Monday, April 29, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog Post #16: New Merits - Last Blog Post

Merit System

The current system with a limit of two merits works with the current limited list of merits. But we wanted to open up more merits without limiting people just two. So the system has changed a little.

First off all humans get a free merit. They may pick this merit as their basic subfaction choices (gifted kinfolk, ghoul, sorcerer, etc) or they can spend it on something else.

Secondly there is no limit on merits. Merits, however, will cost 3 xp plus 3 additional xp for each merit you currently have. Meaning your first merit is 3 xp (free if you're a human), your second is 6xp (even if you're a human), your third is 9xp, etc.

New Merits

DOOMSLAYER <Dark Arcanoi tree> (Wraith only)
You may use the chosen dark arcanoi without being in catharsis.  You may exchange this merit for another one if you ever check your character in with 10 angst.

FOMORI (Human only)
You have been possessed by a bane spirit. Pick one innate fomori tree, you receive the first power in this tree at no cost. Additionally you gain a derangement. If you pick the Toad tree you must also gain an mutation. While this merit is active you are permanently tainted.

GHOUL (Human only)
A human will automatically gain this merit if he is given 2 points of blood from a vampire in the same feeding. You gain Celerity, Fortitude, and Potence as innate trees. You get one level in the Potence tree. Your energy type becomes vitae. Being given health by a vampire instead will give you energy. If you go through an entire event without consuming at least two blood from a vampire in the same feeding this merit goes dormant. To reactivate this merit you must consume two points of blood from a vampire in one feeding. While this merit is active all sorcery trees and gifts go dormant as well. If purchased at character creation you get faction knowledge  vampires at no cost.

Your maximum health is increased by one.

HIDDEN AMARANTH (Vampire only)
You always answer the Sense Amaranth power with “0”.

You have a small income source from a job, small business or benefactor. Most of your earnings go to supplies but you gain 3 pence at check in each game. This merit may be purchased multiple times.

KINFOLK (Human only)
Select a tribe from the Shifter section as your sub-faction. You may not purchase gifts and your energy type does not change. You may start the game with knowledge appropriate to your tribe. At check in you may switch this merit for Gifted Kinfolk at no cost or put your name in for the drawing to become a Shifter.

KINFOLK, GIFTED (Human only)
Select a tribe from the Shifter section as your sub-faction. Your energy type becomes gnosis. Select a level 1 gift from the homid or your tribe power tree. These are your two innate trees. You may not purchase the Sorcerer merit. You may start the game with knowledge appropriate to your tribe. If you purchase this merit you may not become a Shifter.

LOST SOUL (Shifter or Vampire only)
You have the option to become a wraith at the next event after you become dead though your faction is normally prohibited from doing so.  You may not have this merit at the same time as Mortwight.

MORTWIGHT (Human, Shifter or Vampire only)
Upon becoming dead you immediately become a specter. You need to carry a wraith character card with a set of starting character stats that has been approved by a Character Guide. Upon your death, drop all items with in-game value on the ground, immediately put on a white headband, and begin play with your second character sheet.  Your spectre persona may only take dark arcanoi as innates, but you may spend XP on it as normal during check in.  Just keep in mind that your reign of terror is likely to be a short one.  You may not have this merit at the same time as Lost Soul.

You receive one prophecy at check-in.

Your answer to the Sense Faction power is Human. For the purposes of Sense Energy you are considered to have Vitality as your energy type.

SORCERER (Human only)
Select two power trees from the Sorcery section as your innate trees. Your energy type becomes essence. Select a level 1 innate power. You may pay 3 pence at check-in to create a focus. You may not purchase the Gifted Kinfolk merit.

Mental powers last half of their normal duration on you.

You are permanently tainted.

Whenever a character attempts to use Usury to drain health or pathos from you, say "Taste of Oblivion! Unresistable Catharsis!" That character then immediately goes into catharsis, gaining an angst as normal, but may then proceed with draining. Spectres are unaffected.  This merit is only active while you are tainted.

UMBRAL AFFINITY (Shifter only)
Stepping sideways when not at a Gaian node takes you 30 seconds of meditation instead of 60.

Monday, April 22, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #15: New Bad Things for Bad People, and some more good.

We wanted to share some of the new powers that we'll be rolling out for characters interested in things like Wyrm Powers, Dark Thaumatergy, and Dark Arcanoi. We felt the need to increase the offering of evil of to increase it's draw to a wider range of characters. This allows us to make sure that some of the primary canon powers were well represented in the game.

As a note we aren't happy with some of the names of the powers but haven't gotten to the stage of rewriting the names yet. We're still focused on making sure the powers work as intended. Again, I'm not posting the trees that things come from but if you do some canon research you may be able to figure it out. We'll start out with the treats for bad people (not exclusive to NPCs) and then share a few more of the great new powers available for conventional starting characters.

Some new stuff for bad people.

Cost: None
Call: None
This power removes fire as a form of aggravated damage from the character.

Cost: None
Call: “No Effect” to Wyrm’s Voice and Sanctuary
A character with this power will answer “No” to any use of Sense Taint power on them. Additionally, he is immune to the Wyrm's Voice and Sanctuary powers.

Cost: None
Call: None
Each time you use the Dreamshape power on a target, your maximum energy is increased by one for the remainder of the event. This bonus can only be received once per target per event.

Cost: 1 energy
Call: “Vulnerable”
Any damage the target takes is aggravated damage.

Cost: None
Call: “No Effect” to Sanctuary
You are immune to the Sanctuary power and you may spend willpower to break from the Wyrm’s Voice power even if permanently tainted.

Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Wyrm’s Voice”
A target that is tainted must follow all commands given by the caster to the best of his ability. A character who is permanently tainted may not break this power with willpower. Targets that are not tainted are immune and state “no effect”.

Some new stuff for good people (who might want to do bad things)

DECAY (Damage)
Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Decay”, “Agg 1”
The caster touches a target with her hand.  Every 10 seconds, the caster causes one aggravated damage to the target. A character who is dead that suffers damage in this way immediately becomes decaying and turns to ash (goes out of game). This power ends immediately if the caster is no longer touching the target or moves his feet.

Cost: None
Call: “Release Spirit”
After 10 seconds of honoring a spirit you may activate this power and the spirit will immediately become Decaying and turn to ash (go out of game). The caster then gains 1 willpower up to their maximum willpower.

Cost: None
Call: “Sense Spirit”
This power may be activated after staring intently at a target for 10 seconds. The target must state OOG their spirit power level. Targets that are not spirits respond “No Effect”.

Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Song of Rage”
After the caster shouts out a war cry he may activate this power. While under the effects of this power the target may choose to frenzy without losing virtue. While in frenzy provoked from this power the target gains Augment 1.

CRAVING (Touch [Condition])
Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Craving <single word>”
After speaking with the target for one minute the caster may activate this power. The word mentioned becomes the target’s primary desire.

Coming Soon

In the next post I'll be talking about some of the new merits and character creation rules we're looking at in order to open up some concepts that are currently prohibited by the character knowledge rules (ungifted kinfolk). This will be my last Dev Blog post, as we will release our in process document of the rules after the May event. Then there's not much left to spoil to you.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #14: New Good Things for Good People


In order to bring in some diversity to trees we wanted to add in some powers to make each tribe, discipline, and arcanoi more unique. This allowed us to try to bring in some of the great canon powers that are somewhat missing. It also allowed us to remove some of the powers which had been subbed in because it was slightly similar to another power that was remaining in the game. We also took the opportunity to remove some powers that had some serious rules issues in a LARP setting.
  Below are a couple of rules that have been added to facilitate some of these changes:

Conditions are long term effects such as poisons or illnesses that will remain until treated or the end of the event, a player may decided to have the condition continue from event to event if they like. If you are affected by a condition you will need to follow the rules element as well as roleplay in the suggested manner. You are free to describe your symptoms in an in-game way.

Mass meta call
Mass attacks affect everyone within mental range of the caster.

New Powers 

Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Entrancement”
The target is oathed to the caster for the duration of the power. This power will end if the caster makes any attacks against the target. The target of this power may spend willpower to break from the mental effect even though they are under the effects of an oath.

Cost: None
Call: None
This power increases the caster’s Regeneration rate by 1. If he does not have regeneration from his faction he will gain Regeneration 1.

Cost: 1 energy
Call: “Hallucination <description>”
The target has a hallucination that fits with the description in some way. The <description> is limited to three words.

Cost: Energy equal to the <number> of the damage attack call.
Call: “Juggernaught <damage call>”
The caster may add the Juggernaut meta onto a single damage call.  Juggernaut attacks are considered successful attacks and cause damage even if blocked.

Cost: None
Call: None
The caster may put on any type of mask they desire. Additionally, a character with this power is no longer required to wear makeup requirements of their sub-faction. Also, a character with this power may identify himself under a different name without a full face covering (see disguising rules, p.XXX).

Cost: None
Call: None
You get 3 additional pence at check in.

READ MAGIC (Passive)
Cost: None
Call: None
A character with this power may read the rules portion of any ritual scroll or tag and take the information in game.

Cost: 2 energy
Call: “Resist”
This power allows the caster to resist a single attack with the “Breach” meta call.

Cost: 2 Energy
Call: “Resist Taint”
The caster may use this power any time they would become tainted or poisoned to not be tainted or resist the poison effect.

Cost: 2 energy
Call: “Mass Sanctuary”
All tainted targets must attempt to remain 10 feet from the caster and may not make attacks against the caster. This power has no effect on targets that are not tainted.

Cost: None
Call: None
Silver is no longer considered a source of aggravated damage for this character.

TRUE FORM (Mental)
Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “True Form”
The target must remove any mask they are currently wearing and cease using the Cloak power.  For the duration of this power the target may not wear any mask or use the Cloak power.

Cost: None
Call: None
You receive an additional prophecy at check in.

Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Woadling”
The caster must paint a Gaian symbol on the target. The target may resist the next status attack that hits them. Future uses of this power require a new symbol to be drawn.

Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Wounding Lies”
Each time the target makes an untruthful statement per character knowledge, he suffers one aggravated damage that cannot be resisted and cries out in pain.


Monday, April 8, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #13: Clarifying and Rewriting Powers, Two

Josh had complained that there weren't enough powers. So I'll include some more here. 10 this time instead of five -- but the first two don't really count. Enjoy.

We've discussed the two below. So they shouldn't be a surprise.


Cost: None

Call: “Form of Vapor”
The caster puts on a silver or black cloth face covering. While this power is active he may resist Damage and Status attacks for 1 energy. He may not make any damage attacks or status attacks and may not drain or block with boffers. This power may not be activated within 10 seconds of making an attack.


Cost: 1 Energy

Call: “Umbra” or “Realm” state your destination.
The caster may spend 1 energy to travel from the realm to the umbra or the umbra to the realm immediately. This power cannot be used within ten seconds of making an attack.

-- In the attempt to make escape and defensive powers very effective over the short run but not over-powerful in the long run you'll see some changes in anything that gives an immunity to a whole attack type like form of vapor, hasty escape, hero's stand and form of war.


Cost: None

Call: “Hasty Escape”
The caster crosses their arms over their chest. He must immediately leave the area of any combat as quickly as possible and may not return while the power is active. He may not voluntarily end the power until he has left the area and may not make any attacks while under the effects of this power. While this power is active the caster may resist damage and status attacks for 1 energy and is immune to draining.


Cost: None

Call: “Hero’s Stand”
The caster plants one foot in place. For 10 minutes he may resist damage and status attacks for 1 energy.  Once the 10 minutes expires, or If the caster lifts his foot for any reason, the caster will immediately drop to 0 health.

-- Go crazy then go to take merciful sleep was always a really weird thing. Making horrid reality a powerful but effective defensive/offensive mental make's more sense and still gives the flexibility needed to still make the power fun.


Cost: 1 Energy

Call: “Horrid Reality <description>”
The target must roleplay as if they are dying in the way described. The <description> is limited to three words. For the duration of this power the target may not attack.

-- Meditate had become one of the most powerful attack powers due to it basically being the same as merciful sleep when used on an enemy. It really isn't supposed to be a power you use on your enemies that are trying to kill you. So we wanted to make it something you use on a friend. It can also be used to diffuse situations as it gives a specific advantage to people who stop to meditate.


Cost: 1 Energy

Call: “Meditate”
If the target roleplays meditation for 60 seconds without walking, speaking, attacking or being attacked, the target may resist the next mental power used against them (and only the next mental power used against them) without spending willpower. If they choose not to resist the mental this power is still expended.

-- Thieving talons is the most errataed power in the game. We've given more rulings on this power than any other, including obedience. We needed to simplify the effect and get it to not be a level three power that lets you have every other sensory power in the game. The canon of this power is tricky since it technically allows you to take someone's power and then they can't use it. I don't think that's the direction that we want to go but controlling it to be more manageable is necessary.

MIMIC (Touch)

Cost: 1 energy

Call: “Mimic <power>”
The caster is able to activate the damage, status, and mental power named for 10 minutes so long as the target has it listed on their character card as a gift. If the target does not have the power listed on their character sheet as a gift they state “no effect”. Only one power may be mimiced at a time. If this power is resisted, the caster believes the target does not have the power mentioned.

-- The definition given for obedience has been a level 4 power in a level 2 slot. There's a few things here that needed limitation. Obviously obedience was never meant to be a 10 minute "do what I say". But the rules allowed for that and it became the only major use of for it. Making it a reasonable power meant limiting what could be said with it. In canon it's generally only applicable to one word. We also wanted to avoid the stupid things like "obedience hop" making forcing someone to hop for 10 minutes. It still needed to be flexible but didn't need to be godly. The perform an action once is a good limitation on that.


Cost: 1 Energy

Call: “Obedience <action>” or “Obedience <action> <noun>” (The action and noun are spoken IG)
The target immediately carries out the action to the best of her ability as directed in the call. The power ends immediately once the action has been performed one time. The target may attack and defend themselves as normal. This power may not be used to cause a target to harm herself.

-- Paralyze is often viewed as what made status attacks so unstable. It's also the power that makes Resilience mandatory at higher power levels. If you can be paralyzed you're able to be taken down. There's a few defenses that could still be used to try to keep you alive but you were basically hosed. Most paralyze powers in canon more of a mez than a stun (to use the common MMO terms). It's still very useful, but no longer an instagib. It also is not the default status you want to use no matter what. Status attacks like Venom don't go away when struck making the use of paralyze tactical rather than expected.


Cost: 1 Energy

Call: “Paralyze”
The target is held in total paralysis unable to do anything other than use regeneration. This power ends immediately if the target is attacked or damaged.

-- Bind foot had some very specific limitations. We wanted a more general power with a more specific name. This also gives more of the impression of something grabbing your foot like shadows or briars.

ROOT (Status)

Cost: 1 energy

Call: “Root”
The target’s feet are stuck in place, he is unable to move either foot. This power ends immediately if the target takes damage from any source.  Umbrabound creatures in the umbra may use this power across the Gauntlet by saying “Breach” before the sig call.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #12: Clarifying Powers, one

I've been crazy busy the past couple weeks and I think I'm behind on getting promised posts out. I'm going to do this one in a big fun way. I'm going to just list some of the rewrites we've done to powers and talk about why we went in that direction. Some of these powers had an unintended side effect use that went beyond their intended use that wasn't intentional. Not all the wording has been finally polished but it should clarify how the power can be used. Take a look:


Cost: 1 Energy

Call: “Beast Mind” and “predator” or “prey”
The target must roleplay as an animal that is either a predator or prey based on what signature call was used. While under the effect of this mental, the target may not use language, whether verbal, written, or telepathic.

--Using Beast Mind as an in combat/incapacitating mental was never the intended use. While making someone flop like a fish was funny, it doesn't really fit the theme of the game. Specifying more generally to give a target a bestial mind is more the intended effect.

Cloak (Self)

Cost: 1 energy

Call: “Cloak”
You may spread your hand out in front of your face to indicate that you are no longer visible. You may not use this power within 10 seconds of having made an attack. This power will end if you speak, interact with any object or person, make an attack or lower your hand from covering your face.

-- Cloak has basically become a power that can kill anyone without cloak sight. A cool down timer would decrease its effectiveness for disappearing style combat but retain its escape and sneak up ambush features. Incidentally, this also gave a slight nerf to cloak sight as someone trying to use cloak to get in free hits would require significantly more time kill you making cloak sight valuable but not a must have survival power.

Cloak Gathering (Touch)

Cost: 1 energy

Call: “Cloak Gathering”

While using the Cloak power the caster may hide a target person or item by touching them. The target becomes Cloaked as per the Cloak power. This power ends immediately if the caster and target are no longer touching or if the caster is no longer cloaked.

-- Rolling Cloak item and cloak gathering into a single skill made it more suitable for a level 3 power. It also opened up a slot at level 2 in obfuscate which we really really wanted to fit some other canon powers in there.


Cost: 4 energy

Call: “Conditioning <Mental Power Call>”
Immediately after having a conversation with a target for at least 60 seconds you may add the “Conditioning” meta call onto any mental attack that does not use the “Mass” meta call. Powers with the conditioning meta call can’t be resisted or broken with willpower.

-- The 1 hour nature of conditioning never really fit it into the level 3 slot. It was a thing that could be used occasionally but the nature of most powers is that they last about 1-3 minutes to get their full effect. It also led to the possibility of some crappy things you have to do for an hour. We wanted to make it the top of dominate. Something that was very vampire and very dominate. Now things like "don't talk to vampires or bad things may happen" has some real backing.


Cost: 1 energy

Call: “Disquiet”
This power will immediately end frenzy in the target, this is an exception to frenzy’s regular immunity to Mental Attacks. Additionally, a target will not be able to frenzy for the duration of this power.

-- The calming influence of Disquiet never really had support from the rules. The powers from canon that disquiet come from tend to force someone out of a frenzy and keep them there. Making it a mental effect that not only ends frenzy but prevents it from happening can make it useful for the calming an friend that is teetering on the brink supporting the RP that some people are already doing.


Cost: 1 Energy

Call: “Fabricate Armor”
The caster spends one minute roleplaying building invisible armor on the target. The target then receives 4 additional armor points that do not require a phys-rep. These armor points are the first to be used when the target is struck for damage. A character may only have one fabricated suit of armor at any time. If the power is used again when the armor has taken damage but has not been destroyed it will only refill to a maximum of 4 armor.

-- I'm not aware of anyone who liked the tag part of Fabricate Armor. Most people who used it regularly kept a card in their pocket rather than visible so item sense never really worked on  it anyway. Also the math on it was always wacky. It cost a lot of energy to build up and that would never work under the new energy system. Taking it down from 6 to 4 is balanced by the cost at a single energy. This makes it equivalent to a preemptive healing touch.

Neverwinter Beta: Mixed Review

Overall I enjoyed my time in beta. I didn’t run into any major issues that would make me feel like the game wasn’t close to release. This is a major plus as a number of other games I’ve beta tested didn’t feel like they were ready for the public to consume. Most of the issues I encountered were in the realm of things that hadn’t been implemented yet rather than things that overall felt missing. So overall nice job.

Good Things

1. Customization in Character Creation
I really liked how much customization there was in character creation but I wasn't overwhelmed by the options. There was even a fingernail setting. The one thing I felt was missing was a decent green for my half-orc. Even a dark green. Instead everything ended up to human, even the grayer options. My Horcs are green, let them be green.

2. Action RPG
Most of the time action RPGs end up on consoles in games like Gauntlet, or the old DnD PS2 game. Having a good action RPG work online is difficult but I feel that it was pretty well done here. I enjoyed learning to dodge with their system and having enemies attacks be obvious when they show up made for a different kind of play than most MMORPGs I've been involved in. Playing was also way more active than games like WoW or SWTOR. I'd liken the style closer to what I'd expect Diablo online to be like.

3. Foundry
Although almost all of the foundry content I went through was TERRIBLY bad I'm excited to see what the future has to hold with this. If I devote serious time to this game, the foundry will be why.

Bad Things

1. Healer Aggro
WTF. I couldn't heal anyone without getting someone to want to kill me. Regardless of whether I was in combat or not. Healing aggro seems to be greater than visual aggro range so if I was healing before the next attack I'd just get jumped again. This is just going to need some kind of fix in the near future for the game to really be enjoyable long term.

2. Narrow Classes
I felt that the combination of limited class choice along with narrowly defined classes really limited my interest in investing in a particular class. With only 5 available classes and incredibly limited customization within each one, I'm not really that impressed by my options. Maybe once all 20+ DnD4 classes are available I won't feel that way. But when I compare my options to DDO I'm WAY more pigeon holed than I want to be.

3. Limited attack options
When I play an MMO I generally have 4-5 hotbars open with 10-12 spaces on each. DDO limited me to what ammounts to a single hotbar with very limited space for my abilities. I basically get to choose my 2 free attacks, 3 10-20 second cooldown powers and my "daily". This isn't really a spread of options. I can't investing a ton of energy into a character who can only have 8 different attacks at a time. Also with the encounter powers, they were entirely on cooldown timers as a cleric so I was just spamming them every 12 seconds. It worked out OK but I'm not sure my interest in doing this will last.

4. Respawn times
In the shared instances respawn times were very short. I hate this. There was always stuff to kill but clearning a path through and stopping to try to heal up would often times get you respawned on. I'm not a fan. Most of these zones could have delt with the same number of enemies and a 10-15 minute respawn timer rather than a 2-3 minute timer. Or even better yet, the use of off stage respawns like I saw in the intro quest (zombies were appearing up on a hill you couldn't get to and running down at you) would be great. I always hate the idea of orcs randomly appearing where I'm standing.

5. Class Weapons/armor
This is really a pet peave of mine. When items drop and they are almost all class specific I get really annoyed. I understand the existence of light, medium, heavy armor in a game and there being some things you just aren't proficient to use. But when the nice leather boots that just dropped I can't put on because they're Rogue only, I just get annoyed. This is even worse for weapons. If only 1/5 weapons fit my class and the rest are all junk regardless of how "good" the weapon may be why should I even bother. It might not be smart for me to put on the two hander with my cleric, but considering how often I'd wade into battle, let me do it anyway. Being stuck with a holy symbol didn't make me feel like a cleric. It made me feel dumb.

I just found out about the foundry in STO and Neverwinter last week so I was really happy to get into the beta and give Neverwinter a try. Although, without the foundry, I doubt this is a game I'd really be very interested in. The limited class options combined with the lack of flexibility in builds for my character made the game feel like something that wouldn't hold my interest at all. To be honest I felt myself more interested in going back and playing STO because at least the game let me define my own role as I leveled. I'm really interested in seeing what the Foundry can bring to the game as it was my main interest in NWN and NWN2. But how can the foundry be totally sufficient for a game that is basically lackluster. The game is better than Diablo III, it could provide some fun as something to play with some friends, but I'm not sold that this is really the next game for me. It's free to play which is always a bonus, so I'm sure to give it a try. But I doubt the upper levels will keep me attached unless the foundry locks me in.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #11: Blood Oath

This is What I'm Not Writing About

  I had originally started writing a post about the powers used to kill people dead. Unfortunately there's some discussion we're still having around certain powers that need to be resolved before that post can be completed. Specifically we're working with the concepts surrounding Element 1, 2, and 3 in the game. Currently the replacing nature of element attacks makes element 3 superior in almost every way to element 1 and element 2. (As a shifter I prefer element 2 simply because of the lack of solid level 2 powers available compared to level 3 powers).
  Really, no character benefits from having both element 1 and element 3. Also, the choice nature of element is horribly uncannon. I rarely see element used for anything but fire even though the specific gift or power that the power represents if often times specifically another element. For Black Furies it represents Wasp Talons, for Corax it's Hummingbird's Dart. Also powers that should specifically have elemental restrictions (such as something from Rego Aquam or Creo Ignam which under the current system allow people to go Darth Vader on someone) don't really have rules to restrict them making any restriction a significant nerf rather than something that helps define flavor of an attack.
  In attempting to balance this out we want to split out attacks that generally do Agg (fire), attacks that always do Agg (A new <type> of damage called Agg), attacks that do agg to a specific faction (silver, sunlight, stygian steel), and attacks that don't generally do agg to anyone (water, stone). I'll say that balancing this with the new energy limitations has been a significant challenge and we're not there yet. But that's not what I'm here to tell you about. I'm here to talk about blood oath.

One of the Weirdest Rules at SA

  The current blood oath rules represent one of the weirdest and most awkward rules in all of SA. I'm specifically talking about the 5 blood is too much rule. Now this rule has a lot of history as to how it came into being. There's much of that history I don't even know. But currently 5 blood in one sitting creates a blood oath that lasts for 24 hours. This means that vampires will routinely share 4 blood (also blood vials are 4 blood) and then stop specifically to avoid getting oathed. This represents a number of problems from a canon perspective. In canon a blood oath is formed by drinking a single point of blood from a single vampire on three different occasions. Then bam, you're oathed. Drinking from another vampire at all is considered very dangerous and is often times used as a punishment.
  Additionally the regular sentence for blood oath is 1 year to life, in SA 24 hours is the timeline. Looking at the rules for blood oath this makes sense. It's a relatively easy thing to get out of if you don't want to be bound because it basically makes you the total slave of your regent. Blood Oaths can very easily strip away the playability of a character turning you into an unwilling butler. Because of this the 24 hour timer makes sense for the current rules set but the current rules set doesn't do a great job matching canon.

The Problem with Canon

  One of the issues that you encounter using canon as a base line is that canon isn't really designed for LARPs. Where it has been converted to Minds Eye Theater it's designed for a slower pace, rock-paper-scissor's LARP where everyone can pull out their character sheet. So there's a number of things that are just plain difficult to do in a LARP setting. One of which is to take OOG notes. While teaching allows for a somewhat sensible pause to find a pen and write down what is being taught, blood oaths don't always offer the same flexibility. If we tried to move to a 3 sip total system (or 3 sips within a year) someone would need to track this. I've seen notable issues at LARPs where people were arguing about if this was drink two or three, when the last one was and if it still counted. One thing we don't have much of in SA is across game tracking. There's a couple of questions about taint, what you were taught, some stuff like that. But nothing as stat intensive as tracking one drink from Cecily, two from Morosa, two from Brennis, one from... you get the point.
  In the end if we wanted a more canon system we'd need to keep it manageable for players. Also the length is another issue. While a year in a tabletop game is fine, it feels excessive in a LARP. Especially considering that in a tabletop game you can leave, go to France and meet fine and interesting people there. In a LARP you can go to Durham but what happens in Durham, stays in Durham. Finally, if we wanted it to be more canon it needed to be more adoration less slavery. The do every command the person wishes is a bit overboard. You should want to please them, but becoming under a long term "Obedience: Do as I say" isn't generally the best form of character development. This doesn't mean that the teeth need to be kicked out of a blood oath but some toning down and ramping up seemed in order.

One Event

  Time periods in SA exist in a number of exponentially increasing increments. Most all aspects of the game fall into one of the following time periods: Immediately, 10 seconds, 1 minute, 10 minutes, 1 hour, at sunrise/sunset, or one event. There's some slight variation on length as some powers may last until sunrise or sunset or until the end of an event. But generally speaking these are the timeframes the game is based around. (As a side note a power tends to last for anywhere from half to double of it's stated duration on average considering counting speeds). I'd like to note that 24 hours isn't really one of these timeframes. It exists currently in the single case of Blood Oaths but once you reach this kind of duration it is better to revert to something that is more clearly delineated. For length of a blood oath the duration of these that makes the most sense is in the event magnitude. But tracking 6 events (one year) becomes a significant difficulty, especially since the question of alternate characters and missing games makes it a murky question.
  In the end the best way to handle this in a way that players can track without difficulty is to make a blood oath last for an event. But the possibility of ongoing blood oaths needs to be real to give them a strong canon feel. So rather than focusing on the duration of the oath, we made a rule that focused on the way to get rid of it. An blood oath lasts until a thrall has been played for a full event without consuming any blood of their regent. This gives ample opportunity for the oath to be upkept while preventing it from simply being dodged by playing other characters. It does mean that if an oathed character attends an event and their regent doesn't they can become free of their bondage. In a LARP setting this seems fair for the characters on both sides of the oath.

Three Drinks?

  The three drinks rule from canon is a real problem especially at a LARP. With an endless time frame it works fine but I've already discussed how this becomes a problem. When we look at time frames the only real one we have to work with is one event or sunrise/sunset. Trying to remember if you drank at the last event or not is too problematic to include. If we're going to cut down the time, in order to make blood oaths remain viable we'd also need to cut down the drink requirements. The problems with one drink have been apparent, especially if we're moving to a sip system. However, two drinks is a manageable number within a single event.
  Canon would dictate that these would need to be on different nights (resetting at sunrise, or sunset). One option was to have the "day" reset at both sunrise and sunset to open up the number of opportunities for creating a blood oath. The concern with this was that it would make oathing an NPC virtually impossible. The majority of NPCs see a couple of hours in game per event. Our game doesn't make following them home, going to their house and finishing the oath after sunset an option. If oathing an NPC was to be a functional possibility it would need to have a shorter gap between drinks than any measure of days.
  This brought us to our other time period options. With the number set at two drinks, immediately felt way too short. You could just grab someone and feed them once, stop and feed them again. This lacked some of the planning, plotting, RP and scheming that should be involved in bonding a target. 10 seconds and 1 minute faced the same problems as immediately. 10 minutes or 1 hour seemed to be closer to the right number to place as a gap between drinks in order to form a bond. With several NPCs staying IG for not much more than an hour it could make it incredibly difficult for someone to catch an NPC before they head off if you had to wait an hour. This left 10 minutes as the most reasonable time frame. It's enough time that if you're using force to create the bond you could have killed the person anyway and it is short enough that you probably don't need to watch the clock to have another chance to pull off the oath. Most importantly, it's long enough to require a good scheme as to how you'll pull it off.

  Final decision: 2 drinks within the same event, but not within 10 minutes of each other.

But What Does it Do?

  Considering that we had added steps back into the oathing process we could have steps of oath mean something. This means that one drink brings up that feeling of affection and interest (possibly making the final step easier to pull off). It brings the canon back to the power of a vampire's blood drawing you towards them.
  We also moved more canon with the power that the oath holds over you. No longer do you obey every command, you simply can't break powers with willpower that your regent uses on you. So you can get dominated around like a slave, but it's costing the regent energy to do so.

All of the following effects apply to a Thrall:

    Thralls always see their regent in the best light possible. Any negative characteristics are overlooked, and the best of intentions are always assumed.  The thrall has a very deep affection and respect for the regent that may or may not manifest as romantic love.
    Thralls may not use willpower to break from any power used by the regent.
    A thrall will never willingly harm their regent. This means the thrall will not attack the regent, and will make every effort to ensure that the regent does not come to harm. If a thrall thinks that staying close to a regent and fawning over them would be dangerous for the regent, they will keep their distance, and so on.
    A thrall will do everything within their power to protect their regent. This includes defending them from attacks, lying for them, and volunteering any information they think will help protect their regent.
    If a thrall comes under the effect of a power that forces them to act in a fashion contrary to the oath, the power takes priority over the oath.
    When the oath expires, the former thrall still sees their former regent in a positive light, and assumes that all emotions and actions they performed were of their own free will. It requires a great deal of evidence for a former thrall to see their actions as anything other than their own choice. The change in view from thrall to former thrall is seen as natural, as if the former thrall’s infatuation with their former regent had simply faded.

As you can see these rules are still very favorable for creating thralls and the increased duration makes it a very nice thing to have. But it gives the thrall a bit more flexibility as to how a thrall will play his character. Overall we like this approach because it's more canon, more fun, and doesn't require that weird 4 is fine but 5 is bad thing that is currently floating around at game.

Monday, March 11, 2013

DRM: We brought this on ourselves

  The recent release of SimCity points to the final determination of the next era in video game releases. While Diablo 3's "always online" approach frustrated some people with the requirement of handing over control of your game to Blizzard, the Diablo franchise has a long history of online play with Battle.Net. Along with other Blizzard titles, the intention of the game was designed as a multiplayer experience, with a single player option. While Diablo 3 requiring connection to Blizzard to play isn't exactly what we wanted, we can accept that in some ways it does make sense.

  Not so with SimCity. The 2013 release of SimCity is the first in a long franchise of Sim games with any kind of online or even multiplayer experience. Sure, Sim's Online came around, but one MMO does not an online franchise make, (see Final Fantasy as an example).  Even though back in 2003 with SimCity 4 people begged for the ability to make the game multiplayer with competing or cooperating cities working in tandem, SimCity was always a single player experience. For me Sim games were always the strange past time I'd slip into in hotel rooms or on airplanes. When you're stuck somewhere wasting time you can still get a feeling of accomplishment from increasing your population, earning a few thousand simoleans, or taking a look at an old course you built in SimGolf.

  But the new SimCity follows Diablo 3 in making a game with a notable single player experience and taking it all online. Even before the arrival of the connection issues that have plagued the game in the first week since launch the interwebs have been furious with this approach to Digital Rights Management by Electronic Arts. In late 2012 when news of the "always online" setting of SimCity was announced, city builders were crying foul. Not surprisingly all of the pleading with SimCity 4 for a multiplayer experience was quickly forgotten as this new deal with the devil emerged. We wanted multiplayer, but not corporate control.

  In the end, SimCity has released with an "always online" system and has been plagued with connection issues during it's first week of release. While this is an endless frustration for single player gamers it comes as no surprise to MMO gamers who have a long experience of unstable launches, even for solid games due to connection and stability issues. With this the big question is "What does the multiplayer option bring to the game?"

  So far the answer is not much. You can sort of work with people in your region and share some resources and services. You can get fire helicopters that will fly to other cities when there's a fire. You can play in a region with your friends and visit their city (a cool little limo shows up in their city with your name on it). There's also the ability to sell certain resources and power to the global market in an expanded way from SimCity 4. But these are pretty trivial changes especially considering that the cities in the same region don't back up against one another like they did in SimCity 4. All this points to the real reason for an "always online" release, DRM.

Digital Rights Management

  In the gaming world digital rights management (DRM) is generally considered the symbol of evil corporate overlords squeezing every last penny out of consumers. Really it's a bit more simple than that. From a corporate perspective with regard to games DRM manifests as a method in which the company hosts servers on which the game is played. This sort of environment is no surprise for MMOs in which the servers provide for the shared experience and provide a level playing field between gamers. It's kind of like the bowling alley keeping your scores and handicap on record so you can't set up a bunch of plastic pins in your bathroom and bowl a 300 game. This isn't the only kind of DRM that exists, but so far it's the only kind that gamers have previously encounter regularly. For most MMOs you end up paying a monthly fee, or under the free to play model you get limited access unless you pay a monthly fee. Though some games have broken out of the subscription or micro-transaction model, like Guild Wars, the online and multiplayer aspect of these games justifies the need to use the companies servers.

  With SimCity it doesn't seem necessary as everyone is primarily looking for a quality single player experience. The addition of multiplayer "features" that don't add substantially to game play means that from a players perspective the online experience is more likely to be a negative one, than a positive one. This is significantly compounded by the connection issues people have been suffering through in the first week of the game's release.

  So why would EA do this? The answer is simple, piracy. The Sim games are among the most commonly pirated games for the longest period of time. The 2003 release of SimCity 4 is still easily available, as is SimCity 3000 and 2000. Even some of the remakes of SimCity classic can be found online. The replayability of these games encourages people to look them back up five years later to play around some more. The sheer number of Sim games that our generation has played but never bought is staggering. In the end, we've brought the DRM model on ourselves.

Copy Protection

  While DRM is a dirty word in most consumer circles, copy protection has a long history with SimCity. I remember the original Macintosh SimCity which came with a two page dark red document with city names and small icons you had to match up and enter in the code in order to play the game. If you lost the red paper, you couldn't play the game. The paper was specifically designed to be unphotocopyable (we tried, even in color) and long enough to dissuade copying by hand. Other early games had you type in the 8th word on the 43rd page of the rule book when you started the game. No rulebook, no game. More recent releases moved to the "CD in" model in which you had to have the CD in your computer in order to play the game.

  All of these methods of copy protection have been defeated by video game pirates who have cracked the code of the game to allow it to run without a CD or have used virtual drives to tell the computer that they have the CD when really they don't. There are websites with the old table from the original SimCity and the manuals of old have been scanned and made available for all to see. The only set of games that haven't been able to be cracked are the always on MMO style games. In a age of game downloads rather than purchased boxed sets, using account management inherent in the game purchasing software just makes sense. If the company controls the system, they can verify one account logged in per purchased game, and no one can steal it.

  There are tons of other issues that come with server base games. Servers go down, they're unplayable in a internet dead zone, and most importantly, at some point the company will stop providing the service as the game is no longer profitable for them. No longer do you own a game. You've more bought a lifetime subscription card at the local batting cage which will last until the ownership changes, the place closes down, or the machines get upgraded to no longer accept the old cards. These are the issues being raised by gamers worldwide about the new SimCity release. But in the end, we've made it in a companies best interest to have complete control of their game. It can't be stolen, loaned to a friend, installed on multiple home computers, and, eventually, it can be taken out of service forcing you to purchase a newer version of the game.

  As gamers we hate that it has come to this, but really this is a problem that our generation has cultivated and exploited for too many years. While SimCity's rocky launch points to all the problems with this system, I don't think we're going to see it going away any time soon. The answers we're hearing from Maxis and EA are more servers and solving stability problems not moving to offline play. In the future we'll see more server stability at launches, but not more offline games. DRM is the future that we've made for ourselves by twenty years of playing too many free games, working around copy protection, and filesharing. It's time we own up to it and admit that if we want to play big title games in the future, we're going to have to play them on company terms and corporate servers.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #10: Status Attacks

  Dealing with status attacks has actually been one of the most difficult aspects of the new rules set. Status attacks are sort of a weird in between in the game. They're attacks that like damage effects are targeted at the body, but work more like mental attacks as far as how they cause the player to react. The hybrid combination of effect and target really places them in the middle of nowhere as far as the rules go.


  Resisting status is done with Resilience, which for 2 energy you can resist the attack in whole. This makes resilience not only a great power, but a must have power. Being hit with paralyze is an assured way to drop any target without resilience. There's a couple ways to become immune to status attacks such as form of war and form of vapor, and you can also pick up an additional resist with the merit Hardy. Even if you do have one of these, you probably still need resilience to avoid getting chumped.


  The problem we found was both that Resilience was too good, and status attacks were too good. Not having Resilience was basically a death sentence. Having resilience basically made all status attacks useless. This led to people either ignoring status as an attack method all together or making a single status attack to see if their opponent had a defense and then being disappointed with the result. If it was resisted, status was ignored and people moved on. If it stuck, they probably won the fight.
  Another problem was with the tiered nature of status attacks. For the most part it made no sense to use any other attack than paralyze if you had it because it basically equated a win in a fight. Other status attacks simply didn't measure up. This meant that they didn't have utility, they simply had superiority by getting the best power and ignoring the rest.

Trials and Tribulations

  I want to give some idea of the number of different things we tried for status resist to give a picture of the experience we went through. We tried lots of stuff.

1. Resist with health - We tried what it looked like if you resist status by paying 1 health.
  The thought here was that we could differentiate it from damage and mentals by making the pool it drains from separate. Unfortunately, this didn't work. It did make people more likely to take low level mental attacks but it was still an auto resist for paralyze. Basically status attacks ended up just being throwing a packet for 1, which wasn't much fun for either side.

2. Break with Resilience - We tried to see what it would look like if you broke a status for 2 energy much like our current rules for breaking a mental.
  The though was that people would at least take the effects initially then break out once it really mattered. In reality, every status got broken all the time. Status became less useful than it currently is because everyone could afford to break it and it really didn't feel right for status.

3. Free resist for people without resilience - The idea here was to make it so people could pay a lot (5 health) to resist a status attack without needing a power.
  This was also pretty lame. It did succeed in giving people without resilience an out but it didn't feel good for either side. Both the attackers and defenders were nonplused by this scenario.

4. Free status attacks - We added some status attacks that didn't cost energy.
  This worked surprisingly well. Having some weak, level one status attacks that didn't cost energy helped make the auto resist mantra die out. If someone can just pepper you repeatedly with a status attack, you're likely to stop and take it rather than fighting against it. It still makes Paralyze an auto resist but it does help the spread of powers where there's times you'd throw the freebie rather than spending the energy on big attacks.

5. Side effect on resist - We looked at having resilience ding you somehow.
  The big question here was how. I creasing the cost was one way to add more ding, but that's not really helpful. We found -1 damage to actually be a decent counterbalance to resisting. It made aggressors weakened even if they were able to resist status attacks. It also made the new avoidance rules slightly more powerful as an attacker that was swinging 2 could be dropped to 1 with a status attack. That significantly decreases the damage they're capable of putting out.

Combined Approach

  In the end combining 4 and 5 seemed workable. Having variable cost powers means that people can push in with status attacks and still see some results even if their attack is resisted. What it ended up doing was making it so that if you have a status attack it is definitely worth throwing one at a target in combat. If they resisted you still got some bang for your buck. We basically made it so that if you use resilience you take a status effect that decreases your attack damage by one. We also made this a free status attack replacing wither.

WITHER (Status)
Cost: None
Call: “Wither”
The target's maximum damage with boffer attacks is reduced by one.  Umbrabound creatures in the umbra may use this power across the Gauntlet by saying “Breach” before the sig call.

  However, we still had the problem with some of the bigger status attacks. Paralyze was an auto resist but it left the downside, but we had just made tossing the first status attack into combat more worthwhile. If you didn't have resilience, you were more likely to be chumped. This meant we had to tone down some of the bigger status attacks so that they weren't an immediate win/lose power. Instead we wanted to make them powers to control the flow of the fight, not simply dominate it. The big powers that needed to be clarified were Paralyze, Body Wrack, and Venom Blood. We wanted these to impose significant restrictions, but not be an auto-win for a fight. Because even if your opponent resists the attack, you're still getting some effect.
  Pay some special attention to how each of these powers works and think about when you'd use each one. There's some very subtle changes that makes each of these powers very unique.

Cost: 1 energy
Call: “Body wrack”
The target must take a knee while screaming out in pain. The target may not make status, mental, touch, counted touch, or packet damage attacks.  Umbrabound creatures in the umbra may use this power across the Gauntlet by saying “Breach” before the sig call.

Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Paralyze”
The target is held in total paralysis unable to do anything other than regenerate. This power ends immediately if the target is attacked or damaged.

VENOM (Status)
Cost: 1 energy
Call: “Venom”
The target must roleplay being ill and may not make any attacks.

DISABLE (Status)
Cost: 2 energy
Call: “Disable”
For the duration of this power the target may not expend energy for any reason.

Now for the teacher part in me. I'm curious to see how people are putting all of the rules we've shown so far together. You'll notice we increased the cost of disable to two energy. There's a very specific reason we did this based on previous posts. Can anyone tell me why?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Understanding Literacy in the Digital World

  The recent NCCE conference was full of experienced computer professionals. Much like a college library, it was full of students bustling about sharing their favorite texts, discussing their recent readings, and people searching for answers to difficult questions. Access to the riches of a library is generally reserved for those who are able to read. Much the same could be said about the riches of the internet and digital literacy. George Couros’ Keynote address focused on the very concept of digital literacy and how to spread it throughout a school community.

  The keynote address brought together a number of ideas that I had been working through in my own mind with a very clear and succinct thesis. Digital literacy much like reading literacy, must be taught in a literate culture. Just as we expect teachers to model effective literacy techniques to budding readers, we must expect teachers to display effective digital literacy techniques to students if we expect them to grow up as digitally literate individuals. This poses a significant challenge as a number of students already seem ahead of their teachers as soon as a technological device is placed on the table.

  The focus of this struggle is that students already exist in many domains that many teachers have not yet ventured into. Communications such as texting, facebook, and twitter are a mainstay of student interaction that vast numbers of educational staff avoid. The cause of their aversion is that they are not fully digitally literate. Digital literacy in today’s world is far more than being able to operate a computer and perform its basic functions. Digital literacy must include not only how to read and write, but also how find the book and where to place the writing.

  One aspect of literacy that is not taught very frequently is the aspect of publishing your work. Publishing feels like some distant process that only writers do and it is long and difficult. Most commonly, students feel that their work isn’t good enough to be published. However, the digital realm is heavily predicated on people publishing their work. Work in this case can range from something as simple as a 144 character tweet, to a paragraph facebook post, to a blog post, to an entire ebook or website. While our conventional systems for teaching reading and writing are sufficient, only sharing student work with their teacher is a digitally illiterate act.

  What the keynote address made me realize is that the online portfolio concept that my school is using only addresses a small part of the need of students to become digitally literate. In the current model students in their junior and senior year gather and produce a website that represents some of their best work. They then give commentary on the work they’ve done. While this is fantastic that students are sharing their work with the world, starting at 11th grade is far too late. Student websites should be started in elementary school where students can share and store the totality of their school work. They should be constantly building and refining the website as a method of sharing their work with the world. Only through constant interaction with the internet can we hope for students to learn to be truly digitally literate. In order for this to happen, teachers should be doing the same with their work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #9: Deliveries and Effects

In case you couldn't tell, the change to combat speed is a really big thing. This is something that is going to bleed over into numerous areas and alter combat significantly. One thing that I want to make clear is that the one successful strike per second applies to Damage, Status, and Mental attacks. But fortunately this isn't the only way we have in place to prevent machine gunning these things.

Damage Attacks

  There are two kinds of damage attacks, packet and boffer. We want to clarify that these two will work the same way with the single exception that packets are thrown, and most boffers are not. This means the both packet and boffer damage attacks can be blocked with weapons and shields. We also wanted to clarify the way calls are made. We've broken the call into three parts which I will discuss in no particular order here. First, we all know the damage <number> part. This states how much damage is being caused by the attack assuming it successfully hits. Second we have the <type> of damage which indicates if the particular attack will be considered aggravated damage to the target.
  Finally we have added a new part called the <meta>. While an attack will have only one number and one type, it can have a number of meta calls. The primary disadvantage of meta calls is that they will take much longer to make the attack. Meta calls already exist in SA but they don't really have a clear designation in the rules. Powers such as Umbra Strike, Breach, and Balefire already use a meta call. Some <meta> calls can be applied onto other types of attack powers such as status and mental. We're specifically breaking this out so that we can have a clear list of what we can expect to fall into this category. Below are a few examples of some <meta> calls:

Disarm - A disarm attack that strikes a targets weapon causes him to drop the weapon if he does not resist the attack.

Tainted - If this attack is not resisted immediately the target will become tainted.

Unresistable - This attack can not be resisted. Targets that are immune will still state “no effect”.

  You may notice Disarm up there as a meta call. This change means that a character using the fatal flaw power would add the "Disarm" meta onto their attack call. If the attack strikes a weapon the defender will be forced to drop the weapon. If it strikes the defender's body they would instead take damage from the attack. So you might see an attack call of "Disarm Silver 1". With avoidance this attack could be resisted even if it only hit a weapon.
  Damage attacks are currently primarily resisted with the avoidance power. This is somewhat of a mainstay power that is really vital to long term survivability of anyone who is seeking to engage in heavy combat. One issue with the current iteration of this power is that it doesn't scale at all with the difficulty of an opponent. Avoidance allows me to resist a damage attack for 2 energy regardless of if the attacker is swinging for one regular point of damage, or eight points of fire damage. The issue with this is that a character with 20 energy can take 15 hits of an opponent swinging 2, or 12 hits of an opponent swinging 8. The totem swinging 8 is not really a bigger threat even though they happen to swing 4 times harder than the ghoul with might.

  It's worth noting here that PC's damage range is typically around 1-3 damage per swing. There are people who can hit for four and five damage per swing, but these are exceptions and they have put notable experience and IG effort into doing so. Most new or moderate characters we expect to swing for 1 or 2 damage, elder vampires and crinos ahroun three, alphas and werewolf elders four or maybe five if the moon is just right.

  We wanted each of those points to be more significant and bring in a more substantial reward for increasing damage. Avoidance is now looking like the following:

Avoidance - (Self)

Cost: Energy equal to the <number> of the damage attack call.

Call: “Resist”

You may resist a single damage attack and any meta calls associated with it.

  So in our above example with the Disarm Silver 1 attack it would only cost a single point of energy to resist the attack. However, when facing a totem level character you might have to pay six or eight energy to resist the attack. Suddenly the 20 energy character can survive 4 hits from the totem who is essentially their god instead of 12. However, for the character swinging 2, things remain the same. It is still 15 hits to take an opponent down. I use the totem example as an extreme case. The difference between the 15 hits for an opponent swinging 2s is now 10 hits for an opponent swinging 3s, 8 hits for an opponent swinging 4s, and let's not forget 30 hits for an opponent swinging 1s. Also each hit can come no faster than once per second, so you gain a lot of survivability by not taking all 15 of those hits in the first three or four seconds of combat.
  There were initial concerns about the math of this system. But we realized that after very little practice we all fell into the same routine of handling it. Mentally we counted our energy on top of our health for one big pool. If I have 10 health and 15 energy then I have a pool of 25 possible damage to take. If I get below 10 I need to start taking the damage, but the math stays the same. If I use a power it deducts one from the pool. This actually made handling the fairly easy. 

Mental Attacks

  Mental attacks are a huge part of the game, huge. For me the fact that I can use a power on a target and the player has to play that they don't know what happened is the largest difference between SA and lesser LARPs. Unfortunately, they are often one of the most commonly misplayed parts of the game when it comes to combat. In spite of several clarifications the exact rules for using mentals in combat remain difficult for people to follow. We wanted this to change mostly so more people understood and could follow the rules. We wanted to avoid the confusion that was currently taking place and we also really wanted to get rid of the OOG touch thing that never made any sense. If we're attempting to play a WSYWIG game, we shouldn't run around touching people and saying it is OOG.
  Our solution was to establish a mental range. The range we decided on was about ten feet. The "about" is a very important piece of this picture. We did NOT want people stopping the game to measure. We also don't have a problem with 10 feet occasionally being 12 or even 15 feet. We hope that it will be pretty obvious when a target is at 20 feet and not a viable target. About 10 feet is conversational range or close combat range, but not hiding behind my battle line distance. We want you to be able to target any person who is within about 10 feet.
  However, if I'm surrounded by four bad guys who are all trying to get swings in at me and I shout "snarl" (which under the current SA rules is not a legal attack in this situation) the four bad guys shouldn't have to go OOG to decide who I was attacking. So as an additional requirement, you need to have the attention of your target and your target (the player) must understand that they are being targeted. This means that a character can't ignore me to avoid mentals, and neither can a player. If they're actively ignoring me then they probably realize that I'm targeting them. Now there happens to be many ways you can indicate a target IG. First off you can still touch them. If I tap you on the shoulder and say Horrid Reality, it is obvious who I am targeting. But this touch is IG. You can also point, with your finger. But this will only work if the player is facing you. You can also call out IG something to grab their attention. "Hey, you in the stupid red hat with a big ostrich feather. <Terror>". In combat if someone runs right up to you, looks right into your eyes, and says "Monsters", you'll know what to do.

  Our testing showed this worked really well in the most chaotic of combats. It also means that if someone is being extensively pummeled by numerous people, your mental probably won't be able to land unless you run up and get right in their face. For casual situations it also worked great because you didn't have to deal with the awkward OOG touch.

  But this wasn't all we wanted clarified. The ability to hand out mentals at longer range had to be tempered and balanced. One thing we also weren't fond of was that your willpower rating seemed to simply be an indication of how many mentals you would need to be hit with before one would effect you. Most people resist mental attacks immediately before even considering the situation. This causes an strange chain mental attack to get through someone's willpower so your mental would actually do something. In a limited energy environment this would be a problem. We also felt  there were mentals that opened up good RP opportunity being resisted because people didn't want it to become a threat later on. We really wanted mentals to be effective to guide people towards things they aren't incredibly opposed to and willpower be used to avoid those things that they feel too greatly violated their characters desires. We felt that requiring the resist up front was actually what was causing the bulk of the problem.
  What we wanted was we wanted willpower to Break mentals, not resist them. This specifically would allow for characters to take the effect and only worry about breaking it if it put them in a really bad of a spot. It made characters with extensive willpower very difficult to control and it gave some opportunity to people that were under the effects of a mental. The less wholesale nature made for much more interesting situations. No longer could you trust that the obedienced opponent was really on your side for good, he might break out of it. The beast minded guy would behave oddly for a bit but when five other guys came in to take him out he'd suddenly snap out of it realizing his life was on the line. Overall we saw that most mentals would stick for at least 20-30 seconds before being broken, rather than being resisted straight away. This rewarded mental attackers by getting some payout for using their power. It also got rid of the ability for mental attackers to just chain cast their mental until a target stopped moving. If you hit me with merciful sleep 5 times, I'll take it, then resist, get up and keep on running. It only takes 1 willpower after the last one sticks for me to get free.
  It was also much more fun to get hit with a mental power. With terror I'd run for a bit, decide I wanted to be back in a fight, burn the willpower and return after around a minute. With obedience I'd start off obeying the command but when it was starting to look like it might get me killed I'd decide that I was done with this particular command and break it. My initial reaction became to roll with the mental until it put me in a really bad spot. So instead of being instantly resisted, it became a great opportunity for RP.

  I know there will be some concern that this change might decrease the power of mentals overall. In a few ways it is definitely true. No longer will you be able to chain mentals at a target. No more 5 snarls to insure that the target takes one. But I think we can all agree, this was cheesy anyway. There's also no more guarantee that a person who runs off after being terrored won't come running back in another minute. But again, otherwise the would have resisted the power immediately and they wouldn't be running off at all anyway, or they would have just broken the power in the first 5 seconds anyway in which there's really no change. This change also clears up the issue with knowing if your target has resisted the attack or not. The normal response will be to take a power for at least a little while except in the most extreme circumstances such as debilitating effects such as merciful sleep and horrid reality. At which point we're really not experiencing any change.
  Also the little things are more likely to stick. Passion will be more useful, as will things like induce sin, because if I end up in a situation I'm not fond of I can break out of it. but otherwise I'll roll with it for a while to see where it goes.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #8: The whole dying process

I wanted to break down the entire dying process just to give a clear picture of what it will look like under the new system. I included a chart below because that became a thing recently.

  You have health, you have maximum health, you're alive.

  You have 0 health. You have been incapacitated. You are unconscious.
  If you have a regeneration rating it will automatically trigger at 1 minute and you can spend energy to heal. Characters may choose to move to dead at this point (NPCs with no friends).
  If you don't have a regeneration rating or you don't have energy to activate your regeneration, after 10 minutes you are now dead.

  If your maximum health is 0 or you've been incapacitated for 10 minutes you are now dead. Dead is an interesting state. First off your maximum health immediately drops to 0 if it wasn't already. You can be targeted by insight and you can be resurrected (even if you're not human). There's a couple of other powers that can target dead people, but we'll talk about those later. If you're dead, you're in a pretty bad spot, you don't want to be here.
  If you are dead for 10 minutes you become Decaying.
  Decaying is when you can drop your tags and get up. Depending on what you are, you may not have to do so yet. A decaying vampire or wraith goes OOG immediately. A decaying shifter or human may continue to play a body for as long as they want, or until a power destroys their body (spoiler). Once you hit the decaying stage your character is gone and can not be brought back.

Look here. I made a chart:

  I'm also going to take this opportunity to show off some of the new formatting we're looking at for powers. While the majority of powers will continue to cost 1 energy, we wanted to clearly spell out what will not. Touch is a "new" category of powers that require touch to activate and are resisted with willpower. Touch powers are not considered attacks, unlike mental, status, and damage powers which are considered attacks.

Resurrection - (Touch)
Cost: 1 Willpower
Call: “Resurrection”
After the caster spends 1 minute meditating while touching a dead character he may activate this power to bring them back to life. A dead target will have their maximum health returned to 1 and be healed a single point of health. An incapacitated or conscious target will be healed 1 point of health.

Insight – (Touch)
Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Insight <question>”
The caster touches a target that is dead. The target must answer any questions the caster asks truthfully per character knowledge. This power ends when the target becomes decaying or when the caster is no longer touching the target.


Why the changes to the above powers?

The infinite timer on Resurrection had some major concerns from a rules perspective. First off it encouraged people killing a target near the end of an event where the chance for resurrection was low. This artificial timer didn't sit right. Also, we wanted resurrection to be cool and not just a human thing. Shifters are alive and can be resurrected. There was some big war about that or something. We figured that the dead state gives a time period in which someone could be resurrected without becoming a burden. Another fear we had was a character staying IG as their character's body all night in hopes of being resurrected. While I'd admire the hardcore aspect of this, I don't think it's actually something we want in the game. This gives a clear path from which a character moves from living to incapacitated, to dead, to gone in a clear and concise way.

Insight has been heavily used as the best truth telling method of the game. The line I've heard repeatedly is "beat them down and insight them". While the energy restrictions that exist in a limited energy system would limit it's abuse the one question one answer system still isn't great. We wanted to take this power back to where it belonged. In canon the power was really used to extract information out of a dead body, not a live one. If you came across a corpse you could get info out of it (usually only about how it died). We wanted to keep some of the original investigative nature in insight but we wanted to up the ante on it. As it is written in the new system, if you want the truth, you need to get it from their cold dead eye. You also get tons of info for a single energy point.