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Other Games, Development, & Campaigns => Design, Development, and Gameplay => Topic started by: BoxCrayonTales on November 06, 2019, 01:44:46 PM

Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 06, 2019, 01:44:46 PM
As an experiment, something I wanted to do was devise a retroclone of the Storytelling System that addresses problems I perceive in the rules and settings of White Wolf's game materials. I received enough positive feedback on past snippets that I decided to make a thread here to further discuss my ideas.

This is based on Opening the Dark SRD (https://www.scribd.com/lists/2653023/Opening-the-Dark) (a retroclone of ST) [EDIT: Mirrored here (https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vRF8OzdA1D1rC_PaJwr3OzfqqSMgqAVRhBHm9A5LsmaMqaMB4JlwLb8-Jd9PkAlMyDRI2ZLBd7lzFOI/pub) if scribd is giving you trouble] with some influence from the unofficial WoD Point Buy Rules (https://ruscumag.wordpress.com/white-wolf/) (which helpfully breaks down some recurring designs).

I don't have encyclopedic knowledge of every iteration of the ST rules, so if I make any mistakes then I appreciate being corrected or information on obscure rules that might be relevant.

I'll start with character traits. Most ST games have generally used some variation of attributes, skills, advantages/disadvantages, superpowers, and experience points. Your typical game design 101 stuff.

Attributes
I've seen essentially three methods of dealing with attributes: ST-er, ST-ing, and Everlasting.

Attributes generally range from 1-5 for normal human beings. Characters normally can't have scores of 0, as that indicates automatic failure in most iterations of the rules. The ST rules almost never went into detail on what happens to characters with scores of 0, scores that negligible but not 0 (e.g. the attributes are human ranges, so Intelligence ratings fall apart when applied to animals), or lacked a score entirely; OtD helpfully provides some rules on this.



Abilities/Skills
The arrangement of skills is arbitrary so I don't really have much to say here. ST-er generally organizes skills by whether they are informal (talents), formal (skills), and technical (knowledge). ST-ing simply organizes them by mental, physical, and social like the attributes. The Trinity Universe games includes default pairs of attributes and skills to save time. Similar to Attributes, Skills are rated from 0-5 for normal humans; 0 indicates no training and 5 indicates you're a PhD, Olympic athlete, or whatever.

Some iterations introduced the concept of "specialties" for Attributes and/or Skills to simulate what other RPGs called sub-skills and similar.

Other Traits
This category includes most traits that aren't attributes or skills, as well as any traits derived from attributes. Examples include willpower, hit points, speed, size, etc. The specifics vary between different iterations.

Hit points are divided into several degrees of damage severity, with most ST games having at least two such degrees. Some iterations have three. Traditionally more severe damage displaces less severe damage, although OtD tracks them separately. Hit points may be fixed for all characters, or be derived from Stamina.

Soak is basically like armor and is derived from Stamina Attribute. If hit points are derived from Stamina, then Soak generally isn't used.

Willpower is used to boost the results of rolls, like similar mechanics in other games. How it is calculated and used varies immensely between different iterations. For example, V5 uses it as mental hit points.

Speed and Size generally aren't statistics in most iterations save CoD. In CoD, Speed is defined as walking rate in feet/second and is derived from the sum of Strength, Dexterity, and a "species factor" (an old periodical's optional rule adds Athletics to that equation). Size is added to Stamina to determine hit points, with the standard adult human being Size 5.

Advantages/Disadvantages
This category includes all the other miscellaneous ways that a character could be quantified. Examples include social connections, wealth, other personal quirks, etc. Advantages may be purchased with experience points or acquired/lost through roleplay.

At this point, the ranking system starts behaving differently since Advantages are not necessarily rated linearly from 0-5 like Attributes and Skills. It is common for Advantages to have "empty" ranks that serve only to increase experience costs.

Disadvantages may or may not be rated. Rated disadvantages are typically used to reduce the costs of advantages, and optionally may be bought off by paying experience points. Unrated disadvantages provide free experience points whenever they impede the character.

The CoD rules introduced rules for temporary advantages/disadvantages known as conditions/tilts. These represent the effects of, for example, poor weather, altered consciousness, broken legs, sudden realizations, etc. These cannot be purchased or removed with experience points, only roleplaying.

Emotional/Personality Traits
This category includes all the traits, rated or unrated, that were introduced to measure a character's personality, moral values, willpower refresh methods, sanity, blah blah blah. Examples include nature/demeanor, virtue/vice, humanity, aspirations, intimacies, etc. These traits have been inconsistently maligned by the fandom for years, and if you're familiar with ST games then I don't need to explain why.

The rated emotional traits were typically used to resist negative mental influences. If Resistance Attributes are being used, then those emotional traits aren't used.

I don't consider these traits remotely necessary. I do think a dark/light side mechanic would be a great way to get players to roleplay, but that's it.

Power Paths
The ST games devised several different ways to represent superpowers, such as Exalted's charms, Aberrant's enhancements, Scion's purviews, etc.

Perhaps the most common are the "power paths." These work a bit like supernatural equivalents of skills in that they are rated from 1-5, but unlike skills you cannot use them for general tasks related to the name of the path. Instead, each rank in a power path gives you one exception-based power like "give a one-word command" or "read auras."

A key problem with the power path mechanic is that it generally forces you to purchase exception-based powers linearly even if they're just a grab bag of tricks. The OtD rules point this out and state that characters may buy powers out of order if it fits their concept. Some games (like Werewolf) had rated powers but didn't place them into linear power paths.

Traditionally there is only one power per rank, but there could be any number of powers for each rank and those choices are arbitrary. The smarter implementations (like WoD Point Buy) let you purchase any number of powers if you have the prerequisite rank.

A key problem with the World of Darkness games is that every splat had to reinvent the wheel when it came to powers. I'm not remotely interested in that: like Nightlife, Everlasting, WitchCraft, or Godbound, I'm going to use universal guidelines for superpowers.

Arts and Praxis
This category is for Ars Magica-style syntactic magic. This grants you far more leeway in creating effects than power paths, with the drawback that it is much more difficult to use. Various ST games have introduced additional mechanics to make inconsiderate magic use excessively dangerous.

A Praxis may be defined however the GM wants, from narrow to broad. Like Ars Magica, a GM could decide to require two Praxis used for every effect: one to define what is being done (e.g. creation, destruction, perception, transformation) and another to define the target (e.g. birds, water, minds, death).

Syntactic magic could potentially be available to any character regardless of their build. If you're inventing a dedicated wizard splat, then it helps to either make syntactic magic unique to them or make them better at it then everyone else. I'll address this in more detail when I start brainstorming splats.

Essence
This category includes the innumerable magic point traits used over the years, often named "essence". It ranges from a simple measurement of how many power points you can hold all the way to several statistics independently measuring the potency of your powers, your resistance to others' powers, how many types of power point pools you can have, etc. The White Wolf school of design likes to be obtuse.

Experience Points
The ST rules let players accumulate experience points to spend on increasing the ranks of PCs' traits. Different iterations have used wildly different costs. Traditionally scaling costs are used, which leads to problems because character creation assigns ranks linearly. CoD introduced the concept of linear experience costs, although it introduced new problems.

I prefer linear experience costs, if only to reduce the amount of math involved.

Traits above 5
Attributes, Skills, and Advantages are traditionally capped at 5 ranks. Different variations of the ST rules have included different methods for adjudicating scores of 6 and beyond.

Commonly characters may be allowed to increase their traits to an ultimate max of 10, and/or purchase Power Paths or Epic/Mega-Attributes that boost the traits further. However, this leads to the common problem of unwieldy dice pools.

Task Resolution

Task resolution for all iterations of ST rules have involved some variation of rolling a number of dice equal to Attribute + Skill and counting all the dice that meet or exceed a value set by the GM. In my opinion, the cleanest implementation were the CoD1e rules. However, I do acknowledge minor critique of that method (http://garglinggoblin.blogspot.com/2013/01/problems-with-world-of-darkness-rpg.html) that is accounted for by the OtD rules. I will discuss that in more detail in future posts.


Conclusion
So the ST rules are serviceable on their own, but IMO White Wolf's writers have generally been poor at game design in general. In following posts I will outline my ideas for reform. In the mean time, I welcome any feedback, critique, advice, suggestions, etc.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: trechriron on November 06, 2019, 07:26:48 PM
First - this is single-handedly your BEST start to a thread like this with the BEST information. You are obviously getting more focused on what you want which can only lead to success.

Second - Another precursor to the new axis was the Action! System style attribute axis - power, finesse, defense (not sure who did it first...).
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 07, 2019, 10:28:32 AM
Quote from: trechriron;1113173
First - this is single-handedly your BEST start to a thread like this with the BEST information. You are obviously getting more focused on what you want which can only lead to success.

Second - Another precursor to the new axis was the Action! System style attribute axis - power, finesse, defense (not sure who did it first...).
Thank you. The Action! trivia is interesting. It helps me with regard to avoid copyright claims, since I hope to potentially release work under the OGL. (I refuse to give up any rights to Storyteller's Vault, since I don't like the WoD IP anyway.)


[/HR]

[STRIKE]Anyway, probably the most important topic to address is the task resolution. ST games use pass/fail dice pools to determine the result of actions. These consist of a few metrics: the Dice Pool itself (generally determined by the sum of a relevant Attribute, Skill, and Modifiers from un/favorable conditions), the Target Number (the minimum result a die needs to produce a pass), the Difficulty (the minimum number of passes required for an action to succeed), and others depending on the circumstances.

(The ST rules don't distinguish between a successful die and a successful action. For clarity, I refer to the former as "passes" to distinguish them.)

OtD uses a variation of the Revised STer mechanics from the Trinity Universe games. Basically: the Dice Pool's Modifiers range from +5 to -5, the Target Number is fixed at 7 (results of 10 count twice), and the Difficulty generally ranges from 1–5 (or potentially higher) as decided by the GM (sometimes by the GM or another player rolling an Opposed Pool). Additionally there is a Pass Threshold (the number of passes that meet or exceed the Difficulty), which is relevant for some actions (such as determining damage inflicted during combat). An optional rule is presented for Extended Tasks, in which the player rolls multiple times (each roll representing one time interval set by the GM) to accumulate passes until they meet the Difficulty (which is generally 8, 10, 15 or higher). Other rules are given but for simplicity I will be ignoring them. This gives two probability sliders: the Modifiers to the Dice Pool and the Difficulty.

The CoD1e rules from 2004 furthers adjust this in the interest of streamlining. The Difficulty is fixed at 1, except for Opposed and Extended actions. Modifiers now distinguish between sources: a modifier from a single source cannot exceed ±5, but modifiers are cumulative without limit; additionally, Modifiers operate on a "Mother May I" logic to emphasize/reward roleplaying/storytelling (e.g. the rulebook mentions wearing a purity ring provides a small bonus to resist seduction). Opposed actions with a Pass Threshold (e.g. combat) are replaced entirely: the attacker makes an unopposed roll which applies the defender's defense statistic as a penalty; this is an Automated Defense.

I personally prefer rules to start simple and provide the option of increasing complexity and alternating rules at the GM's whim. Thus, I prefer the CoD1e rules for task resolution. For comparison, STer generally requires four rolls to resolve one attack: opposed rolls between the attack roll and the defense roll, then opposed rolls between the damage roll and the soak roll (in OtD, Soak is applied as Automated Defense); STing abstracted all that into a single roll without changing the probabilities too much (at least until CoD2e introduced mandatory unnecessary complexity).

However, I do acknowledge that this approach has some flaws compared to the OtD rules. Gargling Goblin points out (http://garglinggoblin.blogspot.com/2013/01/problems-with-world-of-darkness-rpg.html) that it is common tendency for GMs to forget to apply Modifiers before a Dice Pool is rolled. While bonuses are easy to apply as extra dice, penalties cannot be applied without forcing a retroactive re-roll or effectively increasing the Difficulty (thereby breaking the streamlining). Additionally, the Automated Defense mechanic by nature gives the players metagame knowledge of their opponent's defense trait. There might be creative ways to deal with this without breaking the streamlining, and without resorting to apps, but I can't think of any right now.

The root of this problem is that, unlike systems that use a single die to resolve actions (thus generally limited to a single probability slider), Dice Pool and Difficulty are non-equivalent probability sliders. Translating modifiers between them requires probability math. What do we use to calculate translating between them that is easy for players? Under OtD, 1d10 has a 40% chance of rolling 1+ passes. For 2d10 64%, 3d10 78.4%, 4d10 87.04%, 5d10 92.22%, 6d10 95.33%, etc. Every 1d10 rolls an average of ½ pass. Does that mean we should count every ±1 modifier to a Dice Pool as a ±½ modifier to the Difficulty? What do you do with a ±½ modifier?

There are plenty of other potential issues to address, but I consider this the most important. What do you think? Should I treat modifiers differently based on whether they are positive or negative and whether the GM thinks the player deserves to know about it? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of trying to keep the basic rules streamlined?

EDIT: The Storypath System helpfully suggests that Dice Pools are (almost) never modified and that modifiers are represented with Difficulty and Complications. It clarifies that Difficulty instead subtracts from a character’s passes, essentially a combination of STerRev’s Difficulty and STing’s “only one pass needed to succeed” rule. I’ll try that out in following posts and see how things compare.

EDIT: So I decided that I’ll give groups the option to choose which task resolution to use, whether that’s Storytelling or Storypath in style. I’ll refer to these options as “modifiers applied to dice pool” and “modifiers applied to dice results”, respectively. The probability is messy but whatever. I’ll approximate the Storytelling System’s abstracted combat by simply providing the average result of opposed rolls a la BRP statistics blocks.

I’ll try to explain this in a following post.

Again, any feedback is appreciated.[/STRIKE]
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 08, 2019, 01:49:33 PM
Anyway, the Story* Systems (S*Ss) uses "pass/fail dice pools (https://mythcreants.com/blog/five-advantages-of-pass-fail-dice-pools/)" for task resolution and every iteration has felt the need to keep tinkering with this. Sometimes the task resolution is streamlined, other times it is made more complicated. Rather than just picking one iteration and telling everyone who picks up my rules to use that, I will instead provide a modular framework and give groups the option to tinker with it to their heart's content.


[/HR]

The Essentials

Pass/fail dice pools use some variation of these steps for task resolution:


[/HR]

The Breakdown

Below I will break these steps down in detail. Note that the jargon I am using is for this specific illustration and won't necessarily match S*S norms. The first instance of game jargon is italicized for clarity.

Step 1: A player assembles the dice pool, a set of dice (typically d6s or d10s), that will be rolled to determine the result of an action. In S*Ss this is generally the sum of two relevant statistics, such as two attributes or an attribute and a skill.

If the dice pool (or relevant attribute) is zero (0) or negative for whatever reason, then the action may automatically fail and/or roll a special dice pool depending on the iteration.

Step 2: The GM sets the target number of the task, ranging from two (2) to the maximum value of the die (6 for d6s, 10 for d10s). The player rolls the dice pool and each die that meets or exceeds TN is counted as a pass. Therefore, rolls of one (1) never count as passes and rolls of max always count as passes.

Note: If no passes are rolled in Step 2, then skip Step 3 and go straight to Step 4.

Step 3: The GM sets the difficulty class (DC) of the task, ranging from zero (0) to an arbitrary cap. This DC is subtracted from the player's passes to calculate the net passes.

If two characters are competing, then determine who is the aggressor and who is the defender. Both the aggressor and the defender roll their own dice pools. The DC set against the aggressor's passes is equal to the defender's net passes.

Note: The passes and net passes are not interchangeable. Certain systems or mechanics may rely on either/or.

Step 4: The net passes are used to calculate the degree of success or failure. If net passes are positive, then the action succeeds (possibly a critical success). If net passes are zero (0) or negative, or no passes were rolled in Step 2, then the action fails (possibly a critical failure).

The S*Ss have a bunch of different ways to adjudicate modifiers (e.g. conditions, tilts, enhancements, complications) and the degree of success (e.g. botches, dramatic failures, exceptional successes, conditions, stunts, consolations). More recent editions have introduced variations of a "nothing never happens" rule (as Qwixalted  (http://aakin.net/wiki/doku.php?id=qwixalted)calls its) that says that events shouldn't come to a screeching halt whenever an action fails. Furthermore, the text reiterates that the games' design intends for players to roll only when sensible and "dramatically" appropriate but not for every single trivial or impossible task because the point of the game is to have fun. This approach should be common sense, but apparently it needs to be explicitly explained for some groups.


[/HR]

Probability Sliders

Anyway, this gives at least four "probability sliders" for groups to mess with: the dice pool, the difficulty class, the target number, and the passes.

Dice Pool: The size of dice pools always varies based on the PCs traits. In Storyteller and Storytelling further modifiers are applied, in Storypath modifiers are (almost) never applied.

Storytelling 2e introduces various "conditions" that modify dice pools, inspired by the "aspects" mechanic in FATE.

Allowing dice pools to be reduced to zero or negative values requires adding a second task resolution mechanic to account for such instances. In Storytelling, this simply forces a lone die roll against TN10 and DC0 with the risk of fumble pass (see below). In Opening the Dark, a scaling "faint hope" pool (equal to inverted value of original dice pool +2) is rolled against DC=((DC of original pool)+(faint hope dice pool -1)). EDIT: If you think that seems clunky, you aren't alone. Somehow a house rule for (https://web.archive.org/web/20140304202508/http://thehowlingvoid.com/nwod-rulemods.html) Storytelling is much simpler.

Difficulty Class: The difficulty class may be fixed or variable. In Storyteller and Storypath it scales with the "difficulty" of an action, whereas in Storytelling it is fixed at 0 for simple actions.

Target Number: The target number may be fixed or variable. In Storyteller it is variable, in Storytelling and Storypath it is (generally) fixed at 7 or 8.

Additional thresholds may be added to determine whether a die roll produces a special pass (see below).

Special Passes: The passes may be modified by introducing "exploding" passes, "double" passes, "negative" passes, and "fumble" passes.

A die that rolls the max value (6 for d6, 10 for d10) may produce an exploding pass or a double pass. An exploding pass counts as one pass and grants one bonus die for the player to roll (thus potentially increase their passes), while a double pass simply counts as two passes. Sub-systems may provide situations that lower the threshold for these bonus passes. Storytelling uses exploding passes ("#-again"), while Storypath uses double passes ("double-#s").

A negative pass occurs if a die rolls one (1), and each negative pass increases the difficulty class by one. In other words, negative passes are subtracted from passes to determine net passes. Storyteller applies negative passes to all rolls, whereas Storytelling only applies them under certain circumstances ("1s-subtract").  

A fumble pass occurs if a die rolls one (1). This has no effect on its own. However, a failure may be worsened to a critical failure if the player rolled any fumble passes. When combined with negative passes, this produces weird results; a typical revision is that this only occurs if the failure was due to a lack of passes, and not if net passes were reduced to zero or negative after subtracting difficulty class.

What's the difference? Each rule affects the results of rolls differently. Modifiers to dice pool or DC alter the average and maximum number of passes. Modifiers to TN alter the average number of passes but not the maximum possible passes. Exploding passes and double passes increase the average and maximum passes. Negative passes reduce the average passes but not the maximum passes.

Modifiers to dice pool or DC become increasingly irrelevant as a character's traits increase. By contrast, the effect of varying TN, bonus passes, and negative passes scale with character traits. However, I suspect that you can accomplish a similar effect by forcing characters to roll twice and take the lower roll.

Can this get clunky? Totally. The Story* Systems have a tendency to use more probability sliders than they really need, sometimes redundantly. The really annoying part is that they never explain the math behind the probabilities or their motivations for using any particular slider.

If your aim is to be as streamlined as possible and never worry about needing to introduce new probability sliders to cover oversights, then you will want to use a single probability slider that affects all characters equally regardless of how high their traits are. In my extremely unscientific estimation, and correct me if I'm wrong, the only single probability slider that does so is TN or the presence/absence of exploding/subtracting dice.


[/HR]

Roll Results
The Story* systems generally recognize around two to four degrees of success and failure. These include success ("yes"), failure ("no"), and critical versions thereof ("yes, and", "no, and"). More recent editions have tried to introduce other degrees ("yes, but", "no, but").

On a success ("yes"), multiple net passes are often used to boost the qualitative and/or quantitative effect. Typically the net passes affect severity, duration, range, area of effect, etc. In Storytelling, successful actions with binary outcomes count the passes (not just net passes) to determine whether the success is upgraded to a critical success ("yes, and").

Storypath introduces complications to cover situations where success comes at a cost ("yes, but"); net passes may be spent to produce stunts or counter complications.

A failure ("no") may be "upgraded" to a critical failure ("no, and") under certain circumstances. More recent editions add more detailed effects to failures, such as Storytelling's conditions or Storypath's consolations ("no, but").

Critical failures ("no, and") have varied noticeably between editions in terms how they happen and their effects. In Storyteller, a critical failure occurs if a roll fails and shows any fumbles (i.e. "botches"). In Storytelling, a critical failure occurs if a chance die fumbles; the problem with this was that players could simply decide not to attempt actions they knew could result in critical failure. In Storytelling 2e, players may upgrade a failure to a critical failure for free XP (and critical failures have been reduced in severity across the board compared to 1e).

RPGs in general seemingly train us to fear failures, but I think that adopting a pass/pass philosophy over a pass/fail philosophy helps a lot. If you're going to put so much thought into detailing degrees of success, then it makes sense to me to put the same amount of detail into degrees of failure.


[/HR]

Conclusion
I've been writing this for several hours, so I'm forcing myself to stop now.

There's various other minor stuff I haven't mentioned, but that's the gist of it.

I personally prefer simplicity and streamlining. I do acknowledge that others might prefer clunky rules or that streamlined rules may introduce their own flaws.

What do you think? Any feedback is appreciated.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on November 11, 2019, 11:14:14 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1113341
What do you think? Any feedback is appreciated.

I think you've done a very useful analysis/breakdown of the various systems here.  In terms of managing the number of probability-adjustment gauges, I myself have always favoured the basic three with a fixed definition of their "role" in the process:

1) Dice Pool size always reflects PC ability.  Any modifiers that specifically alter the individual character's capacity to perform a task are applied here.  These are mostly applied by the referee, but some rules might allow players to deliberately take a penalty or bonus in return for a countereffect of some other type (e.g. a die bonus for taking extra time on an action, or a die pool penalty on an attack in return for gaining a bonus on defense).

2) Target Number (TN) always reflects innate task difficulty.  Any modifiers that affect or determine how difficult the task is to perform for any relevant attempting character are applied here.  These are almost always applied by the referee, although the effects of one roll might allow players to modify the TN of a follow-up roll.

3) Number of "Passes" (to use your terminology, although I prefer "successes" myself) always reflects degree of outcome. A single pass on a roll allows the attempted action to accomplish its absolute minimum possible effect; whether this outcome is adequate for the character's purposes is a different measure.  I generally prefer a mechanic where a single pass will usually get you the absolute minimum to get by with (if the player is willing to settle for that) and passes beyond that improve your results, rather than a "second difficulty rating" where you have to beat not only a given TN but beat it a given number of times.  (In practice, the effect works out much the same, but the difference between a target chosen by the player as a bonus and a requirement imposed by the referee as a minimum does have a significant psychological effect, I think.)

In general, one key probability note I find useful for die-pool systems with floating TNs is this:
-- When TN is in the middle of its range, modifiers to die pools make more difference.  In a d6 pool, gaining +4d at the price of going from TN 3 to TN 4 is well worth it.
-- When TN is near the high or low end of its range, modifiers to TN make more difference.  Reducing TN 10 to TN 9 in a d10 pool literally doubles your success chances per die.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 12, 2019, 08:33:44 AM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1113550
I think you've done a very useful analysis/breakdown of the various systems here.  In terms of managing the number of probability-adjustment gauges, I myself have always favoured the basic three with a fixed definition of their "role" in the process:

1) Dice Pool size always reflects PC ability.  Any modifiers that specifically alter the individual character's capacity to perform a task are applied here.  These are mostly applied by the referee, but some rules might allow players to deliberately take a penalty or bonus in return for a countereffect of some other type (e.g. a die bonus for taking extra time on an action, or a die pool penalty on an attack in return for gaining a bonus on defense).

2) Target Number (TN) always reflects innate task difficulty.  Any modifiers that affect or determine how difficult the task is to perform for any relevant attempting character are applied here.  These are almost always applied by the referee, although the effects of one roll might allow players to modify the TN of a follow-up roll.

3) Number of "Passes" (to use your terminology, although I prefer "successes" myself) always reflects degree of outcome. A single pass on a roll allows the attempted action to accomplish its absolute minimum possible effect; whether this outcome is adequate for the character's purposes is a different measure.  I generally prefer a mechanic where a single pass will usually get you the absolute minimum to get by with (if the player is willing to settle for that) and passes beyond that improve your results, rather than a "second difficulty rating" where you have to beat not only a given TN but beat it a given number of times.  (In practice, the effect works out much the same, but the difference between a target chosen by the player as a bonus and a requirement imposed by the referee as a minimum does have a significant psychological effect, I think.)

In general, one key probability note I find useful for die-pool systems with floating TNs is this:
-- When TN is in the middle of its range, modifiers to die pools make more difference.  In a d6 pool, gaining +4d at the price of going from TN 3 to TN 4 is well worth it.
-- When TN is near the high or low end of its range, modifiers to TN make more difference.  Reducing TN 10 to TN 9 in a d10 pool literally doubles your success chances per die.


Insightful. Thank you.

I personally don't see a need to have a bunch of different probability sliders, at least initially. I know some people like them as options. However, the fluff-based logic behind distinguishing them always seemed like splitting hairs to me.

YMMV.

Quote
1) Dice Pool size always reflects PC ability.  Any modifiers that specifically alter the individual character's capacity to perform a task are applied here.  These are mostly applied by the referee, but some rules might allow players to deliberately take a penalty or bonus in return for a countereffect of some other type (e.g. a die bonus for taking extra time on an action, or a die pool penalty on an attack in return for gaining a bonus on defense).
Quote
3) Number of "Passes" (to use your terminology, although I prefer "successes" myself) always reflects degree of outcome. A single pass on a roll allows the attempted action to accomplish its absolute minimum possible effect; whether this outcome is adequate for the character's purposes is a different measure.  I generally prefer a mechanic where a single pass will usually get you the absolute minimum to get by with (if the player is willing to settle for that) and passes beyond that improve your results, rather than a "second difficulty rating" where you have to beat not only a given TN but beat it a given number of times.  (In practice, the effect works out much the same, but the difference between a target chosen by the player as a bonus and a requirement imposed by the referee as a minimum does have a significant psychological effect, I think.)

Nice ideas. Thank you.

An interesting mechanic I saw in Mage: The Awakening was that spellcasting rolls could be performed as instant or extended actions. The player determined the various factors of the effect. On instant actions, these factors applied as penalties to the roll. On extended actions, factors increased the number of passes that had to be rolled.

I think that kind of mechanic could be applied to rolling in general, at least in a heavily simplified form.

Quote
Number of "Passes" (to use your terminology, although I prefer "successes" myself)
I do this in order to distinguish a die that pass the target number from an action that succeeds, as the two are not equivalent. Most games that use dice pools make this distinction. For example, Shadowrun refers to dice that meet/pass the TN (5) as "hits."

Quote
(In practice, the effect works out much the same, but the difference between a target chosen by the player as a bonus and a requirement imposed by the referee as a minimum does have a significant psychological effect, I think.)
Good observation. Several of the differences in task resolution between different iterations of the S* rules don't change probability, but do have a psychological effect. By the same token, cosmetic or clunky rules are introduced for their psychological effect.

For example, the advantage that SP style difficulty class has over STing style dice pool modifiers is that it is easy to apply modifiers after the roll is already made and you can argue it is easier to conceal the opponent's defense stat in combat. The problem is the "whiff factor,"  which STing avoids by offering the chance die. SP introduces "consolations" for failure. (IMO, this is just a band-aid fix because the concept of pass/fail needs to be re-contextualized as I said before.)
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on November 12, 2019, 10:12:28 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1113628
I personally don't see a need to have a bunch of different probability sliders, at least initially. I know some people like them as options. However, the fluff-based logic behind distinguishing them always seemed like splitting hairs to me.

For me the game value of multiple probability sliders is in the challenge of balancing how changing one affects the other, and what this does to the final result -- e.g. the art of judging, as noted above, how much of a bump in TN you can take in return for bonus dice.  The Riddle of Steel is a particularly good example of this, as the TN of a given manoeuvre in combat is a key factor in deciding how many Combat Pool dice to commit to it.

This gives (to me anyway) the feel of a more complex, convincing, and consistent simulation, as does ensuring that modifiers of X type always reflect fluff factors of Y type -- it does make a difference, both in probability and (I think) in the feel to the players, whether a penalty for the "same" disadvantage is applied as a die pool reduction in one situation and a TN bump in another.

In terms of simply determining a final probability and checking it, fixed-TN pools are definitely simpler (cf. Burning Wheel), but if multiple sliders aren't needed then it seems to me there's no need for a dice pool to begin with -- flat ability value + roll vs. target number would do.

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An interesting mechanic I saw in Mage: The Awakening was that spellcasting rolls could be performed as instant or extended actions. The player determined the various factors of the effect. On instant actions, these factors applied as penalties to the roll. On extended actions, factors increased the number of passes that had to be rolled. I think that kind of mechanic could be applied to rolling in general, at least in a heavily simplified form.

The trick on that kind of mechanic is knowing how many dice are, in practice, worth how many passes.  At TN 6 in a d10 pool, for example, you are basically going to get on average 1 pass for every 2 dice you roll, which means that a +1 pass requirement after the roll is probabilistically equal to a -2d penalty before the roll.  At TN 5 in a d6 pool, by contrast (cf. Shadowrun 4E), you'll get on average 1 hit per 3 dice, so every extra hit required is equal to a -3d pre-roll penalty -- which is why in Shadowrun, minimum hits required generally top out around 3 or 4.

One of the things I always found annoying about Burning Wheel is that, at the normal human level of ability in any given area, achieving a better than 50% chance of success at any given task requires your exponent (die pool) to be at least twice your Obstacle (required passes). However, BW quite regularly sets its Obstacles insanely high to begin with (Ob 4 or Ob 5 are described as tasks of "middling" difficulty!), and it's incredibly easy to bump them up even further. The designer did this deliberately with the intent of forcing players to have to continually spend Artha (drama points) as well as find any kind of advantage, support dice and cooperative assistance they could -- and to make them cope with failures on a regular basis, and while this does make skill rolls more interesting in the short term, I think it becomes rather grindingly exhausting as a constant requirement.

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I do this in order to distinguish a die that pass the target number from an action that succeeds, as the two are not equivalent. Most games that use dice pools make this distinction.

Fair enough. I've never had a problem telling the contexts apart (I'm an old-school D&D grognard who regularly used "level" in multiple contexts without hiccups), but when in Slobovia, do like the other Slobs do, as Bugs Bunny used to say. :)

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For example, the advantage that SP style difficulty class has over STing style dice pool modifiers is that it is easy to apply modifiers after the roll is already made and you can argue it is easier to conceal the opponent's defense stat in combat. The problem is the "whiff factor," which STing avoids by offering the chance die. SP introduces "consolations" for failure. (IMO, this is just a band-aid fix because the concept of pass/fail needs to be re-contextualized as I said before.)

That sounds like a basic difference in philosophical approach. For me, I always played by the guideline of "all modifiers are final once the dice hit the table, no exchanges, substitutions or refunds" -- if you forgot to call it before the roll you didn't get to retroactively apply it afterwards once you remembered, so this was an option I never needed.

As for the "whiff factor", that's another thing that die pool systems by their nature tend to veer away from, as the probabilities always cluster in the middle of the range.  Going by the oldest of old-school mechanics, the basic d20 to hit roll, the most popular tolerance for "wild" results seems to be about one in every ten rolls on average (natural 1s and natural 20s).  It's very difficult to get this kind of frequency distribution on a dice pool without a variant patched-in mechanic -- WEG's Star Wars game did it with the introduction of the Wild Die, which gave bonuses on 6 and penalties on 1, but Star Wars as a genre has a much higher tolerance for fluky wonkiness.  Dark urban fantasy needs a very different feel.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 12, 2019, 11:05:22 AM
I'll come back to Task Resolution mechanics in the future. For now I'll skip to Attributes and Skills.

Attributes
The arrangement of Attributes is essentially arbitrary, though STing, V5, and SP use two axes similarly to Action! System (and other games, such as DC Heroes). As Action! System has an OGL SRD I will be using it as a reference for my own efforts.

Under Action! System, all Attributes are one of Power, Aptitude, or Resistance. Action! provides an example second axis of Mind and Body. The S* games all use a second axis of Mental, Physical, and Social. These axes don't always have names themselves, but for reference I will refer to the first axis as "Function" and the second as "Form."

Each Attribute is a combination of Form and Function: Physical Power, Mental Aptitude, Social Resistance, etc. These Attributes have unique names too: Strength, Senses, Charisma, etc. (I can't use the ST names in any clone due to copyright.)

Opening the Dark doesn't have this two axis mechanic, but it does pair up Attributes with Emotional Traits and that can be used as a shorthand:


The task resolution generally relies on Attributes to determine dice pools. Sometimes deciding which Attribute to use may be contentious (https://theangrygm.com/your-ability-scores-suck/). To get that out of the way, I'm going to say that in this system sometimes more than one Attribute may be used for a roll because they compensate for one another. For example, realizing whether someone is manipulating you may involve rolling Mental Aptitude (SEN) or Social Aptitude (GRA).

Humans are generally limited to ranks of 1-5. According to Opening the Dark: If any of a character's attributes drop to zero for whatever reason (negative values aren't possible), then they automatically fail roles that rely on that attribute. They are either dead (or soon will be), paralyzed, comatose, catatonic, etc. However, I generally prefer to use hit points to represent that instead; when I get to it, I will address mental/social hit points.

STing uses 0 INT scores for animals, though Opening the Dark doesn't seem to allow normal scores of 0. Instead, it provides scores of "none" (see below).

Tangent: Non-human attributes

The Attribute mechanic is intended to model adult humans, so it breaks down when applied to animals (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_cognition) or children.

Opening the Dark provides brief mechanics for scores of "none," similar to d20 v3.5. This isn't the same as having a score of 0, save that a score of none auto-fails on rolls. A creature with no STR can't exert force, perhaps because it lacks a physical body (like a ghost) or can't move (like a tree). If it can't move, then it also has no DEX. If it has no body, or no metabolism, then it also has no CON.

Null scores in the Mental and Social attributes are pretty weird and I am having difficulty imagining NPCs with null scores other than automatons. For reference, in 3.5 anything without Wisdom/Charisma was considered terrain.

I don't see null attributes as appropriate for most animals either. (Animal statistics are vital for any animal handler characters and all superpowers involving animals.)

A dog isn't going to be able to make INT rolls like a human being, but that doesn't mean they're stupid or an automaton. A spider won't be able to exert force on a human being or deal any damage by biting alone, but that doesn't mean it has STR 0. A house cat might be able to give you a nasty scratch or even disfigure your face, but it will generally be unable to kill you with its claws and teeth.

Arthropods (which are given null INT in 3.5) aren't immune to mental influence, since many parasites on arthropods use pheromones, drugs and viruses to alter their host's behavior. Obviously most arthropods will run away from perceived danger and if that isn't a fear response than I don't know what is.

My rule of thumb is that this would be represented with a score of "negligible" (negl.), which doesn't provide any dice but doesn't auto-fail ALL tasks either. A dog with negligible INT won't be able to perform math problems, but it can determine if a kid fell into a well and go get help. A house cat won't be a direct threat in combat, but it could definitely provide a distraction.

Alternately, these animals would be treated as non-combatants or environmental hazards rather than NPCs with full statistic blocks.

Skills
That brings us to Skills. Attributes represent general areas of competence available to all characters, whereas Skills reflect more specific areas of training. Skills are typically categorized into three groups, which Opening the Dark names "informal," "formal", and "technical." These names aren't cosmetic: different groups may have slightly different mechanics.

Actions typically involve rolling an Attribute plus a Skill. If the character doesn't have ranks in the relevant skill, then they take a penalty depending on the type of skill. For example, "technical" skills inflict a greater penalty than "informal" skills. This penalty, I assume, is intended to reflect how much specific learning goes into the skill and how much may be compensated by the more general learning represented by attributes.

The skill list is essentially arbitrary and varies according to the historical period the characters live in. For example, there is no Driving skill because typical characters in a modern setting are generally assumed to know how to drive (and not knowing would be considered a Disadvantage), but Stunt Driving is still a skill that inflicts a penalty for attempting without ranks.

If no skill applies to action (that is, there is no skill that would apply, not that the character lacks it), then the character generally rolls the sum of two attributes. For example, unskilled manual labor might roll STR+CON or STR+DEX depending on the task.

Some iterations of ST automatically paired skills with attributes. No jargon was given to this mechanic, but for reference I will do so. Burrowing a term from the Vampire: Bloodlines video game, I would refer to standard combinations of Attributes and Skills for specific categories of actions as "Feats." For example, the common actions "Persuade", "Seduce", and "Intimidate" are Feats. Feats would be useful for adjudication.

Anyway, the list of Skills is essentially arbitrary and more so than Attributes. The S* systems use heavily abstracted and simplified skill lists compared to real life. "Science", "Politics," "Firearms," etc. Real life is much more complicated, but we're not trying to be realistic here.

Not only that, but you can apply mechanics from other systems like Broad Skills, Narrow Skills, Sub-Skills, Background Skills, etc. I don't recommend having all those at once, but if so then the only way to remotely balance them is by varying the XP costs.

Specialties
These are basically what other systems call sub-skills. These don't appear in Opening the Dark, but they do appear in various ST iterations. STer allows specialties for Attributes and Skills, whereas STing only allows them for Skills. In order for Specialties to be justified as traits then they need to extremely cheap.

The Everlasting makes far more extensive use of broad skills and sub-skills than the S* systems did. Just a comparison in case anyone cares.

Personally, I would categorize Specialties under Advantages rather than their own trait. YMMV.

[EDIT: Opening the Dark already classifies these under the Background Trait of "Focus."]

Other Traits

As I said, this category includes secondary attributes, derived traits, and hit points.

A Secondary Attribute would be Size. This is considered a primary Attribute in BRP, but in S* it's either absent or only present in some iterations. Size is used to calculate physical hit points, which makes it more regular than editions where this is arbitrary. In STing, the average adult human is Size 5; Size 6 indicates a degree of gigantism that is treated as an Advantage. It becomes increasingly abstract: Size 1 applies to both infants and all insects.

The derived traits include Speed, Hit Points, and Defense Values.

Speed is typically ignored by most S* systems. In STing, it is derived from STR+DEX+"species factor" (5 for humans). In an old periodical, a house rule was introduced that changed this to STR+DEX+Athletics skill+species factor; species factor was 0 for adult humans and could presumably be negative.

Hit Points are what they sound like. The default rules in S* systems always include physical hit points. These are typically divided into two, sometimes three degrees of severity. Other systems, like Alternity, used similar mechanics. In typical S* these damage types displace one another in the hit point pool, whereas Opening the Dark (and Alternity) tracks them separately. In STing, the least severe type doubled as fatigue. The basic purpose of these multiple types of hit points is to determine how quickly a given attack will kill you or recover from. Taking a page from Alternity, I was planning on having the different types vary in amount rather than being the same amount as typical.

Some variants include mental and/or social hit points. The most common is what Opening the Dark labels "Will." This is typically used as what other systems might call "kicker", providing a bonus to your chances of success on a roll. In some variants, other effects may damage Will similarly to physical hit points. There are several variants of such "social combat" mechanics, with varying degrees of sensibility since social interaction metaphorically doesn't work like punching people in the pace. I haven't refined it, but I had this idea to use different types of mental hit points to represent damage to the character's reserve of mental stamina, their sanity, and their soul.

Defense Values are used to reduce or avoid damage before applying it to hit points, as well as resist non-damaging effects like mind control. That is, they are applied as modifiers to the attacker's dice pools or difficulty class depending on the edition. Which Attributes and Skills are used depends on the nature of the attack: physical blow, psychic assault, or biological. For the purposes of streamlining I decided to call these out as derived traits. For example, Psychic Defense Value is WIS+CHA, Bodily Defense Value is CON+WIS, and Attack Defense Value is a more complicated mix of Reflexes, Toughness, Armor, and Block/Dodge/Parry.

A more detailed analysis will follow in future posts.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 12, 2019, 02:31:39 PM
Physical Hit Points

Physical Hit Points are a potentially contentious mechanic. They aren't intended to be realistic or abstracted, but a lot of heated arguments hinge on realism. For example, CoD2e altered the damage mechanic because the writers thought the healing rate after being hit with a baseball bat was unrealistic or something.

I don't care too much for arguments based on realism. I prefer to just let the GM decide what is appropriate for their campaigns.

Anyway, hit points basically just denote how much damage your PC can take before they die and how long they need to recover. You can fluff that however. As I said, S* systems divide damage into two or more degrees. The names for these are variable, but Opening the Dark uses Stun and Health. It doesn't have a third type, but for future reference I will call that Mortal.

EDIT: Recovery is highly variable. In Opening the Dark, Stun recovers at a rate of one per hour. Health recovers at a rate of one per week or month. Other S* systems have their own rates.

EDIT: Additionally, HP loss inflicts cumulative penalties to actions. This presumably represents the effects of pain and mechanical damage. These also vary by edition: STing only has the last three HP inflict wound penalties, whereas STer sometimes has every two or three lost HP inflict a penalty.

Opening the Dark has another trait called Toughness, derived from CON, which reduces damage before applying it to hit points. Similar mechanics ("Soak") appear in S* games, except for STing which removes it in favor of variable hit points (in other editions, HP is fixed at 7 or so). One STing book, Mirrors, introduced an optional rule for Soak (Toughness) that was derived from Physical Resistance and Mental Resistance (it equaled the lowest of either); I thought that was a bit clever.

My own idea for replacing Toughness is that Stun, Health, and Mortal damage wouldn't have the same amount. For example: a character would have half the number of mortal point they have health points, and maybe twice the stun points that they have health points.

GMs can use whatever version of the rules they'd like, and I encourage them to customize the rules to reflect the gameplay they desire. Gritty? Cinematic? Need mooks who go down in one hit?


[/HR]

I'm running out of time. Next planned subjects: Defense Values, Dump Stats, and Mental/Social Hit Points.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on November 12, 2019, 02:50:29 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1113670
Physical Hit Points are a potentially contentious mechanic. They aren't intended to be realistic or abstracted, but a lot of heated arguments hinge on realism.

In a combat-system design discussion thread I had once on TBP, another poster pointed out a paradox about RPG combat that I have always remembered: The challenge of designing a combat system is to incorporate two things the target market strongly likes: i) frequent, exciting combat, and ii) plausibly realistic combat -- while somehow avoiding the logical result of putting i) and ii) together, which the target market strongly dis-likes: iii) frequent character death, or injury to the point of adventuring nonviability.

In my experience most games handle this by cheating on 2), in that what they create is something that appears realistic but in practice doesn't deliver crippling or fatal results nearly as often as real life would.  I generally think a viable combat system has to be able to do the following things:
1) It has to be mechanically possible for he heaviest possible weapon to do only grazing damage, i.e. there shouldn't be any kind of attack that amounts to "any hit at all = total instant kill".
2) It has to be mechanically possible for the smallest possible weapon to do significant damage with a sufficiently successful attack, i.e. even if all your opponent has is a hatpin, you should still worry at least a little;
3) It has to make sure that both these results are rare enough that pace of decision -- basically, the speed with which you can lose -- is still predictable.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 12, 2019, 03:16:32 PM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1113674
In a combat-system design discussion thread I had once on TBP, another poster pointed out a paradox about RPG combat that I have always remembered: The challenge of designing a combat system is to incorporate two things the target market strongly likes: i) frequent, exciting combat, and ii) plausibly realistic combat -- while somehow avoiding the logical result of putting i) and ii) together, which the target market strongly dis-likes: iii) frequent character death, or injury to the point of adventuring nonviability.

In my experience most games handle this by cheating on 2), in that what they create is something that appears realistic but in practice doesn't deliver crippling or fatal results nearly as often as real life would.  I generally think a viable combat system has to be able to do the following things:
1) It has to be mechanically possible for he heaviest possible weapon to do only grazing damage, i.e. there shouldn't be any kind of attack that amounts to "any hit at all = total instant kill".
2) It has to be mechanically possible for the smallest possible weapon to do significant damage with a sufficiently successful attack, i.e. even if all your opponent has is a hatpin, you should still worry at least a little;
3) It has to make sure that both these results are rare enough that pace of decision -- basically, the speed with which you can lose -- is still predictable.
Thank you.

The STing 1e combat system tried to do all three by abstracting the combat. The attacker just rolls once and adds weapon damage as a bonus to his dice pool, but since this only affects the chance of success it means there are situations where a high damage weapon deals little damage and a low damage weapon deals a lot of damage. This was discarded in 2e by making damage automatic on a successful attack, so weapons with higher damage are automatically more damaging than those with lower damage.

That is one of the reasons why I prefer task resolution that modifies the dice pools rather than the difficulty class as I mentioned previous.

As you said, I'd probably be better off with another mechanic like Night Shift's percentile task resolution. The point of this thread is an S* retroclone so I don't have a choice if I want to continue in that vein specifically.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 13, 2019, 07:14:52 AM
Dump stats

To talk about dump stats for a moment...

The S* systems have often had problems with dump stats. DEX is king in combat. INT is almost useless. Etc.

STing tried a few ways to address this. For example, Defense was the lowest of Mental and Physical Aptitude.

I think another way to address this would be to more clearly define the Functions of Attributes.  Power is a sledgehammer, Aptitude is a scalpel, Resistance is a shield.

For example, Mental Power isn't necessarily just Intelligence. It could very well be the primary attacking statistic in psychic combat. (I'll address psychic combat in more detail in posts on mental/social combat.) It could be used for mind control; I never understood why mind control relied on mundane social skills.

Previously I also mentioned allowing multiple attributes to apply to a roll if it made sense. For example, melee combat could easily rely on either DEX or STR depending on the PC's combat style.

Introducing Mega/Epic-Attributes would be another way to make the dump stats more appealing.

Generally, addressing dump stats requires tweaking the rest of the rules in a conscious attempt to give every Attribute uses.

As always, feedback welcomed.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 13, 2019, 10:16:32 AM
Defense Values and Social/Mental Combat

As I said before, Defense Values (DV) are a simple and consistent way of explaining what a character uses to resist attacks, physical or otherwise. IIRC, they were first formalized in Exalted; although similar mechanics have long appeared in other games (e.g. armor class, saving throws, etc). The name "Value" comes from Exalted which uses "Static Values" to refer to what I previously called "derived traits."

For simplicity and purposes of illustration, I will be using three values burrowed from 13th Age: Armor Class, Physical Defense, and Mental Defense.

For example, if a character is subject to mind control or mental trickery then they use their Mental Defense to resist. If we're using STing-style modifiers, then for accumulative effects the Mental Defense is applied as a penalty to the attacker's roll and for binary effects the Mental Defense is rolled in an opposed roll.

But those are just examples. What Defense Values your game uses depends on how the social/mental combat works. The STing System alone has several such systems:
A key problem with most of these social combat systems is that they are either unnecessary complications (e.g. "Doors" are redundant since Extended Actions already cover the same ground) or treat all forms of socializing as inherently destructive (https://mobunited.livejournal.com/79778.html).

For example, Danse Macabre just reskinned the physical combat rules: Initiative/Defense/Health became Social Dominance/Guile/Nerve and Mental Acumen/Aptitude/Grey Matter. Long story short, you basically browbeat someone until they either relent, are mentally exhausted, or just leave. To add insult to injury, the book even tells you that you're better off not using the (comparatively sparser) mental combat rules.

On the bright side, these systems can be hacked for use in psychic combat or spiritual combat that otherwise isn't represented. Assuming you care.

On the other end of the spectrum, the "Sway" rules involve non-destructive relationship building. Otherwise, the rules generally don't have any systems to represent positive/negative reputation with different parties; a strange oversight if you ask me.

(EDIT: None of these are a one-size-fits-all solution. Rome's Debate rules are only good for formal debates with witnesses and nothing else. Mirror's Sway rules are only good for getting people to do things for you, not embarrassing them in front of their peers. Danse Macabre's Social Combat is only really good at modeling high school mean girls and not really anything else; the Mental Combat works for any games of wits, though. GMC's Doors aren't useful except as variation of the Extended Action rules and even then it is questionable whether they offer any utility over the Extended Action rules alone. But there's really no reason why you couldn't use them all in the same campaign to represent different kinds of interactions.)

As always, I would allow GMs to decide what is best for them. All types of combat can be abstracted or granular. If you're going to include a combat system, then that probably means you're going to emphasize it. If you wanted to, then you could abstract away physical combat in favor of focusing on social and/or mental combat. If you want social politics to play a role, then you need some kind of explicit reputation mechanic (at it's simplest this would provide bonuses/penalties to socializing), tracking favors, etc.

Feedback welcomed.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 13, 2019, 12:26:32 PM
Advantages and Disadvantages

The STer, STing, and SP systems have a bunch of different variations of advantages and disadvantages. These represent things that aren't covered by Attributes and Skills, such as social connections, personal quirks, wealth, etc. Generally they are rated from 0-5 (sometimes with "empty" ranks), sometimes 6+. Advantages/disadvantages general come in flavors of mental, physical, social, and supernatural (only available to supernatural characters).

STer has backgrounds, merits, flaws, backgrounds above 5 ranks in War of Ages, "negative backgrounds" in a Mage Storytellers Handbook, and combined backgrounds/merits/flaws in V5.

The first edition of Adventure! has "background enhancements" to represent backgrounds above 5 ranks, as well as backgrounds that are double-edged swords (like "nemesis").

STing has combined backgrounds/merits and all flaws are only ranked at 0. Rather than providing a cost break on other traits, these flaws provide free XP whenever they impede a character. STing 2e introduced Conditions/Tilts as basically rank 0 merits/flaws.

I suppose you could consider Power Paths a subset of Advantages/Disadvantages, if not for the different XP costs in most cases. I don't really find it sensible that supernatural advantages and power paths are separate, but I'll address that in detail when I get to power paths.

Rather than try to cover all the corner cases, I'll just use a rule of thumb. In general, a (dis)advantage may be purely advantageous, purely disadvantageous, or a mix thereof. For example, a character with the gigantism advantage is Size 6 and therefore has increased hit points, but the drawback is that they need to buy clothes in their size from special vendors (as well at whatever else the GM decides).
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 13, 2019, 02:57:00 PM
Personality Traits

Here we come to one of the most maligned aspects of the S* systems.

In Opening the Dark, we are given three "emotional traits" (passion, prudence, stoicism), an "ethos" trait (humane compassion or dark enlightenment), and a "madness" trait. This covers the traditional manifestation fairly well, but there are plenty of others.

The concept of three (sometimes four, sometimes more) emotional traits was present in numerous editions, including Vampire, Mummy, Exalted, Scion, etc. V5 and Exalted 3e have dropped them entirely, although they do use something more free-form to represent personality traits (e.g. touchstones, anchors, intimacies).

The purpose of these emotional traits was generally to resist mental influence, losing control, and for moral support. This overlaps with the Will mechanic, and as such it they were often treated interchangeably even though this wasn't the intent of the rules. Go figure. STing introduced resistance attributes, and as such it removed the emotional traits entirely. In Exalted, the intimacies play a key role in social combat.

Which brings us to ethos and madness. Opening the Dark adds madness as a distinct trait (each point inflicts one mental illness, unplayable once maxed out), but other S* systems didn't. Basically, the more your PC acted like a jerk, the more likely they were to lose ethos and go crazy (pejoratively derided as "steal a candy bar and develop schizophrenia"). It is a pointless stick mechanic, so naturally other ethos options were provided (pejoratively derided as "the path of whatever I was going to do anyway"). This remains a problem in STer and STing to this day.

Something I thought was funny about the human compassion ethos is that it works the opposite of how reality works. In reality, normal sane compassionate people develop mental illness as a result of doing bad things because they feel guilty even if their actions were justified by circumstances (e.g. mentally healthy people still feel guilty for killing in self-defense). In S* systems, the rules say that the character develops mental illness as a result of not feeling guilty.

STing 2e tries to play around with some of the ethos mechanics to do more of a light side/dark side thing or remove any moral component, but naturally the execution is clumsy. You can see examples in Werewolf's harmony and Changeling's clarity, which are now supposed to provide drawbacks the further they are from ~5. Considering how numbers are traditionally supposed to work in RPGs, IMO it would have made more sense to use an axis ranging from -5 to +5; maybe each side could be a different trait.

(EDIT: Mage Storytellers Handbook in 2002 introduced ideas for axes in this vein, with the example being seasons: winter/summer, autumn/spring.)

Exalted didn't have ethos, but instead has limit. Basically it was mental stress: once your character accumulated too much limit, then they suffered a temporary psychotic break ("limit break"). This was based on a variety of similar psychotic break mechanics that commonly appeared in the STer games (e.g. vampire frenzy, werewolf rage, mage bedlam, etc). That mechanic might be useful to port over to represent psychotic breaks in association with a mental/social hit point mechanic, assuming you care.

The Everlasting did all this tinkering years before White Wolf did. It allowed characters to have any number of personality traits that would IIRC provide modifiers to certain actions, and highly stressful events would change the PC's personality traits (one example given is the transformation into a vampire, which is so unpleasant that it causes severe personality changes). It's equivalent of ethos was "torment," and every character type had their own torment and this wasn't related to compassion or anything of the sort. Torment was an ascending trait with increasingly unpleasant consequences as it rose. Some character types had a secondary stat that worked in opposition to torment.

I'm not particularly interested in having any ethos traits. The non-stupid reason you'd need them would be for some kind of light side/dark side mechanic, but that doesn't look like a good fit for S* mechanics. Or at least White Wolf's writers haven't been able to make it work. I can't think of any approach that wouldn't be extremely clumsy. Vampires with humanity can't roll greater social interaction with humans than their humanity trait, but a reverse statistic that limits their vampire powers feels like it would be unpopular.

By comparison, something like Whistlepunk's Feed game implements the light side/dark side idea in a much more elegant fashion. It describes character traits in freeform rather than using universal attributes/skills. As a vampire loses humanity, they replace human traits with vampiric traits. For example, a vampire alienates a close friend and thus loses that friend from their social trait list, but replaces that trait with a new vampiric trait rated at the same level.

As always, feedback welcomed.

EDIT: Mike McConnell, author of Strands of Power, wrote "character trait" mechanics for the STing system (http://www.voidstarstudios.com/home/2011/6/3/aspect-like-mechanics-for-new-world-of-darkness.html?rq=world%20of%20darkness). Might be a decent source of ideas.

EDIT: I didn’t mentioned the Persona/Being rules from Opening the Dark. That’s because I don’t see any problem with them, other than the idea being more than a bit paranoid.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 13, 2019, 05:02:32 PM
Spitballing time.

Task resolution: rework the whole pass/fail paradigm of results. Base all results on what would be fun, not simulation. Take a page from Risus: e.g. an action movie hero will never fail to outrun the fireball, but he will have to roll to determine whether he lands in a swimming pool or a stinky dumpster.

Attributes and skills: codify combinations of attributes and skills into "feats" for easy reference. For example, offensive and defensive combat maneuvers would be feats; superpowers may roll particular feats if they are superpowered versions of those feats.

Background traits: use the STing style for perks/flaws. Take a page from V5 and allow a PC's flaws to apply to his backgrounds, meaning they give a constant stream of XP.

Combat: offer a unified mechanic for physical, mental, and social combat a la Risus. Offer both simplified and complex options for combat.

Ethos: optional. Rework it to reflect a more realistic understanding of conscience and desensitization.

I'll try post more detailed approaches later.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 14, 2019, 09:07:29 AM
Power Paths

And here we come to the cool part, as in the kewl powerz! As I said in the OP, White Wolf games generally implement super powers in a clumsy manner. So I'm not doing that.

The unofficial WoD point buy rules (https://app.box.com/s/9ki0mkhtch) provide a helpful breakdown of how White Wolf powers are generally designed. This is an expansion of Opening the Dark's explanation, which is bare bones.

Basically, Power Paths are essentially supernatural Advantages. A Power Path is ranked from 1-5. In order to learn a Power, or exception-based effect, you must have the prerequisite rank in the associated Power Path. When a PC buys ranks in a Power Path, each rank provides a free Power. Additional Powers may be purchased with XP. (In Opening the Dark default rules, Power Paths are only given one Power per rank. Some Power Paths only have one Power that scales with Rank.)

While Power Paths always provide access to Powers, the reverse isn't true. Depending on their concept, Opening the Dark allows a character may learn powers without learning the associated Power Path.

Powers come in several different types. "Fast" Powers basically work like how you imagine superpowers to work: you can run super fast, read auras, give magically-enforced commands, etc. "Ritual" Powers, as the name implies, are performed as stereotypical magical rituals; Opening the Dark uses Art/Praxis to serve the same role. "Supplemental" Powers don't have any effect on their own, but modify the use of another Power or Power Path; for example: increasing the scope of an effect (e.g. expanding personal invisibility to group invisibility, making magic claws more damaging), removing a limitation (e.g. allowing hypnosis to work by voice alone, allowing invisibility to work through recording devices), etc. (I also had an idea for "Flawed" Powers which are the opposite of Supplemental Powers.) "Combination" Powers combine the effects of two specific Powers or Power Paths; by default a Combination Power only requires sufficient ranks in both Power Paths, but a Supplemental Combination Power requires specific Powers.

Any other number of tags could be used to classify powers for game purposes, a la Exalted. Mental versus Physical, Passive versus Active, "Theme", etc. Separate from Powers, Power Paths are basically just a Theme tag with a rank associated. There's really no end to how one could devise and classify Power Paths and Powers. For example, some Power Paths may simply boost mundane traits a la SP System's mega-attributes: Super Strength, Super Toughness, Super Speed, etc.

Ranks in a Power Path may or may not be used to determine dice pools. In Opening the Dark they don't, although in STing and V5 they are.

[EDIT: A problem I just noticed is that "power" is used for both the attribute function and super powers. For example, Mental Power is an attribute and Mental Powers are superpowers affecting mental attributes. In order to avoid causing confusion I will have to adopt a different jargon in the future.]

Art & Praxis
Opening the Dark uses a simple syntactic magic mechanic (http://pseudoboo.blogspot.com/2016/02/mechanics-syntactic-magic.html). It seems to be based on the "foundation"/"pillar" mechanic from Dark Ages: Mage, with the addition of a neat little rule "law of nemesis" which gives every Praxis a weakness of some kind. The only flaw I noticed is that it fairly bare bones and is far less robust than other syntactic magic systems, but that's not a deal breaker to me.

The unofficial point buy rules include a similar "influences" mechanic which prices XP costs based on the theme of an influence.

I have tons of ideas for powers, but I'm going to save that for when I start brainstorming splats.

Essence
Under this category I'm lumping a bunch of tangentially related mechanics. Opening the Dark has a section on "The Price" explaining how to adjudicate costs for powers and magic, so I won't repeat it here. WoD Point Buy includes a number of buyable traits that deal with this stuff.

Anyway, this category includes the closest thing the S* system games have to character level: generation, blood potency, essence, legend, quantum, blah blah blah. The S* system games have always felt a bizarre need to constantly tinker with how power levels and power costs work. Many games often had characters managing multiple different pools of power points with different applications, such as glamour/banality, rage/gnosis, yin/yang, ba/ka/sekhem, etc.

It took years, but the STing system codified two traits involved in this: Supernatural Potency and Supernatural Tolerance. Supernatural Potency is used to determine things like trait maximums. Supernatural Tolerance is used to boost resistance against Powers. In earlier editions both Supernatural Potency and Supernatural Tolerance were derived from the same statistic (WoD point buy calls this "Arcana"), but eventually the writers decided to change things up for whatever reason.


[/HR]

I'm going to take a page from The Everlasting and use the same rules jargon for these sorts of concepts, while giving each splat their own jargon if desired. For example, all splats have powers, essence, potency, and ethos. Vampires would use the specific jargon dark gifts, blood, blood-potency, and damnation.

As always, feedback is welcomed. Next up: spirits and generic monsters.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on November 14, 2019, 09:57:14 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1113752
Generally, addressing dump stats requires tweaking the rest of the rules in a conscious attempt to give every Attribute uses.

And not only does every Attribute have to have a valuable use, but they all have to have sufficiently important uses in actual game play that a PC can choose to specialize in them and still be viable.

The downside to that, of course, is that the more important a particular function is in gameplay, the less likely any given group is to be able to do without someone who's good at it. In D&D they used to call this the "Somebody's Gotta Play The Cleric" effect.  And the plain truth is that some functions just are more important than others: nobody ever put together a D&D party without at least one fighter in it.

I like your idea of switching up the stat used by combat style, or even by round to round choice of manoeuvre: you could call the manoeuvres "Quick Strike" (pool = SNS + Melee), "Finesse Strike" (DEX + Melee), and "Power Strike" (STR + Melee), and then throw in a rule that repeating a single attack type too often gets predictable and thus easier to defend against.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on November 14, 2019, 11:18:40 AM
With regard to "Defense Values", I and many other players actually prefer the chance to make an active defense roll where possible; even if the probabilities amount to about the same, the illusion of being able to "DO something!" in our own defense is a valued part of the game. (Though I do appreciate that setting a static defense value does reduce handling time.) Had you thought about including this as an option?

And with regard to mental/social conflicts, I've always preferred the terminology of Influence Rolls, since the basic game object is a rule-based way to get one character to cooperate with another's wishes.

(One useful technique in such contests is that, if it's possible for PCs to lose them and thus have agency taken away from their character, there should be a compensatory reward or incentive to soften the sting -- perhaps players who cheerfully accept and roleplay the result of losing an Influence Contest get an extra XP for "Going With The Roll".)
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 14, 2019, 11:45:21 AM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1113881
And not only does every Attribute have to have a valuable use, but they all have to have sufficiently important uses in actual game play that a PC can choose to specialize in them and still be viable.

The downside to that, of course, is that the more important a particular function is in gameplay, the less likely any given group is to be able to do without someone who's good at it. In D&D they used to call this the "Somebody's Gotta Play The Cleric" effect.  And the plain truth is that some functions just are more important than others: nobody ever put together a D&D party without at least one fighter in it.
Quite true. That's why I suggested that Attributes could overlap in terms of applications: partly because Attributes are an arbitrary game convention no matter how you distinguish them, and partly to avoid the "somebody's gotta play the cleric" by making all attributes viable but not vital.

That's part of why I can't really decide whether mental and social combat should really be separate or not. I don't want Intelligence to be a dump stat, but I don't want all the characters to be combat spec'd if the adventures aren't about combat. I find the combat focus in S* system games to be obnoxious, especially given that the physical combat rules are used for spirits rather than a more thematic spiritual combat mechanic.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1113881
I like your idea of switching up the stat used by combat style, or even by round to round choice of manoeuvre: you could call the manoeuvres "Quick Strike" (pool = SNS + Melee), "Finesse Strike" (DEX + Melee), and "Power Strike" (STR + Melee), and then throw in a rule that repeating a single attack type too often gets predictable and thus easier to defend against.
Yes, although I'd leave the level of granularity up to the GM. The basic idea is to let characters specialize without handicapping them. If the campaign is combat focused, then this lets PCs develop more distinct dice pools.
However, I don't think S* Systems are particularly good for combat.


[/HR]

Spirits and planes

The spirit rules in Opening the Dark are comparable to the various spirit rules used in the STer and STing games. Opening the Dark calls all bodiless entities "spirits," with subtypes including ghosts, animae, demons, etc. Spirits have only three attributes, are ranked by a general power level, have a "domain" trait that works like art/praxis, use essence as both hit points and power points, and have miscellaneous spirit powers for everything else.

In terms of rules, I would burrow a few things from other S* games. I'd distinguish manifestation powers (a la STing 2e), essence from hit points (or maybe distinguish peripheral and personal essence a la WitchCraft), and use the same potency ranking that PCs use (a la Exalted). (That last one is probably going to require reworking how super potency works for PCs too, given that since it was introduced in 2004 we've had characters introduced with scores of 0. By comparison, PCs in Exalted typically start around 4 or more.)

Otherwise, I have a beef with how S* games have presented spirits in general. They're basically running under D&D's ethereal plane logic. Fighting spirits consists of finding a ghost touch weapon and hitting them repeatedly with it until they die. I don't find this very thematic.

If you watch movies about ghosts and ghost-like creatures, then you may notice that it is very common for these spirits not to be limited by spacetime like humans are. It makes no thematic sense to assume all spirits have ethereal bodies that can be hit with ethereal weapons.

I'd take that into account and allow spirits to be treated as hazards/terrain rather than para-physical creatures. How do you fight something that you can't punch in the face? Spiritual combat. Remember when I mentioned mental/social combat? That can be retrofitted to represent other conflicts like psychic combat and spiritual combat.

I'll use an example from the IT movies. When the losers are fighting it, they aren't really fighting it physically because it doesn't have a physical form. It can cause physical harm and warp reality, but this is due to its psychic powers. When the losers fight it, they are pitting their wills against it in psychic/spiritual combat.

On a related note, the STing 1e rules mentioned that ghosts had variable appearances based on their Power Attribute. They didn't all look like humans but could appear as ghostly orbs or other spooky SFX (presumably representing how much of their life they remember informing their residual self-image). The STing 2e rules completely ignored this and in general avoided any kind of evocative fluff in that vein. (While I never liked the weird underworld cosmology, I always found Wraith and Orpheus' attempts to include ghosts of variable potency and non-human ghosts fascinating.)

Anyway, this sort of stuff can be represented in game terms through manifestation powers (including not just STing's manifestation numina (http://wodcodex.com/wiki/Numina) but also CtL's manifestations (https://whitewolf.fandom.com/wiki/True_Fae_(CofD)#Forms_of_the_Gentry)). Basically, spirits can't interact with the world until they "manifest" and how they manifest is highly variable.

That brings me to the types of spirits and the planes of existence. I detest the planes of existence, or at least the idiosyncratic way the S* games typically presented it. Which is why I decided to take cues from Everlasting, WitchCraft, and personal fiat.

I decided to jettison the concepts of Spirit World and Underworld completely. I don't see any need for them (other planes are a different matter). Ghosts and Animae exist on Earth and are tied to earthly things. Ghosts are tied to their anchors/fetters/mementos/heirlooms/whatever; if those are destroyed or resolved, they cross over. Animae are similarly connected to their physical counterparts.

Per animism everything can be said to have a soul. For humans (and possibly other things), their souls or echoes thereof may linger on Earth as ghosts after death. For natural phenomena, inanimate objects, and such, there are animae (literally the Latin word for soul). Most of the time an anima is unconscious and may never wake. Animae only become concerns of the PCs if the PCs either need the assistance of one or an anima is the monster of the week. For example, animated inanimate objects are the result of the object's anima awakening and animating its physical counterpart.

OtD mentions demons as your generic beings from hell. An idea that occurred to me was to adopt the original Greek definition (https://www.theoi.com/greek-mythology/personifications.html) of demons as the spirits of abstract concepts. Eudemons  (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/eudemon)are benevolent, cacodemons  (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/cacodemon)are malevolent. Given the inherently transient nature of most abstract concepts, demons must continually hunt for essence. Naturally, this means they are likely to attract the attention of the PCs. (From an OOC POV, my "demons" cover the various quasi-spiritual stuff in STing games like passion shades, emotion spirits, demons, angels, goetia, chimeras, and so forth that have accumulated over the years.)

(PC angels, demons, and ghosts wouldn't operate by these rules. STing has this vague design philosophy in which every splat would have an antagonistic spirit and/or monster counterpart, which I'd lay out as explicit here for simplicity and reference.)

I'm not opposed to other planes, but if you include them as more than just a few lines of fluff than there needs to be a very good reason to have them. Don't have them just because earlier editions of S* did. If you do add other planes, then don't feel the need to force them into a pop-Christian worldview either. (The problem I have with STer/STing's "underworld" is that it's limbo/purgatory and not the afterlife of pre-Christian religions; Disney's Once Upon A Time show did the same thing and I still find it grating. When it comes to urban fantasy specifically, I prefer to leave the nature of the afterlife ambiguous rather than definitively prove or disprove any particular real world religion.)


[/HR]

If anyone has requests for me to touch or go into more detail on a particular topic, then feel free to ask.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 14, 2019, 12:02:25 PM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1113881
And not only does every Attribute have to have a valuable use, but they all have to have sufficiently important uses in actual game play that a PC can choose to specialize in them and still be viable.

The downside to that, of course, is that the more important a particular function is in gameplay, the less likely any given group is to be able to do without someone who's good at it. In D&D they used to call this the "Somebody's Gotta Play The Cleric" effect.  And the plain truth is that some functions just are more important than others: nobody ever put together a D&D party without at least one fighter in it.
Quite true. That's why I suggested that Attributes could overlap in terms of applications: partly because Attributes are an arbitrary game convention no matter how you distinguish them, and partly to avoid the "somebody's gotta play the cleric" by making all attributes viable but not vital.

That's part of why I can't really decide whether mental and social combat should really be separate or not. I don't want Intelligence to be a dump stat, but I don't want all the characters to be combat spec'd if the adventures aren't about combat. I find the combat focus in S* system games to be obnoxious, especially given that the physical combat rules are used for spirits rather than a more thematic spiritual combat mechanic.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1113881
I like your idea of switching up the stat used by combat style, or even by round to round choice of manoeuvre: you could call the manoeuvres "Quick Strike" (pool = SNS + Melee), "Finesse Strike" (DEX + Melee), and "Power Strike" (STR + Melee), and then throw in a rule that repeating a single attack type too often gets predictable and thus easier to defend against.
Yes, although I'd leave the level of granularity up to the GM. The basic idea is to let characters specialize without handicapping them. If the campaign is combat focused, then this lets PCs develop more distinct dice pools.
However, I don't think S* Systems are particularly good for combat.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1113883
With regard to "Defense Values", I and many other players actually prefer the chance to make an active defense roll where possible; even if the probabilities amount to about the same, the illusion of being able to "DO something!" in our own defense is a valued part of the game. (Though I do appreciate that setting a static defense value does reduce handling time.) Had you thought about including this as an option?
I mentioned before in my analysis of the task resolution that different groups have different tastes and I would let them decide on stuff like this. So yes.

I didn't go into too much detail since I haven't actually addressed physical combat as its own subject, but I guess now's as good a time as any.

The physical combat in S* systems can essentially be broken down into the following steps:

The earliest editions used four rolls, though later editions started changing some to static values in order to streamline combat. STing 1e reduced it to a single roll. If you're going for a modular format like me, then it makes the most sense to explain how these work so that groups may decide what to abstract.

As another alternative to streamline combat, you could try mimicking the "players roll all dice" concept from Unearthed Arcana. Only players would roll dice, whereas NPCs would rely on static values for attack and defense. So when a PC rolls to defend, they subtract that from the NPC's Static Attack Value to determine how much damage they receive.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1113883
And with regard to mental/social conflicts, I've always preferred the terminology of Influence Rolls, since the basic game object is a rule-based way to get one character to cooperate with another's wishes.

(One useful technique in such contests is that, if it's possible for PCs to lose them and thus have agency taken away from their character, there should be a compensatory reward or incentive to soften the sting -- perhaps players who cheerfully accept and roleplay the result of losing an Influence Contest get an extra XP for "Going With The Roll".)
The Sway rules address this in a section helpfully titled "don't tell me how to play my character." The concept of player control is way too big for me to broach here. In order for relationship mechanics to work, then the players need to actually care about them as otherwise they will complain about losing control.


[/HR]

Spirits and planes

The spirit rules in Opening the Dark are comparable to the various spirit rules used in the STer and STing games. Opening the Dark calls all bodiless entities "spirits," with subtypes including ghosts, animae, demons, etc. Spirits have only three attributes, are ranked by a general power level, have a "domain" trait that works like art/praxis, use essence as both hit points and power points, and have miscellaneous spirit powers for everything else.

In terms of rules, I would burrow a few things from other S* games. I'd distinguish manifestation powers (a la STing 2e), essence from hit points (or maybe distinguish peripheral and personal essence a la WitchCraft), and use the same potency ranking that PCs use (a la Exalted). (That last one is probably going to require reworking how super potency works for PCs too, given that since it was introduced in 2004 we've had characters introduced with scores of 0. By comparison, PCs in Exalted typically start around 4 or more.)

Otherwise, I have a beef with how S* games have presented spirits in general. They're basically running under D&D's ethereal plane logic. Fighting spirits consists of finding a ghost touch weapon and hitting them repeatedly with it until they die. I don't find this very thematic.

If you watch movies about ghosts and ghost-like creatures, then you may notice that it is very common for these spirits not to be limited by spacetime like humans are. It makes no thematic sense to assume all spirits have ethereal bodies that can be hit with ethereal weapons.

I'd take that into account and allow spirits to be treated as hazards/terrain rather than para-physical creatures. How do you fight something that you can't punch in the face? Spiritual combat. Remember when I mentioned mental/social combat? That can be retrofitted to represent other conflicts like psychic combat and spiritual combat.

I'll use an example from the IT movies. When the losers are fighting it, they aren't really fighting it physically because it doesn't have a physical form. It can cause physical harm and warp reality, but this is due to its psychic powers. When the losers fight it, they are pitting their wills against it in psychic/spiritual combat.

On a related note, the STing 1e rules mentioned that ghosts had variable appearances based on their Power Attribute. They didn't all look like humans but could appear as ghostly orbs or other spooky SFX (presumably representing how much of their life they remember informing their residual self-image). The STing 2e rules completely ignored this and in general avoided any kind of evocative fluff in that vein. (While I never liked the weird underworld cosmology, I always found Wraith and Orpheus' attempts to include ghosts of variable potency and non-human ghosts fascinating.)

Anyway, this sort of stuff can be represented in game terms through manifestation powers (including not just STing's manifestation numina (http://wodcodex.com/wiki/Numina) but also CtL's manifestations (https://whitewolf.fandom.com/wiki/True_Fae_(CofD)#Forms_of_the_Gentry)). Basically, spirits can't interact with the world until they "manifest" and how they manifest is highly variable.

That brings me to the types of spirits and the planes of existence. I detest the planes of existence, or at least the idiosyncratic way the S* games typically presented it. Which is why I decided to take cues from Everlasting, WitchCraft, and personal fiat.

I decided to jettison the concepts of Spirit World and Underworld completely. I don't see any need for them (other planes are a different matter). Ghosts and Animae exist on Earth and are tied to earthly things. Ghosts are tied to their anchors/fetters/mementos/heirlooms/whatever; if those are destroyed or resolved, they cross over. Animae are similarly connected to their physical counterparts.

Per animism everything can be said to have a soul. For humans (and possibly other things), their souls or echoes thereof may linger on Earth as ghosts after death. For natural phenomena, inanimate objects, and such, there are animae (literally the Latin word for soul). Most of the time an anima is unconscious and may never wake. Animae only become concerns of the PCs if the PCs either need the assistance of one or an anima is the monster of the week. For example, animated inanimate objects are the result of the object's anima awakening and animating its physical counterpart.

OtD mentions demons as your generic beings from hell. An idea that occurred to me was to adopt the original Greek definition (https://www.theoi.com/greek-mythology/personifications.html) of demons as the spirits of abstract concepts. Eudemons  (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/eudemon)are benevolent, cacodemons  (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/cacodemon)are malevolent. Given the inherently transient nature of most abstract concepts, demons must continually hunt for essence. Naturally, this means they are likely to attract the attention of the PCs. (From an OOC POV, my "demons" cover the various quasi-spiritual stuff in STing games like passion shades, emotion spirits, demons, angels, goetia, chimeras, and so forth that have accumulated over the years.)

(PC angels, demons, and ghosts wouldn't operate by these rules. STing has this vague design philosophy in which every splat would have an antagonistic spirit and/or monster counterpart, which I'd lay out as explicit here for simplicity and reference.)

I'm not opposed to other planes, but if you include them as more than just a few lines of fluff than there needs to be a very good reason to have them. Don't have them just because earlier editions of S* did. If you do add other planes, then don't feel the need to force them into a pop-Christian worldview either. (The problem I have with STer/STing's "underworld" is that it's limbo/purgatory and not the afterlife of pre-Christian religions; Disney's Once Upon A Time show did the same thing and I still find it grating. When it comes to urban fantasy specifically, I prefer to leave the nature of the afterlife ambiguous rather than definitively prove or disprove any particular real world religion.)


[/HR]

If anyone has requests for me to touch or go into more detail on a particular topic, then feel free to ask.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 14, 2019, 01:30:12 PM
Splats

S* system games are famous (or perhaps infamous) for their "splats" or character class/faction options.

The World of Darkness games used the same basic rules, so it was possible to crossover and play monster mashes. In practice, there were numerous problems with this. Each splat used a completely different set of superpower rules and their fluff wasn't remotely integrated with one another. One of the supplements, Ascension, outright stated that each game took place in a separate universe which occasionally crossed over due to comic book-style hypertime.

The Chronicles of Darkness games initially tried to be more crossover friendly, but only paid lipservice to the idea while failing to solve the mechanical and fluff barriers.

The Everlasting and WitchCraft were both written in direct response to World of Darkness for these reasons and both were much better at crossover friendliness than Chronicles of Darkness ever was. They used unified mechanics for all splats and their unified backstories made provisions for all splats.

Nightlife, which predates World of Darkness, never had this problem because it started with all characters using universal rules and a cohesive setting. Other urban fantasy games of the 90s, like Immortal: Invisible War and Nephilim, didn't have the problem either.

You can probably guess what school of design I follow.

Anyway, the appeal of splats isn't just their superpowers but also their extensive fluff and ready-made personality templates for characters to follow.

Splats as used by S* games may be divided into a few different types: fatsplats, inherent splats, social splats, and sub-splats. This jargon was invented by fans and there doesn't seem to be a codified jargon in the rulebooks (this is white wolf, after all). Everlasting used universal jargon "genos" and "sub-genos."



Anyway, what the splats are is essentially arbitrary. Nightlife, Darkness, Everlasting, and WitchCraft all have a bunch of similar and very different ideas. Most of their ideas are quite niche. If you're writing monster mash game like I am, then it probably makes the most sense to write social splats that cover multiple fat splats. It probably makes the most sense to define all your splats at the start, rather than take the lazy path of making a new one when you want and retrofitting prior work.

When devising the splats, it probably makes the most sense to base them on concepts with a lot of cultural basis. Otherwise the concept may be too niche to attract interest. The vampires, werewolves, wizards, ghosts, and fairies are your go-to choices. Otherwise, I'm just going to quote myself from the last time I tried listing splat ideas:

Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1106074
It's for a potential Storytelling System retroclone based on Opening the Dark (https://www.scribd.com/lists/2653023/Opening-the-Dark), but I had an idea for a monster PC setting inspired primarily by Nightlife, World of Darkness, The Everlasting, and WitchCraft.

(Aside: if I wanted to play investigators, then I would go with one of the many investigation games that already exist like Call of Cthulhu, Cryptworld, Monster of the Week, and so forth. There's no shortage of them.)

It's still in the planning stages, but right now I had several ideas for character options:
  • Vampires, but more diverse a la Nightlife. You aren't limited to a quasi-Ricean chassis. This includes concepts like corpse-eating ghouls and youth-sucking whatever.
  • Werewolves and other shapeshifters. How you become a werewolf is variable, and you can have other or additional animal forms a la Exalted's lunars.
  • Mages and mad scientists and such. All characters can pursue some manner of sorcery, but these guys get additional options based on the Osirians from Everlasting.
  • Ghosts, projectors, reapers, revenants and such. You can play as dead people trying to finish their unfinished business, a ghost who sells their services as an exorcist or spy, professional ghost busters, a combination of Dead Like Me and Tru Calling and Final Destination, etc.
  • Fairies and changelings. You can play as an inhuman fair folk toying with mortals, or as a changeling who exists somewhere between human and fairy and perhaps worried about the evil queen's huntsman. I considered making genies their own option, but decided it made more sense to fold them into fairies.
  • Demons and other fallen divinities. To reflect a less Christian worldview, this includes Greek titans, Norse jotun, Hindu asuras, Persian daevas, etc. It's also agnostic: there's no evidence of what demons were before they escaped "hell" (which may just be the astral plane anyhow) and they have to cobble together their own worldviews, so you can play a demon trying to earn redemption through good deeds or a demon who thinks God put you on Earth to tempt mortals and punish them for sinning.
  • Hunters. Pretty much the same as Hunter: The Vigil. Hunters are essentially normal people who hunt down paranormal phenomena, and sometimes they have paranormal abilities of their own that blur the boundaries between hunter and hunted. That blurring is why I cover them here rather than ignore them as being part of the opposing investigation subgenre.
  • Mummies. You can play as a mummy from any historical period, whether that be the mythical Irem or a celtic bog mummy. I may fold this into the ghosts category.
  • Animates and re-animates. This includes both prometheans and zombies a la Zombie: The Coil. PCs were created by sorcery or super science to be artificial people, slaves, guardians or whatever, but now they're free and seek their own fate. Any homunculus, golem, or zombie created by the powers of other splats can potentially ascend to this state. This category may include spirits bound into physical vessels, like the gargoyles from The Everlasting.
  • All-purpose freaks. This includes things like CoD's deviants and similar fansplats like Pathogen: The Infected, Outsider: The Calling, and Hunchback: The Lurching (yes, that was a thing someone tried). I may fold this into the animates and re-animates, since the only difference is (maybe) the presence of a soul. PC freaks may be on the run from whatever evil organization created them (assuming they didn't do this to themselves or contracted it from the woodwork), or created/employed specifically to help the party. Yes, you can play as the Igor (or whatever) to the party's Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, and Wolf-Man.
  • Angels. The flipside of demons. Basically, you get to play Touched by an Angel or whitelighters from Charmed. The setting is agnostic, so you don't have to be a literal Christian angel. You could have been born from the astral plane or resurrected by wiccans.
  • Mythic heroes. Basically Scion, except agnostic. There's huge overlap between this and Hunter, so I may well fold them together.
  • Generic monsters. They might have survived from ancient times or literally waltzed out of a nightmare. This covers Beast: The Primordial, Levianthan: The Tempest, Dragon: The Whatever, and the Possessed from The Everlasting. You have the option of embracing your monstrous nature and terrorizing humanity, or defying it and becoming a monster hero. Other character types can become this as a result of becoming too evil or whatever.
I intend on balancing these using a point buy system of some kind (like this one (https://ruscumag.wordpress.com/white-wolf/)), so these categories are essentially arbitrary anyway.


Since characters would use the same guidelines for powers, characters with two fatsplats wouldn't necessarily be gamebreaking. I could try writing various hybrid splats as options, such as ghostly vampires, ghostly wizards, vampire mummies, vampire werewolves, etc.

Since this is an ST retroclone, I feel obligated to include karma/sanity meters despite my noted dislike for them. I could try the same as Everlasting and not tie them to morality or anything.

Burrowing a page from STing, I had this idea that each fatsplat would have associated NPC splats. These would fall into a few general categories: semi-mortal associates, spiritual allies/antagonists, monstrous allies/antagonists, and "villainous" counterparts.

For example, vampires would have renfields, striges, mindless vampires, and demonic vampires.


[/HR]

Vampires

Which brings me to vampires. Vampires and vampiric creatures are probably the easiest fatsplat to tinker with given all the attention they received. Nightlife, World of Darkness, Warhammer, The Everlasting, Dresden Files, Feed, Liminal, and more have all dedicated space to various ideas of vampires. Every character option in Nightlife is essentially vampiric, including the werewolves and demons.

There's pretty much no idea I could do that hasn't been done before. At best, I could try remixing familiar ideas or offering from a selection of example settings. Vampire worlds? Maybe try writing a detailed vampire setting where the majority of vampires are soulless and the PCs are part of the minority?

Anyhow, my basic idea for vampires was to expand their concepts a la Nightlife or Feed. For example, the vampire fatsplat would include blood-sucking vampires, youth-sucking mummies, sex-having succubi, etc. Vampire: The Masquerade basically ripped-off its splats from other vampire media, so I could do the same without fear of copyright suits. Bram Stoker's Dracula, Anne Rice's Lestat, Brian Lumley's Wamphyri, The Lost Boys, Nosferatu, 80s/90s b-movie vampires, etc. World mythology like the lamia, upyr and nekomata.

At that point, one wonders what it is that define vampires as a fatsplat. I don't know if there is any definitive answer, but Feed suggested that it was their need to feed (on humans) and their struggle between their human and vampire natures. In general, if you want advice on designing vampires then Feed is probably the single best resource.

What kinds of vampires would anyone here want to see? What is the appeal of playable vampires in the first place?


[/HR]

EDIT: Vampires haven’t been around in the popular consciousness long enough to have developed any common archetypes. White Wolf attempted to codify archetypes, although it is questionable whether they succeeded.
An article by The Mary Sue (https://www.themarysue.com/the-10-greatest-vampire-archetypes/) describes the following “archetypes”:


YMMV.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 14, 2019, 08:41:26 PM
I forgot to mention it before, but I mentioned it in the past when I compared World of Darkness with Monsterhearts.

At some point in time, the Darkness games were supposed to be fantastical metaphors for real human issues. Vampires were addicts, werewolves were mixed race, changelings were abuse survivors, etc. Monsterhearts got a ton of mileage out of this. The White Wolf writers forgot and remembered it many times over the decades, so that's how we ended up with a ton of weird niche game concepts that seem to attract more far more discussion and fandumb argument than actual play.

This topic isn't about recreating Monsterhearts, but I suspect that the same reasoning might be necessary to distinguish fatsplats. A splat might be a creative, but it won't have much interest without the extra oomph provided by a fantastical metaphor for a real life issue. Promethean, Geist and Demon: The Descent seemingly lack that vital human component. Deviant is a scifi rehash of Changeling and Promethean.

I find it a bit frustrating myself. If anybody has suggestions for metaphors that could support splat concepts, then feel free to share.

As always, I welcome feedback, questions, and requests.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on November 15, 2019, 10:12:38 AM
A belated and possibly too-large-to-answer-easily question comes to mind: One of the biggest inherent contradictions of the entire S*oD (Story-Whatever Of Darkness) game lines was, I thought, something that has been talked about before but (as far as I've seen) never really resolved anywhere, which is the basic conflict between the style of game the creators always seemed to assume and design for and the style of game that, in practice, most often actually got played. The former was assumed to always be very heavily character- and emotion-driven with a great deal of underlying philosophical and psychological conflict, where holding on to what the character values is more important than anything else; the latter almost always seemed to turn into trenchcoat-wearing, katana-wielding Hammer-flavoured superhero detectives, with the typical emphasis on "leveling up" and getting more powerful, and where the climax of an adventure was most often still the Big Fight.

That sounds dismissive but it's not meant to be: I think both styles of game are equally valid for those who enjoy them. However, the clash between the setting as presented and the setting as mostly actually played still creates some discord, and I think it was due, essentially, to the creators failing to realize that the fundamental structural assumptions of the game -- i.e., that it is a teamwork exercise in combining character capacities to overcome obstacles and earn rewards through clever manipulation of a rule system -- are themselves just at odds with the kind of story they imagined the players telling. Have you given any thought to how this retro-hack will address that issue?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 15, 2019, 01:05:53 PM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1113998
A belated and possibly too-large-to-answer-easily question comes to mind: One of the biggest inherent contradictions of the entire S*oD (Story-Whatever Of Darkness) game lines was, I thought, something that has been talked about before but (as far as I've seen) never really resolved anywhere, which is the basic conflict between the style of game the creators always seemed to assume and design for and the style of game that, in practice, most often actually got played. The former was assumed to always be very heavily character- and emotion-driven with a great deal of underlying philosophical and psychological conflict, where holding on to what the character values is more important than anything else; the latter almost always seemed to turn into trenchcoat-wearing, katana-wielding Hammer-flavoured superhero detectives, with the typical emphasis on "leveling up" and getting more powerful, and where the climax of an adventure was most often still the Big Fight.

That sounds dismissive but it's not meant to be: I think both styles of game are equally valid for those who enjoy them. However, the clash between the setting as presented and the setting as mostly actually played still creates some discord, and I think it was due, essentially, to the creators failing to realize that the fundamental structural assumptions of the game -- i.e., that it is a teamwork exercise in combining character capacities to overcome obstacles and earn rewards through clever manipulation of a rule system -- are themselves just at odds with the kind of story they imagined the players telling. Have you given any thought to how this retro-hack will address that issue?


As you say, it is impossible to answer that easily. If people want a superhero game, then they should play a superhero game. Though I would like to fix that mismatch if at all possible. (For reference, I'm not particularly invested in either style. I just want something consistent.)

Promoting the style that the writers desired requires far more effort than the S* Systems put forward. Firstly, it requires the group playing the game actually buys into the idea. Secondly, it requires the rules to support that style specifically. Indie games do the second all the time, but it generally requires thinking around all the assumptions typically made by the pseudo-simulation school of thought.

Retrofitting that onto the S* mechanics would require genuine effort and critical thought. At the very least, you would need to write the mechanics to reward the players for roleplaying in a particular direction but not make them feel like they are being punished for not playing as intended. Essentially, you need to get the players mechanically invested in the intended direction of roleplaying.

For example, the Chaosium game Nephilim included mechanics in one book which ascribed characters "personality traits." Every character have five personality traits based on their splat, rated at statistics. These didn't define the character's behavior. Rather, the character's behavior would cause his personality traits to shift in value to reflect whether his behavior matches them. Cultivating the personality traits would grant the character various benefits including superpowers, so players had a mechanical incentive to roleplay in accordance with their splat's intended personality.

A key design flaw within the S* rules that reinforces the mismatch is that the rules support superhero play more than they do angsty melodrama. (The rules definitely suck at supporting any kind of horror atmosphere. I have no idea why anyone keeps insisting the games are remotely near the horror genre.) For example, a vampire PC may maintain high humanity and accumulate a laundry list of superpowers; that's not horror or melodrama, that's a superhero premise.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that the S* systems are mostly rules for combat and little else. PbtA games like Monsterhearts and Urban Shadows have heavily abstracted combat, with most of their mechanics focused on doing non-combative tasks like investigation, politics, etc. Players aren't punished for engaging in combat, but it isn't rewarding either because there's too little detail to produce an endorphin response.

Feed, which I have praised in the past for its unorthodox construction, has heavily abstracted combat and character traits. It includes social relationships, psychology and philosophical beliefs as statistics on the character sheet, qualitatively unique for every character due to the free-form descriptions. Unlike White Wolf's Vampire, it is structured in a way that it mechanically shows the point as which (for example) your vampire PC loses his human girlfriend or his belief in a loving God and replaces that with some vampiric substitute. It isn't possible for a vampire PC to maintain human relationships and accumulate a laundry list of superpowers because the rules were specifically designed to make that impossible, and in such a way that it doesn't visibly punish the player for going in either direction. Heck, one of the example settings is playing as villainous b-movie vampires.

That can't be easily retrofitted to the pseudo-simulation mechanics used by S* systems, any more than STing 2e could retrofit FATE's aspects without becoming extremely clunky. Exalted 3e easily has the most refined personality trait mechanic of any S* game and it's pretty terrible at measuring character development in the narrative sense (although to be fair Exalted is a straight-up superhero game so it never had the tonal dissonance in the first place). The STing 2e mechanics try to enforce the intended style and don't succeed well.

An embarrassing example of the White Wolf writers subconsciously realizing the problems was when they introduced the touchstones mechanic for the sole purpose of letting vampires violate their humanity without worrying about losing it (and similar mechanics have been introduced throughout the STing 2e games). Introducing a mechanic specifically to cheat a major facet of the game because people keep complaining means that said major facet is broken. A flimsy patch like that isn't going to resolve the underlying problems, the whole thing needs to be replaced.

I honestly don't know how to resolve the underlying problem while maintaining the S* mechanics. The best I can do is try clumsily retrofitting personality mechanics of some kind that reward players for roleplaying as intended without punishing them and convincing them to reject said mechanics. The path of least resistance would be to embrace how the game is actually played and offer campaign settings specifically for dark superheroes and murderous hobos.

I'm open to suggestions.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 16, 2019, 02:01:09 PM
At this point I'm considering rewarding action bonuses and XP for melodramatic roleplaying.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 18, 2019, 10:35:15 AM
For the purposes of saving time, I'm going to try imagining a dark superheroes setting that plays to the strengths of RPGs and better reflects how people actually play the game. This is going to have ramifications on splat fluff due to writing 101 theme logic.

Take vampires, for example. If you want a vampire superhero, then it probably makes the most sense for them to be one of the few vampires with a soul whereas most are soulless villains; a la Angel, Sonja Blue, or Vampire Hunter D. The Liminal RPG takes this approach. A key ramification of this is that a vampire hero isn't going to have a support network among the vampires, since they're sociopaths and s/he's not.

What do you think?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on November 18, 2019, 11:10:27 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1113930
If anybody has suggestions for metaphors that could support splat concepts, then feel free to share.

Well, the trick will be finding something that includes both room for a significant dramatic arc and the possibility to resolve it in either direction, as well as being emotionally resonant for the majority of the expected audience.  While being mixed-race is certainly one way to interpret werewolf imagery, I think that's actually an example of something unlikely to engage enough people on a personal level to work; likewise, while addiction is certainly a valid (and frequently used) core element of vampire myths, in practice I've never found the classic addict plot arc enough on its own to hold my interest, and I think a number of gamers would agree with that -- it's too bleak and too strict a story pattern.

If I had to pick a theme for the classic monster fatsplats I might suggest the following:

- Vampires: I'd steal a note from Ron Edwards' Sorcerer and make vampirism ultimately a story of dysfunctional but indispensable relationships. The hallmark of unlife as a vampire is that you will have no such thing as a fully honest, equal and healthy relationship ever again: vampires have to lie to almost everyone, especially their fellow undead, and can only afford to be honest with people over whom they have an unhealthy level of power and control. At the same time, isolation isn't an option because you need blood, and because solitude will drive you mad just as quickly.  One of the things I'd build in as almost a rules requirement if possible is that mortal NPCs have to be a critical part of the game -- maybe each player has not only a vampire PC, but also runs a secondary mortal PC for another of the vampire characters.  So the thematic drive of vampirism is: Juggling toxic but necessary relationships for as long as you can, whatever the cost.

- Werewolves: Ironically, I'd work addiction into the werewolf's theme just as much as the vampire's, because lycanthropy is ultimately about managing something that can provide tremendous power or pleasure in the short term at the cost of creating huge, even potentially fatal problems in the medium to long term. A werewolf should have as much trouble resisting his need to Rage and Change as a vampire does his need to feed, and like a vampire, he has a tremendous need for mortal companionship which at the same time he himself is the biggest threat to.  Moreover, the entire mythical point of the werewolf is the clash between human and wolf natures, so the only place a werewolf can find stable and safe relationships is in the context of a pack that, unless he's the leader, will constrict him and channel him in ways he may not want. Thus the thematic drive of lycanthropy is: Finding excuses to hold onto a power you don't want to give up which (at least semi-plausibly) justify the costs of keeping it, while trying to keep those costs and losses down to what you can tolerate. (The parallels with activists whose lives become distorted in their need to put everything to the service of the Cause are also relevant.)

- Empowered Humans: This can cover mages, psychics, miracleworkers, Hunters, supertech gadgeteers, whatever. The biggest problem with this fatsplat is, if this kind of power is real but the world still appears for the most part to look like our own, you have to think of a very good setting-specific reason why, as Larry Niven pointed out, over the long history of humankind we didn't do more with those powers. Mage (both versions) explains this as a tremendously effective conspiracy backed up by the nature of reality itself; Jim Butcher's Dresden Files writes it off as a combination of the rarity, unrecordability (anything sufficiently magical blows out electronics like cameras) and ostrich effects (nobody believes because the only people who want to believe are crazy enough to freak the rest of us out). However, whatever explanation is provided, it also includes an inevitable element of the same kinds of secrecy, dishonesty and power-danger that both werewolves and vampires represent.  If the Empowered are ostensibly more benevolent towards ordinary humans because they don't need to or want to feed off us the same way, they are more dangerous because they are fatally vulnerable to the temptation to attribute to themselves "a high and lonely destiny," to quote Uncle Andrew in The Magician's Nephew -- in other words, a ready-made justification to ignore whatever rules they like as inapplicable to them, like the Teragen of Aberrant. Thus the theme of the Empowered is: Resisting the temptation to do evil that good (as you define it) may come of it.

- Changelings/Scions:  As I never did get around to reading the Changeling games in full detail this is a lot more free-form spitballing than the above, but the single biggest difference here is that unlike vampires, werewolves or Empowered -- all of whom, at least, started off as human or as beings fully convinced they were human in all the ways that mattered -- a changeling, anyone descended from supernatural beings in any way, should probably have spent his or her entire life aware that on some level, he or she is just not like most of those around him. The parallel with LGBT issues is clear and obvious, but feeling alienated from a community is universal enough that anyone can sympathize. Moreover, like the other supernaturals, the big problem with trying to create a "found family" with other changelings, once you find them and learn what you are, is that it's fatally easy not to realize until it's too late (as people in both fandom circles and outright cults have done) that your superficially welcoming "found" family is actually more toxic and treacherous than your "natural" one would ever have been. If changelings of different kinds are all ruthlessly competing for different emotional highs from the mortals of their acquaintance, the supposed "shared world" of common nature may bring far less peace and happiness than expected. Thus, for me, the theme of a changeling-type splat is: Balancing separate lives in separate worlds, neither of which you can do without but both of which feel painfully incomplete.

That there's a lot of overlap in these themes is obvious -- any of these splats could also be adapted to any of the other themes -- but I think that helps in running an RPG because it offers ways for different fatsplats to come together in one campaign.

Quote from: BoxCrayonTales
At this point I'm considering rewarding action bonuses and XP for melodramatic roleplaying.

Have you ever seen the Spiritual Attributes system of The Riddle of Steel?  It's a very good system for incentivizing character roleplay in player-chosen directions.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 18, 2019, 12:03:58 PM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1114185
Well, the trick will be finding something that includes both room for a significant dramatic arc and the possibility to resolve it in either direction, as well as being emotionally resonant for the majority of the expected audience.  While being mixed-race is certainly one way to interpret werewolf imagery, I think that's actually an example of something unlikely to engage enough people on a personal level to work; likewise, while addiction is certainly a valid (and frequently used) core element of vampire myths, in practice I've never found the classic addict plot arc enough on its own to hold my interest, and I think a number of gamers would agree with that -- it's too bleak and too strict a story pattern.

If I had to pick a theme for the classic monster fatsplats I might suggest the following:

- Vampires: I'd steal a note from Ron Edwards' Sorcerer and make vampirism ultimately a story of dysfunctional but indispensable relationships. The hallmark of unlife as a vampire is that you will have no such thing as a fully honest, equal and healthy relationship ever again: vampires have to lie to almost everyone, especially their fellow undead, and can only afford to be honest with people over whom they have an unhealthy level of power and control. At the same time, isolation isn't an option because you need blood, and because solitude will drive you mad just as quickly.  One of the things I'd build in as almost a rules requirement if possible is that mortal NPCs have to be a critical part of the game -- maybe each player has not only a vampire PC, but also runs a secondary mortal PC for another of the vampire characters.  So the thematic drive of vampirism is: Juggling toxic but necessary relationships for as long as you can, whatever the cost.

- Werewolves: Ironically, I'd work addiction into the werewolf's theme just as much as the vampire's, because lycanthropy is ultimately about managing something that can provide tremendous power or pleasure in the short term at the cost of creating huge, even potentially fatal problems in the medium to long term. A werewolf should have as much trouble resisting his need to Rage and Change as a vampire does his need to feed, and like a vampire, he has a tremendous need for mortal companionship which at the same time he himself is the biggest threat to.  Moreover, the entire mythical point of the werewolf is the clash between human and wolf natures, so the only place a werewolf can find stable and safe relationships is in the context of a pack that, unless he's the leader, will constrict him and channel him in ways he may not want. Thus the thematic drive of lycanthropy is: Finding excuses to hold onto a power you don't want to give up which (at least semi-plausibly) justify the costs of keeping it, while trying to keep those costs and losses down to what you can tolerate. (The parallels with activists whose lives become distorted in their need to put everything to the service of the Cause are also relevant.)

- Empowered Humans: This can cover mages, psychics, miracleworkers, Hunters, supertech gadgeteers, whatever. The biggest problem with this fatsplat is, if this kind of power is real but the world still appears for the most part to look like our own, you have to think of a very good setting-specific reason why, as Larry Niven pointed out, over the long history of humankind we didn't do more with those powers. Mage (both versions) explains this as a tremendously effective conspiracy backed up by the nature of reality itself; Jim Butcher's Dresden Files writes it off as a combination of the rarity, unrecordability (anything sufficiently magical blows out electronics like cameras) and ostrich effects (nobody believes because the only people who want to believe are crazy enough to freak the rest of us out). However, whatever explanation is provided, it also includes an inevitable element of the same kinds of secrecy, dishonesty and power-danger that both werewolves and vampires represent.  If the Empowered are ostensibly more benevolent towards ordinary humans because they don't need to or want to feed off us the same way, they are more dangerous because they are fatally vulnerable to the temptation to attribute to themselves "a high and lonely destiny," to quote Uncle Andrew in The Magician's Nephew -- in other words, a ready-made justification to ignore whatever rules they like as inapplicable to them, like the Teragen of Aberrant. Thus the theme of the Empowered is: Resisting the temptation to do evil that good (as you define it) may come of it.

- Changelings/Scions:  As I never did get around to reading the Changeling games in full detail this is a lot more free-form spitballing than the above, but the single biggest difference here is that unlike vampires, werewolves or Empowered -- all of whom, at least, started off as human or as beings fully convinced they were human in all the ways that mattered -- a changeling, anyone descended from supernatural beings in any way, should probably have spent his or her entire life aware that on some level, he or she is just not like most of those around him. The parallel with LGBT issues is clear and obvious, but feeling alienated from a community is universal enough that anyone can sympathize. Moreover, like the other supernaturals, the big problem with trying to create a "found family" with other changelings, once you find them and learn what you are, is that it's fatally easy not to realize until it's too late (as people in both fandom circles and outright cults have done) that your superficially welcoming "found" family is actually more toxic and treacherous than your "natural" one would ever have been. If changelings of different kinds are all ruthlessly competing for different emotional highs from the mortals of their acquaintance, the supposed "shared world" of common nature may bring far less peace and happiness than expected. Thus, for me, the theme of a changeling-type splat is: Balancing separate lives in separate worlds, neither of which you can do without but both of which feel painfully incomplete.

That there's a lot of overlap in these themes is obvious -- any of these splats could also be adapted to any of the other themes -- but I think that helps in running an RPG because it offers ways for different fatsplats to come together in one campaign.
My God is that helpful. Thank you so much for sharing. A kernel like that is indispensable to creating an emotionally resonant fluff.

You are definitely right in that these could be adapted to any or all of the splats. Nightlife, for example, has all splats as essentially vampiric in nature.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1114185
Have you ever seen the Spiritual Attributes system of The Riddle of Steel?  It's a very good system for incentivizing character roleplay in player-chosen directions.
I have not read that. Thank you for sharing. I will need to take a look.

If anybody else would like to interject, then feel free.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on November 18, 2019, 01:09:18 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1114190
Thank you for sharing. I will need to take a look.

If anybody else would like to interject, then feel free.

Much obliged, and I'll reiterate the invitation to other readers as well. I actually feel kind of guilty for monopolizing your conversation.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on November 18, 2019, 02:38:36 PM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1114194
Much obliged, and I'll reiterate the invitation to other readers as well. I actually feel kind of guilty for monopolizing your conversation.

I suspect that the interest in WoD retroclones has been steadily waning as indie games have been steadily growing in popularity. When I was much younger I used to think that WoD was the best thing since sliced bread, but after getting life experience and familiarity with vampire media in general (thanks to Taliesin and Maven for their reviews and analyses) I now see WoD as arbitrary and restrictive.

Nowadays games like Urban Shadows, Monsterhearts, Feed, Liminal, Night Shift, Dresden Files and more can scratch the urban fantasy itch that White Wolf long held monopoly over.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on December 04, 2019, 06:21:24 AM
Stephen, if you're still there, I'd be interested in seeing your metaphorical takes on the other splats. For example, Changeling: The Lost and Deviant are both about human trafficking, and Promethean is Pinocchio.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on December 05, 2019, 11:41:15 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1115596
Stephen, if you're still there, I'd be interested in seeing your metaphorical takes on the other splats. For example, Changeling: The Lost and Deviant are both about human trafficking, and Promethean is Pinocchio.

Problem there is that I'm not as familiar with these games as the other ones. Any recommendations for a good "Gameplay 101" web page for them would give me a place to start from; it would still be spitballing, but I could probably come up with something semi-readable to say about them with a little work.

Based on what little I do know, this description, and two minutes' scan of the Onyx Path pages, for example, I'd say that C:tL strikes me more as being about trauma management and recovery, Deviant strikes me as being about balancing between the drive for justice and the need for revenge -- parallels with Nazi hunters and eco-/political activists galore there too -- and Promethean is about desperately trying to overcome parental issues by refusing to be what someone else tried very hard to make of you, as well as trying to figure out which parts of your deepest essence can be changed and which parts can't. But I'd need to know more about the games to be able to say anything useful at greater length, I think.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on December 06, 2019, 08:23:53 AM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1115706
Problem there is that I'm not as familiar with these games as the other ones. Any recommendations for a good "Gameplay 101" web page for them would give me a place to start from; it would still be spitballing, but I could probably come up with something semi-readable to say about them with a little work.

Based on what little I do know, this description, and two minutes' scan of the Onyx Path pages, for example, I'd say that C:tL strikes me more as being about trauma management and recovery, Deviant strikes me as being about balancing between the drive for justice and the need for revenge -- parallels with Nazi hunters and eco-/political activists galore there too -- and Promethean is about desperately trying to overcome parental issues by refusing to be what someone else tried very hard to make of you, as well as trying to figure out which parts of your deepest essence can be changed and which parts can't. But I'd need to know more about the games to be able to say anything useful at greater length, I think.

I don't know where to send you. I haven't been interested in these books for years. Sorry.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on December 06, 2019, 01:08:33 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1115793
I don't know where to send you. I haven't been interested in these books for years. Sorry.

In that case, I think that for purposes of a hack you can probably just start with the Big Four that have already been covered.

The thing that all the original WoD splats had, to make one note that I think will have to be added into whatever splats are provided, is one of the things that was unique to all the WoD games and was actually quite rare in other RPGs: all of them had mechanics in which the PC's power, as it increased, was counterbalanced by a mechanic of internal self-destruction in some way -- both the physical and the moral self, the latter reflected in some variety of mechanic that essentially took character control away from the player and then made them responsible for the consequences of that loss of control.  If the entirety of the World of Darkness has a theme, that razor's edge between power and self-destruction is it, and some notes on the generic mechanic of how to represent this will be useful across all the splats being considered.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on December 06, 2019, 03:04:04 PM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1115818
In that case, I think that for purposes of a hack you can probably just start with the Big Four that have already been covered.
I remembered we're forgetting ghosts! Do you have any advice on that?

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1115818
The thing that all the original WoD splats had, to make one note that I think will have to be added into whatever splats are provided, is one of the things that was unique to all the WoD games and was actually quite rare in other RPGs: all of them had mechanics in which the PC's power, as it increased, was counterbalanced by a mechanic of internal self-destruction in some way -- both the physical and the moral self, the latter reflected in some variety of mechanic that essentially took character control away from the player and then made them responsible for the consequences of that loss of control.  If the entirety of the World of Darkness has a theme, that razor's edge between power and self-destruction is it, and some notes on the generic mechanic of how to represent this will be useful across all the splats being considered.
Yep. This appeared in World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness as the various karma meters. Humanity was the first. The Everlasting called this mechanic "Torment" and had a torment for every one of its splats, ranging from "Damnation" to "Ennui."

Do you have any specific suggestions?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on December 06, 2019, 03:38:02 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1115834
I remembered we're forgetting ghosts! Do you have any advice on that?


Ironically ghosts were the one part of the WoD I never bought into at all. I've always believed that to tell a story from the Ghost's point of view is to basically destroy everything that makes the trope horrifying, especially when in order to maintain the stakes necessary to a character-survival game, the game had to sneak the ideas of Transcendence and Oblivion in through the "back door" of the setting anyway. I loved the concepts and the art of Wraith: The Oblivion, which is why I've always kept my copy, but I think a Ghost protagonist/PC is just a fundamental category error for horror or dark fantasy gaming/storytelling.

I recognize that's supremely unhelpful, of course, and I apologize, but I could certainly provide reactions to any ideas you had.

Quote
This appeared in World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness as the various karma meters. ...Do you have any specific suggestions?


Well, to make up for dropping the ball on the Wraith setting, I did in fact come up with my own very generic version, which I post in full below.  Some of the internal references here will not be applicable, but the basic structure should still be yoinkable:

Psyche and Traits

Traits are of three types, all rated from 1 to 5:
Virtues:      Compassion, Faith, Honour
Passions:      Devotion, Drive, Hatred
Flaws:      Hubris, Hunger, Rage

All Virtues start at 1; Passions start at 0.  Distribute points equal to your Willpower score among your Virtues and Passions.  Your Psyche begins equal to 5 plus your highest Virtue score.

Vampires start with Hunger 1.  Wyrfolk start with Rage 1.  Mages start with Hubris 1.  You can take additional points in Flaws at -5 XPs per point, but cannot start with any Flaw score over 2.

To Call Upon a Trait: spend 1 WP, then add the rating of that Trait to your AP for the appropriate roll.  You can call upon more than one Trait (at 1 WP per Trait), but the maximum bonus is +5 AP, as this is an Effort Bonus.
- If you are Calling Upon a Passion or a Flaw, you can spend 1 Urge instead of 1 WP.  However, this may count as a Violation.

To Conquer a Trait (which must be done whenever the character wants to do something that goes against the Trait, or to refuse to do an action encouraged by the Trait), characters have several options.
- Spend 1 WPR to act against the Trait, but take an AP penalty equal to the Trait's value to any Action Roll involved.  If Conquering a Passion or a Flaw, this adds 1 Urge to your running total.
- Spend 2 WPR to act against the Trait with no AP penalty.  If Conquering a Passion or a Flaw, this adds 2 Urge to your running total.
- Roll Willpower against a DF equal to (Trait + 4).  One success allows you to act at an AP penalty equal to Trait's value; every additional success reduces this penalty by 1.  No Urge is added to your running total if making a roll; however, if you are trying to Conquer a Passion or Flaw, add current total Urge to DF.   (Maximum DF is 10, if this totals more than 10.)  If your character is On the Edge and you lose this roll, character suffers an Eruption.
- If you are trying to Conquer a Virtue, you can spend Urge instead of WPR. However, this will almost certainly count as a Violation!

If you do not do any of these, the character cannot take the action that contradicts the Trait in question.

Urge and Eruptions
Urge is a kind of "anti-Willpower".  It represents the internal tension of being unable to act on your Passions and Flaws, and adds to the difficulty of Conquering them.  It starts from 0 and accumulates from various sources:
- Vampires automatically gain Urge whenever they wake for the night with a BP reserve lower than their Hunger + 5 (a fledgeling vampire with Hunger 1 gains Urge whenever he wakes with fewer than 6 BP).  They gain 1 Urge for each point their BP is below this limit.  This Urge is accumulative--a vampire who skips feeding for three nights after he begins feeling the thirst will have accumulated 6 Urge total (1 when he wakes with 5 BP, 2 when he wakes next night with 4 BP, 3 when he wakes again with 3 BP!)  Vampires can reduce Urge by 1 for every BP taken from a victim, even if that Urge was not gained from their blood-hunger
- Wyrfolk gain 1 Urge for every three days they go without shifting into their Therios or Myrmidon forms at least once, and this Urge cannot be reduced at all until the wyr shifts; every shift eliminates 1 Urge point.
- Mages gain 1 Urge if they go for a week without using a single casting of any type, and cannot reduce this Urge at all until they cast at least one spell; every spell cast eliminates 1 Urge point.

Once Urge surpasses your current WPR reserves, a character is On the Edge.  Roll a Contest of Willpower vs. Urge (both DF 6) whenever more Urge is taken; if the Willpower roll loses, character undergoes an Eruption.  If Urge hits 10 or higher, an Eruption is automatic and irresistible.  All Urge currently possessed is expended in the Eruption, dropping to 0 when done.

Scope of Eruption varies with the amount of Urge being expended:
< 4:  Minor
5-7:  Major
8+:  Critical
A character's actions during an Eruption are chosen by the Director, NOT the player, and will almost always be direct gratifications of the character's strongest Flaw.  This is almost certain to cause Violations to the character's Psyche.

Violations

A Violation is the term for any event, experience or choice that constitutes a fundamental injury to your very self. Conquering a Virtue, Calling Upon a Flaw (or a Passion in the wrong circumstances), choosing to commit a morally questionable action, or undergoing a traumatic or shattering experience can all be Violations, incurring psychic damage to one's morality, identity and personality.

Violations are ranked by their Scope, from 1 (extremely minor offenses or traumas) to 5 (world-wrecking sins, betrayals, horrors or losses).  What exactly constitutes a Violation, and how severe it is, is left deliberately vague, but it is often defined by the cultural paradigm in which someone grows up.  Different characters may consider the same action to be widely different in scope of Violation; wyrfolk Call Upon their Rage all the time without incurring much damage, but a vampire who constantly Calls Upon his Hunger will fall to madness faster than one would believe. A Violation may also vary in effective scope depending on the specific character's Psyche; the higher your Psyche, the "purer" and more idealistic and innocent you are, and the more damaging a particular action or experience will usually be. Screwing over, or getting screwed over by, a co-worker is probably only a 1d Violation for a jaded cynic with Psyche 6, but for the innocent newbie with Psyche 9, it may well be a 3d or even 4d Violation!

Whenever a character experiences or commits a Violation, he must make a Degeneration Test.  This is a Contest Roll of the Violation's Scope (1 to 5) against one of his Virtues; both rolls are DF 6.  The Virtue used depends on the cause and nature of the Violation:
- If the Violation is the result of an action you took or choice you made yourself, roll against your Honour--you are struggling to come to terms with your own betrayal of your principles, conscience and integrity.
- If the Violation is the result of someone else's action against you, either an individual or an identifiable group, roll against your Compassion--you are fighting to understand and forgive the one(s) who hurt you.
- If the Violation is a general event that "just happened", with no identifiable necessary reason or directly responsible person/group, roll against your Faith--you are attempting to reconcile the fact of your misfortune with belief in a supposedly meaningful, impartial or benevolent universe.

You cannot spend WPs or Call Upon another Trait to help with a Degeneration Test.  With a sufficiently clever explanation (the GM must decide if it fits the specific Violation), a player may substitute another Virtue for the one normally used, but the DF for the Virtue roll rises to 7.

If the Virtue roll wins or ties the Contest, the character has integrated the experience, action or event into his Psyche without significant permanent trauma--he may be "sadder but wiser", but is still essentially the same person. At the GM's option, if the Virtue roll beats the Violation roll by 5 successes or more (remember that 10s count for 2 successes), the insight or enlightenment of the experience may allow the character to raise his Psyche by 1: his suffering has literally made his spirit stronger!

If the Virtue roll loses, the character undergoes Degeneration.  In its basic form this causes the character's Psyche score to drop by 1, permanently.  At the player's preference, an alternate form of Degeneration may be incurred:
- The player may permanently reduce the score of the Virtue used in the Degeneration Test by 1.
- If the Violation was related to the subject of a Passion (a loved one betrayed the character, for example), the player may permanently reduce the score of that Passion by the amount of the Violation's successes--if the Violation roll beat the Virtue by 3, for example, the related Passion must be reduced by 3.
- The player may increase the score of an appropriate Flaw by 1.
- The character may gain a Trauma Trait of 1, or increase an existing Trauma by 1 if appropriate.
- The player may reduce his character's permanent Willpower score by 1.

The player may choose any one of these options, but cannot select that same option again until he reduces Psyche by 1.  If he has already used all these options and then undergoes Degeneration again, he must reduce Psyche by 1; at this point he can use any of the options again, but each kind only once until Psyche once again drops.

A character whose overall Psyche falls to 0 has suffered a complete break with humanity, and can no longer be played as a PC.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on December 06, 2019, 07:52:00 PM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1115836
Well, to make up for dropping the ball on the Wraith setting, I did in fact come up with my own very generic version, which I post in full below.  Some of the internal references here will not be applicable, but the basic structure should still be yoinkable:

Looks a bit complicated? I'll need more time to look it over. But your ideas for Urge accumulation seem novel to me. Vampires need to feed, werewolves need to change, witches need to cast spells... feels more evocative than WoD standard.

I forget to mention that Exalted has loosely similar mechanics in the form of "Limit" and "Limit Break." Opening the Dark has similar mechanics for "Emotional Traits," "Ethos", and "Madness." The latter set are adapted from VtM's Virtues, Paths, and derangements.

Limit and Limit Break is analogous to your Urge and Eruption mechanic. Emotional Traits, Ethos, and Madness are analogous to your Traits, Psyche, and Trauma mechanics. Your personality mechanics as a whole seem to be a combination of all these.

I think it may be possible to adapt your mechanics to Opening the Dark's. This would require expanding the Emotional Traits, which are currently limited to Passion, Prudence, and Stoicism. These aren't really comparable to your Traits on a 1:1 basis.

I noticed that your vampire rules mention blood points (OtD uses a universal "Essence" mechanic for magic points). What do you think of replacing blood points with a hunger mechanic like that in V5? Rather than losing blood points, vampires accrue hunger and satisfy their hunger by drinking blood. In terms of your rules, vampires would gain Urge instead of losing blood points.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on December 09, 2019, 08:00:35 AM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1115836
Ironically ghosts were the one part of the WoD I never bought into at all. I've always believed that to tell a story from the Ghost's point of view is to basically destroy everything that makes the trope horrifying, especially when in order to maintain the stakes necessary to a character-survival game, the game had to sneak the ideas of Transcendence and Oblivion in through the "back door" of the setting anyway. I loved the concepts and the art of Wraith: The Oblivion, which is why I've always kept my copy, but I think a Ghost protagonist/PC is just a fundamental category error for horror or dark fantasy gaming/storytelling.

I recognize that's supremely unhelpful, of course, and I apologize, but I could certainly provide reactions to any ideas you had.


The way I heard someone else put it, the Ghost game's metaphor was for grieving. Herein literal death and haunting the earth as a ghost is used as a metaphor for surviving some major heartbreak or other change and then grieving over it. Crossing over into the real afterlife is a metaphor for acceptance and moving on with your life afterward. Conversely, a second opinion was that it is a metaphor for holding on to hope and never giving up even when things seem the bleakest. Although I feel that distinction might be a false dichotomy.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on December 09, 2019, 09:58:51 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1116035
The way I heard someone else put it, the Ghost game's metaphor was for grieving. Herein literal death and haunting the earth as a ghost is used as a metaphor for surviving some major heartbreak or other change and then grieving over it. Crossing over into the real afterlife is a metaphor for acceptance and moving on with your life afterward. Conversely, a second opinion was that it is a metaphor for holding on to hope and never giving up even when things seem the bleakest. Although I feel that distinction might be a false dichotomy.

Certainly that doesn't have to be a dichotomy. Processing grief and holding on to hope are often related, though they can be different enough to make very different stories. I have to admit that that actually makes me think a little better of the game as a game, though I still think it's pretty much an undoing of the Ghost as a fictional archetype.

One of the other reasons I think it's very difficult to tell ghost stories from the POV of the ghost in an RPG these days is that in my view, you can't really do it satisfyingly without committing to an actual vision of the afterlife, which (because it treads on the grounds of real-world religions and theologies) most commercial RPGs are very reluctant to do so as to avoid alienating possible market segments.

Quote
What do you think of replacing blood points with a hunger mechanic like that in V5?

I'd have to see it in action; my initial reaction is that I prefer the points economy, but I'm open to having my mind changed.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on December 09, 2019, 10:30:47 AM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1116039
Certainly that doesn't have to be a dichotomy. Processing grief and holding on to hope are often related, though they can be different enough to make very different stories. I have to admit that that actually makes me think a little better of the game as a game, though I still think it's pretty much an undoing of the Ghost as a fictional archetype.
Aren't there plenty of stories where the protagonist is a ghost? Beetlejuice, Ghost, Ghost Dad, The Crow, Dead Like Me?

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1116039
One of the other reasons I think it's very difficult to tell ghost stories from the POV of the ghost in an RPG these days is that in my view, you can't really do it satisfyingly without committing to an actual vision of the afterlife, which (because it treads on the grounds of real-world religions and theologies) most commercial RPGs are very reluctant to do so as to avoid alienating possible market segments.

The thing about ghosts is that, by definition, they aren't in the afterlife. Depending on how you define afterlife, anyway, since in reincarnation beliefs a ghost is a type of reincarnation. This means that you can keep the afterlife mysterious.

The religious contrast could be explored in the game itself. An uncompleted fan remake of Wraith called "Wraith: The Arising (http://www.cattail.nu/wraithproject/archives/wraiththearising.html)" tried this: it never defined the nature of the afterlife since nobody ever came back and included a couple of religious factions with different beliefs. One was a neo-Etruscan group called the Order who venerated Charun, another was a Christian group called the Believers.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1116039
I'd have to see it in action; my initial reaction is that I prefer the points economy, but I'm open to having my mind changed.
There are different ways of representing this in different systems. It could be a simplistic reversal of the BP mechanic. V5 uses a more complicated mechanic involving "rouse checks" and "hunger dice".
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on December 09, 2019, 03:23:32 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1116041
Aren't there plenty of stories where the protagonist is a ghost? Beetlejuice, Ghost, Ghost Dad, The Crow, Dead Like Me?

Yes, but I've never seen one which was a real and terrifying horror story, nor any which worked as the kind of indefinitely extendable storyline I think an RPG setting really needs to work well. Even Dead Like Me only lasted a couple of seasons and was more black comedy than anything else, and the Reapers still interacted with living humans without being perceived for what they were.

Quote
The religious contrast could be explored in the game itself. An uncompleted fan remake of Wraith called "Wraith: The Arising (http://www.cattail.nu/wraithproject/archives/wraiththearising.html)" tried this: it never defined the nature of the afterlife since nobody ever came back and included a couple of religious factions with different beliefs. One was a neo-Etruscan group called the Order who venerated Charun, another was a Christian group called the Believers.

Fair enough, but as long as the game itself refuses to say which faction is right, one still gets the basic copout, as far as I'm concerned.  Since, as you note yourself, the ghosts of Wraith aren't really in the True Afterlife yet, all the game really does with the Mystery of Death is push the goalposts back a little; the PCs aren't really Ghosts, they're just heroes stuck in permanent Insubstantiality mode.

Now all that said, as noted I would still be willing to help with a hack designed to address making the surface-level concepts mechanically playable, even if I probably wouldn't see eye to eye with you on the best thematic interpretation for them.

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V5 uses a more complicated mechanic involving "rouse checks" and "hunger dice".

I did a quick review of it; it seems like the primary effect is less to constrict the character's power through weakness and more to constrict their effectiveness through loss of control, by skewing even "successful" outcomes against the PC if he's built up too much power-refreshment delay.

It's an interesting take but it seems like it might veer a little too far towards the extreme of player control removal. For myself I prefer the dynamic of juggling tradeoffs until you go one step too far and things hit the fan; removing control of the character from the player is in a very real sense the ultimate punishment in any game, and my preference is for rare but high-grade catastrophe -- which can be put off, if not indefinitely then for a good long time, by careful choices -- rather than constant low-grade erosion (hence my designing everything around the moment of Eruption in my own mechanics).

Replacing part of the die pool with Urge dice also works better with fixed TNs, and my own hack used floating TNs, so my disinclination is clear. Nonetheless, I could run with it if you want to get your hack away from the resource-tracking model.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on December 10, 2019, 07:47:48 AM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1116068
Yes, but I've never seen one which was a real and terrifying horror story, nor any which worked as the kind of indefinitely extendable storyline I think an RPG setting really needs to work well. Even Dead Like Me only lasted a couple of seasons and was more black comedy than anything else, and the Reapers still interacted with living humans without being perceived for what they were.
Why would it be a terrifying horror story, though? How is that different from other monster PCs? Why couldn't ghosts have ways to pass for living? Vanishing hitchhikers are a common ghost story.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1116068
I did a quick review of it; it seems like the primary effect is less to constrict the character's power through weakness and more to constrict their effectiveness through loss of control, by skewing even "successful" outcomes against the PC if he's built up too much power-refreshment delay.

It's an interesting take but it seems like it might veer a little too far towards the extreme of player control removal. For myself I prefer the dynamic of juggling tradeoffs until you go one step too far and things hit the fan; removing control of the character from the player is in a very real sense the ultimate punishment in any game, and my preference is for rare but high-grade catastrophe -- which can be put off, if not indefinitely then for a good long time, by careful choices -- rather than constant low-grade erosion (hence my designing everything around the moment of Eruption in my own mechanics).

Replacing part of the die pool with Urge dice also works better with fixed TNs, and my own hack used floating TNs, so my disinclination is clear. Nonetheless, I could run with it if you want to get your hack away from the resource-tracking model.
I can understand your POV from a game design perspective. I think that gradual erosion and sudden catastrophe could be offered as options for the GMs to decide. I do think, however, that reducing resource tracking might make gameplay easier. It might also, I don't know, make gameplay better support the intended themes. If vampires need to feed, werewolves need to change, and wizards need to cast, then IMO it feels more thematic if this is representing by accumulating stress rather than spending power points. Both could be presented as options.

So that gives us a few options for how to represent things: sudden catastrophe vs gradual erosion, power points vs stress tracks.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Aglondir on January 15, 2020, 10:14:09 PM
BCT,

I'm working on my own version of Storyteller, but with a much simpler aim, both in terms of system and theme. I have a system question: which WW mechanic do you prefer (and feel free to correct the names):

OWoD: Dice pool vs. a TN that's usually 6, but can range from 2 to 9.  Probability sliders included adjusting the TN as well as adjusting the dice pool.  
Aeon: Dice pool vs. a fixed TN 7. Probability sliders are increasing the number of required successes.
NWoD: Dice pool vs. a fixed TN 8. Probability sliders are adjusting the dice pool.

I'm sure there are versions I missed (Exalted? Scion? God Machine?) And I know all three versions had different implemenations of exploding dice and subtracting dice, which I'd like to stay away from. In my opinion, it really doesn't add much except an increase in handling time.

I'm trying to use OWoD, adjusting the TN but not the dice pool, and no exploding or subtracting dice. But the odds of getting one success look way too easy at TN 6 and even TN 7. Only at TN 8 do things start to look reasonable, which makes me think that's why they went for 8 in the NWoD.



Thoughts?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on January 16, 2020, 08:36:45 AM
Quote from: Aglondir;1119232
BCT,

I'm working on my own version of Storyteller, but with a much simpler aim, both in terms of system and theme. I have a system question: which WW mechanic do you prefer (and feel free to correct the names):

OWoD: Dice pool vs. a TN that's usually 6, but can range from 2 to 9.  Probability sliders included adjusting the TN as well as adjusting the dice pool.  
Aeon: Dice pool vs. a fixed TN 7. Probability sliders are increasing the number of required successes.
NWoD: Dice pool vs. a fixed TN 8. Probability sliders are adjusting the dice pool.

I'm sure there are versions I missed (Exalted? Scion? God Machine?) And I know all three versions had different implemenations of exploding dice and subtracting dice, which I'd like to stay away from. In my opinion, it really doesn't add much except an increase in handling time.

I'm trying to use OWoD, adjusting the TN but not the dice pool, and no exploding or subtracting dice. But the odds of getting one success look way too easy at TN 6 and even TN 7. Only at TN 8 do things start to look reasonable, which makes me think that's why they went for 8 in the NWoD.



Thoughts?


What you call Aeon and NWoD I'll refer to as Storypath System (SP) and Storytelling System (STg), respectively. The former are specific campaign settings, whereas the latter are the rules in isolation.

Both SP and STg roll dice pools against fixed TNs and count the number of pips that pass as successes/hits/passes/whatever. They seem equally usable. The key difference is that STg applies modifiers to the dice pool before the roll is made, whereas SP applies modifiers to the net hits after the roll is made.

These have different strengths and weaknesses depending on your playstyle. I previously mentioned them, but I'll repeat myself here.

With STg the player knows the modifiers to the dice pool before they roll, so they may elect to avoid making an action with a low chance of success even if it doesn't make sense for the PC to do so in-character. This also removes many opportunities for the GM to surprise the player by concealing sources of modifiers.

With SP, the player doesn't necessarily know the modifiers to the net hits until the GM describes the results. The GM is free to tell the player of any modifiers that the PC would be aware of, but may also conceal any source of modifiers that the PC would not be aware of.

However, there are plenty of other probability issues that I haven't mentioned and may not be entirely aware of.

Quote from: Aglondir;1119232
And I know all three versions had different implemenations of exploding dice and subtracting dice, which I'd like to stay away from. In my opinion, it really doesn't add much except an increase in handling time.

The main problem with this attitude is that dice pools with fixed TNs and no exploding dice suffer from two unique problems.

Without exploding dice, the maximum number of successes the dice pool may ever score is always a fixed number. If modifiers are applied to successes after the roll, then this gives negative modifiers far more power. I would think so, anyway. The whole pass/fail paradigm of task resolution in general seems iffy to me and the modifiers mechanics generally falls into a "mother may I" situation so I stopped trying to make sense of it.

The other problem: As a character's traits increase, the effects of modifiers become increasingly irrelevant unless you scale them with the character's traits--which defeats the purpose of using dice pools to avoid complex math. The exploding and subtracting dice rules were presumably added to make up for this.

A percentile dice system doesn't suffer from this problem since you can set difficulty steps as a multiplier. E.g. the character rolls their unadjusted trait for regular difficulty, x2 for easy difficulty, /2 for harder difficulty, etc.

However, the disadvantage compared to dice pool systems is trait synergy: percentile systems require complicated math to do something like accounting for a character's natural strength when performing a strength-based skill, whereas dice pools just add the two traits together. Unless you don't have inherent abilities/attributes as distinct from skills, in which case this problem vanishes.

Conversely, percentile mechanics are superior when it comes to simplifying performing tasks that rely on multiple traits: if the character is performing a task that requires expertise in multiple traits, he can simply roll once and use the same result for both. This isn't possible for dice pools, which must always be rolled separately for each trait. Dice pools may be combined, but as this stacks the chances of success it raises logical questions unless you're totally fine with abstracting everything to that degree.

Quote from: Aglondir;1119232
I'm trying to use OWoD, adjusting the TN but not the dice pool, and no exploding or subtracting dice. But the odds of getting one success look way too easy at TN 6 and even TN 7. Only at TN 8 do things start to look reasonable, which makes me think that's why they went for 8 in the NWoD.
I got some anydice inputs from stackexchange (https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/87102/homebrew-system-need-help-with-probability-in-any-dice). If I understand you correctly, then your intent is TN8 and no exploding dice. Do you want 10s to count as two successes?

Here's the anydice input for that (http://anydice.com/program/a1fe). On average, a die has a 40% chance of success. Each additional die adds another 40%.

In general I found that a d100 task resolution system is far easier to work with than these finicky dice pool mechanics. The player will always know the PC's exact chances of success on any action, not including modifiers concealed by the GM. The chance of success is not occluded by harebrained attempts to simplify the math.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Aglondir on January 23, 2020, 09:18:38 PM
I should mention my design goal:


Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1119263
Without exploding dice, the maximum number of successes the dice pool may ever score is always a fixed number.

That's Ok. I don't want a character with a dice pool of 2 getting 5 successes. They know going into it that 2 is their max. I'm going to adjust TN's rather than successes.

 
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1119263
If I understand you correctly, then your intent is TN8 and no exploding dice. Do you want 10s to count as two successes?
No, sorry if I was being obtuse, I'm still trying to figure out what I want. Here's my current idea:

Step 1: GM decides difficulty

TNs usually start at 6, but the GM can adjust higher or lower.


Step 2: Player rolls dice pool


Step 3: GM decides outcome based on number of successes


On a partial success, you can spend immediately spend a WP to turn it into 2 successes (solid success.) Otherwise, the GM will interpret the result so it is "success at a cost."


Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1119263
In general I found that a d100 task resolution system is far easier to work with than these finicky dice pool mechanics. The player will always know the PC's exact chances of success on any action, not including modifiers concealed by the GM. The chance of success is not occluded by harebrained attempts to simplify the math.

True, there's nothing more transparent than a percentile system, but I want the odds hidden to help echo the feel of the game, which is obfuscation and mystery.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Snowman0147 on January 24, 2020, 11:27:20 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1119263
In general I found that a d100 task resolution system is far easier to work with than these finicky dice pool mechanics. The player will always know the PC's exact chances of success on any action, not including modifiers concealed by the GM. The chance of success is not occluded by harebrained attempts to simplify the math.

Then why not just keep it as attribute between 10 to 50 with modifier being the ten digit, skill being 10 to 50 with spec being +10 more percentage, and then have difficulty that reduces the chances?  Say you got strength 50% (modifier of +5), weaponry 40% with spec in great swords, and the target your trying to hit has defense -40%.  That leaves you with 60% chance of success with degrees of success adding to damage for every degree.  Like a claymore is base 3L damage plus five more from strength plus two more cause you rolled 38 out of 60 for two degrees of success for total of 10L damage.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on January 26, 2020, 10:26:30 AM
This is a tangent less related to rules and more to setting design.

I watched What We Do In The Shadows series on Hulu. I loved all the references they shoved in to even the most obscure vampire media like The Strain (e.g. The Baron) and From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (e.g. every vamp has a unique power, often linked to their backstory or personality).

Makes me dislike White Wolf's Vampire games even more. They're still essentially the same weirdly dated and arbitrarily restrictive games they were nearly thirty years ago now. They need to change with the times.

If I was running a vampire game, then I'd use What We Do In The Shadows as the campaign setting. It just seems more fun to have that half-melodramatic half-irreverent tone. I especially loved the part where the centuries old vampire decides to dress up in stereotypical Universal Dracula costume with Twilight brand body glitter like an 80s rockstar.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 01, 2020, 05:05:37 AM
It's been a while since I posted in this thread. This post is about mechanics. Specifically, my dissatisfaction with how the dice pool task resolution mechanic. I keep finding myself disliking the task resolution, regardless of whether it's Storyteller, Storytelling, or Storypath. Storytelling doesn't let you conceal modifiers from players. Counting separate dice pools and net hits in Storyteller and Storypath is too many probability sliders in my opinion.

However, I do like the idea of having character attributes in the single digits. So, after some quick checking, I decided that I'd probably be happier with an 2d6+modifiers task resolution mechanic with fixed target numbers a la PbtA. I am considering retrofitting that sort of task resolution to Opening the Dark as an experiment.

What do you guys think?

EDIT: To go into more detail on the 3d6 task resolution... I couldn't find an existing task resolution mechanic in my searching, so I'm making this up myself for now. It's a mix of PbtA and Action! System. (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/69057/Gold-Rush-Games-Gold-Mine-BUNDLE?manufacturers_id=495)

You roll a 3d6 and apply various modifiers (e.g. attributes, applicable skills, circumstances, complexity of the task) to the result. The player is only aware of modifiers that his PC would be aware of. The GM then applies modifiers the PC would not be aware of (e.g. the defense traits of the opponent, unforeseen circumstances) to get the final result. The final result is compared to a set of fixed target numbers that determine the degree of success: 12+ is a success, 21+ is a critical success, etc.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on April 01, 2020, 04:16:31 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1125366
This post is about mechanics. Specifically, my dissatisfaction with how the dice pool task resolution mechanic. I keep finding myself disliking the task resolution.... Counting separate dice pools and net hits in Storyteller and Storypath is too many probability sliders in my opinion.

You roll a 3d6 and apply various modifiers (e.g. attributes, applicable skills, circumstances, complexity of the task) to the result. The player is only aware of modifiers that his PC would be aware of. The GM then applies modifiers the PC would not be aware of (e.g. the defense traits of the opponent, unforeseen circumstances) to get the final result. The final result is compared to a set of fixed target numbers that determine the degree of success: 12+ is a success, 21+ is a critical success, etc.

Out of curiosity, how difficult is it for players to gain knowledge of the initially unknown modifiers?  Defense traits, for example; generally it only takes a couple of exchanges in a fight to get a clear sense of how much trouble you're in.

If these factors are difficult to identify and account for, it strikes me that you may have simply replaced opaque multiple sliders (due to difficulty of on-the-fly odds calculation) with opaque multiple adjustments to a single slider (due to deliberate concealment of some relevant factors).

That said, there's no denying that mathematically a simple set of plus/minus to a single fixed dice curve is a lot easier to follow in play. So that may be enough benefit for most right there.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 01, 2020, 05:53:20 PM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1125411
Out of curiosity, how difficult is it for players to gain knowledge of the initially unknown modifiers?  Defense traits, for example; generally it only takes a couple of exchanges in a fight to get a clear sense of how much trouble you're in.

If these factors are difficult to identify and account for, it strikes me that you may have simply replaced opaque multiple sliders (due to difficulty of on-the-fly odds calculation) with opaque multiple adjustments to a single slider (due to deliberate concealment of some relevant factors).

Really? Systems like d20 and Action! System roll against target numbers (known as Difficulty Class, Difficulty Level, etc). The only tweak I made was folding difficulty class/level into the hidden modifiers and using fixed target numbers to adjudicate degrees of success a la PbtA.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1125411
That said, there's no denying that mathematically a simple set of plus/minus to a single fixed dice curve is a lot easier to follow in play. So that may be enough benefit for most right there.

As somebody once said on Min/Max Boards (http://minmaxforum.com/index.php?topic=173.0), the complexity of task resolution dice scales through rolling under a percentile, rolling dice and adding modifiers, dice pools, dice pools with multiple die types, and whatever is going on with Cthulhutech.


[/HR]

Quick tangent: It slipped my notice for years, but just now I realized something very clever about the way that Chronicles of Darkness 1e handled resistance.

There are two types of resistance: automatic and contested. Defenders essentially have a defense pool, though it's never called that but I used the phrase for quick reference. In automatic resistance, the defense pool applies as a penalty to the attack pool. In contested resistance, the pools and rolled against one another and the highest roll wins. In Chronicles, automatic resistance is used when the attacker's intended effect is binary, whereas contested resistance is used when the effect scales is accumulative or directly with the hits/successes rolled (e.g. damage in combat).

(In World of Darkness, there is no such thing as automatic resistance IIRC. All resistance is opposed rolls, where the defender's hits/successes are subtracted from the attacker's hits/successes after both pools are rolled. Both methods of contested rolls have the same probabilities.)

Now, why exactly would it ever be necessary to add automatic resistance? Surely it is adequately covered by contested resistance?

This is where that cleverness I mentioned comes in. Chronicles of Darkness added two new rules: the "exceptional success", and that in contested rolls the defender's success do not subtract from the attacker's. An exceptional success is any roll that produces 5+ hits/successes. Typically, accumulative results/automatic resistance receive no special benefit since the effect already scales with hits/successes. In binary results/contested resistance, an exceptional success provides a more powerful instance of the same effect.

Since the defender's successes do not subtract from the attacker's successes, it reduces the attacker's chance of rolling a standard success or better but doesn't reduce their chance of rolling an exceptional success compared to a standard success. If the defender wins, then the attacker's success or exceptional success is downgraded to a failure, but an exceptional success is never downgraded to a success. (If not clever, it is at least slightly simpler than d100's matrix of comparing degrees of successes on opposed rolls.)

Which is why Chronicles 2e changing the dodge action to a unique type of contested roll where the defender's successes subtract from the attacker's is incongruous with the original intent of the STing system to be streamlined. It retrofits the contested roll from the STer system onto STing system, even though this is unnecessary since the probabilities of success/failure don't change. It is an unnecessary complication that serves no purpose. The only justification I have seen for it is that you can add modifiers to the dodge roll, but again this is redundant since the same modifiers could be applied to the attack roll. You are better off switching to the Storypath System, since it would be more consistent.

However, that does inspire me to add the exceptional success and cumulative/binary resistance to Opening the Dark. Although it sounds like a nightmare to implement now that I think about it. That makes me even more appreciative of the 3d6 task resolution mechanic I proposed. It can easily approximate the automatic/contested resistance distinction by adding an opposed roll which doesn't subtract from the attacker's result.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Aglondir on April 01, 2020, 10:12:38 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1125366
You roll a 3d6 and apply various modifiers (e.g. attributes, applicable skills, circumstances, complexity of the task) to the result. The player is only aware of modifiers that his PC would be aware of. The GM then applies modifiers the PC would not be aware of (e.g. the defense traits of the opponent, unforeseen circumstances) to get the final result. The final result is compared to a set of fixed target numbers that determine the degree of success: 12+ is a success, 21+ is a critical success, etc.

It will work. It's basically Action, and before that, Fuzion. I would use:

Atts range 1 to 5
Skills range 1 to 5
Roll 3d6
Success if sum >= target number
Degrees of success = (sum - TN)/2.

A TN if 12 night be too easy, depending on how many points players start with.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on April 02, 2020, 10:00:13 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1125419
The only tweak I made was folding difficulty class/level into the hidden modifiers....

That's a pretty significant tweak. The way you phrase it, it sounds like if you can't know difficulty class/level, you won't know what your odds of success are, and given this was your original complaint about dice pools -- that the varying sliders made it too difficult to calculate odds -- I just wasn't seeing how this solved that problem.

Quote
Chronicles 2e changing the dodge action to a unique type of contested roll where the defender's successes subtract from the attacker's is incongruous with the original intent of the STing system to be streamlined. It retrofits the contested roll from the STer system onto STing system, even though this is unnecessary since the probabilities of success/failure don't change.

That, I suspect, is down to a psychological effect that derives from the players, not the mechanics: a lot of players like the chance to make an active defense roll, even if in practice the odds of a beneficial result are the same, because it reinforces the illusion of "doing something" in a combat rather than sitting and waiting to passively find out what happens.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 02, 2020, 07:08:24 PM
Quote from: Aglondir;1125425
It will work. It's basically Action, and before that, Fuzion. I would use:

Atts range 1 to 5
Skills range 1 to 5
Roll 3d6
Success if sum >= target number
Degrees of success = (sum - TN)/2.

A TN if 12 night be too easy, depending on how many points players start with.


TN12 was taken from Action. It was used for actions which are of easy/average difficulty (i.e. are of dramatic relevance to the adventure, not just rolling for the sake of it). Action represents increased difficulty by raising TN, but I decided to take a page from PbtA and keep TN fixed. Increased difficulty is represented by applying penalties to the roll result, which keeps the probabilities the same. The difference between the roll result and the TN determines the degree of success.

For example, the tech wiz Jim is trying to hotwire a crashed alien spacecraft. He's a genius with lots of training, so his Att+Skill bonus is +10. This makes all but the most difficult tasks easy for him. Since he's dealing with an insanely complex alien spacecraft, he takes a -10 penalty due to unfamiliarity with the specs, the complexity of the task, compensating for the damage to the craft, a lack of proper tools, etc.

The final result of the roll determines the degree of success. Since his modifier has been reduced to +0, he is slightly more likely to fail than to succeed since the average result is 10-11 and he needs to score at least a 12.

You're concerned that it might be too easy. Why is that a problem in the first place?

We can adjust the degrees of success to produce interesting results, such as success at a cost or interesting failure.

If Jim fails to hotwire the ship, then he falls prey to whatever problem forced him to try. If he succeeds at a cost, then the ship flies but piloting will be hell. If he succeeds, then he escapes his predicament. If he succeeds critically, then he quickly arrives at a hospital planet where the nurses are sexbots.  If he critically fails, then the hotwire goes great until the ship suddenly appears in the middle of an unrelated active warzone.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1125440
That's a pretty significant tweak. The way you phrase it, it sounds like if you can't know difficulty class/level, you won't know what your odds of success are, and given this was your original complaint about dice pools -- that the varying sliders made it too difficult to calculate odds -- I just wasn't seeing how this solved that problem.
I don't understand what you mean here. Do you normally tell your players their exact odds of success?

I had several complaints which applied in different circumstances. The way I devised this is that I want the GM to tell the player of any modifiers than the character should reasonably know about, while being free to conceal modifiers that they should not. This addresses a big flaw (http://garglinggoblin.blogspot.com/2013/01/problems-with-world-of-darkness-rpg.html) in the Chronicles of Darkness task resolution mechanic: the GM cannot conceal any modifiers from the players since all modifiers are applied before rolling. Trying to fix it by subtracting successes after the fact is clunky.

The task resolution mechanic I proposed fixes this by the inherent nature of XdY+Z resolution mechanics: there is only ever a single probability slider. Modifying the roll result or the target number are equivalent and easy to do. Concealing modifiers from players is easy to do, as they only learn after the roll is made by observing the results.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1125440
That, I suspect, is down to a psychological effect that derives from the players, not the mechanics: a lot of players like the chance to make an active defense roll, even if in practice the odds of a beneficial result are the same, because it reinforces the illusion of "doing something" in a combat rather than sitting and waiting to passively find out what happens.
It's really frustrating, tho, because I generally prefer mechanics that reduce the number of rolls rather than increasing them. Tabletop isn't like video games where the computer rolls the dice for you. If you're not an expert, then any situation where lots of dice must be rolled might take hours.


[/HR]

That reminds me. I'd really like a critical fail mechanic that lets the GM conceal a critical fail from the players until he can spring the consequences in a dramatic moment. As opposed to GM fiat, which feels mean spirited.

Maybe a luck stat for PCs that only the GM can roll? I'm not a fan of dissociative mechanics so I prefer to keep luck in the GM's hands and hero points (or whatever the name is, but it represents a PC's sheer stubborness, willpower, etc) for players.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Stephen Tannhauser on April 03, 2020, 12:09:13 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1125470
Do you normally tell your players their exact odds of success?

No, but (barring unusual situations where the discrepancy is the point of the encounter) I usually tell them enough to give them a pretty good ballpark sense of it, especially since in reality somebody facing a task for which they have even a moderate amount of aptitude and training can usually tell very quickly whether that task is likely to be a doddle, a challenge, or altogether out of their league.

Now that's not to say that unknown factors can't affect the odds from time to time. But I genuinely don't think basic difficulty, or at least the general benchmark sense of it, should be one of those regularly hidden factors, or players aren't getting enough information to make meaningful judgement calls about which risks are worth taking and which aren't.

Quote
I generally prefer mechanics that reduce the number of rolls rather than increasing them.

Reducing rolls in general is seldom a bad thing, but you have to eliminate the right rolls. Taking a roll away from the player that in their experience (even if they consciously know it makes no actual difference to probabilities) feels like one of their most critical defensive actions isn't one I would get rid of. There's a reason the "saving throw" in original D&D and AD&D was always a player-rolled die, not a GM-rolled one.

Quote
I'd really like a critical fail mechanic that lets the GM conceal a critical fail from the players until he can spring the consequences in a dramatic moment. As opposed to GM fiat, which feels mean spirited.

I'm not sure I understand how this would be used. What kind of situation are you thinking of representing here?

And to be honest, I think as a player this kind of thing would feel mean-spirited to me either way, if what you mean is concealing not only the nature of the critical fail from the player, but the fact it happened at all -- pointing to a roll the player made an hour ago without knowing the outcome feels much less "deserved" than it does if it happens right then and there, which is another one of those mostly instinctive reactions that no amount of conscious understanding of rules and chance will offset.

If there was some kind of metacurrency a player could spend -- call it "Buying Trouble", perhaps, where you can convert an ordinary failure into an ordinary success at the price of knowing you'll get hit with a much worse setback later on -- then at least the player would get input into when it happens, which would make it much more tolerable when it did.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 03, 2020, 04:52:34 PM
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1125487
No, but (barring unusual situations where the discrepancy is the point of the encounter) I usually tell them enough to give them a pretty good ballpark sense of it, especially since in reality somebody facing a task for which they have even a moderate amount of aptitude and training can usually tell very quickly whether that task is likely to be a doddle, a challenge, or altogether out of their league.

Now that's not to say that unknown factors can't affect the odds from time to time. But I genuinely don't think basic difficulty, or at least the general benchmark sense of it, should be one of those regularly hidden factors, or players aren't getting enough information to make meaningful judgement calls about which risks are worth taking and which aren't.
Then you can just tell the players what the modifiers are.

I'm just trying to address these specific complaints (http://garglinggoblin.blogspot.com/2013/01/problems-with-world-of-darkness-rpg.html):
Quote
The Guidelines for Difficulty Modifiers:
The guidelines for difficulty modifiers (the amount of dice you remove from a roll to represent difficulty) in the rule book probably do more harm to games than good. The book says "as a rule, a single modifier never exceeds five, whether as a bonus or a penalty" (pg. 124). The problem with this is that, in practice, -5 is only a moderate penalty, not "sorely testing" as the book claims. It's easy to see why. Suppose a player puts 4 points into both an attribute and a skill used for some task. Since this is something that the player wants the character to be good at, he or she also spends a small number of experience points to get a specialty in it, which gives an additional +1. Finally, the character has some gear that gives an additional +2. This gives a subtotal of 11 dice, less the 5 so 6 dice are rolled. Since only one dice needs to come up as 8 or higher, the character has a 88% chance of success, and what I've outlined is a very moderate build for a character. It's not uncommon for characters to have 14 or more dice in a roll and that's still with normal human characters. Supernatural characters can have significantly more dice in their pools. In short, the maximum suggested allowed difficulty under the rules won't even slow down a character that's actually good at something.

The Players Can Easily Avoid Risking Dramatic Failures:
In World of Darkness, if you have to roll a dice poll that has zero dice, what you do is roll what is called a "chance die." That is, you roll one ten sided dice. However, only tens are counted as successes, though tens are still rerolled. Furthermore, if you roll a one on the initial dice, you get a "dramatic failure." You fail and something bad happens; perhaps your gun jams or you hit an ally by accident, or you get caught in a lie during a negotiation.

However, in practice, players can usually avoid rolling dice pools with zero dice in them by simply choosing not to take actions that have a chance of dramatic failure. Not only does this mean that entertaining dramatic failures never happen, it also means that players almost never attempt actions with very little chance of success even when it would make sense to do so, such as firing a few parting rounds at a villain that has fled out of range.

The Order of Events During a Skill/Attribute Roll.
When you, as game master, are trying to come up with a roll for a player, it is a two step process: Figure out which traits need to be rolled, then figure out what modifiers apply to the situation. The problem for me, and many other game masters I've played with, is I always forget the second step until after the player has rolled. If I forget to give a bonus, it's easy enough to roll a few extra dice. However, if I forget to apply a penalty until after the player rolled, it's problematic to make them re-roll with less dice. If it was a good roll, then I'm robing them; if it was a bad roll, do I really want to let them try again when they failed with more dice?

For me, systems that allow the game master to determine the difficulty after the player rolls have always worked better. It's only after the player tells me how many successes they got that I stop to think "was that good enough?" "How hard should this be?" Again, I've seen this tendency in several other game masters I've played with over the years, so it isn't just me.

This also slows down combat to a certain degree. When a player declares who their trying to attack in combat, they usually know what attribute, skill, and weapon values they have toward their dice pool, but they have to stop and ask the game master how much defense the target has. This value has to be taken away from the dice pool before rolling. Then the player can roll and report back the damage which the game master records. It would be better to have the player just roll and tell the game master the number of successes; then the game master can tell the player what happens. This requires one less back and forth than the current system.

Also, the current system makes it difficult for a game master to hide what the defenses of an antagonist are. This seems a serious flaw in what is to a large degree a horror game, where suspense and the unknown are central to generating the fear and tension, the emotional fuel horror game players hunger for. If the players are battling some silent beast in the dark, the game master might want to keep it a secret whether or not they are even hitting the thing. While players require the satisfaction of hitting something, their enjoyment may actually be enhanced by having to wait until they can search the area with a light to see their kill... which also might be the moment to hit them with a surprise attack by a second beast.

I personally never had a problem with these, but I figured I might extend an olive branch anyhow.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1125487
Reducing rolls in general is seldom a bad thing, but you have to eliminate the right rolls. Taking a roll away from the player that in their experience (even if they consciously know it makes no actual difference to probabilities) feels like one of their most critical defensive actions isn't one I would get rid of. There's a reason the "saving throw" in original D&D and AD&D was always a player-rolled die, not a GM-rolled one.
Fair enough.

What about having the players roll all the rolls? (https://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/playersRollAllTheDice.htm) Rather than rolling attack and defense every time, only the players need to roll. When a PC attacks, then they roll an attack roll penalized by the enemies' defense. When an enemy attacks them, then the PC rolls a defense roll penalized by the enemies' attack. This would place the focus firmly on the PCs and emphasize the psychological aspect, while reducing the number of unnecessary rolls.

Dear God, I feel so stupid for forgetting that rule from Unearthed Arcana.

Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1125487
I'm not sure I understand how this would be used. What kind of situation are you thinking of representing here?

And to be honest, I think as a player this kind of thing would feel mean-spirited to me either way, if what you mean is concealing not only the nature of the critical fail from the player, but the fact it happened at all -- pointing to a roll the player made an hour ago without knowing the outcome feels much less "deserved" than it does if it happens right then and there, which is another one of those mostly instinctive reactions that no amount of conscious understanding of rules and chance will offset.

If there was some kind of metacurrency a player could spend -- call it "Buying Trouble", perhaps, where you can convert an ordinary failure into an ordinary success at the price of knowing you'll get hit with a much worse setback later on -- then at least the player would get input into when it happens, which would make it much more tolerable when it did.
To use an example, some rules include fumble results where the PC thinks the action succeeded but only learns the result later. However, the player would still know it was a fumble and could prepare the PC accordingly even though the PC shouldn't be able to act on this knowledge. I dislike metagaming and other dissociative behaviors, unless roleplaying isn't a feature of the adventure.

I suppose it's mostly pet peeves.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Aglondir on April 08, 2020, 06:01:23 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1125470
TN12 was taken from Action. It was used for actions which are of easy/average difficulty (i.e. are of dramatic relevance to the adventure, not just rolling for the sake of it). Action represents increased difficulty by raising TN, but I decided to take a page from PbtA and keep TN fixed. Increased difficulty is represented by applying penalties to the roll result, which keeps the probabilities the same. The difference between the roll result and the TN determines the degree of success.

For example, the tech wiz Jim is trying to hotwire a crashed alien spacecraft. He's a genius with lots of training, so his Att+Skill bonus is +10. This makes all but the most difficult tasks easy for him. Since he's dealing with an insanely complex alien spacecraft, he takes a -10 penalty due to unfamiliarity with the specs, the complexity of the task, compensating for the damage to the craft, a lack of proper tools, etc.

The final result of the roll determines the degree of success. Since his modifier has been reduced to +0, he is slightly more likely to fail than to succeed since the average result is 10-11 and he needs to score at least a 12.


Yes, I have been literally using that mechanic (or the roll-under version) for at least 22 years.

Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1125470
You're concerned that it might be too easy. Why is that a problem in the first place?


When success is too easy, the game becomes a farce. When it is too hard, the game becomes a chore. Reverse engineer it. Figure out:

A. What you want the average starting att rank to be,
B. What you want the average starting skill rank to be, and
C. What percentage of success you think is appropriate for Average Guy to succeed at an Average (difficult) task.

That will give you D: The baseline TN. Examples:

3, 3, and 95% yields TN 12.
3, 3, and 74% yields TN 15.
3, 3, and 50% yields TN 17.

One you get the appropriate baseline TN, you can then apply bonuses and penalties depending on the difficulty of the task, which is a great idea that you've already approved.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: YnasMidgard on April 15, 2020, 11:37:41 AM
Very interesting topic!

We used to play a lot of Werewolf: the Forsaken (that and the blue World of Darkness game were our favourite); it had its bumps, but all in all it felt like a good system. Last year we tried the fairly new second edition, and it was saddening: the subsystems felt more complicated without being better, and the game employed even more abstracted and narrative mechanics while trying remain a faux-realistic system (further obfuscating the design). However, I did think about incorporating some of the improvements (such as the reworked Gifts and form modifiers) into W:tF 1st edition, while also improving upon the nWoD core - so this topic is some amazing food for thought.

(As I say that, however, in my mind I'm actually redesigning nWoD using percentiles, probably somewhere between Delta Green and Mythras.)
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Snowman0147 on April 15, 2020, 05:13:02 PM
Quote from: YnasMidgard;1126941
Very interesting topic!

We used to play a lot of Werewolf: the Forsaken (that and the blue World of Darkness game were our favourite); it had its bumps, but all in all it felt like a good system. Last year we tried the fairly new second edition, and it was saddening: the subsystems felt more complicated without being better, and the game employed even more abstracted and narrative mechanics while trying remain a faux-realistic system (further obfuscating the design). However, I did think about incorporating some of the improvements (such as the reworked Gifts and form modifiers) into W:tF 1st edition, while also improving upon the nWoD core - so this topic is some amazing food for thought.

(As I say that, however, in my mind I'm actually redesigning nWoD using percentiles, probably somewhere between Delta Green and Mythras.)

Yeah I am trying to make a OSR version of this.  Right now looking into both Gumshoe and Ars Magica to figure things out.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 15, 2020, 05:34:07 PM
Quote from: YnasMidgard;1126941
Very interesting topic!

We used to play a lot of Werewolf: the Forsaken (that and the blue World of Darkness game were our favourite); it had its bumps, but all in all it felt like a good system. Last year we tried the fairly new second edition, and it was saddening: the subsystems felt more complicated without being better, and the game employed even more abstracted and narrative mechanics while trying remain a faux-realistic system (further obfuscating the design). However, I did think about incorporating some of the improvements (such as the reworked Gifts and form modifiers) into W:tF 1st edition, while also improving upon the nWoD core - so this topic is some amazing food for thought.

(As I say that, however, in my mind I'm actually redesigning nWoD using percentiles, probably somewhere between Delta Green and Mythras.)

I don't like the WW superpowers mechanics at all. Godbound's words mechanic, at least in basic concept, is superior. Or Everlasting's Codex of Immortals' guidelines for making superpowers. Or really any other game that lets you create powers using guidelines is better than WW.

As for shapeshifting modifiers... again, WW is overcomplicated for little benefit. I prefer WitchCraft's take on werewolves. They don't have fixed alternate forms, but flow like water as befits the situation.

In general I'm just frustrated with the WW games. I think their rules are terrible and their settings are (aside from Lost and Vigil) annoying narrow in concept. However, they hold a monopoly over the urban fantasy market so no other games have enough of a fandom for worthwhile discussions, much less finding interested players.

If I wanted to work on an actual retroclone using Opening the Dark, then I'd probably devise a setting that draws more from Nightlife, Everlasting and WitchCraft. For example, I prefer WitchCraft's depiction of spirits because it is more authentic to actual animistic beliefs.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Eldritch_Knight on April 16, 2020, 07:23:29 AM
I am greatly interested in a retro clone of the Storyteller system, for my own needs. Especially one that streamlines some issues.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: YnasMidgard on April 16, 2020, 09:20:59 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1126979
I don't like the WW superpowers mechanics at all. Godbound's words mechanic, at least in basic concept, is superior. Or Everlasting's Codex of Immortals' guidelines for making superpowers. Or really any other game that lets you create powers using guidelines is better than WW.

As for shapeshifting modifiers... again, WW is overcomplicated for little benefit. I prefer WitchCraft's take on werewolves. They don't have fixed alternate forms, but flow like water as befits the situation.

In general I'm just frustrated with the WW games. I think their rules are terrible and their settings are (aside from Lost and Vigil) annoying narrow in concept. However, they hold a monopoly over the urban fantasy market so no other games have enough of a fandom for worthwhile discussions, much less finding interested players.

If I wanted to work on an actual retroclone using Opening the Dark, then I'd probably devise a setting that draws more from Nightlife, Everlasting and WitchCraft. For example, I prefer WitchCraft's depiction of spirits because it is more authentic to actual animistic beliefs.

I'm personally not that interested in having a formula for designing powers. In fact, I was probably drawn to Werewolf's Gifts because they were the equivalents of magic items (you even had to go on a quest to seek out a spirit that knows it). The games' narrowness has also never been an issue to me, but I never really wanted one system/setting to do all anyways.

However, the rules could definitely be improved, and I was never really fond of not having explicit advice and procedures on the GM/ST side of things (even if people do end up changing numbers and whatnot to better suit their vision of the setting, having a baseline is never a bad thing; think about how much implicit world-building is in the random encounter tables and no. appearing in AD&D).

As for Opening the Dark, I was super excited to read it - only to find that the base mechanics aren't to my liking (way too high chance of a critical failure; in fact, at 4+ dice the relative chance of a crit failure is higher than a regular failure). Even the base nWoD rules made more sense, even if they were far from perfect.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 16, 2020, 03:06:36 PM
Quote from: Eldritch_Knight;1127027
I am greatly interested in a retro clone of the Storyteller system, for my own needs. Especially one that streamlines some issues.
Opening the Dark already provides some of that. It has task resolution, character traits, a magic system, and limited superpowers. I have been writing a bunch of house rules in a google doc, such as adding equivalents for other rules in the ST games like aggravated damage and fixed difficulties.

WitchCraft and Everlasting are the closest we have so far to published retroclones, as they were written directly in response to World of Darkness. The complete WitchCraft catalog is available on DriveThru. The Everlasting catalog is mostly there except for the Magician's Companion containing the rules for the Osirians, magicians who reincarnate and aren't limited by magical tradition; that's available from used sellers for $50+. There was apparently an EL comic that mysteriously vanished from the catalog a few years ago.

I liked the ideas presented by WC and EL, so I'm sad that they died. Eden Studios is apparently still around, but whoever owns the copyright for EL seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Darn those pesky copyright laws!

IMO, working out the rules is probably the easy part. Working out campaign settings is probably the hard part. I want to provide a plurality of campaign settings, or a kitchen sink setting a la American Vampire and What We Do In The Shadows, or at least provide guides to tweaking the various paranormal stuff to suit the tastes of groups.

For example, you could devise a bunch of different kinds of vampires based on their diet. That's the whole premise of Nightlife.

Quote from: YnasMidgard;1127037
I'm personally not that interested in having a formula for designing powers. In fact, I was probably drawn to Werewolf's Gifts because they were the equivalents of magic items (you even had to go on a quest to seek out a spirit that knows it). The games' narrowness has also never been an issue to me, but I never really wanted one system/setting to do all anyways.

However, the rules could definitely be improved, and I was never really fond of not having explicit advice and procedures on the GM/ST side of things (even if people do end up changing numbers and whatnot to better suit their vision of the setting, having a baseline is never a bad thing; think about how much implicit world-building is in the random encounter tables and no. appearing in AD&D).
I don't find those mutually exclusive. If you want PCs to have fixed powers, then it still helps if the GM has a guideline to adjudicate new powers on the fly rather than waiting for the writers to invent them.

Quote from: YnasMidgard;1127037
As for Opening the Dark, I was super excited to read it - only to find that the base mechanics aren't to my liking (way too high chance of a critical failure; in fact, at 4+ dice the relative chance of a crit failure is higher than a regular failure). Even the base nWoD rules made more sense, even if they were far from perfect.
The great thing is that the rules are open game content. You can modify them and sell your modifications.

Nobody has actually seemed to have done anything with OtD as of yet, but you can't put the genie back in the bottle.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Chris24601 on April 16, 2020, 03:43:24 PM
Quote from: Eldritch_Knight;1127027
I am greatly interested in a retro clone of the Storyteller system, for my own needs. Especially one that streamlines some issues.


Here's my attempt from a number of years back. Despite the Mage name on the cover, you can easily build the more static monster types and the opponents section includes a list of the traits various creatures would have (Vampires, for example, would have the Thaumivore flaw, they gain Essence by feeding on the blood of living creatures and use that essence to power their other special abilities).

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8uzbbLvQJOLRWtSaVU4M3A5M0E (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8uzbbLvQJOLRWtSaVU4M3A5M0E)

Major fixes attempted in the system were smoothing out the difficulty mechanics at the extremes (i.e. diff 9+ or 3-) and smoothing out the action economy (i.e. how unbalancing extra actions could be in the system), character building/leveling (to encourage more breadth to character concepts) and a bit less binary damage results leading to a slightly more cinematic bent when action breaks out.

I think I ultimately prefer Mage20 revision to its magic system over what I developed here because it had more of a "fast and loose" in its effect building while the mechanics in mine are much more deterministic; but the determinism is ultimately what made it easier to build the special powers of other supernatural types so if what you wanted was rules that would enable multiple supernatural types in the same campaign, its probably the better option than Mage20 for that purpose (do note that the magic/supernatural effects system IS designed to end up with difficulties of either 12+ (big effects) or 2- (quick magic attacks) pretty regularly; this works hand in hand with the difficulty smoothing mechanics where difficulty 12 would be rolled as difficulty 8 with four dice subtracted from the dice pool while difficulty 2 would be rolled at difficulty 4 with two extra dice added).
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Eldritch_Knight on April 16, 2020, 04:27:52 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1127075
Opening the Dark already provides some of that. It has task resolution, character traits, a magic system, and limited superpowers. I have been writing a bunch of house rules in a google doc, such as adding equivalents for other rules in the ST games like aggravated damage and fixed difficulties.

IMO, working out the rules is probably the easy part. Working out campaign settings is probably the hard part. I want to provide a plurality of campaign settings, or a kitchen sink setting a la American Vampire and What We Do In The Shadows, or at least provide guides to tweaking the various paranormal stuff to suit the tastes of groups.


So if I understand you, Opening the Dark is the retro clone you are using, and you are only devising alternate methods of rules and campaign settings for OtD? Or are you combining everything together into a full OGL-type game? Just trying to get the full picture.

Is there rules ANYWHERE in the World of Darkness for creating powers? Or is it mostly just guess work?
What about minion-type rules?

I will check out Opening the Dark a while. Thanks.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 16, 2020, 05:34:26 PM
Quote from: Eldritch_Knight;1127081
Is there rules ANYWHERE in the World of Darkness for creating powers? Or is it mostly just guess work?
What about minion-type rules?
Guess work. Even then, WW has never been good at game design so it's a mess anyway.

Quote from: Eldritch_Knight;1127081
So if I understand you, Opening the Dark is the retro clone you are using, and you are only devising alternate methods of rules and campaign settings for OtD? Or are you combining everything together into a full OGL-type game? Just trying to get the full picture.
Opening the Dark was written around 2007 by Malcolm Sheppard as a tentative part of the OSR movement. It is more a proof of concept than anything else, as he retracted it shortly after release.

Right now I'm just spitballing. I'd like to create a full-blown clone someday, but I'm not sure it would be worth the effort. Right now I'm more focused on video games and prose fiction.

I've probably already gone over some ideas earlier in this thread, but I'll reiterate some of my basic ideas for a WoD retroclone/heartbreaker in a later post because right now I'm strapped for time. Sorry!
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Eldritch_Knight on April 16, 2020, 06:06:18 PM
Quote from: Chris24601;1127078
Here's my attempt from a number of years back.


I really appreciate that. Thank you.

Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1127083
Guess work. Even then, WW has never been good at game design so it's a mess anyway.

Opening the Dark was written around 2007 by Malcolm Sheppard as a tentative part of the OSR movement. It is more a proof of concept than anything else, as he retracted it shortly after release.

Right now I'm just spitballing. I'd like to create a full-blown clone someday, but I'm not sure it would be worth the effort. Right now I'm more focused on video games and prose fiction.

I've probably already gone over some ideas earlier in this thread, but I'll reiterate some of my basic ideas for a WoD retroclone/heartbreaker in a later post because right now I'm strapped for time. Sorry!


Thank you.

To be quite open, I want to create a specific retro clone eventually, which is why I am asking questions. I would like to create a retro clone of the Street Fighter game that White Wolf did, but with my own setting and rules adjustments. Sure, maybe a better way to do it, but I like the basic framework. I guess I am stubborn. But I read plenty of great reviews for it, so it sounds viable. I just want to revise the combat system to streamline it and make it faster. I had a few other ideas as well to build onto the system; some ideas from other systems. All this is a long ways off. For now I am just trying to get a framework of a game for my homebrew and build everything from there.

There was a well received system for martial arts years ago called CHAMPS, that helped to create martial arts techniques. Unfortunately, even the Wayback Machine can't grab the file, so it is lost. Not that I need it for what I want to do, but it would have been good to get a basic idea for what I want to try with my campaign.

One other thing. I thought I had seen on the first or second page of this thread, you talked about using D6's and had calculations compared to D10's. Were you working on having the game use D6 as well, or did I just misread everything?

I will read back through all your posts. I think everyone was making good points about stuff. I understand the system enough to run it, but it will take some time for me to begin reverse engineering the system to make any attempt at retrocloning (which is why I said any clone I make would be a long ways off).

Thank you.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 16, 2020, 07:19:18 PM
Quote from: Eldritch_Knight;1127085
I really appreciate that. Thank you.



Thank you.

To be quite open, I want to create a specific retro clone eventually, which is why I am asking questions. I would like to create a retro clone of the Street Fighter game that White Wolf did, but with my own setting and rules adjustments. Sure, maybe a better way to do it, but I like the basic framework. I guess I am stubborn. But I read plenty of great reviews for it, so it sounds viable. I just want to revise the combat system to streamline it and make it faster. I had a few other ideas as well to build onto the system; some ideas from other systems. All this is a long ways off. For now I am just trying to get a framework of a game for my homebrew and build everything from there.

There was a well received system for martial arts years ago called CHAMPS, that helped to create martial arts techniques. Unfortunately, even the Wayback Machine can't grab the file, so it is lost. Not that I need it for what I want to do, but it would have been good to get a basic idea for what I want to try with my campaign.

One other thing. I thought I had seen on the first or second page of this thread, you talked about using D6's and had calculations compared to D10's. Were you working on having the game use D6 as well, or did I just misread everything?

I will read back through all your posts. I think everyone was making good points about stuff. I understand the system enough to run it, but it will take some time for me to begin reverse engineering the system to make any attempt at retrocloning (which is why I said any clone I make would be a long ways off).

Thank you.

I think the type of dice can be changed depending on the group's proclivities. There is nothing about dice pools that requires a specific type of die.

Anyway, we are both coming at this with different goals in mind.

You want a martial arts game. Fair enough.

I want an urban fantasy game because I don't like how WW games are designed and I don't like their focus on single monolithic campaign settings.

I want vampires with shadow powers who feed on color, causing their victims to become colorless and eventually shatter like glass. I want werewolves who gain their powers from sentient enchanted wolf pelts symbiotically fused to their bodies. I want mages who aren't forced to fight in that stupid Ascension War. I want ghosts who can fly and teleport and control fire with their minds.

WW holds a monopoly on the market, preventing more creatives takes on the genre from flourishing. WitchCraft and Everlasting tried to be different, and they died.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 16, 2020, 08:00:58 PM
Quote from: Chris24601;1127078
Here's my attempt from a number of years back. Despite the Mage name on the cover, you can easily build the more static monster types and the opponents section includes a list of the traits various creatures would have (Vampires, for example, would have the Thaumivore flaw, they gain Essence by feeding on the blood of living creatures and use that essence to power their other special abilities).

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8uzbbLvQJOLRWtSaVU4M3A5M0E (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8uzbbLvQJOLRWtSaVU4M3A5M0E)

Major fixes attempted in the system were smoothing out the difficulty mechanics at the extremes (i.e. diff 9+ or 3-) and smoothing out the action economy (i.e. how unbalancing extra actions could be in the system), character building/leveling (to encourage more breadth to character concepts) and a bit less binary damage results leading to a slightly more cinematic bent when action breaks out.

I think I ultimately prefer Mage20 revision to its magic system over what I developed here because it had more of a "fast and loose" in its effect building while the mechanics in mine are much more deterministic; but the determinism is ultimately what made it easier to build the special powers of other supernatural types so if what you wanted was rules that would enable multiple supernatural types in the same campaign, its probably the better option than Mage20 for that purpose (do note that the magic/supernatural effects system IS designed to end up with difficulties of either 12+ (big effects) or 2- (quick magic attacks) pretty regularly; this works hand in hand with the difficulty smoothing mechanics where difficulty 12 would be rolled as difficulty 8 with four dice subtracted from the dice pool while difficulty 2 would be rolled at difficulty 4 with two extra dice added).


On a related note, a retroclone can't legally copy the setting of Mage: The Ascension. I wouldn't want to, either. While I like syntactic magic and the basic concept of paradigms (OtD replicates this with its art/praxis mechanic), I don't like the enforced Ascension War setting, abandoning Earth for the otherworlds at the first opportunity like an isekai protagonist, or the Gen X zeitgeist baked into everything.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Chris24601 on April 16, 2020, 08:27:40 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1127092
On a related note, a retroclone can't legally copy the setting of Mage: The Ascension. I wouldn't want to, either. While I like syntactic magic and the basic concept of paradigms (OtD replicates this with its art/praxis mechanic), I don't like the enforced Ascension War setting, abandoning Earth for the otherworlds at the first opportunity like an isekai protagonist, or the Gen X zeitgeist baked into everything.

To be fair to my effort, the project started back in 2005 as a way to give new players access to the needed systems at a point where WW was pushing the NWoD hard and PDFs of the old system just weren't available. Over time it accrued various house rules meant to clean up the mechanics and it just made sense starting around 2010 to just build those house rules right into the material I provided my players.

In short, its material that was never intended to be used outside of my home games because the available books for new players to get into the game had dried up. One of the reasons I share it so readily is precisely because it's got very little commercial value without some rather extensive setting material reworking.

That said, the attribute spreads are unique (not those found in either version of the WoD), the character building method is different, the specifics of its dice pools and difficulty scales are different, the action economy is different, how the conflict-related traits of wounds and stamina work vs. health levels are different and the mechanics of building supernatural effects are different.

You could probably just drop your own setting fluff on top (different monster assumptions for example), give me a designer credit and call it done.

That said, since I'd last updated the document in 2013, I've come to approve of Mutants & Masterminds approach to non-mechanical flaws (ex. Enemies or Dependents) being presented as complications you gain a meta benefit from when they come up instead of as free extra build points. As such, were I to start rebuilding the system for a more generic urban fantasy setting, I'd probably remove many of the social flaws from the system in favor of a general "regain a point of Willpower when you successfully deal with [social complication]" mechanic.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Eldritch_Knight on April 16, 2020, 08:47:50 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1127091
I think the type of dice can be changed depending on the group's proclivities. There is nothing about dice pools that requires a specific type of die.

Anyway, we are both coming at this with different goals in mind.

You want a martial arts game. Fair enough.

I want an urban fantasy game because I don't like how WW games are designed and I don't like their focus on single monolithic campaign settings.

I want vampires with shadow powers who feed on color, causing their victims to become colorless and eventually shatter like glass. I want werewolves who gain their powers from sentient enchanted wolf pelts symbiotically fused to their bodies. I want mages who aren't forced to fight in that stupid Ascension War. I want ghosts who can fly and teleport and control fire with their minds.

WW holds a monopoly on the market, preventing more creatives takes on the genre from flourishing. WitchCraft and Everlasting tried to be different, and they died.

Yes. Different goals.

I like the concept for your game. I can see how you are attempting to make the game your own. Same with me. I want to take the base game design and tweak it to fit my own design goals, some of which are inspired by other systems. Mostly I want to strip off a little bit of complexity of combat from the Street Fighter game, to allow it to run faster. It seems to me that most martial arts games come in 2 types. Narrative only or super crunchy stuff. The Street Fighter game required a Hex board and each player had 9-15 martial arts technique to start.

What I want to do is take inspiration from Weapons of the Gods/Legends of the Wulin, specifically how they do martial arts style. The special techniques would be lessened, because instead of having cards for every type of punch, kick, etc, this would be done through player description. Instead of only knowing one martial arts style the entire game, you could go on to learn others, and eventually have a whole suite of techniques. I also wanted to eliminate the Hex board requirement. I will probably still use one, but I want the opportunity to do Theater of the Mind for smaller fights. I am already working on some basic probability and number crunching and getting my thoughts on paper as I do through and dissect the original game. Much of this is by referring to other games/systems/editions within the White Wolf line.

Its still early with the design. Mostly, I just don't want my players to stall because there are so many choices within the first session of the game.

What I want to do is develop a world that models the absurd settings of late 80's/early 90's martial arts movies and games. Bloodsport, Street Fighter, Big Trouble in Little China, Mortal Kombat, and many more. Played straight. This dark world where warriors with powers enter secret tournaments held by evil sorcerers. Or fight against powerful triads in Chinatown. Rival ninja clans wage secret wars. A megalomaniac whose failed state in the Himalayan mountains attempts to secure ancient martial arts techniques. And demons and servants attempt to release their Demon King so he can unleash Hell on Earth. It would be these various layers of story ideas that the players can go off and do.

Again, like you said, we have different goals in mind. But both are attempting to retro clone a specific genre filtered through our own ideas. And I have been greatly enjoying all the discussion of tearing apart the system and understand everything of how it works, and the probability of it.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 22, 2020, 09:10:37 PM
Since this forum is also for the discussion of settings, I will try to discuss settings.

What exactly would be the purpose of a Vampire retroclone? Is there a place for that? I suppose there is for anyone who disagrees with WW politics and doesn't want to support their products, or for anyone who wants more freedom than the WW setting offers.

As Nightlife goes to show, a vampire-themed RPG needn't limit itself to the stereotypical blood-drinking creatures of the night. One of my bugbears regarding WW's game is that it was basically quasi-Ricean vampires with a bloodlines mechanic tacked on for an illusion that they're less stereotypical than they are. Anyone remember B.J. Zanzibar's World of Darkness (https://bjzbackup.custom-gaming.net/) archive? That included a ton of new bloodlines and so forth that were often hamstrung by the format of the WW games.

There is loads of inspiration for vampires than one can take from folklore and mythology. Here are a few sources I've come across in the course of my research:
Here are a few examples of vampiric creatures from East Asian folklore:
There are plenty of examples like those in the books I cited.

What do you think? Any suggestions for a vampire-themed d10 retroclone?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Eldritch_Knight on April 24, 2020, 07:05:47 AM
I don't know much about the World of Darkness, but have heard that their settings can be rather limited. I think having a focused setting concept can be great (players understand exactly what the game is about) but also can lead to boredom (all scenarios are ONLY about said game concept).

Do you plan to have a specific campaign concept or are you looking for a variety of campaign styles?

A few things off the top of my head (disregard if they do not fit your game concept):

1. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for PS1 followed a man that becomes a vampire and gets trapped within a war between sinister gods.

2. Dracorouge (a Japanese TRPG) deals with vampires that have to resist their urges or turn into Night Beasts (a monstrous killing machine); has a similar feeling to the concepts of Bushido and Samurai.

3. Having an ominous threat in the background, where Vampires are bad, but there is something much worse...

Again, I don't know what specific types of stories you want to tell with your game. I have more fleshed out ideas, and explanations with what I am going for with the above, but figured I would save you time reading if none of this was where you were taking your game. Personally, I like campaign worlds that are layered. Where there are different levels of overall story types and challenges based on what the GM/group want to get into.

Hope this helps in any way.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on April 24, 2020, 03:09:43 PM
Quote from: Eldritch_Knight;1127745
I don't know much about the World of Darkness, but have heard that their settings can be rather limited. I think having a focused setting concept can be great (players understand exactly what the game is about) but also can lead to boredom (all scenarios are ONLY about said game concept).

Do you plan to have a specific campaign concept or are you looking for a variety of campaign styles?

A few things off the top of my head (disregard if they do not fit your game concept):

1. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain for PS1 followed a man that becomes a vampire and gets trapped within a war between sinister gods.

2. Dracorouge (a Japanese TRPG) deals with vampires that have to resist their urges or turn into Night Beasts (a monstrous killing machine); has a similar feeling to the concepts of Bushido and Samurai.

3. Having an ominous threat in the background, where Vampires are bad, but there is something much worse...

Again, I don't know what specific types of stories you want to tell with your game. I have more fleshed out ideas, and explanations with what I am going for with the above, but figured I would save you time reading if none of this was where you were taking your game. Personally, I like campaign worlds that are layered. Where there are different levels of overall story types and challenges based on what the GM/group want to get into.

Hope this helps in any way.

I do agree that a strong focus can help. The idea I have is some kind of broader sandbox, with a number of strong focuses to provide examples of what you can do.

I don't really have a more specific goal in mind than a retroclone of WW's vampire, made for those who are disappointed with WW's vampire games.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on May 06, 2020, 09:33:08 PM
So in an earlier post (https://www.therpgsite.com/showthread.php?41401-Hacking-the-Storyteller-System&p=1113904&viewfull=1#post1113904) I mentioned some brief ideas for handling vampires. Basically, I wouldn't restrict them to drinking blood, burning in sunlight, etc but allow far more in the way of customization. The only thing that all vampires have in common is that they must feed, typically on humans. Some drink blood or tears, some feed on emotions, some drain sanity, some feed through sex, some feed on already dead bodies, etc.

More Lost Girl, What We Do In The Shadows, and American Vampire than WW.

Now comes some ideas for werewolves.

Werewolves

Compared to vampires, werewolves get the short stick in popular fiction. While vampires get laundry lists of superpowers because Dracula had lots of superpowers, werewolves generally get nothing beyond shapeshifting. There's never been a Dracula-equivalent for werewolves.

WW is pretty much the only time werewolves get many superpowers (although that's par the course for WW splats).

As with vampires, I would offer far more customization for werewolves than usual. Dresden Files' lupine theriomorphs, WitchCraft's ferals, The Everlasting's manitou, The Order's Knights of St. Christopher, etc. I think you should be able to create whatever you want.

Werewolves can have various origins: magical study, a talisman, a curse, a mental illness, pact with a spirit, a ritual, etc. If we're using animism, then all werewolves invoke wolf totems to transform. Or other predatory animals. The Everlasting's manitou can be bound with spirits of minerals or plants!

I'm leery of infectious werewolves because the infectious element raises the question of how humanity survived the dark ages. WitchCraft (and other works) explain this away by stating that the wolf spirit can only attempt to infect people who experience near-death-experience as a result of a werewolf attack. WitchCraft also has hereditary passing of the spirit (which is limited by slow human reproduction), and when a werewolf hunter kills a werewolf the spirit may attempt to possess the killer to survive (which is zero population growth).

Socially you could devise a number of different organizations for werewolves, depending on what the goal of the organization is: accumulate temporal power, eco-terrorism, police the spirit world, hunt down Cthulhu mythos invaders, police abuses of magic, hunt down bad people, etc.

There's no reason to be limited by WW's idiosyncratic games.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on May 09, 2020, 07:47:15 PM
So over in another thread some people complained about World of Darkness official materials not being what they wanted anymore. So why not bring the OSR to the worlds of dimness? Does anybody have ideas for settings? Any interest in a shared multiverse?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Aglondir on May 11, 2020, 12:35:57 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1129422
So over in another thread some people complained about World of Darkness official materials not being what they wanted anymore. So why not bring the OSR to the worlds of dimness? Does anybody have ideas for settings? Any interest in a shared multiverse?


Sure. Maybe a new post in the main forum might get more responses. My first question would be: How would the OSR work with vampires?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on May 11, 2020, 11:53:59 AM
Quote from: Aglondir;1129534
Sure. Maybe a new post in the main forum might get more responses.
Good idea. Thanks. I'll get around to that one of these days...

Quote from: Aglondir;1129534
My first question would be: How would the OSR work with vampires?
How it works with any other concept? People can share mechanics and even fluff legally? Back when d20Modern launched its SRD, it included Department-7 as part of the SRD. The same logic could be used with any other kind of fictional organization. We could create a shared multiverse a la Cthulhu mythos or whatever is going on with the OGL multiverse.

The upside is that you wouldn't be limited to a particular person's or group's vision of what the setting should be, because there would be a multiverse. The OGL may also be applied selectively, so you can retain certain concepts under more exclusive use.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Aglondir on May 11, 2020, 01:10:46 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1129564
Good idea. Thanks. I'll get around to that one of these days...

You should do another thread about vampire games that are NOT V:TM, like Feed, Nightlife, Monsterhearts, etc. Maybe a paragraph each about what makes them different than V:TM.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Aglondir on May 11, 2020, 01:27:31 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1129564
Good idea. Thanks. I'll get around to that one of these days...


How it works with any other concept? People can share mechanics and even fluff legally? Back when d20Modern launched its SRD, it included Department-7 as part of the SRD. The same logic could be used with any other kind of fictional organization. We could create a shared multiverse a la Cthulhu mythos or whatever is going on with the OGL multiverse.

The upside is that you wouldn't be limited to a particular person's or group's vision of what the setting should be, because there would be a multiverse. The OGL may also be applied selectively, so you can retain certain concepts under more exclusive use.

True. I've been doing some thinking about this lately. I see several ways to implement it:


1, 3, and 5 are my current favorites. But I'm focused on System, you might be focused more on Setting.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on May 11, 2020, 04:53:06 PM
Quote from: Aglondir;1129571
You should do another thread about vampire games that are NOT V:TM, like Feed, Nightlife, Monsterhearts, etc. Maybe a paragraph each about what makes them different than V:TM.


I think I might have done something like that a while ago, but I don't remember. I'd prefer to write original work rather than just shill for other games. None of those are released under the OGL, which I would prefer to use.

Quote from: Aglondir;1129572
True. I've been doing some thinking about this lately. I see several ways to implement it:

  • Version 1: A B/X concept, where race = class. So the classes would be Vampire, Werewolf, Changeling, Mages, etc.
  • Version 2: An AD&D concept, with race as one axis and class as another. So you'd have Vampire fighters, Werewolf fighters, Vampire magic users, Changeling rogues, etc. Right away there's a problem with "Mage magic-users."
  • Version 3: A Stars Without Number concept. with 3 classes (Fighter, Expert, Spellcaster) and supernatural template as a Background.
  • Version 4: A D6 concept (it's old school, right?) with no classes but supernatural templates.
  • Version 5: A Star Frontiers concept, with percentile skills and supernatural races (instead of Dralasite, Vrusk, etc.)


1, 3, and 5 are my current favorites. But I'm focused on System, you might be focused more on Setting.

I'm just using OSR as a generic shorthand for a retroclone movement, I'm not suggesting using D&D rules. Certainly I suggest using the OGL, but I'm not married to any particular system. I prefer skill-based systems, but to each their own.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on May 14, 2020, 12:26:50 PM
I'm going to skip wizards for a sec to focus on animates, i.e. animated inanimated humanoid objects. To quote myself in another thread:
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1129960
Does anybody want to discuss more world building?

For example, if we wanted to make a "animate" splat, there's a bunch of public domain inspirations you could use instead of copying Promethean.

The homunculus of medieval alchemy, made of flesh grown in an alchemical laboratory.

The golem of Jewish folklore, animated from clay by Kabbalah lore.

The galatea of Greek myth, animated from stone by a desire for companionship.

The automaton of Greek myth, animated from metal by the divine forge.

The pinocchio of Italian fairytale, animated from wood by a father's love.

The nephele of Greek myth, animated from cloud by divine trickery.

The moowis of Algonquin folklore, animated from snow by a suitor spurned.

The scarecrow, animated from cloth and straw.

Etc.


I have to work around WW's copyright on Promethean for fear of them suing me like Underworld, so that means I have to go back to original sources and remix them in ways WW didn't. I can't incorporate alchemy or Pandora's box into my setting for the same reason. Which sucks since Promethean had some interesting ideas, but that's what you get when WW has to cobble together splats based on extremely niche concepts for the first time.

So splats, at least the involuntary inherent splats, are based on the materials that the animate is made from. These materials include flesh, clay, stone, refined metal, wood, cloud, snow, textiles, etc. Most have at least one associated fraternity who claims direct descent from a particular mythical/legendary figure, like Pinocchio or Adam Frankenstein.

The fraternities include Paracelsians (homunculi descended from Paracelsus), Löwites (golems descended from Rabbi Löw), Galatians (stone statues descended from Pygmalion and Galatea), Talosians (bronze men descended from the Cretan Talos), Pinocchians (wooden puppets descended from Geppetto and Pinocchio), Nephwracks (sentient clouds descended from Nephele), Abominable Snowmen (descended from the Algonquin Moowis), Haitian zombies, etc.

There's no wasteland, disquiet, or torment. Partly because that is copyrighted, and partly because those mechanics were unpopular. If you want to play animates under a city politics style rather than going on a pilgrimage to become a real boy, then I'm not going to arbitrarily punish you for wanting to do so.

I suppose there could also be another splat axis for how well the character can integrate into human society. This could include "can pass for human," "clearly not human," "must parasitically feed on a human host," etc.

Then, I don't know, another splat axis specifically for explaining why the animate came to life. This could include "has an artificial soul," "subservient to a master," "possessed by a ghost," etc.

That last bit reminds me... I guess if you wanted to then you could play hybrid splats, like a ghost, fairy, nature spirit, or whatever with an animate body that they can leave sometimes. This might be a porcelain doll, a corpse (their own or somebody else's), a car, etc. They can learn superpowers normally restricted to animates, but only have access while possessing their simulacrum.

What do you think?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: The Exploited. on May 17, 2020, 11:51:40 AM
Out of curiosity... How does one go about avoiding copyright issues with the dreaded WW? Is it just a case of lingo and core groups?

I'd love to see something like this published, but without all the meta-snot baggage.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on May 18, 2020, 04:45:05 PM
Quote from: The Exploited.;1130291
Out of curiosity... How does one go about avoiding copyright issues with the dreaded WW? Is it just a case of lingo and core groups?


I don't actually recall WW ever making frivolous lawsuits besides the Underworld lawsuit. The only other time I personally recall is when somebody was selling pendants of the CoD skull designs received a C&D, but I don't recall an actual lawsuit being filed.

WW didn't sue The Everlasting even though it was literally written by a former WW writer (Steven C. Brown) and didn't sue Mykal Lakim for his horribly written Wastelands of Damnation ripoff of WW.

Also, you could easily show that WW's Vampire's clans are ripoffs of specific works of vampire fiction. Toreador are Vampire Chronicles, Ventrue are Dracula, Nosferatu are Nosferatu, Gangrel are 80s b-movie vampires, Brujah are The Lost Boys, Tremere are from Ars Magica (now owned by Atlas), Tzimisce are Necroscope, Setites are from Conan, etc.

Quote from: The Exploited.;1130291
I'd love to see something like this published, but without all the meta-snot baggage.
I'm not really versed in the metaplot other than it means the setting has a timeline that continues as real world time advances. It's essentially inescapable for any setting which is linked to the contemporary real world. Even VTR has a metaplot for New Orleans, since the hurricane apparently redrew the political map IIRC.

Anyway, you still need to write a bazillion words of backstory for all the lore junkies and I always found that extremely intrusive outside of Nephilim. Nephilim was amazing at that sort of thing because it used real history as a basis and then invented a variety of nephilim and secret society politics in the background of major historical periods. Because of the past lives mechanic, the PCs could have been personally involved in major historical events or even famous historical figures (assuming the GM approves), which WW never offered as an option.

A lot of my ideas are pretty weird, like vampire castles in space, so I'm not sure whether I could devise a convincing backstory. It would take me years to write much of anything. I'm thinking that it might be better to write introductory adventures, adventure paths, and short stories to get players interested. Actually, I think making an introductory adventure titled Vampire Castles in Space would probably go a long way to attracting the sort of audience I want. That title is simultaneously irreverent and cool, since it bends genres. The last thing I want to be is pretentious like WW. (Yes, I know Mage had space battles in orbit of Saturn, but it still somehow managed to be pretentious as hell.)

Like, how much backstory do you think it would take to explain why there is a vampire castle in space and why the PCs are visiting? Is it a murder mystery where one of the PCs is a vampire who inherited the castle from a relative who died under mysterious circumstances and now risks the same fate unless the party discovers the truth? Maybe, Discworld-style, the heir became a vampire by inheriting the castle and thus it serves as an introduction to the vampire lifestyle?

What do you guys think?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: The Exploited. on June 12, 2020, 08:40:53 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1130490
I don't actually recall WW ever making frivolous lawsuits besides the Underworld lawsuit. The only other time I personally recall is when somebody was selling pendants of the CoD skull designs received a C&D, but I don't recall an actual lawsuit being filed.

WW didn't sue The Everlasting even though it was literally written by a former WW writer (Steven C. Brown) and didn't sue Mykal Lakim for his horribly written Wastelands of Damnation ripoff of WW.

Also, you could easily show that WW's Vampire's clans are ripoffs of specific works of vampire fiction. Toreador are Vampire Chronicles, Ventrue are Dracula, Nosferatu are Nosferatu, Gangrel are 80s b-movie vampires, Brujah are The Lost Boys, Tremere are from Ars Magica (now owned by Atlas), Tzimisce are Necroscope, Setites are from Conan, etc.

I'm not really versed in the metaplot other than it means the setting has a timeline that continues as real world time advances. It's essentially inescapable for any setting which is linked to the contemporary real world. Even VTR has a metaplot for New Orleans, since the hurricane apparently redrew the political map IIRC.

Anyway, you still need to write a bazillion words of backstory for all the lore junkies and I always found that extremely intrusive outside of Nephilim. Nephilim was amazing at that sort of thing because it used real history as a basis and then invented a variety of nephilim and secret society politics in the background of major historical periods. Because of the past lives mechanic, the PCs could have been personally involved in major historical events or even famous historical figures (assuming the GM approves), which WW never offered as an option.

A lot of my ideas are pretty weird, like vampire castles in space, so I'm not sure whether I could devise a convincing backstory. It would take me years to write much of anything.


Thanks for the info' and Sorry for the late reply.

As you say, there's a shed load of influences WW 'borrowed' as the years rolled by. I'm definitely going to start writing stuff up, even just for an experiment.

BTW - what's wrong with floating castles in space?! Sounds like OSR paradise :) or something from a cool anime flick like Vampire Hunter D. I think you could always hand-wave the backstory. Just keep it nebulous and the players mostly int he dark. ;)
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on July 03, 2020, 03:17:32 PM
Hey again. I've gotten over my last depressive episode and I'm in the mood to start discussing OSR urban fantasy again.

I sure I mentioned this before, but I'll reiterate it here in the simplest possible terms. I thought the concept of magic styles in the Mage games was a neat concept and I want to apply that dynamic to splats in general.

What do you think?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Snowman0147 on July 03, 2020, 04:18:42 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1137775
Hey again. I've gotten over my last depressive episode and I'm in the mood to start discussing OSR urban fantasy again.

I sure I mentioned this before, but I'll reiterate it here in the simplest possible terms. I thought the concept of magic styles in the Mage games was a neat concept and I want to apply that dynamic to splats in general.

What do you think?

I am way ahead of you.  I already got server on discord testing out mortals.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Aglondir on July 03, 2020, 11:37:19 PM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1137775
Hey again. I've gotten over my last depressive episode and I'm in the mood to start discussing OSR urban fantasy again.

I sure I mentioned this before, but I'll reiterate it here in the simplest possible terms. I thought the concept of magic styles in the Mage games was a neat concept and I want to apply that dynamic to splats in general.

What do you think?


Welcome back. Glad you are feeling better!
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on July 04, 2020, 03:36:28 PM
What do you think of applying the concept of "magic styles" to splats in general? It would mean greater diversity within splats.

E.g. the vampire archetype would include blood-suckers, succubi, leanan sidhe, etc; werewolves would include cursed irishmen of ossory, medicine men, krsniks, cadejo, hounds of God, etc; wizards would include hermetic adepts, wiccans, taoists, mad scientists, time travelers, templar knights, cyborgs, etc.

This isn't a new concept by any means, but I don't think I've ever seen a setting build around it. Even the original Nightlife is essentially about variations on the vampire archetype.

What do you think?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: Chris24601 on July 14, 2020, 11:02:37 AM
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1137919
What do you think of applying the concept of "magic styles" to splats in general? It would mean greater diversity within splats.

E.g. the vampire archetype would include blood-suckers, succubi, leanan sidhe, etc; werewolves would include cursed irishmen of ossory, medicine men, krsniks, cadejo, hounds of God, etc; wizards would include hermetic adepts, wiccans, taoists, mad scientists, time travelers, templar knights, cyborgs, etc.

This isn't a new concept by any means, but I don't think I've ever seen a setting build around it. Even the original Nightlife is essentially about variations on the vampire archetype.

What do you think?
You certainly HAVE seen settings built around it... its called the Old World of Darkness. That's basically the setup for all their splats.

The Traditions were based off real magical practices;
- Akashics were Tibetan Daoists.
- Celestial Chorus was a smattering of faith-based magics including Mithrasism, Gnostics and Christians.
- Cult of Ecstasy is ecstatic practices descended from the Indian Dervishes.
- Dreamspeakers were indigenous shamanic practices.
- Euthanatos are a Cthonic Mystery Cult based who work magic through spiritual union with god-forms.
- Order of Hermes are, naturally, hermetics whose practices they trace back to Hermes Trimegestus.
- Sons of Ether are Mad Science.
- Verbena is pre-Christian European paganism.
- Virtual Adepts are modern chaos theory and attempting to build a Reality 2.0 inside the digital realm.
- Ali-Batani is Islamic mysticism.
- Taftani are pre-Islamic Middle Eastern mysticism.
- Solificati are medieval alchemists.
- Hollow Ones are New Age/Victorian mysticism.
- The Technocracy as a whole are super-science, but with specific fields like social conditioning (NWO), cybernetic systems (Iteration-X; note this includes classic cybernetics... i.e. the science of system organization not just implants and the like), financial theory (Syndicate), genetics (Progenitors) and space exploration (Void Engineers).

Similarly the original Vampire clans were essentially specific vampire archetypes;
- Brujah were Lost Boys style vampires.
- Gangrel were the shape-shifting, commands animals vampires.
- Malkavians were your obsessive-compulsive must count every grain of rice vampires.
- Nosferatu were your ugly monstrous vampires.
- Toreador were your Anne Rice vampires.
- Tremere were your extremely magical vampires.
- Ventrue were your Vampire Lords.

Its the same for werewolves, ghosts and fae. It wasn't until they started getting into hyper-specific splats like Mummy, Hunter the Reckoning (vs. generic Hunter's Hunted where there was plenty of diversity) or Kindred of the East that you started to see mono-cultures in relation to the splats.

The later additions got ever more specific because there's only so much you could do with the generic "must suck blood, burns up in daylight" limits they established; but you can see the whole "magical styles" setup right there from the start.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on July 14, 2020, 05:34:50 PM
Quote from: Chris24601;1139727
You certainly HAVE seen settings built around it... its called the Old World of Darkness. That's basically the setup for all their splats.

The Traditions were based off real magical practices;
- Akashics were Tibetan Daoists.
- Celestial Chorus was a smattering of faith-based magics including Mithrasism, Gnostics and Christians.
- Cult of Ecstasy is ecstatic practices descended from the Indian Dervishes.
- Dreamspeakers were indigenous shamanic practices.
- Euthanatos are a Cthonic Mystery Cult based who work magic through spiritual union with god-forms.
- Order of Hermes are, naturally, hermetics whose practices they trace back to Hermes Trimegestus.
- Sons of Ether are Mad Science.
- Verbena is pre-Christian European paganism.
- Virtual Adepts are modern chaos theory and attempting to build a Reality 2.0 inside the digital realm.
- Ali-Batani is Islamic mysticism.
- Taftani are pre-Islamic Middle Eastern mysticism.
- Solificati are medieval alchemists.
- Hollow Ones are New Age/Victorian mysticism.
- The Technocracy as a whole are super-science, but with specific fields like social conditioning (NWO), cybernetic systems (Iteration-X; note this includes classic cybernetics... i.e. the science of system organization not just implants and the like), financial theory (Syndicate), genetics (Progenitors) and space exploration (Void Engineers).

Similarly the original Vampire clans were essentially specific vampire archetypes;
- Brujah were Lost Boys style vampires.
- Gangrel were the shape-shifting, commands animals vampires.
- Malkavians were your obsessive-compulsive must count every grain of rice vampires.
- Nosferatu were your ugly monstrous vampires.
- Toreador were your Anne Rice vampires.
- Tremere were your extremely magical vampires.
- Ventrue were your Vampire Lords.

Its the same for werewolves, ghosts and fae. It wasn't until they started getting into hyper-specific splats like Mummy, Hunter the Reckoning (vs. generic Hunter's Hunted where there was plenty of diversity) or Kindred of the East that you started to see mono-cultures in relation to the splats.

The later additions got ever more specific because there's only so much you could do with the generic "must suck blood, burns up in daylight" limits they established; but you can see the whole "magical styles" setup right there from the start.

The WW games have all sorts of arbitrary idiosyncrasies that get in the way like consensus reality, the Cain myth, Gaia, Oblivion, banality, blah blah blah. In order to really understand this, you need to consume fiction that isn't by WW and isn't strangled by it.

American Vampire (the comic) and Dresden Files are good starting points.

I'll give a more specific example of what I mean: in my imagined vampire example setting, a party could consist of a fallen angel, a succubus, a ghost, a genie, and a mad scientist's experiment. They have wildly different origins. Their strengths and weaknesses would be wildly different, not a common template with slight deviation. What they all have in common is that they predate on humans, thus being under the vampire umbrella.

That's the sort of magic styles I'm talking about, if that makes sense.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on July 17, 2020, 02:09:51 PM
Maybe GURPS Blood Types and Shapeshifters are better comparisons. Or The Lords of the Night: Vampires by Bottled Imp Games, Out for Blood by Bastion Press...

The WW games don't do a good job of showing monster concept diversity outside a few exceptions like Mage: The Ascension (after you throw out the Ascension War and do your own thing), Changeling: The Lost, or Hunter: The Vigil.

In fact, few to none of the splats within the fatsplats represent widely recognized archetypes except maybe the seemings in Lost. Most of the time WW was just taking characters from specific books or movies and spinning them into character classes. Overall, each splat isn't actually all that diverse within its fatsplat aside from cosmetic elements. Which I find a huge missed opportunity.

To expand on the example I gave earlier for vampire variety:

That's the sort of diversity I'm talking about.

What do you guys think?
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on July 27, 2020, 01:21:16 PM
Quote from: Chris24601;1139727
Similarly the original Vampire clans were essentially specific vampire archetypes;
- Brujah were Lost Boys style vampires.
- Gangrel were the shape-shifting, commands animals vampires.
- Malkavians were your obsessive-compulsive must count every grain of rice vampires.
- Nosferatu were your ugly monstrous vampires.
- Toreador were your Anne Rice vampires.
- Tremere were your extremely magical vampires.
- Ventrue were your Vampire Lords.


To be entirely fair, none of those are vampire archetypes. We have specific works of fiction or bits of folklore to use as bases, but these are not the same as archetypes. Vampires do not seem to actually have archetypes in the literary criticism sense. That is why most vampires in fiction have been more or less carbon copies of Dracula.

The vampire itself is typically thought of an archetype unto itself, not multiple archetypes. My google-fu might be weak, but the Mary Sue once came up with a list of vampire archetypes (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:https://www.themarysue.com/the-10-greatest-vampire-archetypes/&hl=en&gl=us&strip=1&vwsrc=0) and they were completely different from those used by Mark Rein-Hagen. I assume the difference is because they are based on actual critical reading of vampire fiction, rather than making distinct classes for a game. These were:


I think I mentioned this in a previous post.

Quote from: Chris24601;1139727
Its the same for werewolves,
Nope. The WW game has absolutely nothing to with werewolf fiction at large. The tribes are completely made up with zero basis in folklore or mythology (beyond cool names like "fenris" or "wendigo" that have been stripped of any cultural significance). Most of them are bizarre ethnic stereotypes.

Jonathan S. Coolidge wrote an essay in 2006 (http://archive.today/2020.07.27-171446/https://thepack.network/thepackboard/viewtopic.php?t=2132) going over the real literary archetypes they could identify. The archetypes were medieval, cursed, diabolical, heroic, and sympathetic.

Again, I think I mentioned this in a previous post.

Quote from: Chris24601;1139727
The later additions got ever more specific because there's only so much you could do with the generic "must suck blood, burns up in daylight" limits they established


Yeah. So why have those limits in the first place? Dracula didn't burn in sunlight, and psychic vampires don't suck blood.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on August 06, 2020, 12:41:11 PM
Here's a blast from the past since I can't think of anything to add right now:

Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;881201
Here are the source links for reference:

https://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2008/11/21/world-of-darkness-merits-generic-and-specific/
https://mobunited.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/phantasm-home-of-storytelling-lite/
https://mobunited.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/fast-darkness/
https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?607861-My-Own-90s-Heartbreaker-Qwixalted-Style
https://www.scribd.com/collections/2653023/Opening-the-Dark
https://www.scribd.com/collections/5739341/Vampire-RPGS
https://web.archive.org/web/20130328233807/http://tailkinker.contrabandent.com/rpg.htm
http://aakin.net/wiki/doku.php?id=qwixalted

Some of the links don't work, but mobunited should be available through wayback machine (EDIT: ST Lite (https://web.archive.org/web/20140220184434/https://mobunited.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/phantasm-home-of-storytelling-lite/) and Fast Darkness (https://web.archive.org/web/20150727114624/https://mobunited.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/fast-darkness/)) and the blood-beast-man hack on scribd (EDIT: here (https://www.scribd.com/collections/5739341/Vampire-RPGS)).

Later I'll try to discuss something someone else told me about how it seems unnecessary for the various mage games to include magic attributes that are questionably necessary.
Title: Hacking the Storyteller System
Post by: BoxCrayonTales on August 06, 2020, 01:40:43 PM
Anyway...

The Mage games and their relatives and derivatives use a syntactic magic system (http://pseudoboo.blogspot.com/2016/02/mechanics-syntactic-magic.html). In Ars Magica this is the Noun-Verb form (or Technique+Form in in-game jargon). The Mage games all use a variation of realm-based magic, but additionally add a special magical attribute: "Arete" (Mage: The Ascension), "Foundation" (Dark Ages: Mage), "Gnosis" (Mage: The Awakening). Opening the Dark calls this stat "Art." To perform magic, one adds their magical attribute to a magical skill: e.g. Arete+[Sphere], Foundation+[Pillar], Gnosis+[Arcanum], Art+[Praxis].

During a chat somebody informed me that they felt the magical attribute was redundant, unnecessary, and an experience tax. Magicians should just roll the magical skills alone or roll them in tandem with the non-magical attributes.

I think this is a fair criticism.

What do you think? Do you think the magical attribute should be deprecated? Do you think it could be made more useful to justify its existence?

For example, this Risus hack (https://web.archive.org/web/20130329001225/http://tailkinker.contrabandent.com/mage.pdf) suggests that the magical attribute could be used to perform "coincidental" magic all by itself.

Do you think this complaint could be expanded to similar "power stat" statistics, like a vampire's "generation" or "blood-potency" statistic in various editions of Vampire and The Everlasting?

I'm quite interested in hearing different points of view.

EDIT: Furthermore, why do superpowers sometimes rely on the character's mundane skills? For example, the vampire's domination powers rely on their mundane charisma and persuasion skills rather than bypassing them entirely. Wouldn't the superpower ignore such limitations, you think?