they've got effects running on.

One other thing that helps a lot too is that T&T has really cut down on the AoE effects unless you're a controller and few abilities inflict more than one condition that needs to be tracked at a time. Thus, each player is probably only inflicting 1-2 conditions per turn and most fade at the end of their next turn... so they only need to keep track of about 1-2 inflicted conditions at once (barring sustain miss effects) vs. a target that's been dog-piled possibly having to track 4-5 conditions at once.
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PostSubject: Re: I'm not actually dead (4E legacy project update)   Sat Jul 25, 2015 10:31 am

Is there an actual pdf out/around? I've been tweaking some 4e rules of my own and would like to take a look at this "new" system as well.
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PostSubject: Re: I'm not actually dead (4E legacy project update)   Sun Jul 26, 2015 5:56 am

one consistent save ends after next turn instead of multiple variations is what I want to go with for duration

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: I'm not actually dead (4E legacy project update)   Mon Jul 27, 2015 9:14 am

cyvaris wrote:
Is there an actual pdf out/around? I've been tweaking some 4e rules of my own and would like to take a look at this "new" system as well.
It's been linked to several times in this thread (at least once a page), but the semi-most recent version of the rules can be found HERE.

If the hyperlink isn't working for you, the actual address is here...

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8uzbbLvQJOLYW9aU0tKTmJ3anM/view?usp=sharing

Its still rather rough in that format... very 'notes for writing the real version' so you almost have to be familiar with 4E to really make sense of some things, but it should help you out a bit.

The bit on the durations I use for the system can be found on page 11 of the pdf.

There hasn't been an update lately because I'm in the middle of a huge re-format that includes actually writing out all the rules in full and formatting it into something approaching legibility. That's because there's a 40 member group in the area that does nothing but playtest people's game systems and so I need at least the character creation portion of the ruleset clear enough that they can use it because the more eyes on stuff the better (I had some fresh eyes on the system last night and they found three glaring typographic errors inside of 15 minutes that had been part of the document for months).
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PostSubject: Re: I'm not actually dead (4E legacy project update)   Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:37 pm

Okay, its been awhile since I've last updated, but I've been expanding my field of playtesters in the last few weeks even as I've been writing up a more finalized version of the system (i.e. adding fluff text, consistent formatting between sections and boxes for where I expect to put illustrations) and I thought I'd share a couple of slight design decisions that haven't really been in the updates.

The first is I've resolved my healing issue in a rather simple manner. I decoupled the Surge Value from the Hit Points. Instead of the value being 1/4th your hit points, its a set value of 6+2/level (the same as the average monster damage for a critter of your level) for the +8 hp/level classes and 6+3/level for the +10 hp/level classes (which also have slightly lower defenses and so will get hit more often).

Every use of Focus to heal has been improved to either 3+level (for backgrounds and species abilties) or Stat+level (for class abilities) per focus spent which recovers about half of a hit's worth of damage from an even level critter.

I've also decoupled Heroic Surges a bit from the basic class level and smoothed out their acquisition. Instead of a minimum 8+Con and then +2 at 6 and 11... its now 5+Con and then +1 at 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15. Builds with the guardian role that don't have a Con secondary get two additional surges that can only be used for healing (The defender fighter and blade warder builds start with 7-9 surges just from the base + Con score and so don't need any extras) since they're expected to take more damage.

After some testing, 4 surges (from a -1 Con score) is just enough to get through four encounters in a day means if you don't burn more than 2 surges per encounter (since you regain a surge at the end of each encounter) which has proven doable if you play smart and careful (you might be down a few hit points with only the surge you gain from victory on the 4th fight at the end though). Five surges is enough to burn two per encounter with a buffer for a bad encounter. Six or more is enough that even a couple of bad encounters can be recovered from.

The main reason for the change was the disproportionate advantage that the slayers builds of those classes got over other slayers. Because they had 2-3 more surges while taking no more damage than them, slayers with those builds would routinely blow their surges for extra actions that the others just couldn't afford to take because they needed to keep enough to recover hit points.

****

The next major change is to specializations and extra powers. After some careful observation, allowing specializations as background utility options was too good an option and broke the silos too much. It's one thing when a utility option lets you replace a weapon or armor with an equivalent (the benefit being an alternate type of damage and/or something less easily taken away), but taking specializations made the actual attacks stronger (vs. being more varied as with magic weapons).

So I've pulled specializations from the list of universal utilities. But because just four specialization options doesn't feel like enough for me (especially when two are delayed until level 12 and 14) I've come to an alternative solution that also fixes a related problem.

That related problem is that the option to choose extra damage in place of an extra attack power was also proving to be too good an option to the point that nearly everyone except some of the controllers (particularly mages with non-damaging attacks like web and/or ray of enfeeblement) were opting for the extra damage instead of new attacks.

So the solution was obvious... instead of getting the choice of a new attack or a damage bonus at levels 4 and 9, you instead get a choice of a new attack or a specialization at levels 4 and 9. This is actually an added benefit to the non-damage dealers since a specialization might actually improve that attack while a damage boost would not.

I'm still debating how precisely to allow cross-source specializations (one of the reasons why ignoring fire or cold resistance were only found in the school specializations was because you could easily pick that option as a universal utility), but right now I'm thinking that just doing away with the limitation entirely. I mean, 99% of fighters should never have need of the pyromancy specialization and so would have no reason to ever take it, but for that one in a hundred case who does... why make it harder for them?

****

The third major update in terms of mechanics is that I've decided to drop the specific background benefits gained at 1 2, and 4 and move them into the utility options for each background while adding an additional choice at levels 2 and 4 (so two at level 1, +1 at 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11 and 13). The reason for this was that several of the default benefits were proving a bit problematic with some species and classes. The monastic benefits were of almost no use to the dragon, some beast-men and mutants and anyone taking the shifter class for example and I'd already been adding a "if you can already use your best stat for your attacks gain another background utility instead" because of the issue with the military background not actually being all that useful to the martial classes you'd most expect to see have a traditional military background.

It also solves the issue of benefit bloat that I'd been experiencing with some of the testers. Picking four skills plus a static benefit and then two utilities, plus picking a build for the class and two attacks and a 50/50 chance of also needing to pick a couple other options and picking your species options (which even dwarves have now as I found their "one unique thing" finally) and your stats was a LOT for several of my play-testers to keep track of.

So its one less thing at level 1 and it lets you have some barbarians NOT run quicker than non-barbarians or be especially good at flanking as well.

****

Lastly, I mentioned dwarves. As I was writing up background fluff and doing actual layouts it started to become apparent that there just wasn't that much to the dwarves. It's like the TV Tropes page "Our Dwarves are The Same" and there weren't any particular options with their species benefits either. The only other species with no options at all for it was the Halfling and it had so much specific character for a player to wrap a concept around (i.e. the shadows of murdered children) that the need for mechanical diversity just wasn't as obvious.

Even more particularly there wasn't anything to dwarves that half-dwarves didn't already have to the point where for a portion of this clean-up process I'd actually dropped the Dwarf entirely and swapped out "half-dwarf" for "dwarf" in the Human section because they were basically just stocky humans.

So I started brainstorming with some friends... one of them hit on the notion that maybe the process the demons used to create dwarves from men was unstable and so they were all insane in some fashion (this player was definitely an "actor" in terms of player types since they were at a loss when I mentioned that what sets them apart does need to provide them with some benefits and not just rp hooks).

But it got me thinking. My first thought was that maybe dwarves just needed to be a subset of 'mutants' like trolls and ettins and cyclops were, but after a good night's sleep it finally hit me what can make them unique.... the process was unstable but the result is not mental instability but that a dwarf's limbs and organs wear out at different rates (often as soon as their early twenties... which was still older than most dwarves lived to be under Demon rule... but sometimes even in their teenage years) and when that happens the dwarves replace the failing bodypart with arcane steampunk cybernetics. Not just content to replace, these cybernetics actually improve on what was lost.

Each dwarf starts with one of these artifices (as the dwarves call them) unless they take a specific option not to and can select additional ones in place of background utilities... with options such as darkvision, mining fists (double damage to objects), frame reinforcement (improved carrying capacity), iron lungs (hold breath for longer) and so forth.

It also helped shape how I viewed their culture... because any organ could fail at any time, dwarves married young (15-16) and had families to minimize the risks of 'equipment failure' on having heirs. This means that most dwarven adventurers already have grown (or nearly grown) children before they even begin their careers. The mindset and risk calculation of someone who's already past their child-rearing years (likely even a grandparent) is very different than many adventurers who likely haven't even considered the prospect of settling down yet and that's a great hook for roleplaying that's distinct from the other species I've got on my list.

I'm actually pleasantly surprised at how easily the world-building side is actually coming together. Lots of pieces are falling into place with some added nuances coming along the way (ex. dragons are basically demons and so if a dragon in disguise decides to mate with a human for some reason its offspring would be a tiefling; i.e. a human/demon hybrid complete with horns, fangs, glowing eyes and a tail... and that the unexpected birth of a tiefling has led to all manner of problems, including the dragon's masquerade being breached more than once in the past).

Anywho... time to get back to the project as this thing isn't going to write itself.
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