Friday, November 9, 2012

My action system manifesto

It took me longer then I wanted to recover from Halloween weekend. I've been making notes about Fists of the Four Isles as they occur to me but this is the first time I've had to sit down and work.
The current topic fermenting in my brain is action. I want action to be fast, furious, and fun. In pursuit of this goal I've created a little manifesto that encapsulates my vision for a roleplaying action system. Really they are common sense things that players and GMs just do without thinking about it. But I want an action system that is built with these elements as a foundation.

There are no meaningless conflicts

Or fights for fight's sake. There is built in tension because every action scene is important and there is something tangible at stake. Win or lose, the conflict will matter to the course of the story. The sides of the conflict will be working towards goals other than just fighting. A fight is not an interruption of the game, it is a continuation of it.

There are no meaningless actions

Action shall never devolve into an endless repetition of attacks and blocks. Actions other than attacking are important. There are consequences for every failure, and there is always a tangible benefit if you succeed. Tangible meaning something more than "you are one hit point closer to beating them." Tangible benefit meaning something you can use to draw closer to you goal for the conflict.

It is interesting and dynamic

There is no need for players and GMs to try to come up with interesting tactics. Or waste actions trying things of questionable value because the interesting shall be built in. There will be, at least, help for the GM to introduce interesting complications and unexpected events into a conflict. Possibly this will even be automatic.

It is cinematic and fluid

You never feel like your character is swimming though mud, or standing around with a dumb look on his face waiting for his next action. You never feel like you have to choose between maneuvering and attacking. There is no cop out assumption that, "your character does a lot more in a round then you roll for."

It is fast and easy to adjudicate

One conflict doesn't take all night. You don't dread adjudicating a fight. Players fear conflict because of the consequences of losing, not because of it they won't be able to participate.

There are no unimportant characters

Each character can bring their unique abilities to a conflict because each ability is valuable towards reaching the goal of the conflict. There are multiple ways to achieve a goal and various strategies can be pursued in a conflict.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Five Elements

Here are some of the rambling thoughts I've had about characters.

To keep things simple I'll dispense with the usual skills and boil things down to just five ratings represented by the elements: earth, air, fire, water, and wood. Each character gets the numbers 1 through 5 to assign to the elements and that will determine their ratings.

The focus of the game is going to be action, so I started by saying all characters are more or less equally skilled at fighting. There's no need for a number to say how good a character is at fighting because that number would be the same for every character. Instead, the element system tells you how a particular character approaches fighting. What's their style?

Earth is body - Strength and endurance.
Air is motion - Reflexes, agility, speed, reaction, gentleness, delicacy.
Fire is power - Courage, bravery, resolve, grit, inner strength.
Water is mind - Knowledge, wisdom, perception, reflection, depth, subtly.
Wood is life - Spirit, energy, qi.

You could work up a zodiac of types based on the top two picks. Earth + Fire is the Tiger. Water + Wood is the Dragon.

Characters will probably have an aspect that goes along with each of their elements as well. Something that elaborates on how exactly that facet of the character is expressed.
Not all Fire has to be loud and obvious. Some characters might "Burn with an inner hatred of orcs," for example.

Oh, and the five elements would look awesome arranged in a circle in the middle of a character sheet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Or would "Fists of the Four Isles" be a better game?

My original idea was a really streamlined rpg that focused on a single scenario, revenging the destruction of your martial arts training temple in a fantasy setting. The conception is a blend of role playing game and scenario with just enough setting to be intriguing, all in one package.
I think the focus of a single adventure is good. It forces you to leave out extraneous stuff that may be cool, but are a distraction from your core objective. Otherwise, how am I suppose to finish a game in a month?
Now I'm thinking that adventures in Kaegara "the land of four isles" could be cool as a more general game. Something that puts the setting more center stage.
Of course, there's a lot to be said for player investment in the setting. I think setting is important, even critical, but it's only important to the degree that the players are invested in it. Too much setting alienates players and makes them disinterested. It's really important to leave room for the players to create their own part of the setting.
I think overstating the setting is a mistake. Ultimately they players are the ones playing and they're not playing the setting, they're playing their characters. Character should be center stage. Like a Shakespeare play, it should work whatever backdrop happens to be on stage.

Which is more evocative? Tao of Revenge! or Fists of the Four Isles?

Introducing The Tao of Revenge!

They killed your master...
They burned your temple...
They took away the only life you've ever known...
you were always taught that revenge is not of the way...
but you don't care anymore!

Fast-pased fantasy martial arts action using FATE!

Written for NaGaDeMon 2012