Friday, June 12, 2015

Thinking About Amber DRPG

Amber DRPG.jpgThe Amber Diceless RPG has been one of my favorite games for years. Recently I've been trying out its successor game, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, with my local RPG group.  As part of designing the campaign, I've been thinking about what makes a good Amber game work.  (When it works; sometimes it doesn't.)

1) Deep Character Investment: I've found that players often develop a deeper investment in their Amber characters than they do in characters from other games.  The system encourages you to think deeply about the characters' background, their upbringing, and their goals and wants. But, more than that, the very simplicity of the system encourages deep characterization.  Amber characters have only four stats, and maybe one or two of a handful of powers, but players are encouraged to visualize everything about them, from what they are wearing, to the worlds they visit, and have almost no limitations in inventing these details.

2) Infinite Setting: The characters can go anywhere, and do just about anything they wish. It is extremely common for Amber groups to separate, pursuing different goals, in entirely different worlds.

3) The Ties that Bind:  Despite the open setting, Amber characters are always drawn back to each other and to the important NPCs.  Most player groups quickly obtain a full set of Trumps, permitting them to call each other and teleport to each others' locations. So a widely scattered group can almost always reform for a plot point.  Amberites are also all family.  The important NPCs have similar powers, are usually blood relations.  Player characters cannot help but be pulled into the plotting and adventures of other Amberites.

I'm not sure how this will play with my current group, but I hope they will have a good session.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Layers, Donkey

Yesterday, I played a small 40k game against a beginner, at 1000 points, and only one vehicle. It reminded me of the early days of 3rd edition when I started playing, when people used fewer transports.

It made me realize that old 40k is still there in modern 40k, layered deep in the rules.  As 40k has grown, it has developed some quirky rules redundancies.

Consider, for example, how 40k handles multi-wound characters.  Characters have multiple wounds to save them from small arms and to seem more heroic. But there's always been a need to make them vulnerable to really powerful weapons. 

Back in 2nd edition, big guns like lascannons did d3 or d6 wounds to multiwound characters.  Then, in the 3rd edition reboot, the designers simplified things by removing this extra dice roll and replacing it with Instant Death, a rule that stated when S doubled T, it removed the model no matter how many wounds it had.  Simple, easy.

It wasn't too long, though, before they introduced a Salamanter mantle -- wargear that prevented instant death.  Items granting immunity proliferated, and eventually became standardized with the special rule Eternal Warrior.  By 5th or 6th edition, most competitive character builds were immune Instant Death, one way or the other.

There was already a solution, of sorts, though.  Apocalypse had introduced D-weapons, which in their original rules just killed everything, with no save, no invulnerable save, and no nothing.  It was a great rule when playing 5000 or 10,000 points a side.

7th edition ported D-weapons into the main game, but made them less deadly. They now only kill things super-dead on a 6. On a 2-5, they do D3 wounds. 

So now, 40k has two mechanics for multiple wound models.  There's the old Instant Death, which is trumped by Eternal Warrior, and then on top of that there's the D mechanic, which trumps Instant Death.

Monday, May 11, 2015


A setting for Amber Diceless RPG/Lords of Gossamer and Shadow

The Setting
A vast wilderness known as the Marches stretches across existence.  In its depths, reality goes thin, travelers who leave its paths vanish, and malformed things walk. Scattered within the Marches, there exist enclaves of stability and order. The peoples of these realms, the diverse descendants of a long-vanished empire, live in scattered freeholds and petty-kingdoms, defending their precarious lands with rapier and pike, musket and arquebus. Among them are those born to greater power, in whom the Essence flows strongly.  These gentry travel the Marches where others cannot tread, masters of spell, of blade, and of reality itself. 

Game Mechanics
This is a diceless game, inspired by Eric Wujick’s Amber Diceless Roleplaying, and its descendant Lords of Gossamer and Shadow. 

Character Creation
Everybody starts with 100 points to build their character.  Any leftover points become Good Luck for your character.  If you go over 100 points, your character gains Bad Luck.

In ancient days, the fourteen Archons bred mortals into a variety of castes for their empire.  Most inhabitants of the realms are humans, the descendants of the hardy and populous worker caste.  Others may be “elves,” “dwarves,” “orcs,” “trolls,” and others: the descendants of the administrators, builders, soldiers and heavy laborer castes.  There are also races and beings touched by the wild forces of the Marches – the beastmen and monsters – who are rarely welcome within the stable realms.
You can be any type of race you wish, or invent your own.  If it has a special power, such as night vision or regeneration, you may need to pay points for it.

You start with 0 points in each Attribute. An Attribute of 0 is human-average. You spend points to improve. If you spend at least 10 points you are considered to be supernaturally-potent in that Attribute.  You may also sell down your Attribute.  At -10 or below, you are considered completely enfeebled in that Attribute.

·         Will: Used for Mind-to-Mind combat, and for powering magic. At higher levels, it allows you telepathic insight into people you meet.
·         Strength: Covers hand-to-hand fighting and feats of strength.  At higher levels, you become supernaturally strong.
·         Endurance: Allows you to resist adversity and to recover from injury.  At higher levels it allows you to regenerate.
·         Knowledge: Represents your education and life knowledge.  At higher levels, you may intuit information directly.
·         Charisma:  Represents your social skills, and is used for social combat.  At higher levels, you become supernaturally inspiring.
·         Melee:  Your skill in using hand weapons in combat.  At higher levels, you become supernaturally agile and skilled.
·         Ranged: Your skill in using ranged weapons in combat.  At higher levels, you become supernaturally agile and skilled.
For each of your Attributes, you may pick one Specialty, which must be a fairly narrow subset of the Attribute.  (For example, your Knowledge Speciality might be Biology.  Your Melee Speciality might be 2-handed swords.)  When you are using your Speciality, you gain a +5 bonus to your Attribute.

You may use your points to purchase Powers.  Powers come in different levels: Minor, Basic, Advanced, and maybe beyond. Advanced levels are not available at start.
Magic: Magic reflects your attunement to one of eleven Domains.  (Or a Domain of your own creation.) Each Domain is purchased separately.
·         Minor Magic [5 points] allows you to create Minor effects with your domain.  (A spark for fire, for example.  Or a glow for Light.)  Each Minor effect requires a spell slot. Y
·         Basic Magic [10 points] allows you to create larger effects with your domain, and to weaponize them as melee or ranged attacks.  (A firebolt for fire, for example.  Or a blinding burst for Light.)  Each Basic effect requires a spell slot.  You are now sufficiently skilled that you can cast Minor effects at will.
You have six prepared spell “slots.”  You may cast prepared spells at will.  Spells may combine different Domains. You may swap out and prepare new spells as a short ritual. You may purchase more “slots” at 1 point each.
You may also use a long ritual (several hours or days) to prepare an effect at one level above your own. 
The standard Domains are: Fire, Air, Earth, Water, Light, Dark, Cold, Beasts, Healing, Mind, Death.
Sigil-Crafting: Sigils are specialized personal Waystones which you can use to communicate and (at higher levels) travel instantaneously.
·         Minor Sigil-Crafting [10 points]: You may craft a Minor Sigil.  A Minor Sigil allows communication with any other linked Sigil or Waystone.  You can sense nearby Sigils.
·         Basic Sigil-Crafting [25 points]: You may craft a Basic Sigil.  A Basic Sigil allows communication and travel between with any other linked Sigils or Waystones.
Shapeshifting: Shapeshifting allows you to change shape.
·         Minor Shapeshifting [10 points] allows you to change into one alternate form via a short ritual.
·         Basic Shapeshifting [25 points] allows you to change into your preferred alternate form at will, and prepare up to six other forms into which you can change after a short ritual. A long ritual will allow you to swap out and prepare new forms.
Wayfinding: Wayfinding offers control over the Ways and Waystones that enable travel into and out of Realms and through the Marches.
·         Minor Wayfinding [10 points] allows you to sense the presence of nearby Waystones, and to use existing Waystones to open gates into and out of Realms
·         Basic Wayfinding [25 points] allows you to enhance or degrade the effects of a Waystone, to open gates into and out of Realms without a Waystone, to create temporary Paths, and to survive for longer in low-Essence portions of the Marches.
You may purchase a Connection to one of several organizations.  At the Associate level [5 points], you have contacts in the organization, but are not a member.  At the Member level [10 points], you are considered a member of that organization.  Here are some organizations:
·         The Church worships the seven loyal Archons who ruled the old Empire.  The fear the influence of Wild creatures and the Shadow Vessels.
·         The Freefolk venerate the five “traitor” Archons who destroyed the old Empire in the name of mortal freedom.  They have good relations with many Wild creatures.
·         The Magi are a mutual-supporting group of those who wield magic. There is a college for each Domain, and for the arts of Sigil-Crafting and Wayfinding.
·         The Second Empire is a feudal network of many realms.  It attempts to revive the old Empire.
·         The Warders watch over the Marches and Realms, and try to troubleshoot incursions from the Wild and the Shadow.

You may purchase retainers, animal companions, magical items, and even entire Realms.  Minor items are 5 points, Basic items are 10, Advanced items are 15.  Work with the GM in designing your toybox.
You may have whatever mundane items you wish, provided they fit on your person or in a small dwelling, subject to GM approval.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Conundrum

Bigger scale models are more fun to paint.  Smaller-scale models allow more movement, and are more fun to play.

28mm models are the standard for most wargames now; big enough to be interesting to paint, not so huge as to be completely ridiculous.  (Like 54mm). 

But, honestly, I think 28mm is borderline too large for a satisfying game of maneuver.  I prefer the game play with 15mm or 10/6mm.

Ancients: Further Flanking refinements

I've been reviewing this situation again in my head:

On reflection, I think it will be too powerful if A and C get their full attacks in this set up.  So I'm thinking that in such a combat, only the unit with the most frontage in contact with E should get its full attacks.  The other two (A and C) should be able to contribute only half their dice.

In this scenario, attacks can be split.

Units would need to put at least half of their attacks towards the unit in front of them, with the largest contact.  (A against D, B against E, C against F).  They could then put half their attacks to any other unit, if they wished.  (So A could attack D and E, B could attack D, E and F, and C could attack E or F). 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ancients: More Thoughts on Flanking

I have been thinking more about how to represent threats to the flanks, or overwhelming, of Units in shorter battlegrounds.  The basic situation I wish to address is the following:

Obviously in this situation, E is overwhelmed by numbers, if nothing else, and should suffer some sort of penalty fighting A + B + C.

The question is how to achieve this through the game-mechanics.  WFB, for example, has an elaborate system of turn radii and angles that would allow A and C to either multicharge on E, or to flank charge either side (for a whopping penalty).  Hail Caesar would say A and C are supporting B, and give B a combat bonus of some sort.

I hate worrying about clipping and charge angles, though.  The WFB solution is out.

I have considered a system similar to Hail Caesar, where either A would get a bonus or E would receive a penalty, either to combat or to morale. 

This is trickier than it looks, because we must consider the relative capacities of all Units involved. Let us imagine E is a huge, elite regular unit, and A B and C are puny.  Hail Cesar! scales the bonus A gets based on the close-range capacity of A and C.  I would have to add another element (support dice) to my system to do the same.  A workable possibility.

I'm thinking I want to be different however ...

A potential solution?

Under my system all charges from before a 180 degree line of a Unit's front would charge to the front.  A would charge B's front and, if it reached B, adjust to the center. Being front to front and base to base would be considered an abstraction, representing a melee that might actually be more fluid.

Now, if multiple units were involved, the charge would try to bring them all in, centering the whole charging line on the target unit.


Corner units A and C would be able to attack with their full dice, regardless of whether the relative unit sizes were as above or more like this ...

This would heavily penalize E, even in the absence of special rules about threatened flanks.  (Maybe even too much so.)  E would be highly encouraged to bring some buddies:

 For a more even fight.

It might also be advisable to allow new units to enter and adjust the spacing of combat..

With this

shifting the combat to become this...

 Any thoughts out there?