Thursday, August 21, 2014

K34 - and thus died the Kraken

This session is the conclusion of a side adventure with alternate characters that pitched the Kraken against Gandalf, Quickbeam, Elphir, Beorn and Gwaihir the Eagle-Lord. 

The setup

Time 0 for session 3
It all resumed with the Eagle-Lord lying face up under a yard worth of water, grappled by the Kraken. The Kraken had been lured in really shallow water after the lake was partially drained and Gandalf lured it from the depth using a blue sphere of light. The blow from the diving Eagle was harsh, but the Kraken was still a serious threat.

Quickbeam was then carrying Elphir of Dol Amroth on his shoulder while Gandalf was slinging anemic fireballs to the beast. 

Felling the beast

If you laugh at the GM's artwork, you won't be invited anymore.
While Quickbeam and Elphir were wading to the Kraken, Gandalf propelled Beorn (in bear form) halfway to the beast.  Gandalf then offered a reprieve to the Eagle-Lord by casting a spell to push away water around both creatures' head. This beached the Kraken which was embroiled with the Eagle. By then, Beorn caused much damage with its claws and disabled a basal tentacle. Quickbeam put Elphir on the ground so the knight let out a power-blow that tore a large gash in the beast's side. Beyond the gash, a void full of stars was sucking in air. Elphir was struck by horror at this sight and failed to prevent tipping over into the emptiness. 

By his side, Quickbeam tore an even bigger hole in the Kraken's side while Beorn knocked one of the large eye off its socket. The beast had absorbed by then well over 100 HP of damage to its head and became unresponsive. 

Quickbeam used a tentacle as a rope to climb down into the oblivion while Beorn simply jumped straight in to follow the listless Elphir. When Gandalf arrived, all that he could see was Quickbeam hanging over a bottomless void. His intuition told him to Jump!, and so he did. Quickbeam let go and all fell into a maelstrom.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Social Academy: Reward structure for social-based GURPS campaigns

This post is part of a the GURPS Social Academy in support of my new campaigns The Empress of India and Tsukumogami.

The earlier posts are the following:
  1. The Reaction Roll
  2. The Unassisted Influence Check 
  3. PCs as targets of Influence Checks
  4. A non-fantasy model for religions
  5. Mitigating the reaction Roll
  6. Reward structure in social-oriented campaigns.


On a small enough scale, advancement isn't the same as inflation

I think that we tend to think of character advancement as a fundamental component of a RPG. I'd like to suspend this assumption for a moment, and hopefully for a lot longer. One of the many gems that I found in FATE is the principle that characters change without necessarily becoming more super. A good player will foresee the trouble ahead and shift skills in the Pyramid, or add/remove stunts such that the character can face better the challenges ahead. A bad player will miss the boat and deal with the mismatch.

Of course, some campaigns need characters to inflate, and that's cool. I just can't imagine a context where Fast-Talk-22 is exciting.  Ok, everyone gets to put their pants down for a moment every time that the character snaps his/her fingers, which can be funny.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Evaluate(Opening) - Results from playtesting

This post is in part a repost of an earlier blog entry introducing the concept. I repost the key bits here for convenience, and add to this my observations after playtesting. 

You will find more on Evaluate on +Douglas Cole 's Melee Academy 301 - Evaluate.

The Serendipity Engine

Screen Shot of the alpha version on May 21st 2013


Simulate how combats are made of serendipitous opening that perceptive and skilled fighter take advantage of. One can fight according to a plan, or be nimble and go with the flow. This option provides the "flow". It is based on a web-based app, requiring nothing but a browser.


A skill contest between the Per-based melee combat skill of the attacker against the DX-based melee combat skill of the defender. In case of a success by the attacker, the attacker spot a combat opening with a benefit that is a function of the margin of success. If the margin is negative, but the Per-based skill check was successful, the bonus is applied to the next active defense.

To generate interesting openings, the random "table" is implemented as a web application. This has the potential to generate over a few hundreds different combinations of opening and conditions, and this number of permutations blows up into the thousands if we take into account the range of possible attack bonuses and defense penalties.


The phasing player may call an Evaluate(combat opening) as a melee combat move. The skill contest is resolved by the app, determine the success and generate an opening. In case of failure, the phasing player my be compelled to take a Do nothing action. In other cases, the phasing player is free to take advantage of the opening by converting the evaluate into a new action and immediately resolving it to exploit the opening, or take instead a Do Nothing or All-out defense action. The gamble here is that if the opening isn't desirable, the turn will be spent looking  for an opening and deciding not to take it.

  1. Declare an Evaluate (combat Opening)
  2. Per-skill vs DX-skill (handled by app)
  3. Pick Either of:
    1. Immediately convert to attack to exploit opening.
    2. Do Nothing

A critical fail on the Per-based skill check is narrated to the player like a critical success, but is converted instead into a bonus for the opponent as a bonus to any form of counter attacks.


This is not a new idea, if you want a low-tech table instead, try Sean Punch's post of SJG's forum, or +Douglas Cole 's post on Gaming Ballistic. Here follows some questions that I was looking for in playtesting this combat option:

Are players using the the Evaluate (opening)?

In my Face-to-Face game, yes. At first for novelty but then again because I think that my players enjoyed the unpredictability that it brought. As a disclosure, I tend to limit combat to a few very important once which tend to revolve themselves fairly quickly: the first strike often sets the tone for the rest of the combat.

When presented with an opening, are the players deciding to exploit the opening?

Usually yes. If the random opening generator suggested something that didn't make sense, there is a button to generate another opening without re-rolling the skill contest. 
  1. If not,
    1. Sometime, ending in the kneeled position isn't outweigh by the bonus conferred by the opening (especially for contest won by a small margin). 
  2. If so,
    1. I think that my players like how it sends the combat into unforeseen directions. It comes down to a gamble: waste a turn looking or get something more substantial than a plain Evaluate
In summary, I like this option and we find it fun. Rolling against this option gives an edge for perceptive characters and bring laughters all around.  I can't recall a single instance of a player getting a smile out of using the base Evaluate maneuver (let alone the whole table). It works really only against an anthropomorphic foe.