Sunday, February 22, 2009

GW "Designer's Notes" - De-Feat-ism, or "Why Careers?"

In designing the Gonen's World RPG, one of the things we've struggled with since Day One has been the inclusion - or exclusion - of "feats." Call 'em what you will (edges, advantages, etc.) along with the usual opposites (disadvantages, hindrances, what-have-you), most of the latest generation of games have them.

And Gonen's World does, too, in a way. They're there, but they're tied to the careers. The special abilities that come with each career fill this role. That means they're not presented in "buffet" format. That's just something people will either like or dislike about the game, and that's all there is to it.

However, within the broader context of Game Frame, the over-arching or "bedrock" system the Gonen's World RPG is based on, one could easily invent some more free-wheeling or "classless" abilities.

Since the GW game at least partially aims to replicate a bit of that "old school," first edition AD&D feel, and owes a lot to WFRP, I don't think it can do without pretty rigid careers (although it should be noted switching between careers, and learning cross-career skills, is possible). But some other genre needn't use them. Players could simply choose for themselves which stats would be their primaries and secondaries, in terms of what goes up at what rate when they level. Combine that with a choice of relatively well-balanced abilities, and careers shouldn't be necessary.

But in Gonen's World they are, so given that, let's talk a bit about balance. I think "balance" in a game means that no one choice is obviously better or more advantageous than another. You could argue the particulars about this ad infinitum, however. So in the end these career abilities are balanced more on a "what seems right" basis than, say, mathematically.

So I don't know if these are truly "balanced" or not. I hope players of the game will let me know.

Academic Ability: The Academic gets automatic successes on Knowledge tests for his chosen specialty. Arcana is the knowledge of mathematical spells and arcane items, the history of mathemagics and miracles and their practitioners. Lore is familiarity with the history of Gonen’s World, great heroes of the past and their treasures, tombs and legacies, migrations and conquests, heraldry and legends of elder days. Monsters is a detailed understanding of the creatures of Gonen’s World, their habits, histories and dispositions.

Aeronaut Ability: All aeronauts gets a +10 to Climb tests. In addition, choose a type of aeronaut and associated ability. A Helmsman gets automatic successes on Pilot tests, barring adverse conditions. A Navigator gets automatic successes on Navigate tests (again, barring adverse conditions). A Daredevil can make Dodge tests for his ship and gets + 10 to Stunts.

Barbarian Ability: Choose a type of barbarian and associated ability. Mahidi Marshlanders get +10 to Will tests to resist magic. They also get +10 to Fight tests against magic users. Kufu Warriors get +10 to Sneak rolls. They also get +10 to Fight tests against Big or larger creatures. Jameriki Nomads get +10 to Power tests to avoid Exhaustion. They get +10 to Shoot tests if they do not move during the same round.

Bravo Ability: Choose a fencing style and associated ability. Followers of the Highseat Style may make one automatic Dodge test once per round. Adherents of the Natural Style may make one automatic Block test once per round. Followers of the Saltwash Style may use Luck on damage rolls.

Criminal Ability: Choose a specialty and associated ability. Assassins may make one automatic critical hit (either Fight or Shoot test) against an unaware opponent, and get +10 to Hide tests in shadowy environments. Burglars automatically succeed at Burgle rolls, baring adverse conditions, and get a +10 to Sleight of Hand tests. Charlatans get a +20 to Charm rolls at all times.

Dilettante Ability: Dilettantes start the game with 100 farins instead of normal starting funds. In addition, choose a type of dilettante and related ability. A Scion has noble blood. They get +10 to Charm, Intimidate, and Ride tests. A Financier may access d4x100 farins or its equivalent from any banking institution once per game season (see page x). A Connected dilettante may call on help or support from a member of the merchant or noble class once per adventure (the nature of the help is ultimately up to the Game Master).

Mathemagician Ability: The mathemagician has the ability to create and cast spells.

Mechanic Ability: Mechanics get +10 to Mechanics tests. More importantly, they invent complex machines from parts they find lying around.

Monk Ability: Choose a school of combat and associated ability. Adherents of the Cane and Bucket School get +10 to Fight rolls when using improvised or found objects, and get two Dodge attempts per round, rather than one. Members of the Red Herring School get +20 to Tricks, and their critical hits do triple damage. Followers of the Mog Ograth School get +10 to Fight rolls when unarmed, and get two Block attempts per round, rather than one.

Priest Ability: All priests may create one spell per level (see page x) and may give their own Luck to others. In addition, choose a type of priest and associated ability. A Crusader gets +20 to Fight and Shoot tests against followers of another specific religion or a certain race or type of creature (player’s choice). A Theophant may make a Will test to ask a single yes or no question of their deity once per game day, and has a 5 percent chance of having any prayer answered. A Healer is automatically successful at Heal tests, barring adverse conditions, and has a 5 percent chance of raising the dead (see page x). This chance increases by 5 percent per level.

Scout Ability: Choose a specialty and associated ability. A Runner never makes tests for Exhaustion under normal circumstances, and can move through difficult ground without penalty. On a regional map, runners move 1.5 squares per day on foot, instead of one. A Hunter gets automatic successes on Track tests, barring adverse conditions, and gets +20 to Shoot tests against unaware animals (or opponents!). A Vagabond gets a +10 to Gossip and Forage tests, and learns a free Knowledge skill or language each level.

Soldier Ability: Choose a specialty and associated ability. A Dragoon gets +10 to Ride tests, and +10 to Fight tests when using a saber. An Officer may rally his allies with a successful Will roll, giving his side +10 to Fight and Shoot tests for a number of rounds equal to the officer’s Will bonus. A Gunner may reload a ranged weapon as a free action, and gets +10 to Shoot tests when using a Rifle.

More designer's notes to come later. For now, any feedback is appreciated.

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