Destiny: Combat Basics

(Continuing the posts on Destiny game mechanics, and drawing on the current version of the Alpha Test Rules Set, some basic information about combat.)

In combat, characters have combat skills (firearms, melee weapons, thrown weapons), weapons (a gun, fists, a sword), and armor (shields, kevlar vest, hides).

Weapons have a Damage Rating, reflecting how much damage they do. Armor is measured in plusses, representing how much it protects the character.

Armor plusses are added to a character’s Endurance to get a Toughness value. (Inanimate objects, such as vehicles or wall, have an inherent Toughness value.)

Combat Challenges involve one character’s Attack Rating (attack skill + Damage Rating) against another’s Defense Rating (defense skill + Toughness).

Attack: Attack skill + Damage Rating

vs.

Defense: Defense skill + Toughness (Endurance w/ armor bonus)

As with Skill Challenges, Combat Challenges involve rolling 2d10 to get a Bonus. The rolled Bonus is added to the Attack Rating, which is compared to the Defense Rating. 1 Result is all that’s needed to succeed (so ties go to defender), and every 1 point of Result equals 1 Wound.

Wounds accumulate with each successful attack. A character with 2 Wounds who takes 4 Wounds now has 6 Wounds.

As they accumulate Wounds, a character becomes Injured. Injuries represent the long-term damage inflicted by combat. A broken leg is an Injury, a head wound is an Injury, a 2nd degree burn is an Injury.

Injuries cause penalties to Challenges, the more severe the Injury, the greater the penalty. Different types of Injuries may be identified by an Injury Trait. (Traits are described in a follow-up post.)

All characters have the following Wound capacity:

Wounds Injury (Penalty) Description
1-5 None Easily ignorable.
6-10 Moderate Injury (-2) Hurt, but still combat-capable.
11-15 Serious Injury (-4) Out of action. (Unconscious, etc.)
16-20 Mortal Injury (-6) Bleeding to death. (1 Wound a round.)
21+ Dead. Dead.

Mortally Wounded characters automatically accumulate 1 Wound a round until their Wound total is 21, when they die. The first aid or medicine skill can treat Mortally Wounded characters, preventing them from dying.

Destiny Alpha Test Roster

Well, just a couple of days into planning and prep for the Destiny Alpha Test, and we’ve already got the initial roster of four players filled! (Update: Along with two last-minute additions!) Those brave souls daring the uncharted seas of untested RPG rules are:

  • Winstoninabox. Long-time member of the Torg Mailing List, Winston is a teacher, living in  Japan, and a perennial commenter on the List, who’s had a great deal of influence on how the rules have been developing.
  • Bryan Jones. My brother (and List lurker) and a Torg neophyte. He mainly plays D&D and kills — kills — at Modern Warfare on the Xbox. Bryan lives in Boise, Idaho (which I tease him about constantly).
  • John McGlynn. Ace computer programmer, recent emigré to the Seattle area, veteran of my “Lost Worlds” Torg campaign from 2005 and my earlier “Mythepolis” D&D game from 2003, and a dab hand at pointing out/exploiting flaws in rules. (All rules, from card games to board games to RPG’s. If you play Dominion with the man, don’t put up money. That’s all I’m sayin’.)
  • Ron Lundeen. Lawyer, former ancient member of the Torg List (from way back in the early 90’s), veteran of many Torg campaigns, participant in, and namer of, my long-running “Glory’s Warriors” Torg campaign, long-time GM of Torg, D&D, and several other systems, designer of several of his own systems, and small-press publisher (started writing modules for Living Greyhawk, now has his own company writing modules for Pathfinder).
  • Thomas Stevens. A late breaking addition, Thomas is a veteran gamer, also a survivor of the “Lost Worlds” campaign, and one of the few people to already have Playtester credit on Destiny (as part of testing Skill-Based Combat under adverse conditions). Thomas excels at identifying and utilizing holes in RPG rules sets, as well as working with “under development” rules sets (a fact he proved as playtester for the psi rules and Psi axiom). Welcome to the team, Player #5.
  • Glen T. Another late addition. A new member of the Torg List (joining after the Great Migration of March ’12), Glen has proven himself an active member of the List and has commented on several of the proposed rules for Destiny.

This group gives us a good spread of gaming experience, rules knowledge, and a number  of different approaches to RPG rules in general. In all, I think it’s a great group to start the Alpha Test with.

The ball is now in my court, to get the rules doc assembled ASAP. As soon as I do, it’ll be posted for public comment before we begin the Fight Club.

After that, we’ll start with some one-off combat scenarios, to shake down the combat system. Tests of other parts of the rules will follow.

Anyone still interested in joining the playtest is more than welcome. I’m sure there will be scheduling conflicts, and there will be open seats. Even if you can only drop in for a single session, or just make comments on the rules (when posted), it’d be appreciated.

I’d like Destiny and Storm Knights to be the best they can, and anything you can contribute will aid immensely.

On to the Alpha Test.

Destiny Fight Club and Alpha Test Recruiting

So, another week without a post to the blog. Never fear, because (setting aside some frontal assaults by Real Life), work has been going on behind the scenes.

Over at TheRPGSite, I’ve been running a Fight Club and discussing the Initiative/Combat system. On The Torg List, I’ve been discussing the combat rules and setting up the first Alpha Test of the combat system.

That’s right, as of this moment I’m assembling the first Alpha Test writeup of the Destiny Gaming System. Destiny is moving from a collection of notes and posts into a feature-incomplete but extant rules set.

Hopefully soon (barring some another scurrilous attack of Real Life), I’ll be posting the Alpha rules set to Google Drive, so people can read them in full and offer feedback. Also, I’ll be running some live-action combat scenarios on Roll20, to see the rules in action and collect valuable feedback.

You can join in.

If you’re interested in joining the Alpha Test, send me an email or leave a comment. I’m looking for 2-4 players for online text-based play, who can handle feature-incomplete play, are willing to offer detailed feedback, and capable of being analytical and brutal towards a gestating rules set.

If you’re interested in Destiny, now is your chance to make a difference in how the rules turn out.

New Jazz Swing

(A sidebar from The History of Kadandra.)

New Jazz Swing first became popular in Kadandra’s Chicago in 1956, and became known nationwide in 1959. A cross between Big Band and Jazz, NJS was in many ways a return to the earliest roots of Jazz, where 10-25 piece big bands were the norm. The new form of Jazz depended on even bigger orchestras, often 50 or so players (partially due to the reintroduction of the string section).

The first true New Jazz Swing song, called “My New Jazz Swing”, was composed by Duke Ellington, who first performed it with his orchestra at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1956. It was an oddity in Ellington’s ouvre, being stylistically different from much of his other music, and featuring a set arrangement with little or no improv.

Featuring upbeat music and optimistic lyrics about “comin’ out the darkness, with your sun in my heart”, the song was about a condemned criminal, a former jazz musician, who was pardoned and forgiven, and in that forgiveness found the strength to let go of his guilt at having killed a man who slept with his wife. The refrain “I got a new jazz swing, I got a new jazz swing” referred to the joy he felt at playing music again, a joy he’d lost while in jail.

The song is widely interpreted by critics as a Christian allegory, as the criminal’s pardon can be read as coming either from a government official or God (the Master of the Big House, the “Big House” being readable as both a reference to a prison or to the House of God, as in John 14:2). “The Master took away my sentence, took away my guilt, set me free of the man I kilt.” The sun/son dichotomy is also seen as an oblique reference to Christ’s role in Christian redemption.

Audiences, however, saw the song as heralding America’s emergence from the depression that marked the post-War years. A live recording, made at the Newport Festival, became a hit record, and Ellington soon released a more polished studio version, which also sold in great numbers. After that, the several other New Jazz Swing bands formed, following in the style of Ellington’s song.

Influences

Musically, New Jazz Swing drew influences from Jazz, Bop, Swing, and Blues. In style, NJS is a pop version of jazz played by a large orchestra, the “pop” elements coming from strong melodies, catchy hooks, dance-friendly rhythms, shorter song lengths, a 2-4 verse-chorus structure, and set compositions (allowing the audience to “learn” the song and sing along).

Originally a revival of the style of the original jazz orchestras, it quickly became popularized by big band leaders hungry for a new sound. The upbeat music and optimistic lyrics of NJS matched the mood of a country finally recovering from the Black Decades.

The popularity of NJS rose along with the fortunes of America. As the post-war economic depression faded and prosperity returned to the US, NJS became ever more prevalent and ever more popular. NJS had a strong cross-generational appeal, it was never “the music of the young”. (Another factor contributing to its popularity.) It reminded the older generation of the pre-Black Decades big bands, while still being hip enough to appeal to a younger crowd.

The signature feature of mainstream Jazz was improvisation; in contrast early New Jazz Swing acts featured very little improvisation, instead focusing on carefully orchestrated, unvarying compositions and arrangements. (One Jazz musician said, “listening to New Jazz Swing is like listening to a phonograph record: it plays exactly the same every single time; there’s no jamming, no feeling, no life. There’s little jazz in New Jazz Swing.”)

The 1970’s saw a movement back towards improv, where the main part of the orchestra (the “base”) played the set music (the “head”), while a small core of seven or eight players (the “headliners”) improvised around the rest of the band. Typically, the headliners consisted of the band leader (or “caller”) and a lead singer (sometimes more than one, trios being quite popular), and a trumpet, sax, violin, and trombone (sometimes more than one of each). Often, a band’s piano and guitar would change from base to headliner and back, depending on the individual song and the mood of the headliners. Headliners were the best players in the band, and were often famous musicians in their own right.

Many Jazz musicians moved back and forth between NJS and old school Jazz. When they chose to join an orchestra, they were almost always headliners, their skills at musical improvisation clearly setting them apart from the rest of the ensemble.

Sub-genres of NJS included:

Torch Swing: Torch Swing bands were distinguished by a single, highly visible songstress (the “torch singer”), who also acted as the band’s caller. (The band leader being reduced to merely conducting.) Torch singers were invariable beautiful woman, whose dress and singing style played up their sex appeal (prominent torch singers included both Doris Day and Aretha Franklin). Torch Swing bands were heavily influenced by nightclub singers of the 1930’s, often featuring melancholy songs alongside more upbeat material. Typically, Torch Swing bands played slower music, and their songs (and singer) were often described as “sultry”.

Power Jazz: A outgrowth of Gospel music, Power Jazz featured six to eight singers (the chorus) as part of the base. They usually had no singers as headliners. Power Jazz bands were known for their forceful singing, with the chorus often overpowering the rest of the orchestra (by deliberate design). Power Jazz songs were often pastiches of or homages to old Negro spirituals.

Rhythm & Swing: First appearing in the late 1970’s, Rhythm & Swing bands were much smaller than other NJS acts, consisting solely of 5-10 bass, drums, piano, and guitar players, and a single lead singer (who did double duty as caller). There were no headliners or base; Rhythm & Swing did away with the improv aspects that had become popular earlier in the decade. R&S is the closest analogue to Rock and Roll on Kadandra.

(Sidebars are just that: small pieces of campaign info that don’t fit into the main body of a series. This particular one was written for a good friend of mine, Jake Linford, who’s a great fan of Jazz music. At my request, he graciously provided commentary on the piece, which was much improved thereby.)

“How About a Nice Game of Tag?”

Storm Knights is a big, big, big project. Seriously, you have no idea. There are 10 cosms, meaning 10 settings, 10 sets of axioms and World Laws, plus the campaign’s Reality Physics, the setup of the War itself, Destiny and its rules, and on and on…

As more material gets posted, it’ll inevitably become harder to find posts on any one topic. Or would be, if I hadn’t broken down and implemented Tagging.

Going forward, each post will not only be assigned a Category, it’ll be assigned appropriate tags. For example, the recent posts on Kadandran History were tagged “Cosms” (as they deal with a Storm Knights cosm), “Kadandra” (as they’re about Kadandra), and “History of Kadandra” (as that’s their specific subject).

(And not just new posts. Last night, I went through the old posts and added appropriate tags. As of now, the entire site has been tag-ified.)

People looking for information on Storm Knights cosms can click the Cosms tag, and will be presented with a list of all posts tagged with “Cosms”. Ditto for Kadandra and History of Kadandra. Instead of needing to troll through back-posts to find what you want, the tagging system will (hopefully) make it very easy to find posts on any given subject.

And, of course, if anyone thinks a new tag should be added, or that something was inappropriately tagged, drop a comment on the appropriate post.

The Worldwide War of An Alternate Earth

The History of Kadandra, Pt. 2

Kadandra is an alternate Earth, with a history that mirrors Core Earth’s very closely, up until May 1940. That month, as the Second Great War raged, Adolf Hitler was injured in an automobile accident, one severe enough to put him in a coma. With Hitler unable to lead Nazi Germany, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler took command.

As a result of changed circumstances, Kadandra’s Second Great War lasted far longer than Core Earth’s World War II, and killed far more people, both civilian and military. Nazi Germany wasn’t defeated until 1948, after invading and toppling the communist government of Soviet Russia.

The post-War years were very different on Kadandra. Europe, devastated in the War, had no industrial base and very little agricultural resources. America sent aid for several years, but soon turned European reconstruction over to the European Administration, which struggled for a decade to manage the continent-wide poverty and famine. Similar problems plagued China, Japan and other territories.

Recovery from the war didn’t begin until 1957, and the time from 1938 to 1957 became known as the Black Decades. The 1960’s were a period of rising prosperity, very similar culturally and politically to Core Earth’s 1950’s and very much unlike Core Earth’s 1960’s.

There was no Baby Boom, save in America where it was much smaller. There was no counter-culture movement, no anti-Vietnam War movement, no Rock ’n Roll. (The dominant form of post-war music began in Chicago with New Jazz Swing, a fusion of Big Band and Jazz. Instead of quartets, they played jazz with 50-piece orchestras and band leaders.)

Technology didn’t advance noticeably in the post-War Era, as there was no economic or industrial base to capitalize on war-time advancements. As late as 1968, the consumer goods and lifestyles of the populace were largely unchanged from those prevalent in 1938.

That changed abruptly, as 1968 was the year the Coari fleet arrived at Earth.

The History of Kadandra

<- Part 1 | Part 2 |

Kadandra: A Psychic War

The History of Kadandra, Pt. 1

Ages ago, there was a race called the Zinat. Masters of technology and psionics, they spread across galaxies, traveling along their star gates, encountering alien species and forging friendships with them. Zinat psis were so powerful, they were capable of accessing the Akashic Record, that psychic medium wherein the thoughts of every living thing were stored, forever.

There was a great cataclysm, an explosion powerful enough to engulf whole galaxies. The galaxy spanning alliance of the Zinat was devastated. For millennia, they were cut off from each other, and in that span of time a rift grew. Two great ideological blocks, the Coarii and the Akashanites, grew in opposition to each other, eventually coming to blows.

The Coarii thought they should rule the galaxies, guiding the other races so there would never be another cataclysm. The Aka preferred to work with alien species, to reforge the alliances lost during the Interregnum.

They fought with words, weapons, and psychic abilities. After centuries of warfare, a psionic virus, designed by the Coarii, was unleashed. This virus was not biological, it had no physical form at all. Instead, it infected the very minds of its host, spreading from person to person each time they spoke or shared thoughts, rewriting their personalities and memories, changing Aka to Coar.

In desperation, the Aka fled to the furthest reaches of space. There, they sought refuge in an unmapped stellar system, hiding themselves away among a primitive species, exiling themselves to a humble, little planet called Earth.

And the Coar came chasing after them…

The History of Kadandra

| Part 1 | Part 2 ->