Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fief by Fief

My previous post of a very compact 1 page Five by Five takes the game in a direction that I really want it to go. Five by Five is about Narration over Simulation. It's supposed to be quick and simple. Too much detail gets in the way. I had been struggling with Weapons and Armor for Five by Five and how to make them more effective. In Fantasy RPG's especially, weapons and armor seem to be of paramount importance.

But, my solution in the Fast Play Five by Five that I just posted was to pull away from the problem entirely. If weapons and armor are important to the narration that can come out during play, but I have decided that for the most part, quantifying such things does not serve the narrative.

In the Five by Five game that I am running on Tuesday nights, one player has managed to obtain a bazooka. Now, I could quantify the bazooka using one of the weapon and armor systems that I have discussed here. But, the truth is ... if you shoot a man with a bazooka ... the man dies. That should be the result of the simulation ... right?

But what if I don't try to quantify the bazooka as a simulation and only deal with it as an aspect of the narrative? If in the story we are telling, the player shoots the bazooka at a brick wall, the wall is going to shatter into a pile of rubble and the players can pass through the hole they made to get to whatever might be behind the wall. This makes sense to me. It serves the narrative and makes the bazooka an effective element in the story.

Now, if later that same player shoots his bazooka at the big-bad, the main villain of the story, using the combat rules of the Five by Five fast play this attack (if successful) will only inflict 1 or 2 points of stress towards defeating the villain. Now, shouldn't the bazooka blow the big-bad to smithereens like it did the wall? Sure. But how does this serve the narrative? It doesn't. It cuts the conflict short, and makes the big-bad no more of a threat than one of his henchmen.

But, if I stick with the rules as written, I can describe how the successful use of the bazooka resulted in the bazooka shell impacting a point directly behind the big-bad, throwing up all manner of debris which injure the big-bad and several of his cronies. The big-bad isn't out for the count in a single shot, and the integrity of the bazooka within the fiction of the story is maintained. I just had to adjust what a successful test meant within the context of the current situation. The use of the bazooka was not cut-and-dried. It was more than a static number +X to damage. That's what Five by Five is supposed to do.

All that said, it has been brought to my attention that some players are playing a version of Five by Five that borrows from each of the differing versions that I have written and there seems to be a preference for the Weapon and Armor rules from the first version of the game. I get that sometimes RPG combat is meant to be a tactical mini-wargame within a game separated from the narrative, and that many people like that. That's cool. In the interest of appealing to that audience I have produced a second 1 page RPG document. This one is meant to serve as a fantasy expansion for the first one.

I like writing the concise "1 page" RPG. I can get my ideas distilled down and share them very quickly and effectively. I think that if I were running a super-hero game or other similar type genre where things like weapons and armor aren't so much treasures to acquire as they are extensions of the character that my Five by Five Fast Play rules really have everything you need. But, I also recognize that sometimes players want "treasures" and things like weapons and armor have to have some real impact on the mechanical nature of a character for many players to feel a tangible accomplishment at acquiring them. For that. the consensus seems to be that version 1 of Five by Five had gotten it right, so maybe this new 1 page expansion will hit that sweet spot. Let me know.



Monday, November 18, 2013

Five by Five Back to Basics

First a big thanks to Rob Lang for the Re-Review of Five by Five on the Free RPG Blog. Thanks for the love Rob!

Rob and I have had many discussions (via email ... e-scussions? Is that a thing?) about generic systems versus systems designed for and focused on a specific genre/setting/world. Rob being pro-non-generic, advocating the strengths of targeting a specific world, genre, etc. when working on design.

I have always argued that generic systems have their place, but as I have been struggling with creating a "Fantasy Version" of Five by Five, I begin to realize just how right Rob is. Fantasy Five by Five has become a struggle with weapons and armor and magic. Trappings exclusive to the Fantasy RPG's that Five by Five was never designed for. I have been fighting with a way to shoe-horn something in without sacrificing the exclusive use of the 5x5 Roll in the process. And, I have been losing.

What I realize is that Five by Five works best when it embraces it's generic nature. And in a weird way this realization makes Rob's point in that, the Five by Five system isn't so much a generic system as Five by Five is "Five by Five" and it only works when it is allowed to be itself.

There is a reason why the current fantasy campaign I am running for my friends uses the 13th Age rules. 13th Age was designed from the ground up to be a specific thing and create a specific kind of game play. The Fantasy campaign that I am running needs that.

Five by Five is designed to be a specific thing and to create a specific kind of game play, too ... and what 13th Age is designed to do and what Five by Five is designed to do are two very different things.

Five by Five is meant to be a "Jack of All Trades - Master of None" RPG. It's meant to allow players to create anything they want quickly and easily. Detail is intentionally kept nondescript to make room for fast free form play. It's not meant to be tactical. It's not a simulation. It's meant to be easy and tether free. It's not so much a "setting" as it is a statement of intent. But, the game only works when the players are playing "that" game. Five by Five doesn't work to play "D&D" ... and it shouldn't.

I was working on a sort of Five by Five "cheat sheet" to allow me to fit all the rules for Five by Five on a single sheet of paper. I was going to use this a summary in the Fantasy Five by Five supplement as a sort of "recap." But, I couldn't get everything to fit. Combat ... even the basic combat of the current core rules was just too complex.

I found a solution: "Stop trying to make Five by Five work like other more tactically based RPG's." With that realization, I was able to streamline combat and at the same time take Five by Five a step in the "Storytelling Game" direction. It's a good direction for the "freedom" that Five by Five is designed to provide.

Take a look at these Five by Five Fast Play Rules. They are the same rules but with streamlined simplified combat/conflict resolution. What do you think? Is this the right direction for Five by Five in the future?



Saturday, November 02, 2013

How's this look? (Possible Weapon/Armor Alternative for Five by Five)

Rolling Damage
A Damage Roll tells a player how much potential injury their attack can inflict.
Weapons have a Rank and Target Number that a player tests when doing damage.
Damage works like this:
Roll Target Number Exactly (Critical Success) Inflict 4 damage.
Roll Under Target Number (Weapon passes the Damage test.) Inflict 3 damage.
Roll Over Target Number (Weapon fails the Damage test.) Inflict 2 damage.
Roll Doubles (Automatic Fail / Fumble) Inflict 1 damage.

Soak Rolls
A Soak Roll is a roll to absorb damage enabling your character to ignore some of its effect. Armor has a Rank and Target Number that a player tests to "soak" damage.
Armor works like this:
Roll Target Number Exactly (Critical Success) stop 3 damage.
Roll Under Target Number (Armor passes the Soak test.) stop 2 damage.
Roll Over Target Number (Armor fails the Soak test.) stop 1 damage.
Roll Doubles (Automatic Fail / Fumble) stop 0 damage.

Notice that the soak range for armor is one point weaker across the board than the damage range for weapons. This is because once a character has successfully passed their attack test to hit the target, I want them to be able to do some damage.

A general rule to cover both Weapons and Armor equally could look like this.

Resolving a Successful Attack

If you successfully Hit with an Attack Test, your attack inflicts 1 Wound + the result of your DAMAGE TEST.

If you are the target of a successful attack that you did not eliminate with a Dodge Action, your Armor will absorb damage equal to the result of your SOAK TEST.

Damage and Soak Tests

Damage Tests are made to inflict wounds based on the TN of the Weapon used.

Soak Tests are made to stop (soak) wounds based on the TN of the Armor worn by the target of the attack.

A successful test (based on the TN of the associated Weapon or Armor) inflicts/soaks 2 wounds.
A failed test (based on the TN of the associated Weapon or Armor) inflicts/soaks 1 wound.

If the test is a critical success (TN is rolled exactly) add +1 to this result.
If the test is a fumble (player rolled doubles) subtract -1 from this result.


The weapon and armor ranks from THIS POST work just fine here. I have eliminated the clunky process of comparing weapons and armor by adding the Soak Roll.




Friday, November 01, 2013

Character Points in Five by Five

I have been playing Five by Five every week with my play group. The updated combat rules work well and the mechanics for Weapons and Armor achieve what I wanted with regards to damage out-comes, but using the rules is cumbersome. They are clunky. They fit the combat flow specific to Five by Five, but they just aren't smooth to implement.

Zimzerveran asked in a comment to the previous post if these combat rules would become part of the core rules for the Five by Five system. For now, I am going to have to say, "Absolutely, not." Not until I figure out how to fix the cumbersome nature of weapons and armor usage. For now consider all of this stuff experimental and optional.

In the meantime, consider this optional method for character creation using character points. Future additions of Five by Five will use "Character Points" instead of "Session Points" ... but they are basically the same thing.

Character Points

Character Points are the "currency" that you use to create and improve your character.

It costs 1 character point to add a Trait to your character record with a product of 2, or to improve an existing Trait with a product of 2 to a product of 3.

It costs 2 character points to improve a Trait with a product of 3 to a product of 4, or to improve a Trait with a product of 4 to a product of 5.

It costs 3 character points to improve a Trait with a product of 5 to a product of 6, or to improve a Trait with a product of 6 to a product of 8.

It costs 4 character points to improve a Trait with a product of 8 to a product of 10, or to improve a Trait with a product of 10 to a product of 12.

It costs 5 character points to improve a Trait with a product of 12 to a product of 15, or to improve a Trait with a product of 15 to a product of 20.

No Trait will ever have a product greater than 20.

Character Creation

Players have 22 Character Points to create their character. The cost to obtain a Trait with a specific product is shown below. Every beginning character must start with at least 3 Traits.

2    =  1 ... for a total of 1 character point.
3    =  1 + 1 ... for a total of 2 character points.
4    =  1 + 1 + 2 ... for a total of 4 character points.
5    =  1 + 1 + 2 + 2 ... for a total of 6 character points.
6    =  1 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 ... for a total of 9 character points.
8    =  1 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 3 ... for a total of 12 character points.
10  =  1 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 4 ... for a total of 16 character points.
12  =  1 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 4 + 4 ... for a total of 20 character points.
15  =  1 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 4 + 4 + 5 ... for a total of 25 character points.
20  =  1 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 4 + 4 + 5 + 5 ... for a total of 30 character points.

Notice that products of 15 or 20 are not possible during character creation.

Easy Character Creation method: Define 5 Traits for your character. Assign each Trait a product from the array of 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. This creates a character that costs 22 character points.

Any feedback is welcome as always. If you have an idea that can "fix" the clunky nature of comparing Weapons and Armor, I'd love to hear from you.