Alpha 2 Doc, for Non-Playtesters

Judging by the site logs, there’s some interest in the Infinity Alpha 2 rules revision, beyond just the playtesters.

If you want access to the Alpha doc, send me an email and I’ll send you a copy. Access will be predicated on a deep and solemn promise that you’ll comment and send it back. (Fine, a pinky-swear.)

If you’re interested, drop me a line: jasynj@gmail.com.

If you’re interested in joining the Alpha Test, indicate that as well.

Alpha Test 2 is Live!

Hey playtesters, the first draft of the 0.2a release of Infinity has been uploaded to the Yahoo group. It’s in MSWord format, so download, give it a read-through, comment and mail it back to me.

Please?

Link: the doc. (You must be a playtester to access.)

It’s been a long, hard slog but the second playtest is looming. Look for 2-player PvP bouts once I’ve received and incorporated feedback on the 0.2a release.

Thanks for all your time and effort!

– Jasyn Jones


Update (Feb. 1, 2013): Judging by the site activity, there’s some interest in the Infinity Alpha 2 rules revision, beyond just the playtesters.

If you want access to the Alpha doc, send me an email and I’ll send you a copy. Access will be predicated on a deep and solemn promise that you’ll comment and send it back. (Fine, a pinky-swear.)

If you’re interested, drop me a line: jasynj@gmail.com.

If you’re interested in joining the Alpha Test, indicate that as well.

FAQ Force Five (Destiny Rules FAQ, Part 5)

Initiative

Q. Why not just go first and Hold Action every round?

A. The Initiative language is being revised for 0.2a. It should address this.

Movement and Actions

Q. I don’t understand how movement works.

A. Movement rules are being revised for 0.2a.

The Rules

Q. Where can I get a copy of these rules?

A. For those involved in the playtest, the 0.1a version of the rules is available in the Yahoo Group, in the Files section. For everyone else, the rules are listed in the various posts tagged Destiny Game Mechanics.

When release 0.2a is finished, I’ll make it available as a general download and post links to it.

Feedback

Q. Are you actually paying attention to feedback?

A. Yes, very much so. Even when I decided to keep (or decline to alter) a criticized mechanic, I’m still tracking how it works. It the criticism appears valid, I am open to changing it. Indeed, such changes could appear without warning.

Destiny Rules FAQ IV: I Do (or Don’t) Declare!

Declarations

Q. It seems like everybody can qualify for this bonus, so why not get rid of it? Or make it mandatory?

A. Declarations exist for a specific reason, one tied into the core philosophy of the game. I think that RPG’s come alive when the player’s and GM buy into the world, when they become immersed in the fictional reality that playing the game represents. Fostering immersion is one of the goals of the game.

Fact is, good rules can’t do much to foster immersion, while bad rules can easily disrupt it. Fostering immersion requires that the rules are, to the maximum extent possible, transparent and unobtrusive. Simple and easily used rules get out of the way of the action.

Immersion happens when players and GM’s forget about the mechanics and focus on the characters and situations happening in the game, right now. (There are varying degrees of this, obviously.) GM’s aid this by vividly describing the world around the characters, players by getting into the skin of their characters and describing what they do based not on external concerns, but on who the character is.

The Declaration mechanic is, in effect, a bribe to encourage this kind of thinking. It rewards players for describing things in-character, describing what their character thinks, says, or does in personal terms, not game mechanical terms. It makes the players allies of the GM.

I want this to happen, which is why it’s easy to achieve. Making it hard to gain the +1 bonus would undermine the entire reason the mechanic exists.

Declarations aren’t mandatory, because requiring them would break immersion. Players who don’t like describing character actions this way would chafe at the requirement, and players angry at mechanics are not invested in the game.

None of the above means that Declarations are a perfect mechanic. I have reasons for implementing them; that doesn’t mean I’m right to do so. If it seems that Declarations are burdensome rather than colorful, I’m more than amenable to removing them.

Looking over the playtest transcript, however, I think they worked well. At the very least, they illustrated what players thought was happening in the fight, what they thought their character was doing. This makes it easy for the GM to notice and correct misimpressions, making it easier for everyone to be on the same page (as regards what’s going on).

That one benefit probably makes the mechanic worthwhile. Fostering in-character description and thinking (to the extent that happens) would be gravy.

[Note: One last FAQ to go.]

Destiny Progress Report

Here’s the latest progress on Destiny:

  • The next session in the playtest campaign is being written. Like the previous, this will focus on combat.
  • The next rules revision (0.2a) is still moving forward, at a brutal slog:
    • Preliminary character creation and advancement rules are sketched out, but not written up. (That is, they currently exist as notes only.)
    • Revisions to the Initiative Rules are sketched out, but not written up.
    • Rules for Character Traits are partially written up.
    • Rules for actions and movement are being mulled over.
    • The existence of combat maneuvers and conditions is mostly theoretical at this point.
    • The core play style of the game is being written up and clarified (see the previous two blog posts).
    • The rules have been grouped into Chapters, and a rules overview (for new players) has been recreated. A Table of Contents can be said to exist.
    • Various sections of the rules have been rewritten. In some cases this was to clarify the rules, in others to replace bad writing or punch up the text.
    • Suggestions and comments from various and sundry sources have been incorporated.
  • The feedback from the first playtest session has been received and processed (and has materially improved the game). Questions raised by playtesters and Alpha Readers have been answered (in the form of the three FAQ’s on the subject). There are a couple of questions outstanding, which will be answered ASAP.

In other words, progress is being made. As various new/revised rules are finished, they’ll be posted.

Thanks for the feedback, comments, typo reports, and playtesting. All involved have my sincere gratitude.

Destiny FAQ Part III: Gettin’ Lucky

[More questions about the current mechanics, answered with explanations and snippets of new rules.]

Doubles are Trouble

Q. So “Doubles are Trouble”. Where is the corresponding good luck?

A. Here’s the design principle: Bad luck is random, good luck is player invoked.

Bad luck? Determined by the dice. While good luck is in the hands of the players, in the form of Action Points and Destiny Deck cards. (Rules for the deck aren’t finished, so this isn’t apparent.)

So the counterpart of a Disaster or Mishap is the Destiny Deck. The many cards of the Deck represent fortunate happenstance, such as finding an important clue, getting a hint to a mystery, or locating just the piece of equipment you needed. The players control when this happens (if they have the card).

One card, Lucky Break, deals explicitly with Disasters and Mishaps. The Aid portion of the Lucky Break card can cancel either a Disaster or a Mishap. The Injure half can inflict a Disaster or Mishap on an enemy, with a successful enough Combat Interaction skill check.

I think it’s better for players to be able to have control over when something lucky happens, it makes such events more useful in the game. “I needed it, and I got it!”

Disasters and Mishaps are random and capricious, and that fits their nature as well. They are, and should be, “Oh, crap!” moments that come out of the blue.

Thomas Stephens, one of the playtesters, suggested a “lucky failure” mechanic, where even if you failed, you got something out of it. I like this, in part because it happens in movies and novels and in part because it happens in real life. (Edison has a famous quote about it, Abraham Lincoln’s life evinces this, and so forth.)

To implement this, here is the Insightful Failure card.

Aid

Play this card on a Skill or Combat Challenge, and explain how a previous Failure gives your character an insight into this situation. Gain a +3 to the Total.

Injure

Play this card against any enemy who has attacked you (with Combat, Skill, or Power) and failed. They suffer a -3 penalty to this attack.

Action Points

Q. Can you earn Action Points?

A. Yes, in three main ways. Troubles are Character Traits that represent potential problems for your Character. Addictions, enemies, dependents, anything that might cause complications during a session can be Trouble.

The GM can trigger Trouble whenever they feel it would be apt or interesting. When they do, the character gains an Action Point.

The Subplot card, from the Destiny Deck, offers adventure-specific Trouble. Perhaps your character has fallen for the wrong person, or the wrong person fell for you. Perhaps they’ve been mistaken for someone else. Or perhaps an enemy has fixated on them specifically. Whatever happens, it’s Trouble and you gain an Action point when the GM triggers the Subplot.

Last is the “Disastrous Failure” rule. Any time your character fails at a Challenge, the GM can trigger a Disaster. (They should do this when it’s interesting or would drive the action of a session forward.) You gain an Action Point for the Disaster.

As an example, suppose you’re working the street, trying to locate an enemy. A Failure means you come up dry. Roll Doubles and Fail, and a Disaster occurs — the enemy hears about your inquiries and comes looking for you. If the GM wishes, they can trigger such a Disaster, and give the player an Action Point for the Trouble about to descend.

(As development continues, this list might be expanded.)

[There are still unanswered questions, so look for FAQ Part IV in the near future.]

Destiny Rules FAQ 2: Combat Edition

[Some more questions about the “whys?” of the game mechanics. These questions mostly arose in play, because of small rules that were necessary for play, but hadn’t previously appeared as part of the Destiny Game Mechanics series or in the 0.1a Rules pdf.]

Melee Weapons

Q1. Does Strength really add twice to melee attacks?

A1. Sort of. Sometimes. And pretty much on purpose.

Your Attack Rating is Skill + Damage. Power melee skills (see next question) are based on Strength, so the Base Skill Rating is +1 to +3. Melee Damage is also based on Strength (such as a club which is STR +3). So, a STR of 8 will add a total of 10 points to the Attack Rating (8 from damage, +2 from the Skill Rating), purely from the character’s Strength itself. And an Olympic weightlifter, with a Strength of 12, gets 15 points from skill and damage, due to his Strength alone.

In a modern setting (or a viable cross-genre one, one of the design goals of Destiny) high-Strength characters are at a disadvantage. Firearms are available, and guns do a lot of damage, at range, and are fairly reliable. Giving strong characters a little extra boost (from +1 to +3) makes them more balanced.

Q1. What’s the difference between a power melee skill and a fast melee skill?

A1. In the real world, melee combat depends on your muscle power “to hit”. Boxing, sword-and-shield fighting, and so forth, all require you to hammer your way past a target’s defenses, using main force. So most melee skills are based on Strength.

But a few, such as dueling rapiers, are based on Dexterity, because they depend on physical agility and speed instead. Some forms of hand-to-hand combat are also speed/agility based, such as wrestling or judo.

Power melee skills are Strength based, fast melee skills Dexterity based. This adds some skills to the list, increasing complexity, but makes the game match the real world a bit better.

It also addresses flavor concerns, as well. “Bruce Lee” characters can have their agile, fast-striking martial arts, while “Rocky” characters get their brutal, hard-hitting boxing skills. Those distinctions make for great roleplaying fodder, and having two different kinds of hand-to-hand (or other melee) skills implements them.

Defending

Q1. What is a “Full Defense”?

A1. A Full Defense is one of the few (6 or so) combat maneuvers in the game. It represents the character concentrating wholly on defending themselves.

Normally, your Defense is a static number. With a Full Defense, you can roll the hot dice and add it to your Defense against any and all attacks that round.

“Full Defense” is a rule not in the current release (0.1a), but which will be detailed in 0.2a. It came up in the playtest, however, hence the question.

Q2. Do you really want to allow Declarations on regular Defense?

A2. After some thought, yes. Declarations are optional, but they add color.

When the GM says “Your opponent dashes in, striking hard with his axe.” and the player responds with “I parry wildly.”, that’s all good. The game mechanics should, and in Destiny do, encourage exactly this sort of play.

Roleplaying games depend on description. The game “comes alive” in the imaginations of players and GM’s when they know what they see, hear, feel, smell, and do.

Immersing players in the world is hard, but good descriptions (and unobtrusive mechanics) make it easier. Declarations encourage “in-character” thinking: the player has to focus on what his character is doing just to make one, instead of worrying solely about the numbers and the dice.

Re-reading the playtest chat log convinced me of this. The defense Declarations were cool, and an opportunity to roleplay. The entire goal of the game is to support and encourage just this sort of interaction. And defense Declarations did.

[There are more questions, so expect a FAQ, Part III presently.]