Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Infinity Core Update 10

A little belated this week, but things have been very hectic, my daughter being ill with chicken pox, finishing up some freelance projects, moving office at work.

I did get a rather lengthy, but excellent, feedback form the guys at Vagrant Workshop concerning the Infinity Core rules chapter. Most of the advice focuses on issues in the layout and flow of the document rather than the problems with the rules set. So I'll need to go back and sort things out once I'm finished with my current racking over of character generation which is almost finished.

I have made some changes to the way character generation works. In order to differentiate more between characters, players need to grade their characters physical, mental, and social attributes, as primary, secondary, ternary. This gives the corresponding attribute pair a starting ranking of 3, 2, or 1.

For the moment I have also removed the concept of 'natural' skills. If a character needs to be able to do something then the player needs to buy the skill during character genesis.

Most of my time over the last week has gone into building the lifepath system, I'm still working on the 'destiny' section, and I think that notions of fate and destiny are likely to become central themes of the 'Dark Stars' project.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Infinity Core Update 9

I got some feedback on the "Abandoned Hope" adventure from the guys at Vagrant Workshop, mostly this relates to structural stuff. When I wrote the adventure I did so in the same way that I approached shard writing for Fading Suns. The adventure was written in a formal act structure. I think that is going to go and move to a less restrictive layout. So I've been taking some time to make a second pass on the adventure and do a little reorganising to improve the flow and most importantly allow more free form exploration.

In addition I've been working with some aspects of character genesis and background work for my "Dark Stars" Project. But what I really wanted to write about in this update was technology, and specifically how I want to handle technological superiority / inferiority that occurs with a wide range of tech levels. Specifically this relates to combat, what happens with I use a bow and arrow against a man in power armour? Or a gauss mass driver against a knight on a horse? In the really real world what happens is that the arrow bounces of the armour, and the knight becomes a blood smear, but that is no fun in a role-playing game, where there needs to be some element of fairness and heroism.

This problem ties into questions of weapon damage that has come up in the past, should a sword do more damage than a knife? Should a sword forged from bronze be any different from one forged of carbon steel? The answer is yes, the problem is how do I make it happen without overpowering the game mechanics, and I think I have a solution.

So I'm looking for feedback on the following idea:

If all weapons and armour are assigned a tech level rather than a damage or protection value, then the relative difference in tech level would account for greater damage or protection. Lets say we have two swords one made of bronze (TL1) and the other of carbon steel (TL4), then we can clearly see that the carbon steel weapon is superior and should inflict greater damage. By the same rational armour made from cured leather (TL1) should afford less protection than full mail coat (TL2).

Imagine then that two combatants meet one another with TL 2 armour and weapons and the other with TL1 armour and a TL 4 weapon. When calculating damage from the normal conflict tests we can add a modifier to the damage inflicted equal to the tech difference. So fighter A hits fighter B, he gets +1 damage because he has a TL2 weapon against TL1 armour. When fighter B hits fighter A, he gets +2 damage. It also scales up nicely so that fighter C with a TL7 laser weapon can burn both the others with  +5 and +6 damage to his goal rolls respectively.

The advantages of this system should be obvious, better tech will be a natural draw for player characters, but while it gives an advantage it does not place a lesser foe in to the position of never being able to harm a superior opponent.

I'm interested to hear peoples thoughts on this.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Infinity Core Update 8

This past week I sent a draft copy of the Abandoned Hope adventure to the guys at a Vagrant Workshop so that they can do a read through and make suggestions for a second edit. I'm under no illusion that the adventure will need more work and refinement, but it always helps to get an unbiased opinion. Carsten, Lars, and Jason are all very busy right now so it might be a couple of weeks before I get anything back from them.

In the mean time I have been looking at the Traits Chapter again. Going through the laborious terminology change (Find and Replace cannot do everything), switching benefits and afflictions to assets and burdens.

I also started work on a system of "Aspects" this is very similar to the old Nature / Demeanor concept from the White Wolf games. Except that each character only gets one, not two, and it reflects their core archetype. All aspects are both positive and negative. Here is a couple of examples:

Child: The child looks out on a world that is full of new possibilities and things to do and explore. Often the child becomes obsessed with something or someone for a short period of time before losing interest and acquiring a new plaything. The child is both curious and capricious and regains a point of Conviction when she is able to share her sense of wonderment at something new with others, or when ever she is able to discard one obsession for another.

Guardian: The guardian is a protector ever watchful for threats to those in his care, but sometimes people can be their own worst enemy and need help to find the right path. The guardian is both protective and overbearing and gains a point of Conviction whenever he is able to step in to protect his ward from harm, or make the “right” decision for them.

In addition I have also been giving thought to certain exotic abilities, like cybernetics and psychic powers. In both cases I have determined that emulating Fading Suns is not the direction that I wish to take. For a start I don't really see the need for a corruption mechanic. At the moment both of these sub-systems are looking like they will be added to the Traits Chapter as assets and burdens rather than have their own dedicated chapters. This would balance them against character genesis rather than having to have a corruption mechanic to control the use of the ability.

Please feel free to comment and make your opinions known.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Extinction Concept: Profile and Dice Mechanics

X-COM: Enemy Unknown

Dice Mechanics
Most wargames resort to the tried and trusted d6 to deal with random chance, and I have to admit that I am not a fan of the d6. For wargames I much prefer the use of a d10 (Void and Urban War) or even a d20 (Infinity and Dark Age). I actually want to try something different. Malifaux used cards, and it suited the western-ish feel of the game to have a 'poker hand'. For Extinction I want to use a step system of dice.

A models attributes, will dicate the type of die to be rolled in the test and various modifiers will raise or lower the step. So each player will need to have a d4, d6, d8, d10, and a d12 to hand. By way of an example lest say that Joe Average has a shoot stuff skill of d8, and is firing on a target behind cover. His skill would step down from d8 to a d6 to make the roll, and drop another step for long range, down to a d4.

As a general rule of thumb I am not a fan of having to roll fistfuls of dice. Nor have to make large numbers of rolls to get a result. The 40K principle that you roll to hit, roll to wound, roll armour saves, is one that irritates me. In Corvus Belli's Infinity this has improved a little to a roll to hit, and a roll to save. I think that 2 dice rolls works okay, but I'm keen to test a system that can do everything on a single roll. I'll have to see how things develop.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown

All wargames require a profile of abilities to define what a model can and cannot likely achieve. For most this form round the central concepts of movement, shooting skill, fighting skill, strength, toughness, wounds, and some time of moral or leadership capability.

For the purposes of Extinction I'm need to cover these bases, but I also want to take a slightly different take on things. Movement is no longer necessary and will be replaced by Action Points.

Action (Act): This is the number of action points the character has to spend on its various actions during the turn. Any reserved actions will remain in play until they are spent or until the character is activated again.

As with many games I need to represent the models ability to hit stuff, I toyed with using one attribute to define both fighting and shooting but in the end decided that they need to be separate.

Fight (Fgt): This is die type that the character uses to fight in close combat.

Shoot (Sht): This is the die type that the character uses to shoot or throw grenades at things.

Psychic (Psi): This is the die type that characters with psychic potential use. Most human characters don't even rate on this scale and have a '-', indicating no psychic capability.

Physique (Phy): This describes how physically capable and tough a character is, used to resist the effects of weapons and fatigue.

Willpower (Wil): This describes how mentally strong the resilient the character is, used to resist psychology (fear, terror) and the effects of alien psychic powers.

Moral (Mrl): This is not a numerical attribute but a description of miniatures moral, and under what circumstances they suffered from psychological effects.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Extinction Concept

Corvus Belli's Infinity

I have been playing a lot of Infinity (Corvus Belli's Infinity, not my Infinity Core) at my local war games club, and I've been enjoying it quite a bit. It is not without its problems, no game is ever perfect. But it suffers from some issues of complexity that could be sorted out very easily, by not hiding skills inside other skills. That got be thinking up a wish list of things I'd like to tweak if Corvus Belli ever came asking. So with those ideas in mind I thought why not develop a contemporary game using my wish list of ideas as a concept.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown

I have long been a fan of contemporary aliens amongst us / alien invasion themes. So I thought I'd have a go at putting the two ideas together. Pitting war bands against each other in a post invasion world. The players would be able to choose a faction to collect and build up through campaign experience, much like Games Workshop's Mordhiem game (one of the all time great GW games).

Factions wise I'm thinking there should be the option to play both human and alien factions.

Survivors: A mixture of survivors including former law enforcement and joe average off the street corner. Tends to be poorly equipped, but come in greater numbers.

Agents: A well equipped team but with a small number of members.

Hybrids: These guys could be on anyone side, no one trusts them, but they do have the ability to use some alien tech.

Greys: They lost big time when the humans proved to be more resourceful than expected destroying several motherships that then crashed disgorging survivors. Now free of their slave masters that are in survival mode

Blues: When the Grey led mission to invade Earth failed, the Blue stepped in. A more militant alien faction these creatures are as determined to animate the the fallen Greys as they are the humans.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown
The game would be played alternately using an action point mechanic. Each miniature would have a number of action points (8-10 being average) that can be spent to to buy movement on a 1 point for 1 inch basis. Other actions would have a cost associated with them, aiming a gun might take 3 points, firing might take 5 points. This would allow a model to move and fire, or fire and move, or even move, fire and then move again. Similarly a miniature could buy a number of reaction fire opportunities allowing it to activate out of turn and act against targets of opportunity, but not with unlimited capability as is the case in Infinity. Other types of actions would also need to be assigned action costs, such as opening a door, or climbing, going prone, kneeling, or taking a braced firing stance. 
The small number of miniatures required of the game would keep the mechanic manageable, and very fluid. Also specific mission objectives could be given an action point total that needs to be achieved. Lets say one players group needs to access secured records on a computer, once a miniature reaches the computer he needs to spend a total of 20 action points over several turns to achieve the objective. He could do this in two turns with his buddies watching his back, but if not he could take it slower and hold something back for reactive fire.

Vehicles too could be driven using a number action points. depending on the speed of vehicle the drive might have action points left over to perform a maneuver or shoot out of the car window as he drives past.

At the moment I am still thinking about the specifics of how the dice mechanics would work. I'm keen to experiment with a die step system, but if not I'd be looking at either d10s or d20s to resolve skills checks and shooting.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown
I'd also like the campaign system to be built in to how the game works. One of the cool things about an alien's amongst us concept is the alien tech. Over time the humans could learn how to use it, or work out how to retro-engineer their own weapons from alien artifacts. In a pick up game a war band could spend some of their precious points on alien tech, but in a campaign game that would have to be achieved through play.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Infinity Core Update 7

A new blog to separate my wargames related stuff, from my roleplaying related stuff, from my games development related stuff. A new name for my game system, now officially "Infinity Core", as most people who responded, did so positively to that name, and a new logo to match.

I don't, unfortunately, have a major amount to report, other than I have been very busy with work (out side of normal business hours) last week and thus it has cut in on my writing time. The adventure Abandoned Hope is still progressing, now at about 7K words (don't really want it to go past 10K), I'm making a few adjustments to the flow of the encounters so that they build up gently and don't dump the characters in at the deep end. Also trying to stich up any plot holes I find.

I have stated out all the encounters now, except the final show down, I'm still working on that one. As far is is possible I'm trying to provide a mixture of physical, mental, and social conflicts so that the characters can get used to how these work. Some encounters can be handled either physically (blow holes in things with guns), or socially (talk to or intimidate your way through).

With the changes to the Skills list and the lifepath system I'm going to have to go back and rework the pre generated characters I'd built for the adventure.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Infinity Engine Update 6

Another week has flown past and it is time to write another update. The sample scenario, "Abandoned Hope" is now all charted out. It still needs work, primarily that means that all the encounters need to be stated out, and the pre-generated characters need to be written. I'd forgotten just how much effort has to go into writing scenarios. The quickest I ever knocked out a Shard for Fading Suns was about 2 months, so I'm a little a head of the curve so far, but now there is a lot of donkey work to do to get it to point were people can pick it up and play it.

I am still working on other parts of the whole package, including:

I have been considering adding a fourth attribute pair, to give: Physical, Social, Mental and Virtual (not sure thats the right word yet, perhaps "Tech", "Info" or "Shadow"), but essentially an info shadow that facilitates interactions with information networks. Much like the other pairs this would form a 'speed' and an 'endurance' attribute in the pairing. About now you are likely wondering why I'd need another attributes pair, well read on and find out...

I have been making refinements to the skills list this week too. So far the changes involving dropping a few skills or rolling them into others.

Medicine has been renamed Trama Aid, and its field narrowed to emergency aid, battlefield care.
Etiquette has been rolled into the Culture skill.
Arts and Craft skills no longer need specialities, and the Craft skill in now the low tech equivalent of the Technology skill.
Gambling has been folded in to Deception, and Legerdemain is currently under threat if I can work out what to fold it into, I may just cut it all together.
I have always been a fan of the lifepath system of generation, be it from Fading Suns, Blue Planet, or even CyberPunk. I feel it goes a long way to outlining the character for the player, especially if its a new player with little exposure to the background of the world setting. So I have determined to rebuild a lifepath system into my new setting, but I don't want to simply copy what Fading Suns did, though certainly there would be similarities.

The lifepath will form a five step character generator, each step costing 20 genesis points from the pool of 100 that a character starts with. These will come under the titles of (and these are really just place holders till I can come up with better terms):

Archetype: What kind of person is the character at his heart?
Allegiance: To which Faction does the character owe his allegiance and how does that shape him?
Training: What did the character train for?
Career: What role / function did he serve?
Destiny: What is the future direction of the character?

I think it is about time I start to share some of the ideas I have for my new setting, currently code named "Dark Stars". If I had to try and explain it one sentence it might read like this, "Post pan-galactic trans-human apocalypse". As such there is a lot of technology in the setting (all man made, though much it beyond the keen of current mankind), mostly held in the hands of the dynastic magnates elevated to positions of an immortal nobility. The common man might live at a level equivalent to that of the 20th century (pre-information age), but the dynastic heirs are the inheritors of cybernetics, high-tech weapons and shields, re-life technologies. Death is not the end for those who are inheritors of trans-human legacies. Dynastic heirs are in effect technologically elevated demi-gods.

Technology is not universally available to the dynasties, and different lineages use different methods of immortality, be it clone bodies with memory transfer, to the inheritance of a multifaceted man, to singularity uplift.

I will reveal more in the near future.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to reading your comments.