Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Redefining Combat Styles

 Been going through a few old posts on the Livejournal, because folks have reminded me of stuff I've written. Thus, the reposts of old material (this is from 2009, but comes from some older ideas).

So, I was posting to RPG.net, on one of their many Palladium topics, and came up with an idea, based on my Weapon Proficiency idea.

For those who do not know it, my Weapon Proficiency idea is pretty simple:  At every level, you gain +1 to something.  This may be a +1 to strike, a +1 to Parry, or a +10% to range; the full list is in the pimp my skill monkey article.  If you spend 3 skills on a WP, you get the equivalent of 3rd level skill in the weapon, letting you add either 3 +1s or a +2 and a +1 (since you cannot have the same bonus on successive levels).

Now, for combat skills (and by these, I mean the Hand to Hand skills), I've got something similar, that obviously hasn't been playtested.  To gain Combat Training (so named because "Hand to Hand" leads to people asking why hand to hand skills help with shooting), you spend at least one skill; you can spend more, up to a limit set by your OCC Group.  For every skill you spent on Combat Training, you gain a +1 to one combat bonus at every level.

Thus, if you spent 1 skill on Combat training, you get a +1 to initiative, strike, parry, dodge, damage, or roll at 1st level, and another +1 at 2nd level.  If you spent 3 skills, you get  +3 to spend at 1st level, +3 at 2nd, etc.  Spending one skill gives you automatic parry, and 2 combat maneuvers (different kinds of kicks or special attacks).  Each additional skill adds 2 combat maneuvers.  This is in addition to a basic punch and snap kick.

The are two limitations on this.  First is that no one bonus can account for more than 2/3rds of your total, except if you've spent only 1 skill, and then only at 1st level.  The second is that each OCC is limited in how many skills it can spend on Combat Training, depending on its group. Men at Arms (e.g. Knights, Juicers, and Martial Artists) may spend up to 4 skills on Combat Training.  Scholars and Adventurers (such as PF's Squire class, the Wilderness Scout of Rifts, or Robotech's Civilian OCC) can spend up to 3 skills on Combat Training.  Men of Magic and Psychics can spend up to 2 skills on combat training.  RCCs limit at whatever they most closely resemble; a Lanotaur Hunter is Psychic, but they're really Men at Arms types at heart.  Dragons are Magic and Psychic, but they're also King of the Monsters... they get the maximum possible.

Now, this fails to account for a few different things currently integral to Palladium's system. 

The first is the Critical Strike; most Hand to Hand skills improve your chances of a critical strike at a certain level.  I'm not sure how to handle that; I think I may go with "Your critical strike improves by 1 at at levels 9, 14, and 19 - the number of skills you spent on Combat Training"... meaning a maxxed out Man at Arms will get a 19 CS at level 5, a 18 at level 10, and a 17 at level 15.  I'm not as thrilled with that option, since there are some characters whose concepts revolve around CS (like assassins).  While that can somewhat be addressed by them putting more of their bonus into damage bonuses, it's not quite a comfy fit for me.

The second is all of the special attacks... the Knockout/stuns, the Pin/Incapacitates, and the Death Blows.  My temptation is to simply make them available as skills, with a minimum level.  Knock-out/stun, for example, would be available at 1st level, but would require an additional skill to be spent.  Someone who doesn't want to learn it until later can put it off.  While it opens up the possibility of "My character, Mr. Uber-deathly-killing-machine, has spent 4 skills on combat, plus learned every special maneuver he can at 1st level", the hope is that said character will be so widely incompetent at anything that doesn't have an initiative roll attached that he won't be played.

Lastly (and only because I forgot it while writing other things in the article) is attacks per melee.  I'm personally in favor of their being fewer attacks per melee, and leaving everyone at 2 + their OCC bonuses does tend help with that.  It means that rounds take less real time, and gives low-action characters more influence on the combat.  For those who want more attacks in their game, I'd go with +1 at X level (perhaps, again, based on your class group, or total number of skills spent on Combat Training)

Just a thought that wandered across my brain.  It leads to more flexible and player-defined characters, while keeping the "Palladium-ness" of the game mostly intact.

Pimp My Skill Monkey

An import from my old Livejournal, an old article on how to radically change the Palladium Skill system to accomodate some newer ideas and streamline some other issues.


I got some great help from Stattick on the RPG.net. He helped with some of the concepts, especially as it relates to the attribute checks.

Pimp My Skill-Monkey

Peering into the old lock, Stattick slipped the picks from their leather case. Not seeing anyone... and certainly no guards, he peered into the lock, looking for the signs of a needle trap or deadfall. There it was... a tumbler that didn't belong. Working quickly, his deft fingers manipulated the picks into rearranging all but that tumbler. A small snickt as the last one clicked into place elicited a silent sigh. No trap, no alarm. Swinging the door open, he recoiled from the sudden klaxon-sound coming from the ward on the floor.
"Maybe I was wrong about there not being an alarm" he thought as he dove for cover, trying to remember everything he knew about wards.

Skills form an integral part of a Palladium character; in some cases, they define a character's capabilities as much as O.C.C. does. Despite their importance, skills work much as they did in 1983, and characters of vastly different physical and mental capabilities have identical skill percentages. What follows are some optional rules for all Palladium games, to add some spice to playing a skill-based character, give some use to attributes below 16 and, hopefully, speed both play and character creation. These rules are designed to be used either separately or together; Game Masters can pick and choose what parts of this article to use, and those choices won't affect the playability of the rules.

It should be noted that several rules mention "the average person." An average person is assumed to have ability scores of 10, the approximate average on a roll of 3D6. Averages for some races in some attributes will be lower or higher than this, but the average person always assumes a 10.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

H1: Levelless Star Wars Saga

H1: Levelless Star Wars Saga

This is an edit of a previous work I did, that we bashed out on the Giant in the Playground message boards. I’m attempting to edit it for cleanliness and ease of use.

In theory, this will work for anyone using the classed version as well, but I'm going to assume you start with my classless system. You also keep the XP system as-is, but instead of saving it to buy levels, which carry inherent increases in defenses, HP, and the opportunity for feats, talents, and other improvements, you get a bonus feat, talent, or class feature every Z XP; the default is around 5000xp, but someone in the mood for a faster-gaining gameplay might set it as low as 1000xp; I wouldn't suggest going much over 5000xp, because that will lead to a seriously slow game. A happy medium might be 2000xp or so, but experiment with it. Some ambitious soul might want to assign varying values to different feats, talents, and other such things, but that's beyond my patience; they are generally equal in value in SAGA, and so can remain equal in value in H1.

There are some very OBVIOUS problems with this, and it goes back to the source of almost all SAGA problems: The Use the Force skill. If you leave it a skill, force-users simply walk all over the game, and it gets even worse when you stick everyone at level 1 defenses (plus whatever they get from feats). The simplest solution to this is to make it so Use the Force is not a skill... it is instead treated similarly to a weapon, wielded with Charisma. Someone with the Force Sensitivity feat is counted as proficient in that weapon, and may use it as outlined in the skills section as if trained in the skill. Someone without the Force Sensitivity feat may spend a force point to use the "Search Your Feelings" or "Sense Surroundings" uses of the skill (representing a momentary connection to the force). A new feat exists, "Force Focus", which gives you a +1 to Force checks; Greater Force Focus, to give another +1 isn't out of line, either.

Force points might be better addressed using my replacement rules, which give 2 blue "force points" per session, and 1 red "dark side point", with Force Boon giving you an additional point per session. If you don't like those rules, it will greatly hurt my feelings, but you might consider having Force Points refill every time a new feat/feature/talent is gained.

Some other things need to be addressed as well, but they're relatively minor. Toughness is changed from +1HP/Level to a flat +4 HP... about 1/6 the average person's 24 HP. Many feats have a Base Attack Bonus requirement; that's obviously eliminated, and I'm not seeing too many feats in the base book that are broken by that. I would also add some new feats; Ability Training and Ability Advancement from E6, for example, and I don't think Great Fortitude, Lightning Reflexes, and Iron Will from the d20 SRD would be terribly unbalancing, especially if you allow Greater Weapon Focus to help counterbalance them. Most things that refresh with level (such as Force Points done not-my-way, or money from the Wealth Noble talent should be moved to a "when you get a feat" time scale. If they reference the character's level, instead use number of talents in a given tree, or number of bonus feats, whichever makes more sense.

In combat, it’s important to reexamine the Armor tree; armor becomes a lot more valuable when you don’t have a level-based bonus to defense for it to replace, and the mechanics of Armored Defense and Improved Armored defense become irrelevant. I would suggest making it so Armored Defense gives you a +1 to Reflex (above what is granted by the armor), Second skin gives you a +1 to Fortitude (again, above what is granted by the armor), and Improved Armored Defense gives you a +1 to Reflex for every trait you have in the Armor tree (replacing the bonus from Armored Defense).

The main balancing feature here is prerequisites, combined with a bit of opportunity cost. While BAB and level prereqs are obviously gone, other prereqs, such as specific feats or class features, are not. It should also be noted that monsters become a LOT nastier in this system... a 138 HP Rancor is nothing to sneeze at in base SAGA; in H1, it's going to eat you for lunch unless you can crush it with an pneumatic door.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Coalition Psychics

The Coalition States of Rifts Earth has in place a program by which they register and monitor psychics within their territory. While the CS is a Nazi-themed, human supremacist nation with ambitions towards genocide, this fairly reasonable step hasn't been explicitly taken by other nations. But something occurred to me in considering this... while it will let the CS adequately track "mutants" who have psychic powers, it can also serve as a registry of those who may give useful psychic information... be it those who can be conscripted for specific tasks, or hints of what is to come.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CS: Civil Society

An indeterminate number of years ago... not as much as ten, but more than four (based on the age of the notebook)... I wrote a lot of notes about the civilian society of Rifts Coalition States. While we know a lot about their military machine, life as a civilian is not well described. So, I wrote a lot of notes, with the idea of writing a longer article, or even a book. Since I'm not planning on doing much more with Rifts, I thought I'd share what I have.

This is very rough; it's simply outline notes for work I was going to do later. Perhaps I'll expand it, one day.