Other Worlds



  • Hey, I don't want to bash the HQ text... it's given me a lot of fun. It's just as possible that I've been "lying" all along about what it's good for...

    In that case, consider Other Worlds restitution for those lies, by working with Mark to come up with a text that really does say what I want it to say.


  • Well, I think that I'll find at home in OW!!!
    The way I play HQ was so heavily influenced by the forgite post of Mike over the HQ board that I think that is must have playes QW lite :-P

    Ah, I've 2 more questions:
    1) OW will be released as a printed book? or as pdf? or as the previous 2 togheder?
    2) The dice used will be the "classical" HQ d20? Or something other?

  • Hi Angelo,

    Sorry to take so long getting back to you.

    Other World will be released as a book for certain, possibly as a PDF, and if as a PDF, the book will probably include the PDF for those who want it. Actually if I can get somebody to make a good HTML version, I'd like to distribute it that way as well.

    The playtest rules are using percentile dice... though I've also done some preliminary testing with pools of D20s, and other systems as well. Can't say for sure what the final form will use until we've got playtest info back. Note that we don't adhere to any die conventions out of comfort, or novelty, but seek to find the one that works best for what we're trying to accomplish with the system overall. Including things like speed and ease of use, but also all the other myriad goals that the system has.

  • Posted By: Alvin FrewerIt's OoP, so I guess the answer is "no where" or "various places" depending on if you want a new or used copy, or get lucky.
    Umm, as far as I know, you can still get a PDF of the HeroQuest rules from DriveThruRPG.
  • Mike, FWIW, the stillborn Exile game from WW had an interesting percentile mechanic wherein the tens digit equalled "successes" and the units digit just helped you hit your target number, which fell somewhere between 1 and 100, obviously.
  • Hmmm.... Interesting.... You could do it the other way, too... hmmmm

    Anyhow, as an update, the writing of the playtest draft is complete, and we're just doing some small editing stuff to get it ready.

    Soon, folks, soon! :-)

  • edited April 2008
    "Excellent," I say with my fingers steepled.
  • edited April 2008
    Posted By: Mike Holmes
    The playtest rules are using percentile dice...
    That's interesting. As a long time BRP head I find new players instantly like percentile dice and they have a certain comforting familiarity. Looking forward to the playtest :)
  • Hey Mike,

    So do I bring my pink d20's Saturday, or a bunch of d10's?
  • edited April 2008
    Oooh... good question. Better go with both to be sure...



    P.S. My blue d20s will be there to counter!
  • edited April 2008
    Posted By: Clyde L. RhoerHey Mike,

    So do I bring my pink d20's Saturday, or a bunch of d10's?
    Posted By: Mike HolmesP.S. My blue d20s will be there to counter!
    I'm grinning right now. I have good memories of those dice.
  • I got Mike to use my pink d20's. Success.
  • Tell us more! :-)
  • One thing I want to make crystal clear, I have a penchant for playing Other Worlds in a specific way at cons, that being the "tabula rasa" method. I do this for one because I really like it, and what is produced. I also do it, however, because it means that I don't have to carry around a scenario, and can play the game at the drop of a hat.

    But I don't want to give people the idea that this is the default way to play Other Worlds. We don't really present a default in the text, allowing people to play with whatever level of pre-creation that they're comfortable with. The option to play starting with nothing is just that, an option. Even if you do start with nothing, you can do a lot of character generation prior to starting the first scene, and not be thrown in the deep water immediately as I do most times in play at the cons.

    That said, the game to which Clyde refers was a short one in which several species of "fish-men" (for lack of a better term to group them) were at war with each other. My old co-conspirator Ralph Mazza created a race of "shark-men" that were completely subject to the whims of their appetites, who had apparently eaten the queen and children of the king of another race. Tony (I forget his last name), created and ran that side, as a spy for their people about to make a retributive attack agains the shark people. He watched as Ralph's character, a War Oracle named someting like Bloodmonger Jawrek Tok, made predicitons about the battle, and dictated a battle plan to another PC. That PC belonged to a race of spikey fish-men who served as warriors for the shark-men, who formed an upper-class priesthood for the overall culture who, it turns out, was ruled by a killer whale (apparently a regular one, not any more intelligent than those in the real world). Another PC was a spymaster for the War Oracle.

    As the battle erupts, I had a huge volcano beast erupt from under the sands, and start boiling the members of both sides. An emmissary from each side tried to parley with the PCs, to see if they would break off the engagement, perhaps to join up to deal with the new threat. To no avail, both sides decide to stay at each other's throats.

    And after the PCs personally struggling to kill each other, both cultures are pretty much devastated, everyone dead...

    Aren't you glad we're mammals?

  • I must say that I am very impressed by your summary, Mike. Looks like a great system for unusual settings, and I am glad it supports different levels of previous creation. How do you proceed in order to create this kind of settings on the fly?

    Also, you seem to imply that the players did not only play their respective characters, but also the sides they belonged to during the conflict. Is that true? Are there any kind of specific mechanisms for this?
  • I'm the player of the Jellyfish/Squid spymaster from the game, and I personally had a lot of fun. Like I mentioned later on Sunday, I'd love to get in on the playtest, if that gets worked out.

  • edited April 2008
    Ah yes, one of the many Matts from the convention, I appreciated Matt Strickling's play quite a bit. Especially the part about him being so loyal to the sharks that he couldn't possibly think about saving his own skin. You see, he was both physically and metaphorically spineless...

    Thanks Matt!

    Alfredo, how do we create settings on the fly? By creating characters, and requiring that character creation to include the character's culture, occupation, species, etc. The players made it all up, 100%. Hell, as I noted to somebody after play, all I added to play was an altar, and the big lava monster.

    I find now when I play other games, especially fantasy games, that the dissociation of characters from their culture is just bizzarre. Oh, we might be seeing elements of their culture in their acts, but we rarely ever know. In Other Worlds it's always quite clear whether or not something the character is doing is characteristic for his culture or just something that he's on about himself.

    Sometimes this is mechanically critical in play.

    There are several potential mechanisms one can use to control things other than one's character. I was using an admittedly kludgey one, and should have use one of the tighter ones I realized after the fact. That is, it would have been best to make the battle a conflict between Tony's character and Ralph's character, and treated the armies as "equipment" (basically a situational modifier). But the rules include more than one way to skin that cat. Including, for instance, taking an army or a culture or something as a "trademark" for that character.

    In this case, the players didn't have direct control of the armies. Their characters had indirect control, however, and so we represented this as a fight between the armies, supported with the abilities of the PCs. Since the armies were equal for the most part, this meant that character abilities made the difference in the size of the dice pools.

    One of my favorite moments was when the shark contingent, lead by Ralph's character, blew their roll to augment, and instead of adding dice, subtracted one die from their army as a whole... this balanced out the advantage that the three players had against the one, and was narrated by Ralph as the shark-men being distracted by the release of many small prey fish which they promptly chased down for dinner, ignoring the rest of the battle. Laughed my ass off.

    Thanks for the good questions!

  • The vile blue sinuous finned people, known by my people as "Food" were played by Tod Olsen, who having watched me create Blood Monger Jawrek Torn (the War Oracle who fortells the outcome of battle by cutting the arms off of starfish and reading the future in how they grow back) promptly made himself my enemy.

    While he did manage to kill the mighty Blood Monger Jawrek at the end, it was not before I ate him.

    I claim victory!

  • I'm so ticked I missed out on this.
  • So, Mike, what dice did you finally use (d20s, then?), and how does the dice rolling mechanism works? How do you augment? How long did the initial brainstorming and character generation process took? I suppose 'trademarks' are the Other Worlds term for 'keywords'. How much detail do you need in order to define a Trademark? Is there any mechanism in place for adding details on the fly?
  • Sorry Mr Delsing! I thought about running it whenever I saw you, but there was always something else going on. When the game started, I suddenly had too many players, and didn't have the heart to turn any away (and I'm not sure if you were busy or not at the time).

    I owe you one. Origins? GenCon?

    Alfredo, great questions,

    I ended up using the D20 method, I admit, but mostly because I didn't have a copy of the rules on hand, and didn't think that I could run the percentile method accurately. Actually it's a tribute to the simplicity of that system that I almost did use it from my memory of it - I've only played with it once before. As opposed to the many games I've run using my system.

    So, as a playtest, we don't know anything more about the dice system than before. And, frankly, I wanted the game to be a demo, very specifically. That is, it was short-ish... 2 hours? 3? And meant to be a taster, not to get really involved. As such I didn't even formally take feedback. Though, as always, any feedback from the players would be appreciated.

    I don't want to go into too much specifics with the die pool methods, but it's basically like this:
    - D20 Method (won't be in the playtest copy) - roll a pool of d20s equal to one tenth your rating, plus a non-rolled die for any fraction, and high die wins. Multiple dice that exceed your opponents means higher levels of success.

    - Percentile system - Simply add the ratings to a roll of percentile dice, and subtract the opponents rating plus roll. The margin determines the level of victory.

    "Augmenting" is now "supporting" (we changed the term for various reasons). Its very similar to HQ, with one tweak being that the first ability you support with counts at half it's rating. Everything after that is one-tenth. Note that the effect this has, we've found, is to make the one-tenth augments seem to approach superflousness. Meaning that players don't spend a ton of time looking for them, just a few for color. A simply psychological trick.

    There are rules for rolling over victories from previous contests in terms of temporary abilities... this means that there's now only one rule for both gaining abilities (and flaws, etc) and "variable augments." Covers this sort of thing and all of those odd rules like "Heroforming" that you had in HQ. Much more streamlined, and you can still get whatever level of mechanical complexity you like.

  • ...from above.

    There was zero "initial brainstorming and character generation process." Again, this is not the default style of play, just one I commonly use myself when I don't have stuff prepped. But, to be clear, play began with sheets of paper that were blank except for markings for blank templates to be filled in, and the opening dialog went something like this:

    Mike: Matt, name a biome.
    Matt: A what?
    Mike: an environment, like forest or something.
    Matt: OK, forest.
    Mike: can you add something? Like Conniferous or deciduous?
    Matt: Deciduous. You're lucky, I was going to say underwater.
    Mike: Oooh, I've never done underwater, can we do underwater instead!!!
    [Murmurs of enthusiasm from around the table]
    Matt: sure.
    Mike: Cool... Tony, your character peeks out from inside of a bed of kelp, what does he look like? Three things.
    Tony: he's blue, sinuous, and scaled
    Mike: OK, so he's not human, I take it? You probably want to note that as a trademark for his species. Put any abilities that he has because he's a member of that species under that trademark.

    Etc. The other players are asked to simply describe their characters. At some point somebody has their character actually do something with the environment. In this case I describe Ralph's character as being by a stone altar, being watched by Tony's character. Immediately Ralph figures that his shark-headed character is cutting up a starfish.

    Mike: So does that say something about his occupation?
    Ralph: Yeaaah... he's a... War Oracle.....

    Then the other players decide that their characters are a general, a spy, a spymaster. More traits get added as play goes on, and we find out that Tony's race hates Ralph's... hence why he's spying on Ralph's character. Suddenly the game is all about an imminent battle between their races...

    No prep. Just questions in play that lead players to make stuff up about their characters, which, in turn defines the world. This is key...

    Players, by creating the character they want to play, shape the world of play. They aren't given "Director Stance" authority directly, they are given the authority to make up whatever they want about their character. But in being given full authority to do so as long as it doesn't conflict with what the other players are doing (or with agreed upon setting info in a game that has that), the players are given ownership of much of the setting. A "cone" of authority, if you will, that descends from their work in creating an interesting character.

    This can be done before play, yes, but it can also happen during play at any time. If the player is allowed to add an ability, or otherwise define his character, he's modifying the world as he does so. Note that, to begin with, you have grandios numbers of free abilities you can add to a character (typically from 50 to 80 depending on how wierd you want the setting to be), so you can go a long way in creating things before slowing down as things sorta solidify and "gel" if you will.

    Note that with a more pre-prepared world, you usually still have such lattitude, but may decide to relinquish some of it, and just select from what's presented, and not feel forced to be creative. It's up to the player to decide how much they want to add (in my radical form, I force them to create everything, but, again, that's just one way to play).

    Continued again...
  • ...from above.

    "Trademarks" are a sort of "Template." To be clear, Templates are what's replacing keywords. In fact, I'm not really comfortable with that term, either, truth be told. We need a term that means:

    A grouping of abilities that represent different important types of facets of the character.

    I think we even tossed around "facets" or something, and didn't like that. Any ideas?

    Trademarks are a specific meta-category of template that is tailored for the character. This is a bit complicated, but basically every Template has the following qualities:
    Meta-category: Is it a standard template, the sort that shows how he is like others, thus defining the world? Or is it something unique to the character (either totally, or he's one of a select group that has it)?
    Definition: Inside of those categories, you have an infinite number of actual selections you can make. They are only constrained by whether or not the category itself shows commonality, or individuality, or the like.

    So, for instance, you will usually have a culture for your character. This is one of those standard linking sorts of keywords. But you're free to make up your culture, or select from any available in the game world. By putting abilities in such a keyword, you define large sections of the world. On the other hand, a Trademark is something that is probably pretty rare, and perhaps even unique to your character. Only he owns the Blade of Pure Truth, for instance. The trademark template here serves to better define this quality of the character.

    Mark's text uses better terms and makes this all a lot more clear with good examples to back it up, etc.

  • This is getting really interesting, Mike. Thanks for your explanation. I like how Other Worlds is shaping up. As for dice rolling, I prefer the percentile method, if only because it looks simpler to me. Also, the 'supporting' trick (adding one-half of the first supporting ability and one-tenth of other abilities) is a nice Jedi mind trick, even though I wonder if players won't find it limiting :-)

    So, you can define the world at large through the characters, who have two kinds of 'templates' - 'Facets' (which can be either cultural or personal features, for lack of a better name) and 'Trademarks' (highly character-specific features). If a method for doing this is clearly explained in the rules, I'd love to give it a try.

    Matt, Ralph - thanks for the in-character world view. Seems like you enjoyed the carnage. Poor starfishes ;-)
  • edited April 2008
    Oh, the starfishes grew their arms back, so it wasn't so bad. The ones who really had it bad were the race of sentient sea-worms that were created as messengers, who were usually eaten after delivering their messages. Now that's a pathetic existence.

    The one player's warrior race was explained as not being eaten by the shark race rulers of their culture, not only because of their usefulness as warriors, but also simply because they were poisonous to consume. :-)

    There's a whole chapter on creating templates. This is not a terribly long game text, by the way, but at over 85,000 words, neither is it short. We have tried to be thorough.

  • edited April 2008
    Posted By: Mike Holmes...from above.

    "Trademarks" are a sort of "Template." To be clear, Templates are what's replacing keywords. In fact, I'm not really comfortable with that term, either, truth be told. We need a term that means:

    A grouping of abilities that represent different important types of facets of the character.

    I think we even tossed around "facets" or something, and didn't like that. Any ideas?
    Fields of Knowledge?
    Areas of Competence?
  • Posted By: Mike HolmesSorry Mr Delsing! I thought about running it whenever I saw you, but there was always something else going on. When the game started, I suddenly had too many players, and didn't have the heart to turn any away (and I'm not sure if you were busy or not at the time).

    I owe you one. Origins? GenCon?
    Aw, heck. I was just givin' ya grief. I'll be at GenCon, though, so hopefully the stars will align.
  • Mike, how about Locus for the meta-category term?
  • Singularity for Trademark

    and not a specific word for the common one because these are common distinction class
  • I'd vote for Qualities for the common trademarks.
  • Interesting. I knew I was being unclear, and the answers reflect that. That said, they are like a brainstorming session on the structure as a whole, so it's fascinating.

    To try to clarify the structure as it stands, a character is compose of several "Templates" right now. There is nothing outside of one of these areas to list abilities. And tha's what's in templates, abilities. As in HQ, these can be anything, including equipment, and specifically include personality traits and relationships (some of the slots require these).

    Templates can be pre-specified. Often, or even usually, you'll have the standard pair of Culture and Occupation. That's the category of template, and the template is specified as being one specific culture or occupation. So my character's Occupation Template may be a Warrior templete, for example.

    But then there's a template called Individuality which is not specified, it's the same for everyone in that it's "Parts of your character that are not part of some other template." Then there's Trademarks which are groupings of abilities that the player specifies, but which have no constraint other than genre. They don't have to be any specific sort of template. So I my warrior might have a Sword of the Ages Trademark Template.

    Any clearer?

    I kinda like Loci as a term for these. To be clear, however, Trademark is a term we're very happy with. It says exactly what it means to say. This is something the character has that makes him stand out from the crowd, in an identifiable way. It may not be unique to the character, or it may, but it's distinctive. Like Chewbacca being a Wookie, Scaramanga is the man with the Golden Gun, Batman has Robin, Arthur has Excalibur... each of these things are part of the identity of the character by which we most strongly identify them.

    I included the Wookie example intentionally. Wookie is the a species trademark here. Varies from a cultural one, in that there could be many cultures made of Wookies, just as there are many cultures of humans. Yet it's not unique to Chewbacca. And, yet, it's still the most identifiable thing about Chewbacca. Oh, sure, Chewie is a navigator, and has another trademark, the crossbow blaster. But the most important fact about a wookie is that they might tear your arm off if you win a game against them. Because they're a wookie.

  • edited April 2008
    Tod...Tod's character was hiding in the kelp. :-)

    I'm really looking foward to Other Worlds. I'm also really looking forward to further refinement of the d20 method because marrying something so cool to something as intrinsically crappy as %iles with math strikes me as a fine way to torpedo a design. But then I've long harbored an overzealous resentment of the misleading false precision of %ile dice so that may just be bias talking.

    I did want to talk a bit more about the d20 system we were using.

    At one point you said something to the effect of "never take away dice, only ever add, more dice means more possibility for extreme results".

    Pondering that I'm not sure that that's true. Since you're using a modified Sorcerer mechanic (count each die of the winner that rolls higher than the loser's best) I think actually that more dice decrease the odds of an extreme result.

    I'm going off of "gut math" as opposed to real math here, but it strikes me that to get multiple successes the winner must roll multiple high dice. To prevent the winner from getting multiple successes the loser needs only 1 really high die. As dice get added to both sides the odds of each side getting at least 1 high die to block an opponent's multiple successes should be increasing faster than the odd of getting multiple high dice.

    I'd be surprised if your really big pools ever gave more than 1 success (or just 2 or three at most). I think every time we rolled, we got only 1 success.

    I'm thinking that after a certain point...the point at which your pool is big enough to reliably roll a 19 or 20, additional dice would be most effective reducing the opponent's dice...and thus reducing their chance of getting a solo high die to block you...if your goal is to have a good chance to get multiple successes you might want to consider that option.

    Another option that I kind of like is to allow the winner to trade consequences. Say I roll really good, and you got a 19 in a pool that's otherwise crap. Dang...I get only 1 success out of this. BUT, I accept 1 "consequence" and gain the power to discard your high die...now you're faced with 4 or 5 successes because you have no backers to that 19, but I didn't get off scot-free either. I don't know what that "consequence" might be...a narrative complication that you get to saddle me with...the equivelent of you getting a single die success against me...whatever. But it would essentially help deal with the "single big lucky roll" (or even couple big lucky rolls if you allowed multiple consequences) effect.
  • edited April 2008
    I have to say that rolling a bunch of d20s holds very little appeal for me. Knee-jerk response, I know. Depends on how big the pools are.

    Edited to add that I obviously need to know more about the system before offering any non-half-assed critique. Part of it is not caring to go out and buy a pack of d20s, part of it is me feeling cranky. Nothing to see here. Move along.
  • I must confess I am with Hexabolic on this (including the cranky part and what he says about not offering any half-assed critique).
  • edited April 2008
    Trademarks alternatives: hallmarks, highlights, singularities, signature, distinctions, quirks, idiosyncrasies.
    (I do not like “trademark” very much because, while it express the idea perfectly, it has business resonances that - for me - don't fit a character description.)
  • edited April 2008
    On the subject of the d20 method:
    Fortunately the dice pools rarely get very large, unless you're playing demi-gods or supers or something. In which case maybe it's more palatable? But a typical character, after counting in all of his support, might roll 4 d20 in a typical contest. With the higher than normal characters we were playing with at Forge Con, we would typically have 7 d20 in a contest. With more powerful characters, I've seen pools as high as about 12 dice at times, I think. But I also think that this was before we had our current scheme for support figures. So I don't know that we'll see that again.

    It's not as many dice as Dunjon. I managed to scale things down in part because of critiques of that system. Is that still too many dice? Or does that ameliorate some of the concern? Or is it not the number of dice at all that concern you?

    As you your concern, Ralph, about my design goal for the system, I sorta over-stated things. That is, the math is interesting. It was actually Walt that set me straight on part of this (I knew how to do the math, I had just never actually done it, and made wrong assumptions). I'm really not interested so much in wild results happening a lot. I like that they might be rare. What I prefer, really, is that the winner be pretty randomized, and lots of dice tend to do that... the more you roll on both sides, the less certain you are of who will win. And, actually, the number of likely successes also increases overall. The propensity of a bell curve to push the results inward decreases the likely range more slowly than the range itself increases. The standard deviation increases as you get more dice. Not proportionally, no, but slightly. This seems pretty optimal to me. We have slightly more "wild" outcomes with more dice.

    But what I was really on about is that the range is wider. That is, it's simply more possible in theory for one to get a really wild result with a lot of dice. And, what's more, with the way the curve works, it's actually somewhat likely.

    Note that, in fact, the rule is that you cancel tied dice (not sure if you were aware of that). So, yeah, when you have a lot of dice, and you tend to have some high results, a lot of times you'll have to 20s out there that cancel, and then one guy drops to a 14, and the other has three dice above that 14 for three successes. Our game happened to produce one and two die level successes, but I've seen more in play, and quite frequently. That said, the curve makes it so that really outrageous results like a 5 die win *are* really rare. Which is fun to me, because when they do occur they *will* be special. (Ties are even rarer, almost impossible... I may have to fix that).

    So it seems to do what I want it to do fairly well. In fact the problem that I have with the system in some ways is that when rolling low dice pools, the stakes are low. I've considered giving each side a few "base dice" to counter this somewhat, but that's non-optimal.

    Oh, and your idea about cancelling dice by taking consequences? I already had something like that, but only for the tied dice. I'll have to consider your version. The version I like is allowing the player to "increase the stakes" by stating before hand how many dice of his opponent's he's willing to "take" to get the level of victory that he wants. That way we don't know before the roll if he will take any... he might get that level of victory based on the roll alone. With my version they can only ignore ties, and so that means that the actual level of victory is randomized. With your version, they would be able to ensure success at a certain level, and only the cost would be random. I think I like mine better, but yours is more dramatic. What would be really cool would be something in between that didn't rely on uncommon tied dice. So consequences would be more frequent, yet the level of victory would still be random. Hmmm....

    As for the repercussions of something like this, it simply follows the standard system... which I now realize I completely forgot to employ in play at the Con. But, essentially, every contest may result in one side or the other getting a new temporary trait - often a flaw for the loser. Basically if you take consequences, you are simply allowing the opponent to tag you with a new trait. The level of the ability of the trait is based on the abilities you used to inflict it, and the level of victory rolled.

    All this said, the playtest version is going out with percentiles. I don't know if that'll ever change to the D20 system, or some other, but that's as it stands. I'll answer concerns about that below...
  • edited April 2008
    To deal with your concern, Ralph, the percentile system is less about giving an impression of precision than it is with dealing with the actual precision of the abilities we have. Our range of abilities goes into the hundreds, so you need to have percentile dice simply so the math works out.

    Now, that said, the problem here that we've considered is whether or not the level of precision of the abilities is useful. Even with the D20 system, it means that you end up with that "fraction die" which seems sorta... vestigial... at times. It's interesting when that die affects resolution, but it's rare. There are three reasons for the precision:

    1) We're geeks, we like that we can compare our characters ten times as accurately. There, I've said it. There are times when I'm playing a game where I have one through ten as potential ratings that I'm feel very strongly that I should take a 4.5.

    2) It's important for the support math. Otherwise you'd be adding up fractions. We're just eliminating the fractional accounting. (In doing the "dice math" for the D20 system, you'd be doing

    3) It makes for potential incremental advancement, again without resorting to fractions. This one may be geekery as well.

    I'm sure there are other positive effects as well that I'm not recalling. Anyhow, the precision of the abilities drives the precision of the dice. So percentile dice seem justified here.

    Does it still sound like "false precision" to you?

    In any case, the percentile system is simpler to use, quite clearly. I think it might lack some of the quirks of the D20 system that I like, but it also lacks any of the bad quirks as well (like requiring a large number of D20s in order to play efficiently). Also what you're not aware of is that there are some interesting rules with the percentile dice system like "reversing the polarity" which is something like the flip-flops from UA (or whatever that system calls em). Stuff like that.

    In practice it seems to have worked fine. But that's why we're going into playtesting. To get past our own observations, and get others.

    If somebody has any ideas for a system that accomplishes the following, I'd love to hear it:

    1) Uses common dice in common amounts.
    2) Takes into account the precision of the system.
    3) Produces multiple levels of victory/defeat.
    4) Has an interesting curve in terms of chances of the levels coming up.

    Speaking of playtesting, we decided to enter one last round of small revisions, which is why the playtest copy is not out yet. But we have a deadline set by which it will be out. No, I won't say what that is. Only that it won't be long now (I know, I've been saying that for quite a while!). :-)

  • Thanks Mike. I have found that in practice comparing dice a la Sorcerer can be a little slow in terms of handling time. The smaller die pools you've discussed might ameliorate that concern. I tried this particular mechanic in my hybrid Wushu game with d6 pools that varied between 7 and 14 ('cause, you know, Exalted), and it did get a little tedious. Part of that may have resulted from the large number of ties.

    The percentile with flip-flop mechanics sounds intriguing. I've always wanted to find a percentile system I liked. Aside from the interesting Exile mechanic, I haven't found that yet. For me, I think the presence of a % element seems to undermine my...I dunno, sense of zeitgeist in the fictional environment. Put another way, it pushes my mindset into pawn stance. I'd very much like to see what you have. I'm converting my Ars Magica game to Heroquest, and though in some ways it's a surprisingly good fit, in others it's presenting a challenge.
  • Huh. For "percentile dice" does it help if we call it a d100 instead? Or is the number 100 simply too "metric?"

    For the d20 method, the system of comparison goes like this:
    1) find each side's high die.
    2) Compare these dice.
    A) if they are tied, discard (or use the special rule above), and look for the next highest.
    B) for the side that has the higher die, count all dice higher than the opponent's high die.

    With D10s we had significant numbers of tied dice, yes. But with D20s, these are actually somewhat rare. So often you just go straight to B. Meaning that it's one comparison, and then one count of comparisons. Seems to work out pretty quickly in practice, from what I've seen. Of course I might just be too close to it.

    But it's definitely not any longer than HQ's system. Where you have to do comparisons to a target number, and then compare the results of those comparisons on a chart.

    With the d100 system, there is a double-digit math step, which some people mind, and others do not.

    And, remember, each roll in this game resolves an entire contest. No "soak" rolls following the initial rolls. Well... actually you can do stuff like this, rolling one victory into the next, but you only do so to the extent that you're interested in doing so. There's no particular incentive to do so, other than player interest, which automatically justifies the roll.

    In practice we roll pretty infrequently.

    What's far more time consuming, and what people report as frustrating sometimes, is the support math, adding up abilities. With these you have to do a division step, with rounding, and then an addition step, for each and every ability you want to use to support. My hope is that people are willing to put in the work to get in the abilities they think are interesting. And, actually, if they're disincentivized from adding tons of abilities in because of the math, I think this balances things out pretty nicely. The system says, "OK, we'll give you that if you want to do the work, but if it's not worth the work to you, don't put it in."

    That's the theory, anyhow. I'm sure experiences will vary, and I'd love to hear from folks on that subject.

  • A 1/10 division step is trivial, so I don't worry about that. 1/4 shouldn't be too much hassle, either. I'll find out in my HQ conversion how that works since 4 of 5 of my players are math-aversive. Augmentation is one of the things I'm really excited about.

    As far as percentile, it's not the nomenclature, just my own memory from 1st and 2nd gen Runequest where the character sheet seemed blanketed in percentiles. Come to think of it, I haven't played (and don't own) Unknown Armies, but I suspect the mechanic wouldn't bother me as presented there. And percentile didn't set me off in the Exile rules either--on the contrary, it got the juices flowing.

    I'd focus more on handling time and maybe whether too many intermediate math steps risk breaking the fourth wall.

  • I understand Blake's (and Ralph's) reluctance towards using percentiles, but I must admit I like it. I haven't played Unknown Armies, but it seems to make an interesting use of percentiles. As for handling time, I agree simple 1/10 or 1/4 division shouldn't be a problem.

    I am still thinking about the number and type of Templates which might make up a character and the distinction between species and cultural templates. I believe Worf - from Star Trek TNG - would be a clearer example than Chewbacca: you have a Klingon who happens to have been raised in the Federation by a human family. If you were to stat up Worf as an Other Worlds character, I suppose it would go this way (in no particular order):

    - Species template - Typical Klingon abilities, relationships and character traits, such as Resilient, Redundant Physiology, Mean, Vengeful, House of Mogh, Enemy of House Duras, etc.
    - Culture template - A very unusual mix of typical Human/Federation and Klingon cultural abilities and traits, as Worf is a Klingon who also has human values (such as compassion, theoretically absent from the Klingon mindset) and is familiar with human customs. This would also include Worf's relationship with his Human and his Klingon family.
    - Occupation template - Abilities and personality traits of a typical Starfleet officer (general procedures, knowledge of Starfleet regulations, fidelity to the 'Fleet, relationship with other officers). I am not sure whether this would include specializations (Security, Tac Ops, Conn, etc) or those could be specified as a separate Trademark.

    - One or more Trademarks, such as Worf's personal Bat'leth (a common Klingon weapon which is also particular to this character) or his knowledge of Klingon martial arts, or perhaps his Starfleet specialization.

    Am I right, Mike?
  • Actually as I undestand it, House of Mogh would be Trademark. And Enemy of House Duras would be a Trait underneath that Trademark.

    Bat'leth would probably be a Trait under both the Culture and Individual Templates as Worf was specifically a master of it. It may also be a Trait under the House of Mogh Template if the House was known to produce Bat'leth masters.

    The "Species" Template would be another Trademark (I think Mike said you could have 2, but I don't know if that was just to start or that was the limit).
  • Just to be clear, I have no preference when faced with percentile v. d20 pools. I'm more interested in a streamlined dice mechanic that presents some fun options for players like the Cherries in UA. I trust Mike & Co. to make something hella fun, and I look forward to seeing Other Worlds.
  • edited April 2008
    OK, Blake, make the best system. Got it. That's really what we're intending, and dice preferences be damned. Basically we'll see what happens in playtest, and go with what works in practice.

    Whorf is, indeed, a good example.

    Ralph's interpretation seems pretty good. But remember that there's some judgment involved here, and no really hard and fast rule for where something must go. Basically with an ability, I ask the questions:

    Is it something that everybody in your character's culture knows how to do? If so, then it goes in Culture.

    Is it something that everybody who share's your character's occupation knows how to do? If so, then it goes in Occupation.

    Is it something inborn that not all humans have as an ability, or is unusual? Then it goes in a defined Species Trademark.

    Batleth is an interesting case. The question is really something like, "Does the batleth, itself, have personality?" And "Does Whorf have a definable relationship with his batleth?"

    By answering the above questions, you create the world as you go, and show how your character fits into it, and also how he varies from the norm. As such, I can see House of Mogh being an individuality thing, or being an entire Trademark if you wanted to work it out in that sort of depth.

    Thus, batleth could be a cultural trait for cultural Klingons. Perhaps they all do learn how to use it. This is particularly believable for Klingons. On the other hand, perhaps it's only something that Klingon Warriors learn. In that case, it goes in warrior.

    But in Whorf's case, it's neither - he isn't culturally Klingon. He distinctly did not learn the batleth as part of being raised by Klingons. He learned it after the fact from an interest in his ethnic heritage. I would make his Culture keyword "Federation" like everyone else's on the Enterprise. Then his Batleth skill would be either part of his Individuality "template" or, if you really think that it makes sense, as a Trademark.

    I probably, if I were making up Whorf, would not make it a trademark. But that's just me. Jordi Laforge's "visor," on the other hand, is definitely a trademark. It defines the character. Whorf's species is definitely a trademark, he's that big-bad Klingon. It is, in fact, the tension between Whorf's cultural template and his species trademark that make his character so interesting.

    (You see this too much in fantasy games with the "Half-elf," but it's definitely a fun issue to play around with)

    In fact, if the batleth is a Trademark, then he probably still has the skill in "Individuality." You can have the skill there, and all of the other stuff that goes with the batleth in the Trademark for it. So basically if Whorf is bereft of it, he loses those Trademark abilities, but still has the skill. Which he uses all the time in unarmed combat.

    Two trademarks is the maximum, and only really used when you want the game to be quite fantastical or adventurous. If you're looking to play in a world with a genre that's rather "realistic" then you may have zero trademarks, in fact. I rather prefer to play with two trademarks, and I think many gamers will, but constraint to less is important if you're really not trying to import dramatic conventions like cowboy trick gun shooting BS, or superpowers, or magic.

  • Thanks for the input, Ralph. I was making up all the templates and trademark as I wrote, so I did not put that much thought in the abilities... But Mike raises some interesting points about what to include or not within a given template or trademark and how to decide what abilities fit in each of them. I am still intrigued about the part on defining the setting on the run through the characters (and I'd certainly like to give it a try). I just found this on Leonard Balsera's blog. It is intended for Spirit of the Century/Fate V.3, but I think it is basically the same thing and probably a clear case of parallel thinking...
  • Creating the setting and defining the game through traits was probably my favorite part of the game. In fact, I believe that the only time I touched the dice was to add some to another player's roll during the climactic battle. The rest of the game I think I strictly used my traits to define my species, occupation, personality, and place in the war.
  • Maybe this is a side note, but I think there's something to be gained by deciding whether character generation looks through a "world" lens or a "story" lens. SotC probably gives a good example of a story lens, where you ground the chargen decisions based more on the backstory of the individual character rather than starting from whether it's internally consistent in the world, which to me would be a world lens.

    Worf's hybrid culture does make him an interesting example. My way of doing that might be either to let the player stitch together a hybrid culture with some trademark consequences derived from that hybridization, or to have the player pick one culture and then place the other culture's traits in the Trademark area, since they'd be (if I understand the design concept behind Trademark correctly) highly individualized, unique traits when contrasted with his cultural background.

    On a definite side note: Ran my Ars Magica Heroquest conversion for the first time last night, and even though we only had a couple of minor contests, the experience with the mechanics was sweet, sweet relief for me. Amazingly smooth, fast, and satisfying.
  • Again, again, again, I have to stress that my method in question is just one way to play, and not the default. The text speaks mostly on how you can come up with a world before hand. As such, that means that players who don't find it interesting to make up this stuff will have lots of stock templates from which to choose. These can have more or less detail built into them, from fully-fleshed out, to just being the template title.

    So it seeks to fulfil both the player who wants a sense that he's plugging in, and the player who wants to be creating parts of the setting. Depending on how you implement play. I think that they typical mode will be to have some templates thought out before hand (or even referenced from materials in the book or online), and then the rest be constructed as you play by those interested in doing so. Players like Matt above, who really get into that sort of thing.

    Anyhow, with regards to Lenny's comments, you may note that one of my biggest influences for how I adapted HQ (and thence how we've made Other Worlds) is my play of FATE. I would distort that game way out of shape, having categories of Aspects that conform to the world-building stuff that I like, in an attempt to make the system go from being "notional" about characters in the story-fashion you identify above, to the sort of "we can discern everything about the character if we want" mode that I like, which you correctly equate to world-building.

    Don't get me wrong, I think that FATE is perfect for the sort of play you're going to get from Spirit of the Century. But for the sort of investigative fantasy play or sci-fi in which I'm interested, I need things to be less "literate" and more "in-game" if you will. Somewhat more.

    What the text hopefully conveys regarding templates is that they're not, "What I learned while part of X." It's easy to fall into that trap. They're "what everyone else with this template has." So... if I'm in the military, and I get assigned to cooking duties, then I shouldn't be taking "cooking" in my "Soldier" occupation keyword. Not unless the military organization in question has everybody rotate through cooking duty.

    Now, if my occupation is defined as "Military Cook," and this is not some incidental duty that just happened to be uniquely assigned to me... if there are other Military Cooks (or even if there could have been, but there just didn't happen to be any)... then I can make that my profession.

    Again, templates like occupation and culture exist to show how your character is similar to other classes of people in the game world. Individuality and some trademarks exist to show how your character varies from the other types of people with whom he is associated.

    One reason for this, by the way, is that once you've created a template like an occupation, then it exists as an example to be used for any other PC or NPC who has that similarity. So you can then create similar characters by plug-in. Mechanically what this does, too, is make it so that the player will have an idea of what to expect from those things that he shares templates with. Or even ones he's read about. Does his culture have "Prejudiced Against Goblins?" Then he will realize that he'll probably be up against that, mechanically, when his character who is trying to overcome his own predjudice against goblins tries to get his new goblin friend a job at home.

    You get the idea. Templates become a quick reference for what those elements of the world are like. In addition to defining the character as being a part of the world.

    If/when you make Templates "What my character learned as a soldier" or the like, what happens is that you don't then neccessarily know anything much about the world other than that, somehow, this character developed inside of it. Meaning he may be typical... or maybe he's not.

    Again, plenty of room in the "Individuality" category for you to customize your character, and show where he varies from the norm. Important to worldbuilding, too (in addition to simply making a fun protagonist), because it shows the sorts of variations that can and have happened in the world, and, perhaps, you can then investigate how odd these things are, or if they're part of the expected norms of variance.

  • P.S. Blake, glad to hear your game went well. It's interesting to me that I balked at Ars Magica's magic system because it seemed to be handwavey. I realize now that the problem was that it was "half-handwavey." That is, the noun-verb system seemed like it was a hard-constructed system to an extent. But then there was always that "GM just decides difficulty" step that followed.

    It's interesting to me that, if you just make it "handwavey" from step one, that it all feels right. Rather, it's not handwavey until you have something to deal with and then handwave it. If you don't set up that structure only to ignore it afterwards, there's nothing to handwave away with the arbitrary judgment.

    Or at least that's been my experience.
  • edited April 2008

    Thanks for the illuminating comments on templates. I look forward to tinkering with them, and I like the notion of templates in the first place. They look like a great shorthand for plugging characters into a game.

    I suspect folks will look to your (plural "you" for all OtherWorlds designers) take as the default approach. It's fine to have a default and to encourage variations and different directions. In fact, I see that as true for any game. There's the default alongside the kijillion other equally valid ways of play. Put another way, a default establishes a metric for mutated play.

    I ought to start a thread on the Ars-HQ game rather than risk a threadjack. I've been wanting to play HQ for a long time, and last night's small glimpses of the possible play is stirring excitement I haven't felt since, well, since getting into DnD in the first place, lo these many aeons ago. But I will say that considerable fuel for my interest in OtherWorlds comes from having participated in your FATE Shimmering Seas game and following your philosophy about HQ over the years. Last night's experience underlines how much I'd like to get my hands on something like OtherWorlds.

    Naturally, your sparkly personality adds a compelling selling point.
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