10 June, 2015

Storifying Mage: The Ascension (Part 9) - Further Combat and Archetypes


Since we know that all weapons provide a total number of dice to roll for damage, and all forms of armour provide a number of dice to roll to absorb that damage, the basic idea I had was to ignore the dice altogether and use these values as flat numbers. For each opening exploited, the attacker uses one of the cards in their offence hand, and if the victim chooses to defend, they use a card from their defence hand. If the defence card is higher, the attack is blocked. If it’s lower we subtract the card rank of the defence card from the offence card, the difference is referenced to a simple table.


Attacker’s Damage minus Victim’s Soak
Attacker’s Card minus Defender’s Card
-3 or less
-2 to -1
0 to 1
2 to 3
4 to 5
6+
0 to 1
1
1
2
2
3
4
2 to 3
1
2
2
3
4
5
4 to 5
2
2
3
4
5
6
6 to 7
2
3
4
5
6
K/O
8+
3
4
5
6
K/O
K/O

If a victim suffers an injury worse than their current injury level, they get shifted down to this degree of injury. If they suffer an injury equal to or less than their current degree of injury, they get moved one level worse off.  

I’m pulling this across from combat in miniatures games (particularly Confrontation) because it’s fast, and fast means that there is more time to get descriptive and inject more story in the same timeframe. You’ll note two things about it, firstly that every successful hit deals damage; it eliminates the “whoosh” factor prevalent in so many games. Secondly, when someone is down it actually takes more effort to get them all the way out of combat (thus eliminating some of that death spiral effect inherent to most RPGs….not circumvent it completely, but reduce the impact a bit).    

I’ll still be keeping the whole Bashing/Lethal/Aggravated aspect of the Storyteller combat system, and while I don’t want to track these separately that seems one of the easiest options. The existing system tracks bashing wounds on the injury track with slashes [/], while aggravated wounds are marked with a cross [X], and aggravated damage is either completely coloured in or marked with an asterisk [*] filling the box. If a character has two bashing damage [/][/], then suffers a lethal wound, the first bashing damage is converted from a slash to a cross, and an extra slash is added to the end of the injury track [X][/][/]. If the total bashing, lethal and aggravated damage totals 7 (and fills up the injury track), the character is put out of action for the duration of the combat. They might be dispatched (ie. killed) once they’ve been put out of combat, otherwise the victim heals the bashing damage pretty quickly, and the lethal/aggravated damage slowly. I’m undecided at this stage about how to handle the difference between these damage forms and how they combine to reflect the overall injury of a combatant.

One of the other things giving me pause about this system of combat mechanisms is the fact that tables and story driven games often seem to be at opposite ends of the roleplaying spectrum. So, I’m not sure that this will be the final shape that the combat system takes.

While I’m considering the combat system, and ensuring it integrates seamlessly with other elements of the system, it might be worthwhile revisiting the rest of the system. I’m not really happy with the way face cards simply count as extra successes (as long as one numbered success is achieved), but I’m not sure of the best way to address this. Since I want to make nature, demeanour and willpower more prominent, it might be feasible to tie these into the mechanism. For this, I’ll take a note from the existing descriptions of natures and demeanours in the core rule book.

As an example, let’s pull up the first Archetype in the book…

Activist
   The world is broken. Help fix it. Speak truth to power, dig up secrets, call people out on their shit, and reveal your plans for a better world to anyone who will listen. While apathetic cowards sit back and tune out, you step up and do whatever needs doing. Sure, folks might consider you a pain in the ass, but at least you’re making a difference!

   Action is your greatest strength. You’re not one to sit things out. There’s no time to waste on mindless self-indulgence and no room to stay scared of what might happen. The wolf’s already halfway through the door, and you refuse to let that bastard win.

   Even so, your constant Outrage wears thin. There’s never room to sit back and enjoy life. As far as you’re concerned, complacency is a sin. Your fury’s justified, of course, but it gets old all the same. Before you can truly Ascend, you’ve got to balance righteous pyrotechnics with calm acceptance. Life never has been – and never will be – perfect. Finding a place of serenity within your storm is an essential part of your transcendence.

  - Regain Willpower when you successfully confront abuse, right wrongs, or reveal an actual conspiracy and, by doing so, bring it down.  

Every archetype has a strength and a weakness, and for most purposes in the Storyteller system these are simple roleplaying concerns, but in a lot of more “indie-style” storygames, personality elements like these may actually be the only mechanisms of the game.

I had the idea that Willpower might be a pool of cards that may be added to any action. The problem here is that four characters with seven or eight willpower each, would have more than a third of the total deck locked up in their willpower pools. So to make things easier, we could use a separate deck of cards (maybe a standard deck to keep these cards distinctly different from the others). If a character performs something relating to their nature’s strength, they could add a random card from this pool to their current action. If a character accepts a penalty relating to their nature’s weakness, they could add a random card to this pool, if their pool is already full, the player may discard their lowest card until the Willpower hand is reduced back to a maximum size equal to the Willpower statistic. Since the nature is feeding directly into this pool, the “Regain Willpower” effect needs to do something more prominent, it automatically adds a face card to the pool (where face cards are automatic successes when they are randomly contributed to an action).


I’m worried this is getting a bit too complicated. Time to reassess.

Maybe poker chips?
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