The Limits of Wealth: a boundary problem in Diaspora

Diaspora is a FATE based game aimed at creating a somewhat hard sci fi feel similar to Traveler, rather than a science fantasy setting like Star Wars or Star Trek. One of the qualities that it tries to emulate from Traveler is the economics of running a small merchant vessel. However, the economic mechanics of FATE do not mesh well with a business simulation and I feel that the resulting rules are simply terrible. What makes it interesting is that it is a different type of failure than the previous articles have discussed, a boundary problem.

Mechanics

Rolls in Diaspora use a typical FATE set up, roll four fudge dice, each numbering from -1 to 1, yielding a roll from -4 to +4 and adding a skill. If a target number or better is rolled, the roll succeeds with possible bonuses for how much the roll exceeds the target. If the roll is lower than the target, the roll fails and may result in penalties for how much the roll is short of the target.

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Game Convention Blurbs

On his blog, Ryan Macklin — game writer, podcaster, and producer — has some very good thoughts about how to write a good game “blurb”  for advertising at a convention and, I would add, for weekly games too.

I’m not going to repeat his ideas here, I’d rather you read it from him, but I also want to point quickly to some thoughts I jotted down here some time ago on running a con game, including writing game blurbs.

Having recently prepared the convention for Dragonflight for the fourth year in a row, I can tell you that most GMs don’t put enough effort into their game pitch.  It’s often unclear, too long and verbose, or merely grabbed from an online review (like those from RPG Geek and Board Game Geek).  When you scroll through the list of games, it doesn’t make your eye and brain stop on the description.

Despite what Ryan describes, I get most of my convention players from people who liked the game description (and friends, of course.)  I always make sure my game blurb doesn’t look like “second verse, same as the first!”

Teaming in PDQ

Over the course of several products Atomic Sock Monkey has generated many variations on its basic PDQ mechanic. One set of mechanics that has received multiple treatments are the rules for teamwork.

Mechanics

For non-conflict rolls in PDQ players roll 2d6 and add the result to the character’s skill, which will be divisible by 2 i.e. 0, +2, +4 etc. If the total equal or exceeds the target number set by the game master the roll succeeds. Conflicts are slightly more complicated. In The Zantabulous Zorcerer of Zo and Truth and Justice rolls in conflicts are basically the same as normal but instead of rolling against a target number the attacker rolls 2d6 and adds their attack skill while the defender rolls 2d6 and adds their defensive skill. For every point that the attacker’s total is higher than the defenders the defender takes a point of damage. In Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies players get to divide 3 dice between attack and defense rolls, so an attack will be 0 to 3 d6 plus the attacker’s skill against 0 to 3 d6 plus the defender’s skill. The point of this article is to compare the teamwork rules, not the huge change in the basic combat mechanic. So for this article it will be assumed that all rolls are made on 2d6.

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Some PDQ Thoughts on Combat

WhitecoverI’ve been playing around with a DnD like port for PDQ. In doing so I started thinking about something like ‘GM tips’ on setting up combats using PDQ. Here are some of my ideas on setting the defensive skills of the opposition and how much damage they should be able to take.

Mechanics

In order to damage an opponent in combat a character rolls 2d6 and adds their attack ability, which will be divisible by 2 so 0, 2, 4, etc. The defender rolls 2d6 and adds their defensive ability, also done by 2’s. If the attacker’s total exceeds the defender’s the defender takes one point of damage for every point that it is higher. So if the attacker rolls a 10 and the defender a 7, the defender takes 3 damage. The damage comes off of a character’s abilities. Once a character runs out of abilities to damage they are defeated.

One wrinkle is that there are several editions of the rules. In some if there is a tie then both characters take a point of damage and they roll again until one has a better roll than the other. This analysis will be slightly off for anyone using that rule. Some editions have attackers take damage for every point that they miss by. So if the attacker rolled a 7 and the defender a 10, the attacker wouldn’t just miss, they would take 3 damage. In PDQ sharp characters get 3 dice for combat and can use 0 – 3 of them for their attack and the rest for defense. Either of these rules significantly alter combat and this analysis just can’t apply to games using one of those rules.

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Fighting FATE: combat in FATE 2.0

In commenting about his FATE 2.0 game Mark mentioned that his combat was much easier than anticipated. While there are some decided differences, FATE 2.0 mechanics are related to those in Spirit of the Century (SotC). Those following this series will remember that combat in SotC is heavily dependent on skill level and, barring the use of FATE points to change the outcome, a single point of skill difference can pretty much guarantee victory in a fight. So fights will usually be incredibly easy or impossible. This begs the question, how skill dependent are fights in FATE 2.0?

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An Odd Call

Introduction

Hollow Earth Expedition (HEX) is a game based around one of the truly classic pulp settings, a hollow Earth inhabited by dinosaurs and lost civilizations. Exile Games has a short teaser/ introduction to the game in an example of play on their website.

As such examples go, it does a very nice job of giving a little flavor of the setting and showing how combat and some combat options work. In the example a Great White Hunter character decides to go off alone to track down and kill a T Rex. He tracks the T Rex but fails to gain surprise. The hunter then makes a Called Shot trying to at least stun the animal so that he can get a second shot in before it tears him apart, but he rolls just a little too low. So the T Rex rushes him and mangles him into unconsciousness. However, in this example certain things seemed a bit off. Off enough to warrant a closer look at how good a call Called Shot is in HEX.

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Trick Question

Like many games, Savage Worlds tries to provide some choice during combat by having a number of combat maneuvers that work slightly differently than a regular attack. Some of these are relatively straight forward. For example, Double Tap increases the to-hit and damage of a gun attack at the cost of using up more ammo. However, since most games of Savage Worlds do not actually keep track of ammo, there is pretty much no reason not to use this maneuver at all times. Some maneuvers are less obviously useful, for example Trick.

Tricks represent those stunts we’ve all seen in movies where someone tries to distract their opponent by calling out “Look behind you!” or throwing sand in their eyes. Comparing the effectiveness of Tricks versus a regular attack turns out to be a very difficult problem. It depends on the characteristic used for the trick, the characteristic used for defense, the combat skill that would be used otherwise, the target’s defense against an attack, the damage of the attack, the target’s toughness, the target’s spirit, heck, under certain circumstances initiative affects the utility of a trick. Given this, there is no absolute answer to how useful Tricks are in Savage Worlds. However, this article will try to present a rough estimate. Continue reading

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