Sunday, June 21, 2009

Adaptations for Action Cards High Fantasy

A two-parter today and tomorrow looking at some of the additions to the mechanics I've done to the Action Cards system to simulate a high fantasy campaign. These are long posts, for which I apologize. As I struggle with in a number of blog posts before, I wanted to create a slightly crunchier version of Action Cards while still maintaining that flexibility and narrative control for the players. I'd adapted some more detailed mechanics for the Changeling version of Action Cards-- Clarity, Glamour, the Seemings and Kiths, and especially the Contract sets. But there I'd deliberately remained fuzzy on a couple of areas. For handling the Third Continent campaign (where we'd run four times before, all with old Rolemaster or Rolemaster Standard System) I knew I needed to do something different. I went back and forth on that, eventually deciding on Action Cards at least in good part because I knew it would be easier to do.

For reference here's the online doc with this version of Action Cards. I have some adjustments and clean up still to do.

The major changes/additions I made to the system:

-Stronger delineation of skills and advantages. They're still flexible, but I gave some more specific examples and also said how combat skills ought to be bought (i.e. (Weapon) Attack and Parry are bought as different skills, rather than just Swordplay or the like).

-The addition of a Focus point resource-- used to activate special abilities.

-An adaptation of my Crouching Noun, Hidden Noun flexible martial arts system for the combat styles.

-Cleaning up of the magic system to make it easier to work with. We'll see how that ends up looking in play. As I've stated before, in terms of damage-dealing and effectiveness, I want Mages and Non-Mages to be about equal-- with some situational advantages.

-Using dice for damage, as I discussed before. I've talked about my reasons for doing this and at first blush, after a single combat, I've generally hopeful. I don't want to give it a thumbs up yet-- I liked Scion the first couple of fights and then I started to see the cracks in the mechanics. In coming up with the dice mechanics and ranges, I owe Gene a significant debt for his input.

-Finally I introduced a Profession Track system. Classes and Professions have always been one of those chrome features I've liked from various rpgs-- but at the same time I don't like level systems. I wanted to build something players could buy into as they chose, though with some additional restrictions. In this I'm inspired by old Rolemaster with the wealth of professions, the career track system from the old Warhammer Fantasy rpg, and to a certain extent, the idea of Prestige classes from d20-- a great idea mostly badly executed. But probably my biggest inspiration has been the class track mechanics from the Final Fantasy Tactics game series.

The system is still a flexible point-buy one. However, players can buy into Profession tracks which represent a path of development. These tracks have some special abilities not found elsewhere-- but they're the kinds of things they could make up and buy outside of the tracks. So the trick is a little that players could get most of these things without buying those tracks. The exception comes in the form of limitations on number of combat styles and magical ranks & schools-- so it does push people to invest there. I'm hoping the system will give flavor and at the same time help people make purchases for their characters-- an easy way to do development, not unlike the job packages from later Gurps materials.

Here are the notes on the Profession Tracks and the first batch of those tracks. I'll post the other half tomorrow:

PROFESSION TRACKS
The profession tracks represent grouped abilities to help define the character. These ten tracks are starters, with many of the later Professions requiring some experience in one of more of them. If taking a second starter track, the first rank costs 10, rather than the usual five because of the extra stuff there (so, 10/5/10/10/15).

Secondary Tracks follow up from Starter Tracks-- characters must have mastered, that is bought up to Rank Five, the appropriate Starter Track to buy into the Secondary Tracks. Secondary Tracks cost 5/5/10/10/15.

Some special talents require spending Focus to activate. As well ranks within the professions limit some of a character's knowledge and abilities-- regarding number of schools of magic known, maximum ranks in any one school, and possible number of combat styles. These are not cumulative-- you apply the highest of the various values given.

ARMS USER TYPES

Squire
The basic melee fighter type. The character may have trained in a militia or have come from a family where experience with a weapon was valued.

Rank One: The Squire gains three wound boxes and may take a (Weapon) Attack skill with a melee weapon of their choice.

Rank Two: The Squire may spend a point of Focus to add +1 Damage to his attacks for a scene.

Rank Three: The Squire may select a Combat Style and the associated maneuvers. The character is limited to two Combat styles.

Rank Four: The Squire may apply two Combat Style elements to the same action. He may not apply the same element twice unless he knows it from two different styles. If the Squire already has this advantage, he gains a new Combat Style instead.

Rank Five: The Squire may move up his Combat results by one grade on three Fixed cards.

Soldier (Squire, Secondary)
The Soldier has taken his combat knowledge and applied it to larger scale and most organized endeavors. He's drilled and learned how to survive in even the bloodiest conflicts.

Rank One: The Soldier gains +2 Wounds.

Rank Two: The Soldier has lived and fought in his armor for so long, he has learned its strengths and weaknesses. If he's wearing his own, well-fitted armor his can increase its capabilities. When wearing Light or Medium armor, he increases the target number for doing damage to him by 1. If wearing Heavy Armor, he gains +1 Soak/DR instead.

Rank Three: The Soldier adds +1 damage in melee. In addition, he may spend a point of Focus to force the GM to reroll damage against him.

Rank Four: The Soldier learns how to make an additional Parry or Block. Characters are normally limited to one Parry and one Block in a turn. The player must choose which expertise he will acquire when taking this ability. In addition, he may choose a skill in (Weapon) Attack or Parry or in Block.

Rank Five: The Soldier learns an additional Combat Style. The character is limited to four Combat Styles. The Soldier also gains a skills of his choice from Survival, Tactics, or Leadership.

Bashkar (Squire, Secondary)
The Bashkar forgoes any attempts at finesse in combat. He's decided to make himself a killing machine-- believing all the strategy and tactics of the world boil down to a simple maxim: kill all your enemies.

Rank One: The Bashkar learns a (Weapon) Attack skill.

Rank Two: The Bashkar gains +2 Wounds.

Rank Three: The Bashkar has learned the art of overwhelming force. His armed melee attacks reduce the target number needed to do damage by 1.

Rank Four: The Bashkar may spend a point of Focus and let loose a blood-curdling War Cry. He makes a Physical test. Nearby opponents must make tests to avoid being unnerved, lose actions or even (in the event of fumbles) run away.
Rank Five: The Bashkar adds +2 damage in melee. He is also Hard to Kill-- giving him a bonus for unconsciousness and death checks when he goes to negative wounds.

Hunter
A character who has lived and trained in the outdoors. He may not have hunted but he has learned how to survive in the wild.

Rank One: The Hunter gains his choice of Hunting, Survival or Tracking as a skill. Outdoors the character may spend a point of Focus to blend perfectly with the environment to cover his own tracks and scent.

Rank Two: The Hunter gains +1 damage with Ranged attacks.

Rank Three: The Hunter may select a Combat Style and the associated maneuvers. The character is limited to two Combat styles.

Rank Four: The Hunter may apply two Combat Style elements to the same action. He may not apply the same element twice unless he knows it from two different styles. If the Hunter already has this advantage, he gains a new Combat Style instead.

Rank Five: The Hunter may move up his Combat results by one grade on three Fixed cards.

Sharpshooter (Hunter, Secondary)
The Sharpshooter has mastered his ranged weapon or choice, be it the bow, a slingstone, chakram or thrown dagger. He concentrates in the deadly effectiveness of such attacks.

Rank One: The Sharpshooter may perform an All-Out attack using a ranged weapon.

Rank Two: The Sharpshooter gains a skill in Melee or Ranged Dodge.

Rank Three: When attacking from cover or concealment, the Sharpshooter may convert three rolled damage dice into two wounds before rolling.

Rank Four: The Sharpshooter learns an additional Combat Style. The character is limited to four combat styles.


Rank Five: The Sharpshooter may spend a point of Focus to reroll all non-successful damage dice.

Scout (Hunter, Secondary)
The Scout has learned to use the natural environment to supplement his abilities. He becomes a dangerous stalker, able to survey his enemies and then pull back to inform others.

Rank One: The Scout has mastered the art of camouflage. In a natural environment, with at least a minimum of cover, the Scout may become effectively invisible to natural senses. He can move at a walking pace while so in hiding.

Rank Two: The Scout gains +2 wounds

Rank Three: Outdoors, the Scout has a natural gift for traps. He has a sixth sense for ambushes and can spot traps, pits, deadfalls and the like with ease. Given time and basic materials, he can whip up his own outdoors traps quickly and reliably.

Rank Four: The Scout learns an additional Combat Style. The character is limited to four combat styles.

Rank Five: The Scout may spend a point of Focus to make two ranged attacks on the same round. These may be made on the same or different targets.

Brother
A novice Martial Artist or specialist in the arts of dueling and combat. The character has focused on the ability to fight and fight well at the expense of other talents.

Rank One: The Brother may select a Combat Style and the associated maneuvers. The character is limited to three Combat styles.

Rank Two: The character may choose to either be able to parry armed opponents while unarmed or gain +1 damage while fighting armed with light or medium weapons (this must be selected when purchased).

Rank Three: The character may spend Focus to eliminate Wounds at a 1:2 ratio. This may only be done when the initial wound is dealt. While fighting unarmored, the character gains +1 Soak and takes wounds on a 5+.


Rank Four: The Brother may apply two Combat Style elements to the same action. He may not apply the same element twice unless he knows it from two different styles. If the Brother already has this advantage, he gains a new Combat Style instead.

Rank Five: The Brother may move up two Combat and one Physical result up by one grade on Fixed cards.

Duelist (Brother, Secondary)
The Duelist has focused on armed melee, but almost exclusively in the realm of single combats and duels. He shies always from mass battles, but know he can hold his own when pitting his weapon against most rabble.

Rank One: The Duelist may spend a point of focus to go first in a round-- even if surprised.

Rank Two: The Duelist adds +2 wounds.

Rank Three: When fighting one-on-one in melee, the Duelist combines precision and deftness. He reduces the number needed to do damage to his opponent by one and increases the number needed to do damage to him by one. This ability may only be used in Light armor and with a Light or Medium weapon.

Rank Four: The Duelist may select a Combat Style and the associated maneuvers. The character is limited to five Combat styles

Rank Five: The Duelist may apply three Combat Style elements to the same action. He may not apply the same element twice unless he knows it from two different styles. If the Duelist already has this advantage, he gains a new Combat Style instead. The Duelist also adds +2 wounds.

Warrior Monk (Brother, Secondary)
The Warrior Monk has combined a focus on unarmed with armed combat. He's learned to fight with minimal armor and still survive against the toughest opponents. From Pit Fighters, to Pugilists, to Martial Artists, the Warrior Monk profession covers a lot of ground.

Rank One: The Warrior Monk adds +2 Wounds.

Rank Two: The Warrior Monk has learned the art of the Open Palm. His unarmed attacks reduce the target number needed to do damage by 1.
Rank Three: The Warrior Monk may select a Combat Style and the associated maneuvers. The character is limited to five Combat styles

Rank Four: The Warrior Monk may spend up to three focus. For each point spent he raises the number needed to do damage to him by one for the combat (up to a maximum of 8+). Note that this is not cumulative with armor, magical or otherwise.

Rank Five: The Warrior Monk gains a skill in Ranged or Melee Dodge. He also gains a skill in (Weapon) Attack or Parry. The Warrior Monk also gains the advantage High Pain Threshold.

SPECIALIST TYPES

Urchin
An Urban survivor and starter to the Rogue and Thief tracks. The character has learned to survive by his wits alone.

Rank One: The character gains the Fast talent, allowing him to go first in combat. He may also choose from Evade Pursuit, Streetwise or Pickpocket as a skill.

Rank Two: The character may spend a point of Focus to change one wound die rolled to a 10 when using a light weapon.

Rank Three: The character may choose one combat style. The character is limited to two Combat styles.

Rank Four: The Urchin gains +2 wounds. Additionally, he becomes Fleet of Foot, allowing him an extra two yards of movement in combat.

Rank Five: The Urchin may move up one Combat, one Physical and one Knowledge result by one grade on Fixed cards.

Burglar (Urchin, Secondary)
A specialist thief type who has mastered certain physical skills allowing him to break and enter with ease. He uses his quickness to evade and defend in combat.

Rank One: The Burglar gains a skill in Dodge Melee or Dodge Ranged.

Rank Two: The Burglar always lands on his feet. If the Burglar falls within arms reach of a surface (wall, tree, etc) he can fall up to 40' with no effect. Higher height falls have their damage slightly reduced.

Rank Three: The Burglar has picked up many tricks of the trade. He can quickly assess the quality and potential pitfalls of any locks or safes he encounters by spending a point of focus. This gives him a significant bonus on attempts to pick said lock, will tell him how long it will take, and if the attempt is even possible. He will also often be able to detect traps associated with the lockpicking attempt, possibly even magical ones.

Rank Four: The Burglar has trained himself to be flexible. He can slip out of most bonds and manacles by spending a point of focus. He can also slip through tight spots with ease (small windows, tunnels, etc).

Rank Five: The Burglar has trained his eyes well, allowing him to see in dimly lit areas (though not in total darkness). The Burglar also gains +2 wounds. Finally, when fighting unarmored or in light armor, the Burglar gains +1 DR/Soak.

Rogue (Urchin, Secondary)
The Rogue knows that operations sometimes go horribly wrong and being quick with a blade of other weapon is sometimes one's only option. The Rogue plans carefully, but always has an escape route ready.

Rank One: The Rogue gains +2 wounds.

Rank Two: If the Rogue knows an area (a town, a neighborhood, a particular outdoors area) he can get away from all but the most dogged pursuit. If alone and if the pursuers have no extra special resources at their disposal (magic, extreme numbers, fellow rogues) he automatically gets away to safety. If contested, then he gains a +1 bump to his chase escape attempts.

Rank Three: The Rogue may choose one Combat Style and the associated maneuvers. The character is limited to four combat styles.

Rank Four: The Rogue specializes in careful operations in combat. He presents an elusive target, making it more difficult to hit him with a ranged attack while he is engaged in melee. As well, if the Rogue kills his opponent in combat, he may make an immediate move action. This move may not be used to engage another opponent however.

Rank Five: If the Rogue has time to plan and assess an operation, he can develop a master plan. He must spend a point of focus and make a Knowledge check. If successful, he gains a number of temporary drama points equal to his success (one for OK, two for Good, and three for Sacre Bleu) which may be spent by the party while conducting the operation.

Student
A learned character and starter to the Diplomatic tracks. He has dedicated himself to interactions and the gathering of knowledge.

Rank One: The character begins the game with 3 obscure knowledges. He may declare these later, at any time, rather than spending a drama point. He also gains three Knowledge or Social raises to be placed on non-fixed cards.

Rank Two: The character may choose from a skill in Diplomacy, Research or Merchant.

Rank Three: The character can establish a credit rating for himself easily and gain access to better goods and services by spending a Focus Point in interactions. He may also spend a Focus to give himself +1 to Dodge for a scene.

Rank Four: The Student has learned the art of verbal distraction and confusion. As an action he may attempt to hold the attention of someone, keeping the whole of their focus on him. Outside of combat he may use this ability to attempt to impose an emotion on someone through verbal patter. While anyone can do this normally, the Student's effects are more potent and effective.

Rank Five: The Scholar may move up one Social, one Physical and one Knowledge result by one grade on Fixed cards.

Merchant (Student, Secondary)
The Merchant learns the art of reading and interacting with people. He knows where to find what he wants and how to strike bargains to get those things. He's learned to read people's secrets and desires when first meeting them or through his established network of contacts.

Rank One: The Merchant gains a skill in (Weapon) Attack or Parry.

Rank Two: The Merchant gains a skill in Item Assessment.

Rank Three: The Merchant makes it his business to know people. When meeting someone for the first time, he may make an immediate check to have heard rumors about that person or be able to get a read from their clothing, bearing or manner.
Rank Four: The Merchant is nothing if not prepared. He may spend a point of focus to retroactively declare a plot or plan in place, within reason. This should usually be related to having uncovered information, hired extras, or advanced bribery.

Rank Five: The Merchant may choose a Combat Style. He is limited to two Combat Styles. The Merchant is also a master of cultural adaptability, allowing him to be able to retroactively prevent faux pas by spending a point of focus.

Scholar (Student, Secondary)
The Scholar is a researcher par excellence. He can track down clues and information in a fraction of the normal time. He's also adept at keeping his secrets held close. As well, the Scholar learns the tricks of other professions over time, allowing him to emulate their talents on the fly.

Rank One: The Scholar can reflexively code his research notes and letters. He may spend a point of focus to retroactively claim the intended recipient has access to the key.

Rank Two: The Scholar gains a skill in Dodge Melee or Dodge Ranged.

Rank Three: The Scholar may gather information with rapid speed-- allowing him to delve through texts and tomes he can understand in a fraction of the normal time. He's also a mastering of gathering information locally, allowing him to quickly get a Streetwise read on a particular topic.

Rank Four: The Scholar has the ability to inspire. As an action, the Scholar may spend a point of focus to refresh another player's focus pool. This may be done once per player per session. Multiple Scholars may not set up an infinite loop on this ability.

Rank Five: The Scholar may spend a point of focus to emulate the Profession ability or Combat Style maneuvers of a fellow PC. This does not allow the Scholar access to magical talents, but does allow them to utilize one style (for example, limited by the style cap for the Scholar character or one, whichever is higher). Any costs for the use of the ability must be paid in addition to the Focus cost for this ability. This ability lasts for a scene and the Scholar may emulate up to two abilities at the same time.