Mechanical musings 2

I have an idea to flatten the upper end of the dice rolls. Rather than each bonus adding another die and you add them all up, each bonus adds another die and you just count the two highest dice. So at a certain point, you are just as good as you can possibly get (12), rather than rolling 3 or even 4 dice and getting absurdly high numbers.

I am also considering making “expertise” give a flat +3 bonus, rather than having the player re-roll 1s and 2s (although that seemed like a neat idea at the time). Or maybe drop it to re-rolling 1s.

That doesn’t address the “I added 6 and you added 12” issue. In THEORY, it is supposed to work like this:

1) Unless one of us has some kind of advantage, or one of us doesn’t have that particular skill, we both roll 2d6. Level playing field, as it were.

2) We both add our relevant attribute. You might have 8 and I might have 2, which really sucks for me, but in that case you are an Olympic medalist and I’m, well, me, so you really ought to have the edge over me in that case. But in general, I assume that we’ll both be in the ballpark. Still a (mostly) level playing field.

3) We each add the PL of our equipment (gun vs armor, knife vs armor) or our Power Level if we have the appropriate power (Blast vs Damage Resistance, Mind Blast vs Mental Resistance).

On paper, that all looks reasonable to me. And I think it works for attacks that have relatively common weapons and defenses. It’s the weird shit that breaks it. If the character with Mind Blast has even relatively modest 5 Presence and 5 Power Level, that would be 2d6 + 10 vs a typical target’s 1d6 + 5 (no Mental Combat skill and no Mental Resistance). My worst roll is better than your best roll.

And this is where I start to vapour lock, because on the one hand, I think mental powers should wipe up the floor with a normal person. But on the other hand, I think a person with Agility 5, Power Level 5, and Blast should be more or less on par with a person who has Presence 5, Power Level 5, and Mind Blast.

Champions used to balance that by making Ego Attack (or whatever it was called) do half of the damage of the same cost Energy Blast.

I am open to splitting “to hit” and “damage”. That would allow me to stick the normal attributes on the “to hit”, and stick the Power Level on the “damage”. That would drop the “to hit” of the hypothetical mental attack above to 2d6 + 5 vs 1d6 + 5, which is not quite so grievous. Then damage and defenses would be… I’m not sure what, but something based on [equipment or Power Level].

Maybe damage/defenses could be … 2d6 + PL? No, the swing of that is way too high (you shoot me with a Derringer, I roll 2, you roll 12, and I have a hole in my chest the size of a grapefruit). 1d6 + PL?

Mechanical musings

I think I have the Bulletproof Blues game system, aka “Kalos Mechanism” (I like that name, but I doubt anyone else does), as refined as I can get it, in its current incarnation.

For the most part, Kalos Mechanism works the way I want a game system to work, but there are some edge cases that still annoy me. A big one is plain-vanilla mental attacks (and to a lesser extent, other attacks with rare defenses). Mind Blast is probably the best example.

Here are the steps for attacking someone with a Mind Blast, with my notes.

1) Attacker purchases “Mind Blast” for 1 point.

Note: I really want powers to cost a flat 1 point. I am currently balancing that a bit by some powers having prerequisites. For example, Mass Mind Blast has a prerequisite of having bought Mind Blast. Should Mind Blast have a prerequisite? Mental Resistance, for example? But I think most people with mental powers will buy Mental Resistance anyway, so why bother with a superfluous requirement? I am conflicted…

2) Attacker rolls 2d6 (1d6 if they don’t have the Mental Combat skill — but they probably will).

Note: I like rolling 2d6. It’s enough dice to be satisfying, but not so many that it’s tedious. And it works well with a 1-10 attribute range

3) Attacker adds their Power Level.

Note: Power Level is what it says on the tin: how potent the character’s powers are. Power Level should be relevant. But it seems wrong to me that the Presence of the attacker isn’t relevant. But if I add Presence to the attack roll, that makes the attack even more powerful, especially since…

4) Defender rolls 2d6 (1d6 if they don’t have the Mental Combat skill — which they probably won’t).

Note 1: I am not averse to setting the target number to be static, but in play, having the defender also roll has worked out well (and it makes some very difficult rolls possible, whereas they wouldn’t be if the target number were static). But…

Note 2: Mind Blast ignores conventional armor, and most people don’t have the Mental Combat skill, meaning they will only roll 1d6 to defend on top of their armor not being applied. Is that how it should be? It strikes me as overpowered, especially since ordinary Blast and Mind Blast have the exact same cost. Which again has me thinking about the 1 pt cost, and potential prerequisite(s).

5) Defender adds their Presence (and their Power Level, if they have Mental Resistance).

Note: This, at least, I am happy with.

6) If the attacker’s roll meets or exceeds the target number, the defender loses 1 Endurance (or 1 Endurance for every 3 the attacker rolled over the target number, if using “margin of success”).

Note: In principle, I like this. I like not having to roll yet more dice. I like that being more skilled with your weapon means your shots are more damaging.


Step 3 and Step 4 Note 2 are really what’s hanging me up. What to do about it, if anything?

On the one hand, I could separate the mechanics for “does the attack hit the target?” and “what is the effect of the attack?” (i.e., roll to hit, and then roll damage), which is what most games do. That would allow me to use Presence (or Agility, etc.) for the “to hit” step, and Power Level for the “damage” step. But I really like the “roll once and be done” aspect of Kalos Mechanism. But do I like it more than I dislike edge cases like Mind Blast?


Am I close to starting another new game system project?

If (if) I do start a new game system project, in which I make combat task resolution more complicated, I think I would want to streamline the power structure. Bulletproof Blues has always been more complicated than I really wanted it to be. But do I really want to do that? I thought I was about done with this sort of thing…

Errata: Danger Sense

As we tinker and fine-tune Bulletproof Blues (and the other Kalos Mechanism games), from time to time we run across a rule that could be improved. This is one of those times. Does this mean that a Bulletproof Blues 4th edition is on the horizon? I doubt it, but who knows. For now, here is some errata for Danger Sense. This replaces the first paragraph of the definition of the Danger Sense power:

Danger Sense is a self-only power which permits the character to sense danger and avoid being surprised, even if there is no way for the character to see the attack coming. A character with Danger Sense never rolls less than two dice on hand-to-hand or ranged defense rolls, even if they would ordinarily have a penalty, or don’t have the skill at all.

Additionally, if an attack is imminent, the GM will ask the player to attempt a moderately difficult (DV 3) Perception (Reason + Power Level) roll. If the Danger Sense roll is successful, the character knows that an attack is imminent, and may warn other characters.

Happy gaming!

Skill Synchronization

We’ve taken a break from our next Character Pack to work on a project that has been percolating for a while: synchronizing the skills between the various Kalos Mechanism games.

The modern skill list (as seen in Bulletproof Blues and Rough Magic) and the futuristic skill list (as seen in ZeroSpace) were easy enough to sync. That required only a few adjustments in the skill examples. The archaic skill list (as seen in Warlords Of Kruhl) required a little more work. Some skills (such as Computing) have no counterpart in an archaic game, while other skills (such as Piloting and Science) are different enough that a name change was unavoidable.

Another issue with archaic games is the heavy emphasis on religion: unlike modern and futuristic games, gods are often real in archaic games, so a new skill, Religion, was needed. (In modern games, religion falls under the umbrella of the Culture skill.)

Hand-to-hand CombatHand-to-hand CombatHand-to-hand Combat
Mental CombatMental CombatMental Combat
Ranged CombatRanged CombatRanged Combat

Evangelists Of Mars

At long last! Our first and only supplement written by the honorable Steven S. Long, “Evangelists Of Mars”, has been updated to be compatible with Bulletproof Blues, Third Edition. It is now available, pay-what-you-want, on DriveThruRPG.

Evangelists Of Mars by Steven S. Long
Evangelists Of Mars by Steven S. Long

Evangelists Of Mars

The character updates for Evangelists of Mars are complete. Next, I update the layout with those changes, create the PDF, and then upload it to DriveThruRPG. I think two weeks is a realistic amount of time to get that done.

And then… Character Pack 4! Now that will really be something. 🙂

Back from break

Almost a year ago, I took a break from updating Steven S. Long’s “Evangelists Of Mars” to be compatible with Bulletproof Blues 3rd edition. I didn’t mean for that break to last a year, but it did. Tonight I started work on it again. It is the last of the old sourcebooks that needed updating. If all goes well, I’ll have it wrapped up in a few weeks.

Evangelists Of Mars by Steven S. Long
Evangelists Of Mars by Steven S. Long

Evangelists Of Mars cover

Still working on the print version of Bulletproof Blues third edition (revised). We need to make sure the files are perfect for the printer, or they reject them. In the meantime, here is the updated cover for Steven S. Long’s “Evangelists Of Mars”.

Evangelists Of Mars cover

Is it possible to play “wrong”?

Many years ago, there was a computer program called SimCity. In the designer’s notes, they said that although it was marketed as a game, it really wasn’t — it was a toy. A game has an objective, which you either accomplish or you don’t. A toy is something you play with, however you like. The only objective of a toy is to have fun playing with it.

Tabletop roleplaying games are not truly “games” — they are toys. Do whatever you want with it. As long as you are having fun, the toy is serving its purpose. There is no “wrong way” to play a tabletop roleplaying game. Correction: there is one wrong way. If anyone at the table is not having fun playing with it, then either someone at the table is playing wrong (being a bad player, in other words), or that particular roleplaying game is not suited to the tastes of that particular group of players (which doesn’t make the game good or bad; it merely means that group would have more fun playing something else).

(As a side note, I submit that this is one element that distinguishes tabletop roleplaying games from so-called computer roleplaying games. Computer roleplaying games most definitely have objectives, and it is clearly possible to play them wrong.)