Monday, February 11, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #7: Energy Economy - Vitae

Before I get this conversation rolling I'd like to note the change in name. In the new version we won't be calling it Blood any more, unless you're an Ananasi. Ananasi have blood, ghouls and vampires use Vitae.

If you haven't read the post on Aggravated Damage, do that before reading this post.


  Considering we had done away with wraith draining we figured we should just do away with vampire draining as well. We've decided to add spots around site that provide blood called blood fountains. Each player can access a fountain once per nig-- I'm kidding.

  Vampires pose a number of specific issues with regards to their source of energy. In one way their source of energy is endless. So long as they have targets to feed from there is no end to the amount of energy they can have. It ends up proving very difficult to totally close the energy loop with vampires. But we can significantly impact it. The problems we ran into with draining were the following:

1) Willing targets
  Currently there is no downside to being fed from other than you might be killed in the process. Therefore, one ghoul can essentially keep the entire court fed through the medicine/draining mechanic. This makes having access to a ghoul much like having access to usurer. (In the old days ghouls had spoiled blood, but we all agree, this is dumb). Being continually fed on needs a cost.

2) Combat drain
  Currently you can run after a target while trying to initiate draining on them. There is a single power that can stop this (hasty escape). This is basically the most effective way for vampires to kill someone, and it doesn't require the use of any energy. While draining needs to be an effective way to take health it shouldn't be the combat end all be all, especially if the target is trying to get away.

3) Non-combat drain
  The current rules make biting not an attack. Meaning that if I get stunned with a power, I'm can basically be dropped to 0 health quickly and efficiently. This isn't a massive problem in and of itself because most mentals can put you in a bad spot anyway, but it plays into the bigger picture.

4) Blood Bond
  The current blood oath rules make it so that feeding on another vampire is silly. You automatically stop at the artificial number 4 to avoid being blood oathed. We felt this needed to change. We've changed this but it is another conversation. Let's just say it's based on drinking a number of times over the course of an event rather than an amount at once.

5) Infinite targets
  From one perspective, each NPC that comes into game is basically another node for vampires to take energy from. This shouldn't change, but it does mean that it needs to remain risky for vampires to feed, otherwise getting energy becomes too easy.

6) Medicine
  The current medicine rules make it free and efficient to fill a human back up on health. I can drain someone to 1 then spend a minute and a half healing them and do it again. It is actually the slowest way to regaining large amounts of energy in the game, but any human or shifter is a viable participant

7) Taint
  One of the big concerns with vampires and taint is that they spread it. Currently this isn't the case. We'll fix this one good.

The Big Picture

  Unlike gnosis and pathos, the rules to which are basically tied to skills in their own faction, the rules for vitae bleed over into Abilities like brewing and medicine. They also bleed into cross faction issues (2 for 1 feeding, killing humans, tapping wraiths). Therefore each of these issues need to be dealt with individually. We broke the draining process into three (sort of four really) simple steps to make this clearer.

  The one hand for a bite is simply too powerful. Instead we want the bite to be a more substantial action and not done while chasing someone down the road. In order to initiate a draining count, all forms of draining require an initiation of a three count with both hands on the target and both feet planted. We found in our testing that getting someone while in combat was virtually impossible without power use, getting someone that was sitting down was possible, but difficult.

Information Exchange
  In canon you can tell what kind of blood you're drinking. So we figured we'd just allow the character to know IG.  After an initiation count is successful there is a quick back and forth before draining occurs. The attacker will first state "tainted" if they are tainted which will cause the target to become tainted. The attacker will ask some questions OOG such as "What is your Faction?" and "Are you tainted?" (not necessary if the attacker is tainted). This places the responsibility on the attacker to request the information required. It is also the attacker's responsibility to know what the effects of certain draining are (2 for 1, etc) rather than the target's responsibility to tell them. Once information exchange has been completed, you may move to draining.

  Draining progresses like normal following all current rules. (We've got some changes for devouring but that is a later conversation). Once draining is complete a few new things happen. First, health draining causes aggravated damage. So immediately following the the draining, the target's maximum health is reduced by one (NOT one per health drained). This damage counts as an attack meaning that it will end all powers that are broken on attack. Secondly, the target enters a confused state and does not recall what happened from from the beginning of the Initiation up to this point. (Unfortunately, Ananasi don't get the second part of this, their draining is supposed to be horrible.)

  This means that the perpetrator can escape relatively easily but isn't able to use biting and draining to nibble someone down to 0 maximum health unless the target is being stupid. This also means that powers like merciful sleep can be used to drain a target down to 0 health, but if they have no health remaining, further bites have no effect because no health was drained.
  This also means that a ghoul who is fed on becomes weakened and won't provide as much health in future feedings.  Sure, they can still be passed around a bit, but eventually you're not going to want to drain your ghoul down from 5 maximum health because you'll only get 5 energy and they're now at 4 maximum health. It provides diminishing returns for feeding on the same target. We figure this will reduce the number of willing targets significantly, though not entirely.

Other Changes

  We wanted there to be some other variety going around with regards to feeding on different types of creatures so we added a little flavor that goes along with drinking on shifters and wraiths. Just little things like Induce Passion: Angry when you feed on a shifter. Gives a little of the flavor that is supposed to go with doing these things.
  We also wanted vampires to actually drain each others vitae. So draining health on a vampire takes energy, not health. You know, like canon.

  The final big change comes to medicine. We realize that we can't remove medicine as a whole even though it presents a massive unrealistic system into the game. LARPs in general simply require methods of healing. No one will enjoy playing the game stuck at 1 heath for the rest of the event. But we wanted to tone down medicine significantly. We did this by placing a cap on the effectiveness of medicine and making it a 1 minute flat skill.

Level 1: Bring a target below 2 health to 2 health.
Level 2: Bring a target below 4 health to 4 health
Level 3: Bring a target below 6 health to 6 health.

  Oddly enough this change makes healing a target at 0 health to 6 health take exactly the same amount of time as it currently does with a level 3 skill. What it changes is it makes medicine not able to heal a person to maximum health (unless they've suffered some significant agg). Meaning that repeated draining will not only cost maximum health, but if a target has a +4 health, it will take supernatural healing (want to buy a potion?) to push them above. This will increase the use of the Regeneration mechanic disclosed last week as well as make friends with Healing Touch even more valuable. It also gives more reward for having more levels of medicine. I think a lot of people are going to want some.

The final piece was hinted at in the Aggravated Damage post. Healing potions will likely be split into two categories. Small healing potions that heal health, and big ones that heal an agg (and maybe probably a bunch of health as well, we're currently rewriting skills to incorporate this). The idea is that healing health isn't very expensive but there is a financial cost associated with it. Meanwhile, healing agg is expensive so it becomes a serious decision point if you want to do it or not.. I'd expect people to start stockpiling healing potions as they are very effective, and when you've been beat up bad, you need to buy them.


  1. Quick Question:
    Can you explain the difference, and what happens with the target (including what they are aware of, etc) in these two scenarios:

    Target Human gets his with Sparkles or Confusion while walking along the road with their 'friend' - who then drains them for 5 health.
    1)'Friend' is a vampire.
    2) 'Friend' is an Ananassi

    Also - Giovanni: Will they now have 'Grip of the Damned' (and are effectively like Ananassi for draining?)

    ~ Conor

    1. The target human would suddenly find themselves at 5 health, 9 maximum health, and with no recollection of what happened in either case. However, they would no longer be Sparkled (since this breaks on attack).

      Giovanni don't have Grip of the Damned in Dark Ages. It's a modern thing post the diablerie of Cappadocious in 1444.

  2. Have you kept in mind that a Vampire can drain 1 health per bite? I think that aggravated damage via draining is incredibly powerful as a means to kill someone using this rule set with your proposed aggravated damage rules.

    This rule would allow a vampire to use pretty much any status attack (bind leg/venom blood/paralyze/etc) and then repeat bite a victim to permanent death. In all other cases you are trying to make it cost 1 energy per point of agg damage to make it difficult to kill a player. Using this rule, anyone that can drain just needs a status attack and they can kill someone with agg damage while gaining 10 energy instead. You may have reduced their ability to gain unlimited energy, but now you've given them the ability to quickly kill a player without needing energy.

    Just to verify the method I envision, here's the example. A Vampire hits a human with a bind leg. The vampire walks up, gets hit once for 1 damage while initiating a bite (Biting 1, Biting 2, Biting 3) because there's now a limit of 1 attack per second. The Vampire drains the human for 1 (Draining 1) and stops. The human is disoriented but resumes attacking the Vampire as the Vampire bites the human again. Another 1 damage for 1 point of aggravated drain. This repeats until the Vampire has killed the human and gained 10 energy over the course of what I would estimate being 15 seconds. In this case the vampire would need a little armor or the ability to resist at least 1 attack as they trade blows. If paralyze is used, that wouldn't be an issue.

    I think you would need to add in a rule like, you can only drain health from a given target once every 10 minutes for game balance, despite that it doesn't make a lot of sense in roleplay.

  3. The three count is, as a matter of fact, a three count and should, in fact, take 3 seconds. So that's 3 hits to do 1 agg. If the vampire resists your 30 hits and kills you that way, I'm ok with that. Plus they spent 10 energy casting bind leg 10 times. It's not the most effective way to kill someone when you could just take them down then burn them out.
    Instead, what the person should probably do is hit the vampire with terror, or snarl, or something that will make them stop. If it's just a simple human with a sword, a vampire killed them again, I'm ok with that.

    Again, the issue here is you're taking the change here and dropping directly onto the game as it currently exists. The situation you propose is possible in the new rules, but highly inefficient, dangerous, and not as easy as you make it sound.

  4. If another clarification is that each biting count should take 1 second, then that may help a little. Let's retry this scenario with a vampire that has Paralyze and any shifter that doesn't have resilience.

    The vampire hits the shifter with Paralyze from about 8' away. Walks up (~3 sec) and starts biting the shifter. 3 seconds of biting followed by 10 seconds of information exchange and 1 second of draining leaves the shifter still paralyzed and down 1 permanent health after about 17 seconds. Vampire has a net gain of 1 energy. Repeat the biting process 9 more times at 4 seconds each and the shifter dies permanently in less than a minutes with one use of one power while the vampire gains 19 energy and only needed 1 original energy to kill the player. This should be a conservative slowed down version.

    Now you're correct that it would be faster to just beat down the shifter and use a power to do aggravated damage, but even that would take 20 seconds, which only saves about 30 seconds of action. It costs the significant 10 energy to do though, so I totally see vampires making the best use of their bite possible. It also doesn't solve your goal of wearing players down for their next encounter in a given day.

    Now I'm sure there are ways to make this type of mechanic work, but I think it needs a little more before it's actually balanced to do what you want it to. Here are a couple of options I think might help:

    Option 1: Add a delay time to consecutive bites. If a vampire can't repeat bite a single target, this issue is resolved. Roleplay wise, it's dumb to limit the number of times a vampire can consecutively bite a target, but it's also dumb to think a vampire drinking blood would stop and restart many times in a row.

    Option 2: Make it cost energy to initiate a bite. That would discourage a vampire from doing this repeat bite. Unfortunately, it wouldn't stop it as a tool for killing since their energy would still balance at 0 net gain/loss for humans and they'd still get a net 1 gain for shifters. You could either nerf status effects or buff the shifters' natural frenzy so that frenzy breaks active status effects as well as mental effects to finish balancing it. That would make it risky for a Vampire to try the perma-kill for energy gain on a shifter, but it still isn't costing them anything to kill a human. Fey would still be in trouble too.

    1. From my perspective (the exact results of which will become evident in later posts) the issue you mention is actually an issue with paralyze, not draining or agg. The issue here is that a single status attack can easily lead to a dead character. If you don't have the ability to resist the attack, you're dead. Even at a 10 energy cost, this is still too cheap and easy. But the issue at this point isn't with the draining/agg mechanic, but with the power that gives you the ability to straight up gank somebody with no chance of reprisal unless they have the single power in the game that lets them resist.
      I assure you there's a number of other contingencies that we're building into this. What you mention won't really be a problem because of the break effect at the end of the draining.

    2. I agree that Paralyze poses it's own big issue in game balance. As proposed so far though, I still think an issue persists in draining/agg damage. Every member of one faction has a free innate way to deal agg damage, while everyone else has to pay energy for each point of agg damage they want to do.

      Just to clarify, I think a lot of the other mechanics work beautifully together for game balance. The only thing that really jumps out at me as unbalanced is using the drain as a method to permanently kill a character without giving them 10 minutes of playing dead.