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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Progress for 7/25/13 - Combat Revamp

Nothing too extreme, but things have been mixed up a little.

Maire Jensen (Scout 5) is in a spot of trouble. Trapped behind a heavy shipping crate in a hostile hangar full of stimrunning thugs and armed only with her trusty E&S GC40 carbine, things don’t look good. How’d we get here?

Turn One - Enemy Soldier

An enemy Soldier ten meters away had tossed a grenade her way, rolling a 16 (8 + Demolitions 7 + Dexterity modifier 1) on his Demolitions roll (he required a 20). He wildly misjudged the distance he needed to throw, and missed by four meters. Rolling a d8, he determined the grenade soared well past her. Oops. Maire easily succeeded on her DS 10 perception roll to notice the grenade flying past, and earned a reflex action. (Half of her 14 AP = 7 AP.)

Reflex Action - Maire

She used those 7 AP to sprint another three meters out of the blast radius - grenades are dangerous, even nine meters away - behind the shipping craft. And that’s when they brought out the big guns. An enemy Support, armed with a light machine gun, brought his sights to bear and let out a tear of suppressive fire.

Turn Two - Enemy Support

He rolled a 8 on his d10 and adds Aim 7, Dexterity modifier -1 and takes a -4 aim penalty for his LMG, for a total of 10. Maire, standing behind the chest-high crate, receives a +3 bonus to Dodge. With a Dodge 7 and a Agility modifier +3, she won’t be hit by the thug (any score on her d10 would allow her to dodge) and does not have to roll. Maire is (safely) pinned behind the crate. So that’s how we got there. What happens next?

Turn Three - Maire

Bullets spray into the heavy crate. Maire opts to put a couple rounds into the machine gunner with her carbine. But first she’ll have to muster up the willpower to get out of cover. Rolling a 6 on her d10, adding Willpower 6 and Intelligence modifier 0, she manages a 12, jumps up and (with a Dodge roll of at least 10) dodges the bullets clattering toward her by default.

She aims for a second (-2 AP, +2 modifier), compensating for the base accuracy penalty of the carbine, and carefully squeezes off a shot (-7 cumulative AP). She rolls a 6, adds her Aim +8 and Dexterity modifier +0 for a total attack roll of 14.

The enemy Support is a slow, lumbering fellow. He rolls a 5, adds Dodge 3 and -1 Agility modifier for a total of 7. As her Aim roll exceeded the defender’s Dodge roll by her weapon’s spread score, she earns another hit and rolls twice for hit location: 3, 10 - right leg, head.

The carbine does 4d10 damage; Maire rolls 6+8+3+7 for 24 damage on the first hit and 7+4+5+3 for 19 damage on the second. Despite a +12 reduction of Ballistic damage for his armor, he takes 12 damage on the shot to the arm and 14 damage on the second shot to the head (damage to the head is doubled). His armor takes a -1 penalty to its Ballistic protection.

Before subtracting damage from HP, we must roll to see if he suffered a critical hit. Both exceeding his Constitution score, he’s forced to roll for Endurance. He rolls 7 + Fortitude 4 + Constitution modifier +2 - 13 total, avoiding critical damage on both the hit to the chest but taking 1 point of Attribute damage to Constitution, Intelligence, Perception and Charisma for the head wound. His total HP drops by one to 26.

Subtracting 26 damage across the two attacks, he is dropped to zero HP and slumps to the ground, blood pouring from the holes in his flak jacket and a last spray of bullets chattering in the hangar. Maire finishes her turn with a drop to a crouch - 2 AP - back behind the crate.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Progress for 7/24/13 - Guns, Guns, Guns

I did some light reworking of the weapons in the Refuge RPG after reading Cyberpunk 2013's Friday Night Firefight, which I've seen cited several times as one combat system very close to the realistic/fun/playable sweetspot. By and large, weapons are now much more lethal, but also more verismiliar - though not realistic - in terms of performance at range.

Some of the major changes:

  • Weapons no longer have infinite range. With each range increment, damage drops by one die. Since most combat is within close quarters, and few gamemats stretch beyond 50 squares in any given direction, this will rarely come into effect, but it's valuable versimilitude in long-range combat.
  • Damage has increased. Pistols have been nerfed slightly, but everything up from there has gotten a substantial damage boost. The battle rifle is notable example, increasing from 4d6 (20%-120% of 20 health) to 6d10 (30%-300% of 20 health).
  • Random location damage.
  • Damage to the head is doubled.
  • Armor's gotten better, and received a comparable boost in protective power. Now one can expect a solid piece of armor to actually stop bullets, rather than merely soak a couple points of damage.
  • Armor loses damage protection as its wearer takes damage.

That being said, there are still some things to work on that were brought up in the last playtest vis-à-vis combat and damage. There's still the pickle of combat at point-blank range. Handwaving can only get one so far when it's obvious that a character should be able to hit an enemy, regardless of what the dice say. GM fiat is an option, but as always, I'd prefer something more solid and mechanical.

We'll see how the five-meter-radius circle goes over. Might be a little tricky, but everyone might pick on really well. We'll find out.

Until later.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Progress for 7/23/13

I've done a redesign of both the QSG and ICLD, using Trajan Pro as the new page and content header font, instead of the old stalwart League Gothic. A couple reasons for this:

  • I wanted to tighten up the visual aesthetic. The fact that there are now only two fonts associated with the entire Refuge visual identity is a step forward. (I think)
  • Trajan Pro is simply more attractive than League Gothic as a display font.

But I've come to a bit of an impasse in designing NPC stat charts. There are currently three different models, as you can see here. One and two are pretty similar, only different with the spacing. Two is obviously easier to read but takes up more space than the incredibly efficient one. Then there's three, which is much more visually pleasing and inviting than one and two (probably put together), but takes up more than twice the space. I'll keep looking for a middle ground.

In the meantime, progress of Mister 880 goes okay. I'll need to export the dialogue from the old Fallout: New Vegas quest to phrase some things I got right the first time, as well as to nail down the exact plot progression. But I expect the quest will be done by Thursday, just in time for Playtest II.

We'll see how everything goes. Until next time.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Plans for the week of 7/21/13

Well, it's the last day of my weekend, and things look a bit different around here. Plans for the next week -
  • Finish the Mister 880 quest for In the Cold Light of Day: Edgehill in preparation for the second playtest (can't wait!) on the 25th.
  • Write the Prologue for ICLD.
  • As per testing feedback, make extreme ranges more realistic (i.e. extremely close ranges increase chance to hit). The obvious answer, offering a +1 bonus for each meter a character is closer to another within 5 meters, might be a bit clunky for people without the ability to visualize five-square circles around characters.
  • As per feedback on the Reddit thread, make alternate rulesets to speed-up combat gameplay. I'm thinking two different rulesets.
    1. Standard - Action Points-based combat as the game is currently balanced, and
    2. Classic - the standard Move / Attack horsehockey.
    I'll give the players another session with Action Points, then try a Classic session the time after, and see what everyone prefers. I'm extremely hesistant to remove AP, considering it's really what makes the game interesting on a tactical level. The standard move/attack for combat is quite stale.
  • Start working on Careers and Backgrounds again. I'm not sure if this - level 0 background story generation - will ever see the light of day. I'll have to take a few hours and come up with a few prototypes.

In the meantime, here's a preview of Mister 880. It's a quest I've been working a while, ever since I picked up the Fallout: New Vegas SDK about four months ago. It's based off the story of Emerich Juettner, a 50's-era counterfeiter who made fake dollar bills to keep himself alive and fed. That hook seemed really intriguing to me, so I decided to transplant it on to the Counterfeiter's Shack in F:NV, which for those of you who've played it know it's simply one of those untold story moments. I ended up getting about 500 lines into the mod before bailing. Still, it was a good learning experience, and there was a good story there, so I'm happy to resurrect it as a sidequest for this adventure.

We'll keep you posted.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Refuge Playtest One - Postmortem

So the first Refuge playtest is complete. Verdict: great success!

We convened at seven to give it a go, and spent the first hour-and-a-half getting familiar with the system and making characters. By quarter-to-nine we were ready for the first combat encounter, and by nine-thirty we called it a (productive!) night.

Reading the Rules

Only one person looked over the rules before coming, and having never played an RPG, she had no idea what she was reading. As the godforsaken Mumford & Sons song goes, "it was not [her] fault, but mine." I'll have to do a rewrite to make it more user-friendly for newbies. After we got the requisite jokes out of the way, things went relatively smoothly. I read over the architecture and explained things to everyone, and then we started going over charcter creation.

Character Creation

A bit rough, I'll admit. I can whip up a new character in under five minutes, but for people with no experience in RPGs, it's always a slog for newcomers to a very crunchy game. That was exacerbated by a lack of printouts. If I'd had five copies of the Quick Start Guide, things would have been a lot smoother. Probably could have cut twenty minutes off of chargen. But that would have meant another half-an-hour and another six bucks at the library printer.

I glossed over the notion of class and non-class skills, but it wasn't really necessary to bring up. Quite a few of the rules were delivered on a need-to-know basis; that probably helped shave off time.

I should probably make "loadouts" for the character classes, just gear in a package instead of just tossing the equipment list at them and telling them which ones to pick.

We then took a dinnner break for 10-15 minutes and got ready for the opening encounter.

The Combat Encounter

A simple warehouse, two level 5 mooks - I'll probably make it a little more interesting for the final draft in In the Cold Light of Day - one armed with a grenade. The scout stormed in in berzerker mode and closed the distance to the first mook and hit him. Everyone else gathered at the door and started taking potshots at the first mook.

Seeing a great opportunity, the mook threw a grenade at the squares where everyone had gathered, provoking a reflex action for the party. The Soldier and the Support ran to each side and avoided most of the damage. The Ambassador ran back through the door and slammed it shut, successfully avoiding the blast. A pretty clever move. The Soldier fired wildly in the general direction of the first mook, but resolutely fired from the hip and didn't hit a thing. Support fired an aimed burst and hit the trooper, killing him.

The Ambassador poked his head through the door and made an Persuade attempt at the other mook to ensure a surrender. First one didn't work, second one did. End of encounter. All in all, about ten or eleven turns in forty-five-or-so minutes. So not too bad, especially considering almost no one had played an RPG before.

Things I've learned and questions I've been left with about the system and role-playing games in general:

The Good:

  • The game seems relatively easy to pick up, at least for a tactical combat RPG. Only one of the players had any experience with role-playing games, and we managed to get acquainted with the system, create characters and make it through a ten-turn encounter within a single two-and-a-half hour session.
    • Question: What's average for a d20-style first session? Is this slower than an average first session for new players, faster or comparable? Will investigate further.
    • I expect that things will get smoother as time goes on, both as the players get more used to the system and as I grow as a GM and instructor on the system. I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants.
  • It was possible - and indeed, relatively simple - for players to off a character four levels higher than they were, and to cow another into surrender. That's good, keeps things interesting. Low-level characters will always be dangerous for higher ones.

The Bad:

  • Combat seemed less lethal than I'd anticipated. I held a few rolls on behalf of the PCs, but perhaps three or four hits from the PCs is reasonable for a middle-tier enemy.
    • Even though this was a dream encounter - the last encounter in the campaign will be the same as the first - I didn't want to kill off all the players unceremoniously with a single grenade.
    • On the bright side, it means that most players won't be immediately killed upon entering combat for the first time. They'll get a chance to rectify their mistakes before being dropped.
  • Needs more - hah, never though I'd say this - rules, especially for morale and the use of non-combat skills in combat.
    • I ended up freewheeling a handful of these instances. It seems like non-combat skills might be more helpful than I'd expected.
  • Considering the difficulty one of the non-RPG players had had with the Quick Start Guide, it's likely I'll have to do a rewrite to make it more noob-friendly.

The Ugly:

  • Combat modifiers - aiming, mostly - were a bit of a fustercluck. Part of the issue is that folks didn't add together their total skill score and were re-adding modifiers every roll... For people who are good at the system, I don't think it should be too much trouble, but for people on their first run-through it might have been a bit too intensive.
    • It's good that the rules are very modular. Perhaps I'll come up with different presets of rules for newer players, as well as experienced ones. Will think...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Progress for 7/17/13

I started working on one of the quests - "Fragged" - for the first Refuge RPG adventure, In the Cold Light of Day. A moderately short quest, it takes quite a bit of influence from Fallout: New Vegas's "I Put a Spell on You" and concerns the machinations of a captain at the Koch Military Base near Edgehill, the starting town on the adventure's first planet, Telren. The following is the preliminary sketch of the first half of the quest. Obviously, spoilers abound.

There are set to be about six sidequests in each of the three major sections of ICLD - one on Telren, one on Solari and one on Caal – each with their own medium-length "story quest" that ties the three locations together. These first six are "Haus of Gill Repute," "Hunting the Hunters," "Mister 880", "Fragged", "Return to Sender" and "Bootlegger". Several are mutually exclusive, but all have consequences that affect parts of the main story as time goes on.

This is the city of Edgehill, a run-down, godforsaken town near the Tennerine Desert on Telren. Home to a MOB supporting military operations in the Calaine Mountains to the east against the Tennerine Independence Army - a bloody war that's been being fought for almost a decade -, Edgehill is otherwise almost devoid of law and order. The local IFS Police office is overworked and understaffed, despite the attempts of the previously idealistic young sheriff attempting to dispell thirty years of corruption under the leadership of the previous sheriff.

Black market shops operate openly, most notably The Black Mark, operated by a man known only as Wagner, and violent street gangs rule the rest of town. The Third Street Hunters, most notable of these, are armed and defended by Cecil Gill, a criminal lawyer who forms one half of Solomon & Gill, Attorneys at Law and owner of the Gun Haus.

Edgehill is, in the words of a veneable Jedi Master, a wretched hive of scum and villany, with intrigue and betrayal lurking at every corner.

In the Cold Light of Day: Edgehill will be released for free alongside the Refuge Role-Playing Game Quick Start Guide as soon as possible.