Modos RPG

When It Rains...

An absence from the blog doesn’t mean inactivity today – it means that a lot has been changing. In all cases, for faster, easier rules. Here are some examples:

Half Damage – when defensive posture was modeled after Final Fantasy, it made perfect sense: back away from your enemies and their close-range weapons become less effective. That translated to dealing half damage. The problem was that “half damage” is relatively complicated and slow. It required multiplication, which was the only time that happened in the game. It raised the question: at what point in dealing damage does this multiplication occur? After the damage die? After protection? Can I just use a d4 instead of a d8? Let it suffice to say that weapons can still attack beyond their range (but not too far…), and they are limited to one point of damage when they do.

Power Timing – Spells, now called “Powers” to emphasize genre agnosticism, had the potential in Modos 1.4 to take effect during the casting of them. This required at least two additional rules, for the payoff of being able to use (essentially) multiple Fire powers in a row for one low MP cost. I axed it. Now, powers take effect on the final Magic action, after paying the MP cost, and a Magic user wanting to blast multiple targets in a row can simply use Magic (Fire) for three consecutive actions.

Gear Elements – Character elements are neatly divided from gear; the former are attributes, powers, and skills, while the latter are just stuff that gets listed under “gear.” This doesn’t have to be the case. I had been keeping a special category of gear separate from the rest, because it “increased the effective power of a character.” What didn’t occur to me at the time was that character elements also do this, and doing so meant that the gear was acting like character elements – blurring the line I just mentioned. With this distinction made, it’s pretty obvious that gear can act like elements, and vice versa. So this category of gear, now called Special Items, can be character elements if they are effectively permanent possessions, or just listed as gear if they are temporary possessions. For example, a pair of goggles that let you see infrared and shoot lasers are pretty hefty for a first level character – something the GM probably doesn’t want the character to use all the time. But if that character levels up a few times, taking the Owl’s Eye perk and a point or two in Magic (lightning), those goggles could be a regular feature of that character.

More stuff – redefining Range, altered perks, smoother Power entries – has popped and will pop up, to be streamlined and re-assimilated. I’ll keep you posted.

Easy as 1, 2, 3

Writing my way through the perks chapter led to well, a lot of things, but specifically to the Spell Weaver perk. Right off the bat, it needs help because “spells” are now called “powers” to help the base rules feel a little more flexible for other genres.

Spell Weaver allowed high attributes other than Metaphysical to contribute spellcasting actions. This became a problem because 1) the new Bonus Action perk lets you pick which skill to which you want your bonus action to apply, so there doesn’t need to be a separate perk for Magic (formerly Cast Spell), and 2) the perk implied that actions have a character to them – that they’re inherently tied to an attribute. Which isn’t really necessary anymore, not with the decoupling of attributes and skills, so I found another chance to streamline some rules.

With this in mind, I removed the Free Actions rule because it implied that actions are always tied to an attribute. Now, they’re just actions. PCs get three per round. And the GM, instead of needing to choose one of twenty skills each time she asks for a contest, now just needs to choose one of three attributes – whichever is closest to what the character is up to. The player can add skill points to that contest if he has skill points that he thinks (and the GM agrees) would be relevant to the task at hand.

For example:
PC: I chuck the superball so it bounces off the wall, going around the cameraman and into the reporter’s face.
GM: Dayley Cummings begins her report…roll a Physical contest.
PC: (rolls) I’m adding Knowledge (skill points), since I studied geometry and physics in undergrad, for 16.
GM: Sounds good. The ball makes a nice thump as it hits the wall, and hurtles mercilessly toward Dayley (rolls difficulty contest)…

Breakthroughs in Metaphysics

It has been an awesome week for rules-writing! Issues seem to be resolving themselves, as I let the old rule framework shine through its rusty coat and reveal what it’s really made of.

For starters, I’m writing to beef up the metaphysical end of the game. In theory, each attribute (physical, mental, metaphysical) is equal in significance, and until this week, the purpose of metaphysical was mostly to allow spellcasting (which is now called using powers, to make the game more genre-flexible).

But as I was designing the revised Persuade skill, I noticed that the old description included language about affecting PCs. As it stood, the rule effectively meant that PCs could ignore Persuade if it was used on them. It’s not good to have rules that can just be ignored. So while there’s always the potential to run an extended conflict for persuasion, I looked for another solution, and found goals, which are positioned slightly differently in the new ruleset. And it occurs to me – why can’t characters get goals from other characters? Suddenly, persuade gains game-mechanical significance by allowing NPCs to add a goal to a PC’s character sheet. PCs don’t have to act on them, but they can get hero points if they do, which is definitely a motivator.

Deceive, being a fellow metaphysical skill, fell right into place: PCs gain a flaw when thoroughly deceived.

Engage doesn’t fit as nicely into Goals and Flaws, but it seems pretty obvious that if someone is effectively engaging you, your attention will be drawn to them and necessarily away from other things. Which sounds like a Detect penalty to me.

A New Place for NPCs

In Modos RPG, there is a chapter for monsters. It’s a fun idea, because it saves GMs time by not having to write monsters from scratch, and it gives PCs ideas about the fights they could have in the future. However, it’s very adversarial because it follows the conflict chapter, as if to say, “here’s what you’ll be fighting.” I want the chapter to do more than that.

In Modos 2, there will be no monster chapter, no Bestiary. In its place, a chapter for NPCs, which is to say: everyone besides the PCs. It will follow the last character-creation chapter (Magic), as a way to say, “your character is complete. Feel free to compare and contrast it with these other characters.” Since all characters use the same creation rules, the NPCs in this chapter will be examples, friends, and foes as well.

Yes, it will be a place for players to look up the nuts and bolts of some of the monsters they’re fighting. But the game’s high level of customizability will give GMs more than enough leeway to make those monsters both deadly and interesting, no matter how much the PCs know.

or, Rules Modules Coming

Last night, I somehow jumped ahead to the new modules chapter. I got started by thinking about what the character attributes in Final Fantasy IV were, somehow. Next thing I knew, I had written the concepts for three rules modules in about one hour. The fun part was realizing that a rules module isn’t a full conversion – you could just play the real thing for that – it’s just enough rules to give the right feel or taste to the game.

Example: the first thing that I realized about a Final Fantasy rules module was that characters basically have an unlimited carrying capacity. Then, I remembered how extensive their combat choices were, which are severely limited by today’s standards. And what’s at the end of combat for unlucky characters? Being Swooned. I’m guessing that when I translate this into rules catalog language, there won’t be more than two rules affected for each conceptual rule. Which should make the module easy to plug in, and fast to deliver to the game.

Hidden Material

First pass on the new table of contents is complete, and things are already looking interesting. It’s as if I’m not doing the writing, but watching some strange creature in the wild… Anyway, the new version should be a little more compact – some of the fat is trimmed – and there’s a secret chapter, as well as a grand finale built in. Let’s see what happens…

Breakthrough: Magic Items not Allowed in Combat

As I’m writing some guidance for the new GM chapter, I came to an interesting realization: magic items don’t belong in combat. Since that sounds pretty extreme, allow me to clarify. Modos RPG 1.4 has a category of items called “special equipment.” Many of these items allow a character to do things that would effectively raise the character’s level on a temporary or permanent basis. So having items like these in the game plays havoc with the Character Level rule, but since special equipment can be fun, I can’t just throw it out of the game. The solution is to limit what special equipment can do – mechanically. First, special equipment is dramatic, so its use should remain in the dramatic side of the game – with roleplaying and one-roll conflicts. However, if the situation calls for action-by-action shots, special equipment CAN make an appearance in extended conflict (or combat), but it can’t contribute to Progress. Instead, level balance is maintained if special equipment changes the landscape of an extended conflict: by imposing difficulty penalties or changing how postures behave.

For example, your level 2 character has an endless supply of grenades, which are similar to a level 3 or 4 power (spell) like Fire3. If your character could endlessly cast Fire3, that would make his level effectively 10 or higher, not level 2. So instead of going into an extended conflict with an endless supply of grenades, the GM asks you to use a one-roll conflict, with a Physical contest to attack the enemy biker gang. You add your Missile skill points and get a result of 14, saying you “pull two pins at the same time with your mouth and chuck them at the gang.” The GM says you got a Pro, and that “the gang members scatter, leaving their bikes behind to get blown up in a glorious fireball by your grenades.”

Alternatively, you could use your grenades in combat, but instead of causing Physical damage, their effect would be to prevent opponents from entering offensive posture, as an alternative to a Movement action.

These two examples show that character level can be preserved by using special equipment to add flavor to one-roll conflicts or to create options for using skills in extended conflict – instead of creating instant-win scenarios in combat.

91 game playing rules on the wall...

I managed to streamline 8 rules out of the basic modules on first pass – for an average of 18 rules per module. Not bad.

In the process, I decided to eliminate the Spell Maintenance perk. If a character REALLY needs to maintain at least three spells each round, he can take the new Bonus Action perk for Concentration (the skill that helps to maintain spells).

I mean, if all of your comrades are wearing magical armor that you created, someone failed to inspect the troops as they left garrison.

Smaller, lighter, faster!

Had to axe some rules today, and move the Bonus Action rule to the Extended Conflict module, where it belongs.

Rules (re-) removed:
Light Levels
Perk Tree
Perk Substitution
Level Points
Perk Contest Limit

They met in a tavern...

Several brave souls answered the king’s summons. In a small office within the castle, they met Aardak Silverbarrel, a retainer for the king, and as it happens, a valley dwarf. He explained the king’s special need: uniting the kingdom will be facilitated if the king has his own dracon. Most of the summoned parties accepted their task (and the rewards): Lilian, a treasure hunter, Forex, a young sage, Vrutus, a member of the king’s paladins, and the Mistress, an envoy. However, Gile Wolfworth, the only trapper to appear, thought the quest too dangerous, and turned down the king.

While following a map to the dracon’s purported location, the party stopped at a village inn to rest and prepare for a trek along the highway. Within, they met Tyriel, a grey elf who seemed to be acquainted with Lilian, and Aster, a mountain dwarf looking for prestigious work. Forex seemed uncomfortable with an open discussion of their quest, and retired to his chamber. However, the Mistress later discovered strangers lurking about Forex’s room, and the the party went to investigate, they were set upon by cloaked men…


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