Monday, February 4, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #6: Energy Economy - Pathos

  Considering that we already wanted to do away with infinite energy, much of our decisions actually started with the Wraiths. We figured if we could cut down on the shifter need for energy we could then address wraiths the way we wanted to. This means some big changes for wraith, but good changes overall.

What's up with Wraiths?

  One thing that never settled right with the rules team in Shadow Accord is wraith draining. Wraiths in SA are basically ghost vampires. They get energy by taking health from others in a way that fits the canon of Vampire, not wraith. In WoD canon, wraiths get energy back from feeding off of strong emotions that fit their particular Passions. Certain wraiths feed of certain emotions, the angry/fear wraith gets nothing from happy people, the happy/romance wraith gets nothing from angry people. The whole draining people thing just doesn't exist in WoD. It feels like a patched on mechanic because there were already rules for it in the game, rather than something that was uniquely wraithy. We want wraith to feel like wraith, and vampire to feel like vampire.
  Looking at the broad spectrum of what's wrong with Wraith, energy exchange is its own whole big thing. In SA it is a mainstay power that keeps the entire wraith and shifter faction full of energy. In WoD canon, it can't be used to take or make gnosis, blood, essence, or anything like that. Then again, in WoD canon, wraiths and shifters aren't hanging out on the same plane and rarely interact. Either way we simply don't feel that we can leave energy exchange like it has been in the past if we want a limited energy game. We also don't like the idea that a wraith can take an emotion like murderous malice, and turn it into hippie shifter energy.
  Finally, there's the haunt. The Haunt is basically the Caern system applied to wraiths, for not any particularly good reason. Our wraiths seem to eat like vampires and are supposed to live like shifters. None of this really fits Wraith the Oblivion. This is simply more patched from another faction to add wraiths to the game. We really want to make wraith its own thing, not reliant on other faction's rules to exist.
  To some degree the largest factional changes came up for wraith because if feels like the rules for wraith are totally thought through. Wraiths are built more like a patch onto the game rather than a well built and incorporated system. This is not to put down the wonderful job that wraith players have been doing making wraith into something significant, they just don't really have a very effective rules system backing them up. So we were looking at some big changes in order to encourage the Wraith game.

Wraith Changes

  As you may have guessed from above, we removed the draining health mechanic from wraiths. We really felt that if we could give them a better alternative, we had to. Instead we are adding Passion nodes. Passion nodes work much like Gaian nodes except that a wraith may access them once each day resetting at sunset (twice per event). Additionally, there will be a number of types of Passion nodes and wraiths will only be able to draw from those that match their particular Passions. The Passions we've come up with are Anger, Fear, Love, Hate, Pain, Pleasure. Each wraith will pick two passions at creation or conversion. The nodes will be set up in static locations and have an appropriate type and number of Pathos that can be drawn for it.
  This means that wraiths will return to the places of strong emotion each day to get their fill of a particular Passion, once per day, each and every day, forever, and ever, like eternity. It also means that the wraith experience will be somewhat different from the shifter experience. Shifters can burn their energy and go get more as needed, wraiths will need to be slightly more conservative but have the chance to gain energy back in very common locations like the tavern, church, and merchant commons. It is also possible that an old location may fade away and new ones crop up. Again we're looking to balance the total additional energy to be the same for shifters and wraiths to help balance things out. Unlike Gaian nodes which will be outside in nature type places, most Passion nodes will be in centers of social events. There are some obvious candidates if we look at Camp Brinkey: the bath house could be pleasure, the Cooks cabin fireplace could be hate, or pain, even locations like the amphitheater could be ideal locations. It's not impossible to imagine where things might belong. It also means that wraiths may have to wander in to certain locations to "feed" at times they may not be totally welcomed there.

  So what about Energy Exchange. Well Wraiths will still be able to transfer health and pathos as they do today using usury, but there is no reason to maintain their ability to magically switch energy types to other factional energy. How is it that I can drain a human and turn it into gnosis? We're better off without it. Instead we're focusing on making usury into the pathos banking system it is designed to be, rather than the currency exchange system it is now.
  With the Passion nodes, there's no need for a haunt. A wraith circle exists where there's wraiths, they don't need a central gathering point in order to function as a faction. This means that wraiths can focus on their primary task of bugging humans and fighting oblivion rather than using their draining system to kill anything and everything that comes their way. While they won't be the killing anything machines they were in the past, they'll be able to focus on being a wraith.

What this means for Wraiths

  One of the biggest changes this will bring is that the wraith shifter alliance won't be predicated on the energy system. If it remains it will be due to mutually beneficial social interactions and alliances, rather than energy dependance. I feel that this is somewhat liked to seeing what our interactions with Israel may be if we remove our dependance on the middle east for oil imports. We'll still be friends, but it'll be different than it was before.
  Wraiths won't get a haunt. Honestly I don't know how much of a change this will really give. They don't spend time and energy protecting the haunt in the same way that others do.
  Wraiths will have to roam a little bit. A wraith that wants to get their energy back will have to hit a couple of specific locations to be full up. It'll probably take 10-20 minutes of their game.
  Combat overall becomes a bit more of an energy management game where you can't just run to the back line and fill up doing the drain and heal routine.

  Overall I feel these are good changes that are really working to bring Wraith in line with Wraith. They have a unique feel, and once again, the nodes system makes things very manageable from a running the game standpoint. Staff doesn't need to do anything other than put them up.


  1. Oooh, oooh, I has comments!

    1) Overall I agree with the need to change up the system. It's pretty terrible as it is.
    2) If this change goes in, it MUST become free, or nearly free to use pardoner sensory powers. This is not a suggestion, but a statement of fact. 3 energy (archetype, taint, angst) for every new wraith/visitor, 2 energy for every current wraith multiple times (taint, angst) and 1 randomly every now and then for others (taint) is VERY COSTLY.
    3)SA is very odd compared to canon. We make lots of changes. I personally like being able to manipulate energy from others like we can currently. We exist in the same space as humans, vampires, werewolves, mages, and fae. Plain and simple. Being able to manipulate their energy makes usury interesting. With only 4-5 wraiths at most games (and knowing they can refill their pool in X hours), usury becoming wraith only will make it the most useless tree in Wraith (in my opinion anyway). No matter how "banking" it is.
    4)Haunt: It gets set up and often ignored. I would have no issue with this being done away with.
    5)I'm nervous to be limited in energy (right now I've got nearly unlimited as Telorn), but I don't think it's a bad thing.
    6)Forging. Forging is very much canon and important. It costs 10 pathos. You cannot expect us to forge at 10 pathos a pop with limited energy gain. Is there some plan to address this issue?

    Ultimately I don't think anything about this is a bad idea. They're all moves in a right direction. I'd just like a bit more detail :)

  2. Also: Are there any plans in addition to this to modify liquid passions?

    1. We assume that there'd have to be some modifications, but we haven't gotten to rewriting rituals yet.

  3. As I mentioned in the Gnosis post (which may have been ignored by some who weren't particularly interested), ALL costs will need to be adjusted. Particularly for Sensory powers we're moving to RP based cost rather than energy costs. Perhaps you'll need to listen to someone speak for 10 seconds, or give them the ole shifter butt sniff. This prevents the super casual brushing sense taint and makes it more of an RP thing. Costs for Forging will have to be looked at as well. It may that making an Oboli is fairly cheap while making nifty fire weapons is more expensive.
    I feel that moving around energy will be significantly more common when it isn't worth refilling. For example, if 3 of the wraiths encounter a specter and spend a significant portion of their energy beating it down, they're able to refill normally without much of a problem. But after a second fight they're much lower, they've spent some energy healing and they either have to survive until sunset without another fight or be dead meat to anyone who wishes to do them harm. In this case the usury power is incredibly valuable. Even if you have already used your nodes you can be the link between someone who hasn't used them and someone who needs pathos. You take buy energy from Bob who can go refill, you sell it to Sally who needs it. It does require a lot of being in the right place at the right time, but that's how loan sharks operate.
    Usury also gives you the ability to massively increase your own available pathos (with some cost) as you'll be able to drain pathos from an opponent. While everyone else is limited to the 15 or so available from nodes, you could pick that up from a single specter if you do it right.

    1. I did read the gnosis post, but all that was mentioned about sensory powers is that some were being looked at being changed/modified. You made no mention of sensory powers being modified to coincide with the pathos change. Just making sure these powers made it into that scope too. As for requiring some sort of talking.... Sometimes we knock down a wraith and then determine if they're a spectre, or just a crazy wraith. I usually did it if I had any reason to believe that they weren't spectres. A suggestion, is just spending 10 seconds looking to gain answers to all 3 questions (though you don't have to ask all 3). Another odd issue would be Guildmaster + 2 lackeys coming in. Having to go through the process for each one for each person would become burdensome.

      As for your response regarding the new usury, you might be right. However, I'll point out that as a Usurer and the fact that there are few wraiths, you'll be part of that fight spending your own. Then if you want to fill up off a spectre, you're tainted. And now requiring energy from another wraith, or a shifter. Or some human if you're super lucky. I am interested in the type of "banking" system you come up with, but I'm worried about how much OOG tracking it will require. Perhaps all this will just make things more interesting. My character is built almost entirely around Usury. It's my combat tree, my utility tree, and my "fear me" tree. Any change to it is something I'll be very critical of. Any chance you could expand on the banking system?

      I love these blog posts (I've read each one)and would love to commend you for doing so btw. Gives us a great chance to respond, give opinions, and get clarifications.

  4. "My character is built almost entirely around Usury. It's my combat tree, my utility tree, and my "fear me" tree."

    Unfortunately, this right here is one of the primary issues with Usury. It is, by far, the best tree in the game (when combined with wraith draining powers). One tree shouldn't manage to be all of those things at once. So, honestly, a little nerf batting around should be expected.

    With regards to costs, you should assume that all costs are being looked at in light of a limited energy economy. The question of if an attack is worth one energy is very different if it is one out of 50 or one out of 150.

    I can't go into too much detail on the banking system for wraith right now as it will likely rely on rituals to a certain extend. We want usurers to be able to play the role of banker storing up energy to sell back later, and make a profit off of giving out pathos. I'd expect usury to become less common and used less often under this system, but I don't see that as a bad thing. Currently it is so commonly used that charging for the use of it is really out of the question. With it being somewhat less common you can extract things out of each exchange, especially when it costs you to play the role of the banker.

  5. I don't disagree with it being nerfed. I'm aware of how powerful it is. But then again, Look at argos. The most powerful defense tree in the game too. Almost every wraith as Argos, yet very few (at least the last time I played a Wraith) had usury. There were rarely more than 3 that were fully versed. Many times there were only two, and at times only one.

    Here is my biggest concern: Interfaction relationships. Wraiths have very little to offer everyone else. Forging is a difficult subject so we can't just forge all day long for people to make them happy (at least in the current rules). Our martial prowess is often lacking. We are left with a few options, the biggest two being RP and energy manipulation. Mileage with RP will vary greatly. But, we can control energy manipulation. Vampires have a fair amount of mortal clout. Shifters have sheer physical strength and numbers. Wraiths can't even control the Shadowlands because they don't exist in Ushaw Moor. Instead we share space with the shifters (or they share space with us?). We have no place to call home that other bigger forces don't also call home in SA. When things threaten Wraith they also threaten shifters. Right now, we have a relationship where we both work against them. You help us fight, we help you forge at times, with energy regularly, and we "lend a hand" with 2-3 of us for fights.

    If we no longer offer energy, then every time you help us, you are putting your lives at risk for the off chance of having something forged, and 2-3 extra bodies where you usually don't need them. This could be kept up for awhile, but eventually a smart Alpha will notice things for what they are. We have nothing to offer. RP can change how and when this happens, and that sort of thing. But I doubt it could last forever.

    To me this is more than nerfing a power. Again, that is FINE. It's that you're taking away the one thing that we have control over. We can't control the Shadowlands that don't exist in the game. We can't control the woods. We can't control the town or mortals. We become accessories to everyone and everything in the town. Right now we have control over the energy economy for two factions. If all the usurers banded together and didn't give out energy, it could drastically change the current game. Because it's a bargaining chip. We can lay it down on the table, and give it to, or take it away from people that need it.

    Without energy trade, I feel as though we'll struggle to find a real niche in the game. There will always be 2-3 people that play Wraith to poke things through the shroud. I'm afraid that eventually we'll be bullied by the groups that are larger than us because we can't hurt them, or we can't make deals that are beneficial to all sides.

    I might be blowing this out of proportion for all I know. But here is one thing I know for certain: Energy is what wraiths are about in current SA. It's why we make friends/deals, and the most common reason to be sought out. We don't belong in Ushaw Moor. We do not exist in the same area as the Shifters (where we are when we put on our white headband), and shouldn't exist in the same place as humans (when we don't have the headband on). I REALLY like having something that is our "realm" since we don't have one otherwise. If it's not energy in the next rules release then what will it be?

    Also, please understand... you have a large overview of rules being changed and how they all work together Marc. I understand that we have to take everything with a grain of salt and understand that it's only a portion of it. But, it can be hard to try and understand how and why when we have only pieces. So, if my questions or stance is frustrating for those reasons I apologize.

  6. I think Shawn has pretty much covered most of my concerns.

    As an Artificer player, I feel that this will make forging cost prohibitive if the costs for the rituals stay the same. And considering our Stygian Taxes are currently 2 oboli, that's a mandatory 10 Pathos that needs to be spent (current system) to appease ST camp.

    It is going to be hard to judge the Wraith Energy changes without having the whole new Usury tree to look at and pick apart, as they are co-dependent.

    In regards to node reset times, I don't see how you math out two sunsets. Seeing as game starts at or after sunset Friday, we really only have one sunset and that is Saturday. If your looking at two potential reset times, it's gotta be dawn (or 8am like sorcerers), or some other point spaced out better within the games normal time frame. (6pm Friday to 2pm Sunday, a 44 hour window.)

  7. The math comes out to each game a node can be used twice. It only resets once (Saturday at sunset). I suppose that really wasn't very clear.

    I must admit that the concept that wraith is reliant on energy exchange to be a viable faction rubs me the wrong way (not you saying it, but that it's currently true). Vampire is supposed to be about politics, shifter is supposed to be about combat, wraith isn't supposed to be about being the energy link between factions. If a single power is defining a faction it is clearly a problem. It's like saying that vampires are all about majesty. It basically places usury into the MUST have category, which we don't want. While energy exchange is a huge part of the current wraith game, I, personally, don't think this is a good thing.
    This is an artificial niche that has been formed the current game by a rules oversight. It gives wraith an influence they simply shouldn't have. It makes the entire shifter faction essentially dependent on wraiths for energy and has sidelined intra-faction energy exchanges with shifters and by spirits. Usury is designed to control wraiths like financial institutions control humans, not befriend werewolves. The fact that it is the mainstay of the wraith faction is interesting, but it is not wraith.

    1. Ah okay, that makes a bit more sense. Thanks Marc.

  8. Personally, I've been playing a Shifter for almost 2 years, now leading the faction. I've only ever used a Usurer once. It was for about 6 energy and it was a long, annoying, painful experience, and I was vulnerable for it. The Usury change alone would not really impact my game or my perspective on the Wraith faction as a Shifter. Shaun's comments really got me to think about how overall inter-faction relations will change though.

    This change effectively removes a method of helping the Shifters, while adding incentive to annoy them with inconveniently located Passion nodes. That may be good for players who want to see more conflict in the game. It's going to be a slight setback for those that would like to see cohesion though. I guess if forging is more accessible for them, they'll still have at least one big bargaining chip on the table.