Category: ST Notes

Mage: The Retooling

Mage has always been one of the more difficult groups to get our mechanics system around, due to many of the unique properties that are inherent to Mage. If you’ve ever looked at the original spell casting instructions for Mage (which run from pages 110 to 129 of the Mage: The Awakening core book), you can see that there is far too much going on to entice new players into the genre.

Back during Season 2, I attempted to simplify those rules into something a bit more streamlined. But even with those changes, people still needed “cheat sheets” just to understand how to cast spells. Mage shouldn’t be this hard! This isn’t a test to get a degree, these are rules for a game where you play pretend fun times. So, with that in mind, we’re headed back again to Mage spell casting, in order to address some of the problems we discovered the first time around. Here are the main points that I want to address in this version of the rules:

1. Spells should always cost Mana. Every group has to deal with Fuel expenditure, Mages should not be getting around this issue. The cost of any spell (before additions) will always be 1 Mana.
2. Paradox should not exist in the current form. Vulgar Magic? Covert Magic? Improbable Magic? That’s just nonsense. Other groups can light their bodies on fire, grow wings, throw cars, and generally perform overall impossible tasks. Mages should not be any more difficult to handle than any other Genre.
3. Improvised Magic is not viable. While the concept of Improvised Magic is interesting, it causes new players to dig through all the source material to see if there’s something else they could have cast. With a maximum of 15 spells available per Arcana, and 9 Arcanas that exist for Mage, there is plenty of choices that Mages have without grabbing up random spells.
4. Reach must be useful. How much Reach does a Mage use for a typical spell? 1 for Instant Cast, 1 for Sight Range, then maybe 1 or 2 to move spells into the respective advanced charts? That’s a tax, not a choice. We’re eliminating free Reach for Mages, but also eliminating Reach requirements for Instant Cast and Sight Range. Going forward, Reach will be generated by the player’s choice, and will perform a tactical function, not simply a minimum requirement to cast a spell. Speaking of charts…
5. Advanced charts are removed. Advanced charts were just a simple way to get to more targets or duration without spending as much for the spell. Going forward, everything in Mage will be a simple 1 to 1 ratio. From there, it’s pretty straightforward how Mages can adjust their spells without requiring complex charts.

So, here are the steps we would use to cast a spell going forward:

  1. Select the Spell you wish to Cast from your available Spells and spend 1 Mana. The Spell currently has 1 Potency. This Spell can be cast as an Instant, and has a Range of Sight.
  2. Determine your available Die Pool (Gnosis + Arcana + Aptitude).
  3. Optional: Increase your available Reach by either reducing your Die Pool by 3, or by spending an additional Mana.
  4. Optional: If you have available Reach, you may spend it in the following ways:
    1. 1 Reach: Increase Potency by 1.
    1. 1 Reach: Increase Targets by 1.
    1. X reach: Any additional effect requiring Reach for the listed Spell you are casting.
  5. Roll Die, determine outcome:
    1. Dramatic Failure: Paradox roll is made to determine effect of failed spell.
    1. Failure: Spell does not activate.
    1. Success: Spell activates and must be resisted as normal.
    1. Exceptional Success: Spell activates and must be completely resisted, or the resistance is ignored for determining effects.

As you can see, this system should be much easier for determining what happens when a Spell is cast, without requiring large sections of text in order to understand the effect. For those Mages who still want to buff other players, your abilities have been largely unchanged. For individuals who want to attack others with spells, this methodology should prove much quicker for resolving your casting attempts.

Don’t Stress About Finesse

During Season 2 of DFWLARP, one of the key things we focused on was attempting to simplify die pools that were used in Skill based checks. Towards that end, all die pools were brought to a single formula of <Attribute> + <Skill> + <Bonus> – <Penalty>. For the most part this change was well received, and made it very easy for players to know what traits should be put together in order to create a Die Pool. One of the unfortunate side effects of this change, however, was that it effectively made purchasing any Finesse based Attributes (Wits, Dexterity, Manipulation) seemed somewhat redundant, as there was no real use for them. At that point in time, I responded to the Finesse Attributes limited value by tying Downtimes into those Attributes. But since we no longer will have Downtime limits any longer (go read http://dfwlarp.com/st-notes/undeath-and-taxes/ if you don’t know what I am referring to), there’s really no reason to continue using the Finesse Attributes any longer.

With this in mind, we’ll no longer be tracking the Finesse Attributes on characters. Now, this will impact certain Merits (those that specifically allow a Finesse Attribute to be substituted for a Power attribute), and we’ll need to adjust character creation rules to reduce the number of Attribute points available when a new character is being created. By taking these actions though, the initial character creation process and the Skill die pools assembly should be an easier effort going forward for both new and existing players.

Welcome to full Power (Attributes) for everything, let me know if you have any questions on how this will work!

Time for some Short Shots

As part of my continuing efforts to  get back into the feel of running in person games, I’m going to be holding a series of “short shot” tabletop role playing games. By “short shot”, I mean that the games will generally only be planned out for a few months to get a feel for any interest in the game. If there is some sort of interest, we will continue running the game longer, otherwise I will simply move on to another tabletop game and continue to make these games available.

If you are someone you know would be interested in a much smaller role playing experience, these games could be a great way to get your feet wet with smaller groups and generally simpler mechanics. Currently, I’m planning to run these games on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month. If there’s some larger demand for a different day of the week, I do have some flexibility in this matter.

In addition to the fun camaraderie and my smiling demeanor, players who participate in these “short shots” can earn 5 experience points per month for their character in DFWLarp, which is not part of the monthly total. While you are welcome to attend both monthly sessions, the 5-experience point limit only requires a single monthly game.

These games will be first come, first serve, with limits on the total number of players that can be included in any of these sessions. So, if you are interested, contact Debi using one or more of the many social avenues she has available to be reached by. Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Your Character Needs More Social

With the start of the newest Season of DFWLARP, one of the things I wanted to focus on was to increase our online social connections. I believe that, by doing this, we can help increase interest and activity between games, and potentially draw in more players.

As you have probably seen, Debi has been working diligently to upgrade our forum site and establish connectivity between that site and many of the more commonly used social media sites. As part of this effort, we will be awarding bonus points for our newest DFWLARP season based on your interactions with the forum site.

Many of you have already previously signed onto the forums (http://dfwlarp.com/forum/). However, with the recent changes to the site, we are asking all players to fill in the new additional information fields related to your persona. This will help new players know who the individuals are behind the characters.

In order to update your profile, go to the Profile Page (http://dfwlarp.com/forum/ucp.php?i=ucp_profile&mode=profile_info). From there, you will see all the additional fields that have been added into the site. Of particular note, we have added the Player Name field, and the Pronoun fields. We’d like for everyone to take advantage of these fields, in order to help acclimate the people using the site with the individuals they are interacting with. In addition, you will also find references to some of the more common social sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). Adding these fields will allow people to find and connect with you outside of the DFWLARP site. Once you have added the additional information, be sure to click the “Submit” button.

Completion of this profile section will award your character 10 experience points, which are not part of the standard monthly limit.

Additionally, we would like everyone to take pictures of yourself in costume (current or previous), and post them on your Instagram account (must be a public account to show up in the feed) with the hashtag #DFWLarp. This will allow our “People of DFWLarp” page (http://dfwlarp.com/people-of-dfwlarp/) to locate those pictures online, and add that to the page. Each unique picture posted to your account will award your character 2 experience points (up to a maximum of 10), which are not part of the standard monthly limit.

We’re very excited about the upcoming Season of DFWLarp, and we hope to bring in more features to help you get connected to both the game as well as the players in it. Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

(Un)Death and Taxes

The more I have been running these games, the more I realize that game taxes are just not a good thing. They add more admin work for me, they force players to spend experience just to overcome them, and they don’t add anything to the feel or flow of the story. Experience point gain is an excellent limiter of activity. No matter how awesome or invested you are in these games, you will eventually reach the “10 XP Cap” point. From there, your amount of effort doesn’t allow you to get any further ahead, it simply places you at the top of the pack for available experience to spend. With this in mind, we’re going to be getting rid of some of the more annoying game taxes we currently have. By doing this, I hope this encourages players who didn’t spend all of their XP each month to feel like they can still utilize their points in order to build the kind of character they want to play.

  • Downtime – Don’t panic, I’m not saying that you can’t do downtime between games. You absolutely still can do it, and you will still receive experience points for doing so. What I am saying is that there will be no more limits on the number of actions you can take between games. Want to go from Brawl 1 to Brawl 5 and you have the XP available? You go, Glen Coco! Want to send me a novel with all of your research efforts that you make between games. Have at thee! Want to perform massive sways of the mortal influences between games? Nobody’s stopping you! By removing the downtime limit, I’m really hoping to encourage players to make some effort into the downtime system. No matter how much or how little you turn in, you will still receive the same amount of experience, meaning you can always find something to do from month to month.
  • Feeding – Look, I understand. Fuel is a thing for some character builds. But, having a requirement that players had to invest downtimes into recovering that fuel just so they could play with their build? I’m not a fan. So, the system will be much simpler. At the start of the game, your character will receive 5 + Source Fuel (maximum of 10). If you still need more than that, you can tell me at the start of game, and you will earn an additional 5 + Source Fuel. That should be more than enough for all but the most ridiculous of character concepts. And, if you are building a character that needs more than 20 Fuel per game, we should probably talk about what you are doing at game.
  • Buffing – No more buffing at the start of the game to last all night. Buffs last for a scene, and are then spent. Since Buffing will invariably use up Fuel, you’ll have to make a decision on how many times you want to make that investment, especially for other players. This will encourage multiple players to learn buffing, in order to provide redundancy as some characters use up all their resources.
  • Shared Merits – As before, 1 player must invest their experience into gaining any shared merit. However, they can choose to make those Merit(s) available to as many people as they wish. Have a house party within the Library of your Safe House, that’s fine with me. Anything that encourages characters to interact with one another is a good thing.

Hopefully, with the removal of some of the game taxes that exist, we can streamline the experience for players, and get everyone equally invested into playing!

Show Changelings Some Love (Or Else)

Ah, Changelings. Such a thematically cool genre, full of interesting concepts and themes. Body modification, physical and mental assault, kidnapping, horror within beauty; all of these themes and more are part of the larger world of Changeling. Sadly, Changeling suffers from being one of the least well-designed genres in the game. Whatever goal or idea you would want to accomplish for your character, there’s always another genre that does what they do better. In a world where you were only playing Changeling, these limitations might not be so obvious; but in a game that focuses on freedom of player choice, the limitations of this group quickly become obvious. They are a far cry from the combat prowess of some of the higher tier groups, they lack the buffing capabilities and flexibility of other support genres, and even fail to promote the social capabilities available to certain genres. Because of this, Changeling becomes one of the least selected genres in our game, which continues to dissuade other players from considering the genre.

In my mind, I believe that Changelings should be the pinnacle of Condition delivery, since emotions are so intrinsically tied into the genre. Given this, I’ll be adding a new ability that will allow all Changelings to natively inflict Conditions onto individuals. This power will be available to all Changeling without the expenditure of experience. I’m listing the power below, but it will also be referenced in the Changeling Rules forums, to help make it easier for players to locate.

Exploit the Heart

With a few choice words and glances, the Changeling undermines the emotional stability of their target. The individual soon finds themselves lost in their emotions, unable to realize what was done to them.

Cost: None

Dice Pool: Wyrd + Presence + <Intimidation, Persuasion, or Subterfuge>

Action: Contested

Roll Results:

Success: The target is inflicted with a Condition based on the Seeming of the Changeling (see below). This Condition lasts until the target is no longer in sight range of the Changeling. If the target already is suffering from the Condition that would be applied, the Condition is not applied. In addition, the target receives a -2 Penalty on any roll to resist a Contract placed on them by the Changeling. This additional effect ends at dawn.

Exceptional Success: As the Success result, but the -2 Penalty lasts for a month instead.

Failure: The target is not affected by this ability.

Dramatic Failure: In addition to not being affected by the Changeling, the target can no longer have this ability used on them for the remainder of the day. Additionally, the target generally becomes hostile towards the Changeling.

Beast: Changelings of the Beast Seeming inflict the Berserk Condition.

Darkling: Changelings of the Darkling Seeming inflict the Frightened Condition.

Elemental: Changelings of the Elemental Seeming inflict the Confused Condition.

Fairest: Changelings of the Fairest Seeming inflict the Swooned Condition.

Ogre: Changelings of the Ogre Seeming inflict the Cowed Condition.

Wizened: Changelings of the Wizened Seeming inflict the Lethargic Condition.

Season 2 is Dead, Long Live Season 3

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who was involved in the game for DFWLARP Season 2. This was easily the shortest Season I’ve ever run, barely getting past 2 years. Obviously, the impact of the pandemic on our ability to maintain the game environment was large portion of that. Fortunately, with the ending of Season 2, we can now begin focusing in on some of the hits and misses of that Season and bring some more changes for streamlining the game into Season 3. Here are my thoughts on things I discovered from the activities in Season 2.

  • Influences – Sadly, the Influences system (my answer to Social PvP) never really materialized during the game. While a few people were able to use Influences in order to resolve some plot threads, they mostly sat around underutilized. Worse still, because the system was effectively designed for people to steal Influences from each other, the game quickly devolved into a Block/Hide standoff, until the Influences were finally all horded together into the hands of a privileged few. Sure, it’s a great representation of capitalism, but not exactly the kind of mechanic that goes a long way towards fostering a healthy play environment.
  • Downtimes – Even with the introduction of the MultiTask Merit, there were effectively two types of players in the game: Players who would send me volumes of text regarding their downtimes, and players who rarely if ever did downtimes. I’ve come to the realization that Downtimes is just another limit added to the game with very little benefit. Since experience points ultimately limits character growth, there’s very little reason to make it even harder for players to add dots to their characters.
  • Feeding and Burn – So, the idea behind Burn was to ensure that people with more Supernatural Trait struggled harder to get to Fuel. While that may be clever in theory, in principle, players were just incentivized to use as little fuel as possible, meaning they were less involved in game. Feeding should be a straightforward process, since the majority of players aren’t even using up all their Fuel, and those that are were invariably combat centric characters who were trying to maintain multiple powers and healing.
  • Custom Powers – Here’s the truth of it: For all the custom powers that I saw last Season, almost all of them were designed to add more numbers into die rolls, instead of adding more thematic elements into the game. For the time being, I’m putting Custom Powers on hold, while we try to find a way to make what players can already get to worth having.
  • Die Pool Challenges – Super happy with how this worked out. The simplification and streamlining of die challenges ended the constant book lookup in order to find out how well players could do what they wanted to do. Additionally, it meant that every player had a chance against every other player and npc. While you can make a valid argument that some genres do not keep up as well as others, I don’t think anyone would argue that the system wasn’t vastly easier to explain to players how to work.
  • Morality – I didn’t miss it once, and I don’t think anyone else did either. People were as “good” or “evil” as they chose to be, and the consequences for their actions were enforced by the players and secondarily through npc reactions. This is how I always would have hoped the matter would be resolved. Yes, it does make some abilities and systems obsolete, but that’s putting fewer rules between the player and the game, something I’m always in favor of.
  • Spell Casting – It’s good, but it needs to be better. Spells should feel mechanically like other Powers, and should take the same amount of effort to get going. So, that’s my goal for this Season.

Overall, I’m very happy with how everything turned out; and I hope you all enjoyed yourself. For those of you who are new to the game, I hope that this Season proves to be the best one yet; and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there.

Attention Season 2 Newbies!

You get to start your game with book +40! Yes, I said 40!

Isn’t that exciting? We are trying to keep the balance, so you’ll also get the opportunity to earn more XP between games until you catch up to the original players.

We are truly excited to get some new people into the game!