Still Going Strong, After All These Years

So, here’s the skinny:

I was watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead, when my computer did a weird freeze. Force rebooted, gray screen. Nothing else.

Problem.

Did some extensive troubleshooting, nothing worked. Big problem.

How big? Hardware issue, might have been a problem with the RAM. I had to swap modules to test the RAM, and when you’re pulling $600 worth of RAM sticks out of your machine and swapping them about, hoping to God you don’t fry one with static electricity, that’s a strong indication of a big problem.

After verifying it was definitely a hardware issue (when 3 different hard drives with 3 different OS installs all fail to boot, it’s hardware) and verifying it definitely wasn’t the RAM, I called Tech Support.

Told the guy what’s up. Said I read the TechBase article on the problem. Detailed the steps I’d taken.

Guy said, and I quote, “Uh, okay.” Pause. Pause. “Did you do X?”

“Yup.”

“Let’s do it again.” We did. Didn’t work.

“It’s a hardware problem, you’ll need to bring it in for repair.” Which I already knew.

Here’s the funny thing – the guy sounded intimidated. I swear.

According to him, no one reads the TechBase before calling in — they call in first thing. And no one does the six troubleshooting steps the TechBase suggests, much less remembers them and can describe them in detail on the phone.

I know Tech Support, I worked Tech Support for some of the biggest names in computing. So, when it came to troubleshooting my computer, I knew what I was doing. Even when I knew squat about the problem, I knew where to go to get info on the problem.

I felt for the guy. Quite possibly, I was better trained on basic troubleshooting than he was. That’s why he was intimidated.

Even so, it was nice to find out that my years of convalescence haven’t rotted my brain so badly, I can’t run down a glitch and troubleshoot the hell out of it.

After all these years, I’m still going strong. It’s a good feeling.

(2 day ETA for Amazon to deliver the cord I’ll need to backup the HDD. After the backup, I can take it in to be repaired. No idea how long that’ll take. Sucks, but there you are.)

Worst. News. Ever.

My computer just died. From the troubleshooting I’ve done, it looks like some component on the motherboard failed.

Until I get it fixed, all my Internet access, and any notes or work I can do, will be through my iPad.

There’s no ETA on a fix. Before I can send it in, I have to buy some components that will let me back up the internal HDD. Which could take some time.

I’ll be back up and working ASAP. Wish me luck.

Conclusion: No Design is Perfect [pt. 7]

No design is perfect; all design requires compromises. Anyone who says differently is lying.

The question is: “What compromises you will make and why?”

5-Success, as a compromise, compromised core aspects of the system, the same aspects that made the mechanic simple, direct, and obvious.

Moving back towards that ideal, simplifying the system, required making the resolution system more complex (counting by 3’s instead of by 5’s). On the whole, it’s a compromise worth making.

FAQ

Q: Why is Non-Lethal Damage a separate rule? Why doesn’t it just deal Fatigue damage?

A: Non-Lethal Damage (and Stress) could be restructured to make this work at human-scale combat. But it breaks down for Supers.

See, the “buying actions with Stress” rule is pretty cool. And a Super being able to buy 10 extra Actions (with an Endurance of 50) is awesome. But having to do 50 Fatigue to knock them out sucks. Hence the 5 SR = Unconscious rule.

Q: I thought your goal was “no tables”. Don’t these rules require, at minimum, 2 tables?

A: That is a goal, though there is an implied caveat: “unless absolutely necessary”. In this case, they’re necessary.

Q: Aren’t these rules a little complex, particularly the Non-Lethal Damage and Impaired rules?

A: Maybe. The core of Combat — the Damage Chart — is as simple as can be. 1 Wound per SR is just too simple to be believed. (0 SR = Fatigue is a little more complex, but not that much.)

Non-Lethal Attacks are used far less often, and like specific skills the player using them should have the rules to hand.

I’ll be honest: maybe these rules are too complex. I‘ll playtest to see, keep thinking them over, and take any and all feedback into account. Where possible, I’ll simplify.

That’s the best I can do.

Non-Lethal Damage [pt. 6]

The last modified mechanic.

Non-Lethal Damage

Not all attacks kill. Some just knock someone unconscious. This happens in movies all the time.

Non-Lethal Damage uses the exact same Success Rating method as Lethal Damage (and the rest of the system). Its meaning is slightly different.

Non-Lethal Damage

SR Effect
Failure You Failed
0 SR Fatigue (2 Stress, 3 if Encumbered)
1 SR Fatigue
2 SR Fatigue
3 SR Impaired
4 SR Incapacitated
5 SR Unconscious

Of all the mechanics thus far discussed, this one is the least obvious. That is a weakness, I’ll admit, but the mechanic works, even if the internal logic is a little intricate.

Here’s the logic:

We need to be able to knock people out in one blow, without it being so easy as to make it the go-to move in combat. Low results can’t achieve it, but should do something. Moderate results should do more.

So, Impaired -> Incapacitated -> Unconscious. Doing 3 SR 3 times will knock the person out. (And 4 SR twice, or 5 SR once.)

But why Fatigue? Because enough Stress will cause the target to be Impaired, and even more will cause them to be Incapacitated. Eventually, you can just beat them Unconscious, even if you can’t get 3 SR.

At the lowest levels, Non-Lethal Damage is inferior to straight combat. At moderate levels (3 & 4 SR) it’s a little better, and at the highest level it’s exactly the same. Overall, it’s not notably better or worse than Lethal Damage — in combat.

Out of combat, it meets the design goal: to allow people to sneak up on another person and knock them out. This is possible because of the Total Surprise rule.

Total Surprise means the target can’t defend at all. (No Passive Defense.) So, their Skill Points don’t matter.

Toughness 9, Skill 9 = Defense 18? Not against a Surprise Attack. Against the Surprise Attack, you defend with Toughness 9. That’s 3 SR more against you, enough to turn a 2 into a 5.

Conk! Unconscious.

(Concluded in part 7.)

Stress and Impediments [pt. 5]

Using these mechanics, Stress still has all the uses already established (buying extra Actions, Reactive Defenses, and extra effort). But accumulating Stress (from Fatigue results or additional uses) also has some additional effects:

Stress
Endurance = No Effect
Endurance or greater = Impaired (-3 bonus modifier to all rolled Challenges.)
Twice Endurance (END x2) or Greater = Incapacitated (Can only make Simple Actions.)
Thrice Endurance (END x3) or Greater = Unconscious

Again, not quite as obvious, but fairly simple. You take a significant amount of Stress, it makes it harder to function. A lot, and you can only do simple things. A ton, and you go unconscious. (And now that I’ve changed how Stress works, I might have to rename it back to Fatigue.)

Impaired, Incapacitated, Unconscious

Both Wounds and Stress can cause the victim to be Impaired or Incapacitated. These have a special relationship: If you’re already Impaired, and you take another Impaired, you become Incapacitated. And if you’re Incapacitated, and take another Impaired or Incapacitated, you go Unconscious. (If you’re Impaired and take an Incapacitated, you also go Unconscious.)

Enough Stress (from Fatigue results), and you’re Impaired. Enough Wounds, and you’re also Impaired. If both happen, you become Incapacitated.

Enough Stress, and you’re Incapacitated. Enough Wounds, and you’re Impaired. If both happen, you go Unconscious.

I’ll admit that this rule is slightly intricate. It may be too complex for effective play. But it has some strong benefits, and also plays into Non-Lethal Damage. I’ll discuss that in part 6.

Success Ratings in Combat [pt. 4]

One of the things I liked about Savage Worlds is that damage could be tracked very easily. With just a few Wounds, you could use beads (we used skulls). 1 Skull, 2 Skulls, 3 Skulls, Dead. Easy-peasy.

In its original form, Infinity used limited Wounds (6, in my case). This could be represented easily with chits, beads, or markers.

Moving to a 5-Success model necessitated making Damage more complex, resulting in the 20 Wound model. But that’s too complicated to use chits with, and with Stress being another such mechanic, it overloaded the game.

Back to 3-Success, back to 6 Wounds, back to simple chits representing Wounds. (Stress is more complex, because it needs to be. Spending points to do stuff is the raison d’etre of Stress.)

Here’s how it works, with Lethal Damage:

SR Means
Failure You Failed
0 SR Fatigue (2 Stress, 3 if Encumbered)
1 SR 1 Wound
2 SR 2 Wounds
+1 SR +1 Wound

Simple. Direct. Obvious.

1 SR = 1 Wound.

0 SR = “Not quite there” = Fatigue.

Failure = Failure.

It’s almost insulting, putting it in a table.

Wounds work like this:

Wounds
1-3 = No Additional Effect
4 = Impaired (-3 bonus modifier to rolled Challenges.)
5 = Dying (Incapacitated, can make only Simple Actions, plus Dead in 5 Rounds.)
6 = Dead

Not quite as obvious, but fairly simple and easily understandable. You get severely hurt, it’s harder to do stuff. More hurt, and you’re dying. Even more, and you die.

Accumulating Stress has some additional effects, which I’ll discuss in part 5.