Keyword: Battery

A keyword I drummed up mostly in order to replace the idea of attunement motes from the Exalted 2.5 errata. I felt that attunement motes made a bunch of appropriate Abyssal charms totally useless and just seemed like an awkward and silly mechanic. Hopefully this keyword would work better, allowing characters to regain motes, but only once combat has ended, rather than allowing them to essentially fight indefinitely.

Motes regained from a charm with this keyword do not immediately return to the Abyssal’s pool. They are instead stored in his anima, bloating it to higher levels of activity than denoted by his essence usage, for him to devour at a convenient time. When using this ability, it is important to denote whether the motes stolen will be returned to the Abyssal’s Personal or Peripheral pool. Personal motes stolen are stored invisibly in the character’s anima, while any Peripheral motes are added to the number of motes a character has spent in a scene to determine the level of the character’s anima banner.

The motes the character has stored in her anima banner are not accessible to the Abyssal immediately; at the end of the scene where the charm was used, the motes are emptied into the character’s essence pools. Any excess motes are lost. Personal motes dissipate harmlessly into the environment with no visible effects. Excess Peripheral motes cause the character’s anima banner to briefly flash to the iconic level as they are dissipated.

Advertisements

Getting the Gang Together

Does anyone else have problems getting their gaming group together? I’ve been playing roleplaying games for years now, and the capacity for trouble when assembling a group of gamers has never ceased to amaze me. Even now, when my gaming groups seem to be getting ever smaller, it’s almost impossible to get a regular weekly game together. It seems like getting just 3 people together for a session should be easier than assembling the monumental 7 people games I used to run/play in back in university, but, if anything, it seems harder to keep these small games running, possibly because the loss of even one player means that we can’t run the game that week, whereas 5/7 was a good turnout in the old days.

People call the day before, or even an hour in advance, or maybe just drop you a text.

“Hey dude, I’ve got an early start/late finish today/tomorrow, so I can’t make it tonight. Sorry!”

I can’t blame them, I’ve done it myself. Work builds up, the house is a mess, maybe you’ve even got family commitments (maybe even your own kids?!) or you’re just totally wiped out from shitty, thankless days at the office. Unless the game really grabs your interest, it can be hard to turn down an evening that consists of a warm comforting meal on your own sofa in front of some of your favourite tv/films/video games before collapsing into bed for a few extra hours, at least compared to the amount of sleep you’d get after hauling yourself back from a game late at night.

This has got me to thinking, am I asking too much? Sure, when all my friends and I were lazy university-going bums, it was easy for us to make the time. After all, we pretty much had nothing but time on our hands, even those of us that went to lectures. Admittedly, we probably should have been doing more work and less roleplaying, but still, we had anywhere 2 and 4 weekly games going on at that time, and there were few weeks those games didn’t run.

However, nowadays, almost 5 years on, that’s all changed. Most of us have full time jobs now, we’ve moved further apart (geographically) due to affordability and work, and, obviously, we have less time. It’s fine to head out to a game at 6pm on a weeknight if you’ve only been to 3 hours of lectures that day, but doing the same after 8+ hours of workday is significantly more challenging. On top of that, our games have started to begin later and finish earlier as well. What used to be a 6pm through to 11pm affair is increasingly becoming a 7:30pm to 10pm session, which now only manages to run about once every other week, rather than weekly. Maybe weekly games are just not a realistic affair in an, and I’m loathe to use this work, “adult” world?

Having spent a not insignificant amount of time on various internet forums that talk about roleplaying games, it seems to me the more common format in games for work-a-day chumps is a monthly, or maybe, if you’re lucky, twice-monthly game, potentially running for longer than I’m used to (sort of a roleplaying day than an evening session). Maybe this would work better in our now grown-up roleplaying world, allowing us to fit our gaming in on our increasingly rare days off, but ensuring that people can make that bit more effort to attend, with only the one commitment a month.

I think I might give it a go with my next roleplaying endeavor; perhaps less is more?

Legendary Saga

This is a basic set of rules for Legendary Saga. My goal here is to keep it as lean and simple as possible and to make it as easy to pick up as I can. For that reason I’ve left out a lot of the “welcome to roleplaying” elements that feature in most books. I assume that if you’re here, you probably know terms like “GM” and “d10”. If not, my apologies; let me know and I’ll always be willing to add a little section for people who might be new to this kind of stuff.

Some people might not like the idea of a game where all but the most important actions are decided narratively by the players, but I feel that it works as long as the players are behind it as well. As always with roleplaying, it’s not about winning, it’s about telling your character’s story, and so people should feel safe that players are going to try and resolve the narrative in a way that is interesting for the characters involved. However, it does still retain the random element, and important events that have story consequences are still resolved with a dice roll.

This game owes a lot to a number of other games which either inspired me to make this by being great but needing a simpler system, or by having awesome ideas I’ve cannibalised for this. Big ups to Exalted, Prime Time Adventures and Lady Blackbird, amongst many others.

———–

  1. Glossary
  2. Characters
  3. Narrative Time
  4. Action Rolls
  5. Health and Soul
  6. Dramatic Points
  7. Progression

———–

1. Glossary

  • Action Roll – A roll made when a player wishes their character to take some significant action. Not necessary for every act, only those of plot importance. This dice pool is built by tagging Elements.
  • Drama Point – Granted to a player by either the GM or a fellow player when he does something awesome or describes something impressively.
  • Element – A word or short phrase describing a facet or aspect of a character, which, if tagged in the character’s description of his action, can grant a die to the action pool.
  • Flaw – An element of a character that deducts dice from related action rolls, but grants Protagonist Points in return.
  • Experience Point – An indicator of a character’s progression. 5 points will grant the purchase of a new Element.
  • Health Point – Representative of the wellbeing of a character’s body. Can be spent to enhance a roll.
  • Protagonist Point – Representative of a character’s plot importance and power. Can be spent to enhance a roll.
  • Soul Point – Representative of the wellbeing of a character’s mind. Can be spent to enhance a roll.

2. Characters

A Legendary Saga character is essentially a list of descriptive elements that come together under different headings to describe the character’s abilities and personality. These elements can then be tagged when a character is doing something to provide dice for his action pool, so the more a particular action connects with the character’s description, the better chance they have at succeeding at that action. Generally, characters start with a number of elements under different headings, and, as the game progresses, may develop more elements as their character progresses. Elements are generally one word to a short sentence, describing a certain aspect of the character, generally something he is good at or that exemplifies his personality.

For instance, a character who is good with a sword might have “Greatest Swordsman in the Kingdom” as an aspect, which he could tag any time he got involved in an action roll involving swordplay. The same character may also have “Can never back down from a duel”, and so if he was in a duel with swords, he could tag both, or if it involved guns or anything else, he would only be able to tag the second element. As stated below, each element tagged adds a die to your action pool.

As standard, characters divide their elements up under the following categories: Talents, Attachments and Supernatural. They receive 20 Talent elements, 10 Attatchments and 10 Supernatural elements. This is obviously just a standard value; for higher flying games more can be allowed, or the ratios moved aroun (for example, in games with no supernatural elements).

Talents are innate characteristics of the character, related to his physical or mental capabilities or learned skills and abilities. Essentially, talents should be elements of a character that do not depend on anything but the character’s body, mind and wits to be put into play. Good examples of elements that could be described as talents are Incredible Shot, Strong as an Ox, Winning Smile, Keen Eyesight, Master Investigator.

Attachments are external to the character, and represent either his belongings, connections to others or just status in the world. These should generally be descriptive of things the character has access to, either in broad or specific terms, or how other people see him. This is also the best area for describing things the character cares about and is attached to in the world. Good examples of elements that could be described as attachments are Billionaire, Head of the Secret Lodge, The Holy Sword Veritas, 9 Terrible Oni Servants, Space Battleship Orion, The Zion Company, The People of Orai Village.

Supernatural elements are not always applicable depending on the game being played. They are capabilities of a character that mark him out as something other than normal. These do not have to be overtly supernatural, depending on the playstyle, but without any supernatural elements, it is assumed characters are limited by the capabilites of natural humans. It is important to note that any powers or capabilities not defined by a character’s supernatural elements are not assumed to be possible. A GM may allow some cool improvisation on the fly, but if you don’t note down that your character can hurl lightning bolts, don’t expect to be able to do so. Good examples of supernatural elements are Master of Storms, Fly Like an Bird, Mountain-Tossing Strength, Laser Eyes, Master Sorcerer, Demon Summoner, Hypnosis.

Each character also has flaws. There is no minimum or maximum number of flaws allowed for a character, but they essentially work as anti-elements; every time a description or action would tag one of a character’s flaws, he deducts one die from his action pool for each flaw tagged. However, for every die lost, the character regains a Protagonist Point, even if this would take him beyond the normal limit of 10.

Lastly, every character has 3 other stats Health, Soul and Protagonist Points (PP). Each of these is rated 0-10, and starts at 10 at the beginning of each story arc (not session). As described below, Health and Soul are measurements of a character’s wellbeing physically and mentally, and can be lost as a consequence of failing an important roll, or spent as a resources to bolster your success. The complete loss of one of these stats can result in your character being rendered immobile and helpless and is the only real state in which a character can be killed. Protagonist Points, on the other hand, are representative of the character’s story importance and his drive to succeed against the odds, and are a resource that can be spent more freely to bolster dice rolls, with no real consequences for running dry beyond not having any more to spend!

3. Narrative Time

The largest unit of gametime is generally a story arc, the equivilent of a single film, series or book. It links many individual stories into an overarching plot, and may consist of any number of sessions. A session is a single evening or day of play, and is divded into scenes, the same way as a film or tv show might be. Essentially each scene should be the resolution of some point of story, although it doesn’t have to be a part of the story central to the plot. As long as either the game or the character’s own personal story is being furthered in some way, it can serve as the basis for a scene. Generally, the GM will set out the scenes that will be played, but it is also a good idea for, at least once a session, the GM to ask the players if there are any scenes that they feel need resolving, in order to ensure everyone’s character gets equal screen time.

Often a single scene may only involve a single action roll, or perhaps none at all if it focused heavily on the roleplay and interaction between characters, but there is no limit to the number of action rolls that can be made, if the context of the scene keeps changing, or if new elements are being introduced or even if players are at crossed purposes. All these can incur further action rolls to resolve the scene.

4. Action Rolls

In any scene where a player wishes to achieve an outcome he must describe what action his character is going to take, and by doing so he can “tag” elements of his character. The GM is the final word on which elements a player can tag; as a rule, unless a player has evoked that element of his character in his description, then it cannot be tagged. Action rolls are only required for important story altering actions, such as the outcome of a battle, the end result of an epic seduction attempt, a mighty leap across an impossible distance, etc… Most actions a character takes should simply be dealt with narratively, even ones his character stands a chance of failing. If it is irrelevant whether he wins a bar brawl or loses, then it should be up to the player to narrate how this happens in a way that he feels most suiting to his character. Only actions with important consequences really require action rolls.

Each tagged element grants a d10 that can be added to the player’s action pool, and a d10 result of a 7 or more is a success. A 10 counts as two successes. This pool does not denote a single action, instead it represents his actions over the entire scene, although, if circumstances change, a further roll may be required (if an on foot chase suddenly becomes a car pursuit for instance). Furthemore, at any time a character can spend a Protagonist Point to add a d10 to his pool. There is no limit on the number they can spend on a single roll. In addition, a character may burn a point of health or willpower on a roll, indicating singular personal effort, in order to add a single automatic success to the results of his pool.

The number of successes required to complete a task is set by the GM. In a static situation where the players are only opposed by the environment, it is common to simply set a difficulty number the players must overcome (generally from 1 – 5, depending on difficulty), which is the number of successes players must gain on their dice roll. On the other hand, if the players are opposed by an enemy of importance, it may be that the Storyteller will create an opposing pool for that enemy in the same way that the player’s pools are created, and they must overcome the number of successes the enemy achieves in order to reach their goal.

Finally, in most situations the failure of the roll means nothing more than that; the players characters do not achieve their goals and must go about it some other route or try again later. However, in difficult or dangerous situations the characters may incur some negative consequences as a result of their failure. As such, on these dangerous rolls, a failure may incur the loss of a health point (if it is a physically dangerous situation), or a soul point (if it a social or mental contest). Generally the loss of only 1 point is required, but if the situation is especially dangerous, they may lose as many points as the difference between their roll and the difficulty of the task.

5. Health and Soul

As well as being currency to boost the effectiveness of a roll, loss of all of a character’s health or soul points renders him incapacitated. The character cannot act beyond either laying in convalescence (health points), or sitting essentially comatose (soul points). This is generally the only state in which a character may actually be killed, after he has sacrificed every shred of his body or soul to a cause. A character may recover a lost health, willpower or protagonist point at the start of each scene; not one of each, just a single point.

6. Dramatic Points

Each time a player does something awesome enough to impress the other players or the GM he is rewarded with a dramatic point, which can be converted directly into a dice for his current pool, or to regenerate a lost point of Willpower or Health, or a Protagonist Point. This cannot increase these pools beyond their limit of 10. The Storyteller can hand out an unlimited amount of these points each scene, but players can only hand out a number equal to the players at the table. If a player wishes, he may ask for a short scene in which he either does some deep roleplaying for his character, or indeed with another character at the table, either as a flashback or simply as the game progresses in order to earn Dramatic Points. These scenes can be almost anything imaginable, but should only be a way to reward excellent roleplaying, not for simply refreshing empty pools. If a player squanders his scene without really working on his character or their relationships, they should leave empty handed.

7. Progression

Every session, a player is rewarded with a single experience point for having attended the session and interacted with the other players; five experience points purchase a new element for the character. This should generally represent some advancement or progression shown by the character during the game, and does not have to be spent straight away, but instead can be saved for when a player has had time to roleplay some advancement he would like his character to benefit from.

Players also gain a single experience point the first time they are awarded a Drama Point per session per person at the table. So, if there are 3 players plus the GM at the table, a single player can earn a maximum of 3 bonus experience this way; 1 for the first time each fellow player gives him a drama point and 1 for the first time the GM gives him one.

Review: Halo 4

This cover art copyright belongs to Bungie and Microsoft Studios.

This cover art copyright belongs to Bungie and Microsoft Studios.

How can you differentiate buyer’s remorse from simply wishing a good game was longer? This is the question having played and finished Halo 4 has left me with. Before I delve into the game itself, let me elucidate you on how the situation stands between Halo and I. Firstly, I’m definitely not someone who can be described as a Halo Devotee. I’ve never played in 8-player deathmatches, either in LAN or over the internet. I’ve never squatted to dangle my armour-clad ass over a fallen warrior. I am in no way obsessed with it.

I do, however, quite like it. I’ve played around half of the Halo games (Halo 2, ODST and now Halo 4 are amongst my conquered victims), and I can quite honestly say that I’ve never come away from the experience dissapointed. If there is a game where I want to be a burly superhuman shooting aliens, I very much consider Halo to be in my top two games, although I think gaming would be in a better state in general if “burly superhumans shooting aliens” wasn’t basically a genre in itself right now. I also enjoy the setting of the games, which has obviously matured with time, and Halo 4 certainly pleases me, serving up another heaped scoop of background material.

So, when it comes to Halo, I think I’m on quite a level playing field. I’m not bonded by deep and terrible oathes of fealty to talk about how much I enjoyed pwning newbs, etc…, but nor am I predisposed to dislike it, despite it being the forerunner (Huh? Huh? Get it!) for most things that I don’t enjoy in modern gaming. Although don’t count on me for accurate description of online multiplayer. Any game where I need to spend several days mastering it before I can be allowed to do anything before being immediately shot in the head is not something worthy of my, or anyone’s time. However, I won’t blame Halo for that; it’s the same with any online game and basically boils down to some people having way too much time to spend playing video games (how I envy them!).

So without further ado:

Gameplay

First thing’s first, for those who care, this is definitely still Halo. I know a lot of people were concerned that with the move to 343 Studios after Bungie were done with the series, the game just wouldn’t be the same; I definitely don’t think that is the case. Compared to ODST it plays much the same. Of course, there are some mechanical differences; as far as I can tell there’s still no dual wielding (a feature I always enjoyed from Halo 2), and some of the classic guns have dissappeared, especially some covenant weapons. The plasma rifle has been replaced by the Storm Rifle, which is essentially the same gameplay wise, and, according to the fluff, is the replacement for its now outdated predecessor. Still, I miss the classics.

However, as far as I can tell, the gameplay sticks to the classics, which is an obvious move on the behalf of 343. They know Halo will sell, and if they can produce a game that provides the same experience as the last few, then people will praise them for it. However, as was my experience with ODST, there’s nothing new. The armour enhancements from Reach are still included, with a few extras, I think, but I feel there’s very few true innovations in the game. They have come up with a whole new suite of weapons to compliment the new enemies in the story, but it’s so much money for old rope. There are some standout weapons, and the design of them is definitely impressive, harkening back to Tron Legacy in design I feel, but in reality it’s the same combination of assault rifle, battle rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun and rocket launcher. Sure they do fire and work differently enough to be different from the human and covenant weapons, but once again nothing new.

I’m also of two minds on the length of the game as well. On the one hand I was a bit bored with all the repetitive FPS action by the time I got to the final levels, but, after I’d finished it, I felt like I was a good few levels short of a full game. Thinking back, I don’t think it’s any real amount shorter than the other Halos, but I think the phrase it left me wanting more definitely applies.

I won’t linger long with regards to the online/multiplayer, mostly because I didn’t linger long myself on these aspects. The Halo 4 multiplayer was what I’d come to expect. I got shot. A lot. Woo. However, I did very much enjoy the Spartan Episodes; co-op play with a group of other random players vs a couple of missions that look to be updated on a regular basis allowed me to enjoy online play much more than before.

But, as a final word for this section, that doesn’t stop me coming away from this game having had a good time. Sure, it’s all jumping around incredible looking landscapes blowing up alien monsters with the aforementioned list of weapon types, but it’s still great fun. There’s a reason we’re now around 6 games deep into the series. The formula works.

Story

If there’s one thing I have to compliment Halo 4 on, it is definitely its story. In the same way that the main game is compact and to the point, its story doesn’t go through whirling loops or throw any red herrings. Land on planet, find evil alien, kill evil alien. At its core that’s what it boils down to. And in reality, I don’t really want anything other than that for the main plot of my Halo game. I don’t want to wonder whether this alien is right or wrong. He’s wrong and needs shooting. Lots. And maybe also a grenade.

However, for me, the standout element of Halo 4’s story is the interaction between the Master Chief and Cortana. Ever a strong element of the series, this episode really does it for me, contrasting the Chief, a human who might as well be a machine and Cortana, the machine who might just be human, at least inside. As the game draws to a close, and it lingers on the idea that there are hundreds of other Cortanas out there and that, if things go badly, the Chief might even end up partnered to another of the same, but it wouldn’t really be her, really cuts to the core of the situation for me. Oh, and the final scene is as close to heartbreaking as I think a game like Halo can ever get. It really exemplifies how a supersolder like the Chief, built for nothing but constant war, struggles to express emotion. Good stuff.

Presentation

As always, Halo looks good. 343 have clearly spent a lot of time making sure that, on any amount of close examination, Halo 4 can hold its own stood next to any other member of the series. The animation looks beautiful, the skyboxes and backgrounds suitably awesome, and the detail on the character models is exquisite. I really can’t fault the game in this area. If I had to pick one thing that bugged me, the only thing I could say is that by the end of the game I felt a little bit sick of fighting the same enemies over and over, especially the new Prometheans, who I felt were somehow more repetitive.

Conclusion

I was pleased by Halo 4, it was the same short burst of sci-fi action shooter that I had come to expect from the series, and considering it had been handed off to the new 343 Studios to develop, I suppose that is a compliment. I can’t say it was worse for having changed hands, and achieves the same benchmarks as the rest of the series.

As I stated at the beginning, I’m still not sure whether I feel that the game was too short and compact for the £40 price tag, and therefore I feel a little bit cheated, or whether I felt that it was just the right length to stop me getting bored. Or they should have varied the gameplay a little and added a few more levels. I really can’t decide which I would have preferred. Regardless, my conclusion is still the same; this is a good game. It’s enjoyable, action packed and has a story that, while not gripping, may at least make you shed a holographically generated tear.