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Anaximander

Ideas from Other Game Systems

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I while back I bought the starter box for the Star Trek game by Modiphius.  It came with a 5 pregenerated characters, a pregenerated ship, and a collection of simple adventures written to highlight how the rules were played.  The adventures basically function like the beginning of a computer game where many of the early missions are entirely based around system of play and exploring the game world.  At first, the old school gamer in me took a little umbrage at using ideas from a computer game in a tabletop game, but after I cooled down, I realize that the idea is actually quite genius.  From a gamemastering perspective, I tend to like less than common games, and I often tend overwrite my campaign worlds.  I want to give players as much information about the rules and my campaign world as I can before they invest time and energy in creating characters, but I don't want to sound like a college professor explaining rules of the game and the subtle nuances of my game world; so, what if I borrow the Modiphius model hand potential players some pregened characters representing the full scope of what my game is offering and run them through a series of simple scenarios to highlight elements of gameplay as well as familiarizing themselves with the campaign world before the put their heart and souls into creating their characters.  From a player's perspective, I don't know how many times I have been the introducee.  There have been many times when I started as a player under a new GM and wished I had done character creation a little differently after starting play.

 

Has anyone else considered doing or have considered starting a campaign this way?  If so, what are your thoughts?

 

And, while on the subject of taking concepts from one game system and applying them to another, what concepts from other games would you or have you implemented in Hero, and what concepts from Hero would you do likewise for other systems?

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I think tutorial beginnings for campaigns is a really good idea and some day hope to get one written for champions (and fantasy hero).  If we could have a line of 5-10 of these out there for kickstarting campaigns, that would be a great tool to help sell the game, I think.

 

Modern players just aren't quite as willing or adept at picking up rules from reading books.  Heck most of them glaze over if the text is longer than a few lines.

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There was a time when the Champions rulebook wasn't a monstrous tome that sent new players screaming into the hills. Back in the 2nd ed. days, you could hand experienced RPGers the rulebook, let them create characters of their own (maybe with a little guidance), and run the intro scenario in the boxed set, followed by The Island of Dr. Destroyer without difficulty. Since that time, the Hero System has become a product written for veterans of the game, catering to their accumulated demands over the years, and presented in a way that is anything but inviting to a new player.

 

The Complete books are something of a return to simpler times, but the system does lack an officially published collection of "intro" scenarios intended to introduce the game to new players. Providing some wouldn't be borrowing from other games, per se, as much as it would be borrowing from the game's own (distant) past.

 

But along those lines, I would borrow the idea of the Plot Point Campaign (and setting) from Savage Worlds and turn it into a full product line.

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I've grown  particularly fond of the Flashback system from Blades In The Dark; we're about to start a new campaign and the GM plans on using Equipment Resource Points as both a loadout and flashback system. As long as you have unallocated resource points you can say "I brought that with us.." or "I'll spend some point, we've prepared for this..." - it should work pretty well I think. We'll see how it goes.

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Yeah, cuz new players from other games/genres need to learn how to be heroes somehow. They can't be expected to have a moral compass that points to "lawful good" all on their own... 😩

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What are the concepts that should be most emphasized in starter adventures for Hero System? 

 

For me, the attraction to Hero and similar systems is not being shackled to the class and level concept of DnD, but I am not sure if that is where I would start for an introduction; however, I would think that pushing the idea early would be the best way of getting there.  With that in mind what kinds of pregenerated characters should be designed?  Characters built strait from the archetypes or hybrids that have a good spread of options at their disposal?

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The idea I want to bring in from FFG Edge of Empire is the fate pool. It took the idea of Force Points and evolved it. Essentially the group has a pool of Force points, usually around six for a party of four players.

 

The genius is that the tokens are light on one side, dark on the other.  One point can be used in any combat round. If the GM uses it, he turns black to white, improving the fate pool. If a player uses it, a white turns to black, degrading the fate pool.

 

When I ran a game, it was hugely useful. I allowed critical attacks to turn black to white rather than have immediate combat effects and suggested twists that challenged the players but turned black to white.

 

I also constantly tempted them. "Don't roll a dice on this task, turn a white to black and you will sneak up on the guard, I will even give you a bonus to hit.

 

It is amazing how much influence six tokens can have on the attitude of the players at the table! I think this would be perfect for replacing HERO Points in my game.

 

You can also set the tone of the game by opening with six blacks, or six whites rather than an even split...

 

Doc

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13 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

Of course hero points are always good, and I'm looking at finding a way to award achievements in games to give a feeling of accomplishment for certain non=experience related tasks like "saved x innocent civilians" and "solved a problem without the use of violence"

 

This is something I have thought about.  The problem with Hero System is that its XP to CP ratio doesn't allow for a lot of granularity when it comes to rewards for roleplaying choices, IMO.  I have been looking at other options for rewards such as free background skills, free contacts, and free boosts to reputation for good behavior.  My mind is blanking on terms right now, but their options where characters can have points that allow them to alter dice rolls and sneak out of bad decisions.  I have considered offering resources as rewards.  For example, if one of the players showed respect for the law and law officers in the adventures while the rest of the players openly flaunted the law and mocked the law officers, the player showing respect might getting a free contact with one or more officers or receive police powers or some such (Assuming that getting along with the police is a trait you want rewarded in your game.)  

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4 minutes ago, Doc Democracy said:

The idea I want to bring in from FFG Edge of Empire is the fate pool. It took the idea of Force Points and evolved it. Essentially the group has a pool of Force points, usually around six for a party of four players.

 

The genius is that the tokens are light on one side, dark on the other.  One point can be used in any combat round. If the GM uses it, he turns black to white, improving the fate pool. If a player uses it, a white turns to black, degrading the fate pool.

 

When I ran a game, it was hugely useful. I allowed critical attacks to turn black to white rather than have immediate combat effects and suggested twists that challenged the players but turned black to white.

 

I also constantly tempted them. "Don't roll a dice on this task, turn a white to black and you will sneak up on the guard, I will even give you a bonus to hit.

 

It is amazing how much influence six tokens can have on the attitude of the players at the table! I think this would be perfect for replacing HERO Points in my game.

 

You can also set the tone of the game by opening with six blacks, or six whites rather than an even split...

 

Doc

 

The Star Trek game I originally mentioned uses a similar function as fate, but there are two pools; the shared momentum pool for the players and the threat pool for the GM.  Players use momentum to create advantage in play, and the GM uses threat to create complications.  There are multiple ways of increasing both momentum and threat in the game.  One way of increasing threat is that if you want a particular character to be a little more ominous the GM could add to the threat pool every time said character comes into the scene.  I have had problems with players treating characters that were supposed to be scary like punks when I wanted the players to at least be a little nervous when they were around.  If the players could see the GM putting more beads into the threat pool every time a certain character shows up, maybe, they would show the correct level of concern.  For example, everyone should be a little concerned about the sudden appearance of Darth Vader or the Joker.  For that matter, they should also be a little nervous at the presence of the tough as nails admiral.

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3 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I think tutorial beginnings for campaigns is a really good idea and some day hope to get one written for champions (and fantasy hero).  If we could have a line of 5-10 of these out there for kickstarting campaigns, that would be a great tool to help sell the game, I think.

 

Modern players just aren't quite as willing or adept at picking up rules from reading books.  Heck most of them glaze over if the text is longer than a few lines.

 

I'm sure I agree with Chris Taylor on this, but I kinda spaced out by the second paragraph.

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3 hours ago, Anaximander said:

 after I cooled down, I realize that the idea is actually quite genius.  

 

 

3 hours ago, Anaximander said:

 

Has anyone else considered doing or have considered starting a campaign this way?  If so, what are your thoughts?

 

 

I'm probably saying something embarrassing about my own GM'ing style, but this is the moment in my life that I learned this is not something everyone does.  Outside of convention games, of course, where time limits and single-session games preclude world building.

 

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3 hours ago, Anaximander said:

For me, the attraction to Hero and similar systems is not being shackled to the class and level concept of DnD, but I am not sure if that is where I would start for an introduction; however, I would think that pushing the idea early would be the best way of getting there.  With that in mind what kinds of pregenerated characters should be designed?  Characters built strait from the archetypes or hybrids that have a good spread of options at their disposal?

 

My bias would be largely towards Fantasy archetypes with some twist that would be tough to implement in D&D.  The characters need to be recognizable, but different.

 

So let's consider the standard "Big Four" classes, a Fighter, a Cleric, a Wizard and a Rogue...what twists could we add?

 

We probably want our Fighter to have some kind of magical ability.  Perhaps he is a Dwarf with affinity to the Plane of Earth - what if we gave him a level or three of Density Increase which costs extra END so he has to use it judiciously, but gaining some extra defenses and STR at the right time in a combat would be beneficial.  Maybe we don't even use the DI power, just some extra STR, CON and rDef that he can call on as needed.

 

Perhaps our Wizard is Elven, and we also make him skilled with a bow.  Give him some skill levels so that, as an archer, he hits as often as the fighter does with his axe.  We can also use a magic system which is quite different from D&D - just being able to cast his spells at his discretion is a major shift from D&D.  Perhaps we use a skill-based system, setting some spells such that full power is chancy, but lower power is still enough to have an impact, with much easier skill rolls.  Maybe avoid the skill rolls and give him an END reserve.

 

Divine Magic can look very different from Arcane Magic, or maybe we don't make our Cleric a "deity devotee" at all, but a psychic with healing and mental/psychic powers.

 

And our Rogue...hmmm...what if our stealthy guy is a Pixie - maybe a foot or so tall, wings, perhaps some natural ability to become invisible for brief periods/with concentration, and equip him with sleep-poisoned arrows or darts (simple NNDs; we don't have to get too fancy).

 

I'm sure we could brainstorm lots of other ideas.

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7 hours ago, Anaximander said:

The Star Trek game I originally mentioned uses a similar function as fate, but there are two pools

 

Part of the genius of the Edge of Empire pool is the single pool, the idea that the players know by using the force they make their fate worse, giving the GM.

 

My biggest bugbear with these Hero Point style mechanics is that the GM has access to them. The GM can ALWAYS outspend the players but even small expenditure by the GM causes players to spend just to keep up. I feel less guilty here, there is no competition on use and if I do use a point, I automatically give the players a point.

 

Worse are systems like TORG, HeroQuest and DC Heroes where the points are also used for character development. It is invidious to ask a player to balance character success and character advancement. Almost like the better you do in a scenario, the less you will advance (spending more points than you gain).

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6 hours ago, Doc Democracy said:

 

My biggest bugbear with these Hero Point style mechanics is that the GM has access to them. The GM can ALWAYS outspend the players but even small expenditure by the GM causes players to spend just to keep up. I feel less guilty here, there is no competition on use and if I do use a point, I automatically give the players a point.

 

The best way to limit that is the GM only gets a pool equal to the players, or twice the players, and it doesn't replenish. I believe this is how Savage Worlds does it, but I can't remember at this hour.

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15 hours ago, zslane said:

Yeah, cuz new players from other games/genres need to learn how to be heroes somehow. They can't be expected to have a moral compass that points to "lawful good" all on their own... 😩

 

There is "role playing", a foreign concept to many new to the hobby.

 

And there is "game", which tends to mean "win or lose".

 

Aligning the game  to the role playing so that success is achieved by good role playing is good game design, whether embedded into the system or applied by the GM.

 

If following the genre conventions and playing a heroic character means a lack of success in the game, then the game is a failure.  Those heroes who embrace the heroic code, in genre, emerge victorious in the source material.

 

One old article on the Star Trek RPG of the day made two excellent points. 

 

First, when offered the chance to embrace certain death in order to save a member of his crew, the Captain will always accept without hesitation.  To do otherwise is a failure by the player to role play within the genre.

 

Second, when that offer has been accepted, there will always be a way out, with a successful end to the scenario.  To have no such way out is a far greater failure by the GM to role play within the genre.

 

Too often, the GM who cannot understand why his players will not "play within the genre", or "play heroic characters" or whatever terms one wished to adopt, is the problem - his game and GM style penalizes playing within the genre, so his players resist, wishing to "win", and the GM cannot see that the failure to embrace the genre is as much, or more, with his GM style.

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31 minutes ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Too often, the GM who cannot understand why his players will not "play within the genre", or "play heroic characters" or whatever terms one wished to adopt, is the problem - his game and GM style penalizes playing within the genre, so his players resist, wishing to "win", and the GM cannot see that the failure to embrace the genre is as much, or more, with his GM style.

 

All too often I've seen this problem described as "realistic" or "it would never happen like that". It's almost always a failure to understand genre tropes or concepts.

And this may be perpetrated by the idea, more as time goes on I feel, that 'tropes' are a four letter word, things to be avoided, and generally bad story telling. I blame the tv-tropes website a lot for this. Everyone is trying to "subvert the tropes" when really, most of the best stories in a genre lean-into the tropes.

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46 minutes ago, ghost-angel said:

 

All too often I've seen this problem described as "realistic" or "it would never happen like that". It's almost always a failure to understand genre tropes or concepts.

And this may be perpetrated by the idea, more as time goes on I feel, that 'tropes' are a four letter word, things to be avoided, and generally bad story telling. I blame the tv-tropes website a lot for this. Everyone is trying to "subvert the tropes" when really, most of the best stories in a genre lean-into the tropes.

 

Agreed. 

 

A game which applies the tropes could be a great game.  So could a game that subverts the tropes. 

 

A game that expects the players to follow the tropes when the game world does not seems, to me, to be a recipe for disaster.  If the in-game consequences of following the tropes must be "realistic", then the willingness of characters in-game to follow those tropes must also be assessed from a "realism" perspective.  If the penalty for short-changing a customer is loss of a hand, putting 13 donuts in the box to ensure we NEVER accidentally only put in eleven becomes a trope (the origin of the term "baker's dozen").

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The key is to be consistent and understood by all involved, whether its going to be a whacky loon fest like Toon or a backstabbing PC harvest like Paranoia or a 4-color Silver Age Champions game.  Follow the rules, both player and GM, and remember that the purpose is not to win but entertain.

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19 hours ago, ghost-angel said:

I've grown  particularly fond of the Flashback system from Blades In The Dark; we're about to start a new campaign and the GM plans on using Equipment Resource Points as both a loadout and flashback system. As long as you have unallocated resource points you can say "I brought that with us.." or "I'll spend some point, we've prepared for this..." - it should work pretty well I think. We'll see how it goes.

 

I actually included something similar (after reading Blades in the Dark)... calling it "The Plan" in my game. I already have a bennie system with "Luck Chits" and I've been experimenting with a relatively simple process.

 

1. When a scenario calls for it, players come up with a general "plan of attack"... like "We want the infiltrate the club in disguise, after having hacked the security cameras, and gotten a decent floorplan. The goal is to narrow down where the hostage might be kept, and so our assault is fast and quick, with a planned getaway."

That's it... no long involved arguing about how many grenades you are packing, or what language your hacking program is written in, or whatever... quick, general, covers the basic idea.
 

2. Each player/PC gets to role a "Prep" roll based on their skill/expertise/contacts, to contribute to  "The Plan". (i.e. the hacker rolls to say "I'm gaining access to the security network through cables running through tunnels under the club." and the faceman says "I'm organizing our local support to have watchers on the street and around the building and a getaway driver." and the ninja says, "I'm going to infiltrate and get in position way ahead of time, before things go down."   whatever...)  Based on how well they roll, they get contribute plusses or minuses to "The Plan" roll. for example... hacker rolls well, that says he is in, with full view of all cameras, give a +2 to "The Plan" roll... but ninja rolled badly, he was able to get inside, but unable to get far due to unexpected employees showing up and can't break cover"... -1 to The Plan roll.   The rolls help narrate the "set up montage"

 

3. Then, based on the total plusses or minuses... a player with Tactics or Teamwork... rolls. Based on how well they roll... the players gain Luck Chits for the group as a whole, that can be utilzed when necessary to say "I planned for this!" when they run into some obstacle in the actual op. For example, the PCs could only infiltrate with light weapons... but once inside, realized they were likely heavily out gunned. The ninja spent a chit saying, "I planned for this, and on my way in, I left a duffle bag of guns on the roof of the elevator off the kitchen." The PCs are then able to pick up a couple assault rifles and a shotgun before heading for the penthouse.

A few more tweaks (like I set a number based on how difficult the target it... from Easy to Hyper Secure (infiltrating a night club owned by gangsters is easier than infiltrating an NSA black site)... but generally that's it.

Players/PCs contribute to "The Plan"... a single roll is then made to determine how effectively the plan was up to the point of "Go" when the actual, moment to moment play begins... and a good roll provides "I planned for that..." bennies... or not if the plan wasn't so good.

Have just recently begun trying it, but it works alright and I'm committed to using basic HERO skills and contacts, etc.... just using them in a different light.

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4 minutes ago, RDU Neil said:

Players/PCs contribute to "The Plan"... a single roll is then made to determine how effectively the plan was up to the point of "Go" when the actual, moment to moment play begins... and a good roll provides "I planned for that..." bennies... or not if the plan wasn't so good.

 

Oh this whole thing is good, this is fantastic. Please let me know if you how this all works in play.

 

Yeah - the one thing I really like about Blades is there are no Planning Sessions. There is only "what info do you want?" - "How do you want to start out?" - "Let's see where everyone is and how far into the plan we are..." - and then Game On.

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10 hours ago, Doc Democracy said:

Worse are systems like TORG, HeroQuest and DC Heroes where the points are also used for character development. It is invidious to ask a player to balance character success and character advancement. Almost like the better you do in a scenario, the less you will advance (spending more points than you gain).

 

This was my problem with Deadlands in the past. When I created my Luck Chits, I specifically made them "use 'em or lose 'em" for each adventure, because I wanted them played for dramatic story shifts, and not hoarded for EXP or whatever. 

And while I, the GM, do have access to some Luck Chits as well... one of the things my players like, is that they can see my pool. When I spend to give the villain a free recovery, or whatever, they see this as a victory... they are wearning down my resources as well. If I didn't save a big bennie for the villain at the end, then he doesn't have his "automatic getaway" or whatever. Yes, the GM can say anything they want, but a bennie system can help moderate (in the eyes of the players) when the GM clearly is swinging the narrative against them. In fact, it kind of frees up the GM to be open about "yep, I'm deciding this in favor of the bad guys... here I'm spending a chit to have things go their way" and the players seem much more ok with that.

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9 minutes ago, ghost-angel said:

 

Oh this whole thing is good, this is fantastic. Please let me know if you how this all works in play.

 

Yeah - the one thing I really like about Blades is there are no Planning Sessions. There is only "what info do you want?" - "How do you want to start out?" - "Let's see where everyone is and how far into the plan we are..." - and then Game On.

 

FYI, I was at Origins the past week and played the new hack of Blades in the Dark, called "Hack the Planet" which is the cyber-punk in an eco-devastated future version of Blades.

IT WAS AWESOME! I liked it better than Blades itself, while the core mechanics are similar, the details create a very cool, atmospheric and fast to play gritty, future of hackers and gene-rangers... storm chasers and zeppelin gangs. Supposedly the hardcover book will be out around GenCon... supposedly the PDF is available now at Drivethrough. Check it out.

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