Sunday, May 31, 2009

Avatar RPG: Bending Styles

Here you are, as promised: a full breakdown of the different bending feats available, along with their prequisite skills. Anything with "Style" in the name denotes a 3-feat chain.

-Core Style [Finesse]
-Polar Style [Athletics] (All manner of ice-related moves)
Shifting Moon Style [Dodge] (Lots to do with unbalancing others and pushing them around. Water whip, octopus style, and so on.)
-Foggy Swamp Bending [Stance] (Largely plant manipulation)
-Healing [minor advantage, Awareness]

-Core Style [Stance]
-Dai Li Style [Finesse] (Rock gloves and other moves the Dai Li seemed to specialize in)
-Burrowing Badgermole Style [Sense] (Burrowing, blindsight, and several other techniques Toph used much more than other people.)
-Metalbending [major advantage, Awareness]

-Core Style [Hardiness]
-Blue Fire Style [minor advantage, Acrobatics] (This one might be split, making Blue Fire *just* an advantage and having Azula's array of fairly unique moves just another feat chain)
-Rage Style [Initiative] (Lots of offensive firebending moves, as seen with most fire nation mooks and Zuko in seasons 1 and 2.)
Lightning Bending [Discipline]
-Dancing Dragon Style [Athletics] (A more balanced array of techniques, including some decent defensive maneuvers.)

-Core Style [Dodge]
-Soaring Sky Bison Style [Acrobatics] (mobility-focused moves, including the skills needed to use a glider)
-Hurricane Style [Discipline] (the sort of offensive moves Aang avoided)

Let me know what you think!

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Avatar RPG: Bending and Character Creation

I mentioned in my initial post on this project that one priority here was a system that could easily accommodate homebrew bending styles. And obviously, representing different bending styles in general is going to be important here. You don't want all waterbenders to play the same, especially when one of avatar's strongest themes is the intertwining relationship between cultures and bending styles.

So here's how this Avatar RPG will represent bending styles: Three-feat chains. Taking yet another cue from my d20 Rethought project, bending styles will be represented by collections of feats that in turn each grant several bending techniques. Each style of bending will have a "core" 3-feat chain dealing with the simplest (though not always easiest) applications of a technique. And each bending style will have an associated skill as a prerequisite. For example, Earthbending Basics will require 2 ranks in Stance, Earthbending Expertise will require 3 ranks in Stance plus the character being at least level 4, and Earthbending Mastery will require the character having 4 ranks in Stance plus being at least level 7 (out of theoretical 'maximums' of 5 skill ranks and 10 levels).

As a side-note, I should credit Spycraft with the idea of giving feat chains a naming chain whose alphabetic order matches their heirarchy- all 3-feat chains will use the Basic-Expertise-Mastery naming method. There will also be some specialized applications of bending that require only a single feat (such as Lightning Bending for firebenders), as well as ones that also require a Major or Minor advantage just to take the feat (for bending uses that are considered rare talents, such as using waterbending to heal or wielding blue fire.

Last but not least, I plan to set a single feat aside specifically for making your own signature move, as an "in-between" for those who just want to be able to do something special on a reliable basis. Examples of a special move include Hugh's plant constructs and Iroh's lightning redirection.

To return to the original topic: this setup should make it very simple to write up balanced rules for whatever custom bending ideas you have in mind. An airbender who manipulates chakrams like guided missiles? A waterbender who learned a different style based around the concept of wearing down enemies through a sustained application of force? Go for it!

For the next post, I'll actually have a rough draft of the full list of the different bending styles the game will offer.

Art Credits: Image by z00tz00t.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Kingslayers: The Protagonists

Ta-daa! Here's the final results of the Kingslayers character creation thread. Like most of their defining aspects, the portraits were selected from a set of options presented for each character. On the whole, it seems like people's votes gave us a team of seasoned experts with a rather serious bent, rather than, say, a ragtag bunch of misfits. Which is not to say that the game won't have its humorous moments- I suspect that at least one member of the group will turn out to be quite a deadpan snarker. Still, we'll have to see how things go from here. . .assuming, of course, that I can be remotely on-task about this. I'm not going to lie, these personal storytelling projects are always some of the hardest things for me to stay committed to. Still, I'll keep you posted.

Art Credits: From left to right, Honesty Algebra, Makani, Eiji Kaneda, and unknown.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kinglsayers: Character Archetypes

This was a fun little exercise, I have to say. Kinslayers' character creation process was meant to take the same flexible approach as the rest of the game: I suggest options for how to succeed, and the audience votes and/or suggests alternatives. In this case, I started with the 4 "roles" the 4 party members would be serving in, and then supplied a set of options for the forms that role could take.

The fun bit was that these roles- muscle, guide, investigator and negotiator- were decided on based on the needs of this particular plot, rather than the gameplay system or the genre. It gave me a chance to approach things from a different direction than having a tank, healer, artillery, and so on; an interesting first step in coming up with the characters for the game.

Muscle: While most of the party will presumably be decent in a fight, this will be the real go-to character when things get violent.

A: Killing Machine. Forget codes, forget honor. . .it'd be a stretch to even call this character a warrior. They've always been a prodigy at using violence to end the lives of others, simple as that.
B: Martial Artist. The character's dedication to mastering the arts of physical combat is almost an end in and of itself. They might be a monk, or just a disciplined swordsman with a spiritual side.
C: Tactician. This character's excellent situational awareness and decision-making skills have helped them lead many an outmatched group to victory.
D: Veteran Soldier. The character has held a variety of military occupations in his time. Surviving that kind of life requires a wide variety of skills that range far beyond just marching in proper formation and knowing how to hold a blade.

Investigator: Remember when I said the premise would be something like Sherlock Holmes pursuing Dracula? This fellow will be our closest thing to Sherlock Holmes.

A: Gumshoe. Classic Noir private detective. Will probably play the part to a shameless degree- trenchcoat, fedora, cigarette, the works.
B: Medium. A spiritualist with a limited array of inborn abilities, including the ability to "read" the memories of objects and perceive activity on the ethereal plane.
C: Profiler. An expert at reading people and predicting their behavior.
D: Scientist. Specializing in the realm of forensics, a realm of science that's achieved a moderate level of advancement in part thanks to divination magic; will probably be something of an artificer.

The party face, an expert at handling social obstacles.

A: Ambassador. The character's a veteran political mover and shaker, an expert at negotiating bureaucracies who always has a few strings he can pull.
B: Psychic. As telepaths go, his raw power is less than average, but his skill in wielding it makes him excellent at subtly manipulating people's minds.
C: Underworld Agent. An expert in working with those on the wrong side of the law, and perhaps in using various less-than-legal tactics himself.
D: Spy. An honest-to-goodness espionage operative, skilled in tradecraft and the art of deception.

Guide: The party will be visiting plenty of strange and exotic locales over the course of our story. They'll need someone to lead the way.

A: Adventurer. One of those crazy folks who makes a career out of going into very dangerous places and coming back with lots of loot.
B: Cosmopolitan. A well-traveled soul with plenty of experience when it comes to dealing with foreign cultures.
C: Tracker. An expert huntsman, whether his prey's an escaped fugitive or a dire wolf.
D: Savage. Born and raised by an "uncivilized" people, completely at home in the wild.

Tune in next time to see the characters /tg/ settled on!

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This one of those ideas that I've been sitting on for a while now. I'd like to try something along the lines of a certain innovative little story/game that transpired on 4chan's /tg/ sub-board back around the start of the year, called Ruby Quest. Like Ruby Quest, Kingslayers will be a game where a cast of player characters act according to the suggestion of the anonymous members of /tg/'s audience. But naturally, there'll be some wrinkles on the original formula. . .

Kingslayers will be set in D&D's Eberron campaign setting, with a core cast consisting of a 4-person adventuring party. The core plotline of the game will be one of mystery and investigation; Sherlock Holmes on the trail of Dracula as the villian pursues a dastardly plot taking him Around The World in Eighty Days.

The biggest difference between the format of this game and that of Ruby Quest is that I can't draw. At all. I'll be able to provide a variety of reference images, but for the most part we'll be dependent on my ability to set the scene via the written word, god help us all.

The other major difference will be that Kinglsayers is going to incorporate some significant game mechanics. Each of the 4 PCs will have a basic set of stats that read like the cliff notes of a D&D character, except that the numbers will instead be used in a die resolution system adapted from trigger discipline- so the dice will dictate the degree of the character's success as well as the factors that led to said success. The goal here is to keep things interesting. . .

More information to come soon.

Art Credits: Unknown, sadly.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Trigger Discipline: Brainstorming Update

This latest bit of work I've been doing on Trigger Discipline has been putting me in mind of my thoughts on GNS theory. My argument in the past has been that striving to have a game whose simulationist, gamist and narrativist aspects are all not only high quality but work in harmony with one another will ultimately lead to a noticeably better product.

I still believe that. It's just that. . .well, I never said that actually pulling it off would be easy. The more values you attempt to keep in mind, the bigger the chance that one of them will clash with whatever you're attempting. It's very important that Trigger Discipline's rules encourage funny, over-the-top roleplaying and player narration rather than interfering with it, but I'd really like there to be a decent metagame strategy to the whole thing as well.

Right now, I'm toying with a couple different ideas. . .

First off is a gameplay change that I've been hoping do do for a while now: players have a set number of dice each turn and can designate each one as being a Trait, GAR or Power die. You can have all your dice be rolled for GAR, since as long as you roll more GAR successes than your opponent you'll win the round; but it'll be the smallest possible victory, and the odds of actually rolling a GAR success on each die are low enough that bad luck will always be a danger. When dueling against another PC-level opponent, this mechanic would make for a great deal of he-knows-I-know-he-knows mind games (against either the GM or another player); to avoid an rpg where the GM is constantly playing this overclocked version of rock-paper-scissors against his players, I think it'd be wiser to have most encounters dollow some manner of "preprogrammed" die-allocation method that the players are aware of. That way they're only strategizing against the dice, with duels against major characters being the exciting wild-card encounters.

Another concept I'd like to implement is that of conflict escalation. The idea here is that as a given encounter progresses, greater degrees of success and failure become possible for both sides, thanks in part to stronger techniques becoming available.

To implement these two ideas, I'd like to alter the implications of each degree of end-of-round success. (Note to self: come up with a different term for individual die successes, to avoid confusion.) A single success (i.e. you rolled 1 or more successes with one die type) increases the roller's die pool by one for the rest of the encounter. A double success nets (or costs) your team a victory point (the new term for the thing you have to amass a given amount of to beat the encounter). A triple success nets you a point of fanbase or, when your enemy rolls it, costs you a point of plot armor (which I still might be folding into fanbase's functionality).

The issue with all this is that it might make the current traits system rather awkward and superfluous. It'll require some testing to know for sure. Right now the idea of escalation granting access to more powerful "techniques"- which I can represent by banning a trait until the die pool's size equals that of that trait's score- has minimal bearing on the margin of success. I don't want to shift things around too much, but I *would* like to fix that.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

10 Original Gothic Horror Monsters

To quote wikipedia:
Prominent features of Gothic fiction include terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, doubles, madness, secrets, and hereditary curses.

The stock characters of Gothic fiction include tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, femmes fatales, madwomen, magicians, vampires, werewolves, monsters, demons, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, the Wandering Jew, and the Devil himself.


There are cursed travelers who wander the countryside, trapped in the early morning twilight- never again will they see the sun rise. If you encounter such a traveler while making your own way in the early morning, their loneliness will drive them to accompany you- perhaps asking you to guide them or saying that they're headed to the same destination.

When the sun rises, the traveler will disappear- and so will you, if you walk or ride alongside them. Of course, you won't perceive this- instead, you'll wonder where your companion could have gotten to, and perhaps be surprised that the sun hasn't yet risen. . .


When the last female of a species in a given forest is killed and eaten by a predator, that predator is cursed. It does not sleep or age, and is compelled to stalk, kill and consume its own kind. Over time they inevitably become very, very good at this.

Animals can instinctively sense when a prey is sacred, and thus rarely bring such a curse upon themselves unless starving or otherwise deranged.

Humans are a different story.


They call it the confessor- a figure in inquisitor's robes, face concealed by a large hood. It can cloud a man's mind, induce him to admit his deepest, most shameful secrets and desires. It seeks those whose inner natures are the most foul and vile- and consumes them in a very bloody fashion. Only then does it throw back its hood, revealing the face of the man it has just slain- for its true mission, as a servant of the devil, is serve as a vessel for the evil within men and women so that it might be unleashed on unsuspecting friends and family.


Sometimes a body becomes a part of a household, literally. A corpse is concealed under the foundations as they're being laid, or behind freshly-laid section of brick, or a child goes exploring in the spaces between the walls only to be lost and never found. You'd be surprised how many castles have more than one.

These bodies do not rest easy. They can move throughout the walls and floor of a household, even when there shouldn't be nearly enough space to accommodate them. Keep a sharp ear out for the sounds of scratching movements, be they in the walls, floor or ceiling. And if you see a new opening in your house, stay well away. Doesn't matter if it's a missing brick in a wall, a broken section of floorboard, or an opening in the drywall as though some drunkard threw a punch- come too close and a cold dead hand will be waiting to seize you and drag you inside.

Of course, I should mention that they like to make these holes in places where they can't be seen- behind a mirror or painting that's hanging on the wall, or under the edges of carpets and beds. . .


If a woman is scorned so badly that she takes her own life, the result is a particularly malicious type of spirit- one that does not possess humans directly, but instead works through inanimate objects. A man in the presence of a fair maiden who takes hold of a knife or fireplace poker might abruptly change his demeanor and attack her in what can only be described as a jealous rage. These spirits focus on one such woman at a time, stalking them until the victim is finally dead. . .


There's a rare breed of revenant that arises under certain conditions. It's generally agreed that one of these conditions is that in life they committed murder, but no one's quite sure what other criteria must be met for them to rise again in this manner.

This type of revenant appears to be perfectly healthy and has a pulse, though those who play close attention may note that they do not breathe. The creature retains his intellect and memories, except that any motivations he may have held in life are replaced by the urge to do murder for murder's sake.

The creature has the ability to detach any part of their body at will, including their head; the section in question literally rots away, reverting to the dry and dessicated form it held in the grave. Despite its withered state, these sections are fully capable of movement and act autonomously as their owner wills.

The only part that cannot assume this detached state is the creature's torso- more specifically, its heart. This is the creature's weak point, and impaling it is the only way to stop this breed of revenant for good.


There's a certain set of words that, if said as one continuous sentence, will cause you to be struck dead on the spot. Your tormented spirit will wander the earth forevermore, speaking that same fateful phrase over and over. At first your words will be perceived as a distant muttering, but every time someone tries to listen the words will be louder and clearer to them. And once they've heard and comprehended the entirety of the cursed phrase, the urge to repeat it themselves will begin to grow. . .

So if you're alone one night and hear a distant voice, resist your curiosity at all costs. Each time that you fail to ignore the voice will only make the next time worse. . .


The devil has a favorite deal he makes with those willing to sell their soul for a shot at immortality. He grants them the power to strip the skin from a victim's face and wear it as though it were their own face. And he informs that that from now on they will age a year each day- but so long as they wear such a mask, it will age in their place.

Hardly ideal, but it's still a decent bargain- after all the devil's ownership of your soul only matters if you die.


There are things out there, formless shadows. Maybe they're evil spirits, maybe they're something else entirely. All I know is that they rely on mankind to give them form. When a storyteller (or perhaps a would-be prankster) dreams up some manner of nightmarish bogeyman, it listens to their thoughts and slowly takes the form of that very idea. By the next full moon, they've almost become real, and anyone can perceive them- but their form still has no substance, and will pass right through any would-be victim. . .except that of their creator. Once they slay him, they're free to murder and wreak bloody havoc in whatever manner their creator imagined them doing.

Or at least, that's what the case will be if they can manage to kill me.

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