Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thoughts on Chromatic

Picture may have been selected for the purpose of irony.

What's Chromatic, you ask? Why, it's d20 revision (in the same vein as my own d20 Rethought project) whose creator goes by the name of Consonant Dude. The project is currently on hiatus/in development limbo to give the creator a chance to figure out whether he wants to keep working on it; but even if he decides to toss the whole thing in the dumpster, at least this gives me a chance to compare and contrast the decisions we've made while seeking to improve the same underlying system.

I should probably start by noting how the two of us are, as near as I can figure, coming from very different places. While it'd be an oversimplification to just say that he's "old school" and I'm not, Consonant Dude's work is influenced by experiences with early D&D rulesets he played games with as a kid in the 1970s. Meanwhile, I first started playing D&D when 3.5 was already looming on the horizon. I've never had to compute a T.H.A.C.0 value, and first edition AD&D was already ancient history before I ever set foot (or diapered derriere) on the mortal plane. In other words, I suspect that there are going to be some points where I'm just not going to be able to follow his thinking and explanations all the way. But we'll see. Going from post to post:

The idea of having bonuses be calculated as set progression+ability modifier is interesting, even if in practice it's just replacing a simple act of addition with a chart- I assume the formula will also be provided, to reduce the need for lookups. There are some interesting opportunities for implementation here, allowing for instantly graspable character optimization options that will likely make more sense to a beginner. I find myself wondering if "natural" couldn't be used to pave a middle ground between untrained and familiar, rather than just being one step above the former.

Moving into a more stream of consciousness format:
  • "I want to tie levels directly to how potent a character is." I understand what you're saying about NPC classes, but this strikes me as largely irrelevant- I've yet to see the idea of weaker NPC classes confuse anyone or impede gameplay. On the other hand, this might be overanalyzing but I'm interested in how you define "potency".
  • Monster classes sound like a fine way to implement enemy combat roles, in fact I'd say that as a design element the class fits this niche more comfortably than it does with PC character creation.
  • Competence modifiers sound more like competence levels or ranks to me. Though I suppose you're probably trying to say that your competence modifier depends on your level and your competence "rank" or whatever.
  • Do you intend to have any hard mechanical bonus for a crit? Can skills roll crits in your system?
  • Why do effect rolls have a name? Can something in this system alter effect rolls?
  • APs could be a recharging resource pool used to pay for slots and make it possible to roll a crit.
  • I suggest having high-ranking slots be per-day, mid-rank be per-encounter and low-rank be at will. Alternately, an at-will power could cost more slots.
  • With regards to leveling down: I'm including a mechanic that allows people to "trade out" prior selections as they make new ones, on a 1:1 ratio. When you get a bonus feat, you may get an extra bonus feat by dropping one of your old bonus feats. Naturally, this may invalidate character options if you lose a prerequisite.
On the whole, it seems like Chromatic is shaping up to be a very basic, beginner-level system. What I'd really like to know is how classes will work

Oh, and to give some info on how d20 Rethought compares: Alot of basic priorities are the same, such as simplifying the math of min-maxing. There are some similarities in terms of progressions too; an untrained check uses your level and your ability modifier, with the only other possible mods being circumstance bonuses/penalties and the action bonus.


Anonymous said...

Hello! :)

Isn't that weird... I came to your blog a few days ago and couldn't even find new entries for d20 Rethought and now, all of a sudden they are there, along with comments on my own project. These are much appreciated and deserve a detailed response. I just read all of that and it's a lot to digest. I'll begin in a few minutes!

Anonymous said...

Ok, my background as a gamer:

I must admit those comments were very interesting. We don't reflect much on former years and how different experiences shape our thinking.

I was always aware that I drew from almost 30 years of experience and I made that clear but to *read it from someone else* was... weird. In a good way.

I try to keep an open mind and everything but I wonder sometimes if all those years are an advantage, a hindrance, or both.

For instance, it's impossible to deny that many of the concepts found in modern games (including 4e) were seen as really, REALLY bad in my gaming environment in the 80s. Bad as in, "this is absolutely not the right way to play".

So I have to say thank you. Because I have to say I do take one thing for granted: that everybody started in the late 70s/early 80s and it's not the case at all. I must say d20 Rethought is my favorite d20 project outside of mine and I think it's highly interesting that it's designed by someone with a fresh view and yet, there are still concerns we both share.

I hope you'll forgive this post if it appears self-indulgent but it's not like I have the opportunity every day to comment on someone commenting about me :)

I value your input greatly and I can't wait to read more about your game. The difference between your blog and mine is I can see you have a load of other projects on your plate. I really hope d20 Rethought will come out on top.

I'll address the points about Chromatic in my next response.

Anonymous said...

On character potency being ties to levels:

I should first say that I have an obsession. I believe numbers and concepts (such as those found on a character sheet) should be as few as possible and as relevant as possible.

For instance, in standard d20, ability scores are... lame, IMO. Ability scores were pretty much an artifact of previous D&D iterations that the designers didn't bother to kill. The real meat of character abilities is not the score (for instance, 13) but the modifier (for instance +2). They made a semblance of effort to integrate them to the rest of the system by tying them to feats (odd numbers as requirement for some feats).

Which brings me to levels. Levels are pretty much... well, a way to "level up". I'd like them to be more of a gauge on potency. It's a bit like script immunity, if you will.

It's also a tool so that a unified progression by level can be designed. One progression table to rule them all :) Still, I think you have a point when you say this may not be as necessary as I stressed. I guess this is just an attempt (amongst many) where I want the level number to mean something clear and irrevocable.

And you are totally right about monsters and classes: It's probably more pertinent and elegant as a solution for them than for main characters (PCs).

Competence modifiers are "to hit modifiers", but reworked to handle not only combat but other tests, such as sneaking past guards and the like. These tracks, like a BAB, are indeed tied to level and they indeed act as skill ranks in 3.x

Crits: Oh dear yes! The plan is that, whenever you roll a critical, the game goes a little bit in slow motion. This probably mean a chart on a GM screen, with some extra details and some pretty heavy consequences. I believe this part of the design to be the easiest and am keeping it for near the end. Right now, it is sketchy but if I can accomplish the goals of the basic system (smooth flow, quick play) I feel I can go a little wild with crits.

Effect rolls: Interesting question. I think my intent is to give them their own name for clarity. A test is a test and requires rolling a d20 (do I hit the orc with my sword?). But the scope of what you actually accomplish is accomplished by an effect roll (how much damage do I dish out?). Yes, things will affect effect rolls. By keeping concepts separate and naming them, I allow myself some design room. What can I say, like WotC, I love keywords :)

Regarding APs: Interesting idea! :)
APs could also increase an effect (for instance augmenting a fireball by 2 dice ir the like)

Slots: I'm all for at-will and per encounter. But per-day? I don't like it. Instead, possible slots/powers:

1) At-will
2) Per encounter

and possibly:
Per session or per act
per story arc
per chronicle

I realize I'm either saying too much or not enough here. I'll have more on this soon. But the important bit is this:

powers or slots will be related to the metagame concerns. There is no "per day" because it is a logical unit of time. Rather, my slots/powers are related to game play and/or game balance.

Anonymous said...

I'm totally unsure about levelling down. I'd be interested to hear your trade out mechanic, though. Is it similar to "retraining" in 4e?

Overall, it is possible that Chromatic main turn like a basic game. But my real hope is to offer a game that is as versatile as 4th edition. Chromatic owes its existence in part to WotC's announcement of 4e and the subsequent rumors about it.

The aim is mostly to facilitate play and campaign management while having as many, if not more options, than 3.x. I don't use published stuff and I hate having to create characters and monsters to populate my campaigns, and hate long, agonizing sessions spent on combat. I want combats. Lots of them sometimes. But I want everything to flow a bit more.

On d20 Rethought: Is there a way to categorize your entries on blogspot? By simply pressing "Chromatic" on my blog, all entries related to it appear. I hate that I missed some entries. I'm going to comb your blog right now and start over :)

Anonymous said...

Ok, I see!

Blogspot uses labels. The reason I did not see you your latest d20 Rethought entries is because since April, you are not labeling them as such! ;)

I'll start my reading. I'll post an entry (possibly tomorrow, if not, Tuesday) on my own blog about d20 Rethought.

Take care!

Dagda (Brooks Harrel) said...

Cripes, this is gonna be a busy morning. Might was well dive in.

-I'd call your "obsession" with that particular form of simplicity a strong personal preference, no more.

-With regards to ability scores: Heh. I'm actually having ability scores work that way- start at zero, the score is also the modifier.

-I think you missed one of my points: Define "potency", in the context that "characters get more potent as they level up". Are their fireballs hotter, their arrows more accurate and their sword swings more forceful? That's been the normal answer, and it's one of the things d20 Rethought tries to subvert. But I haven't talked much about that.

-Crits: I'm doing something similar with crits, except that I pare down the abstraction a little as well. Against an opponent who's winded and vulnerable, a crit gives you a chance for a called shot.

-I understand and agree with your thoughts on the topic of per-day abilities.

-I've heard 4e has something similar in terms of retraining, but I haven't actually checked it out enough to tell. 4e and d20 Rethought, from what I've seen, do alot of things in common (which is a little frustrating because more than a few of those were original conclusions for me) but some big differences in our approaches remain.

-With regards to providing options: That you will really have to explain in more detail. From what you've said so far, you could be talking about all sorts of things- a wide array of abilities that a single character has available to them in combat, or the amount of options to sift through during character creation.

Anonymous said...

Yes, my obsession with number stems definitly from personal preferences, I'll gladly accept that.

With regards to offering more options and tying potency to levels, I'd have to say that's probably what I have to outline in blog entries next.

I've pretty much determined that I like 4e but that it's probably not a game I would enjoy DMing on a regular basis.

Now, WotC have postponed the release of the GSL (yet again) by another week. At which point I'll check my options and look into my options with Chromatic. If/how it can be done with the OGL, if it is worth it, etc...

Which brings another question: have you thought about what you'll do with d20 Rethought once it's done? Are you releasing/selling it under the OGL? Not releasing it at all?

I'd say that it's a vital issue for my own project. I need to see what my options are.

Dagda (Brooks Harrel) said...

I'm going to get this system working and polished, then chat some on rpg.net and figure out what my options are. If nothing else, I can simply distribute it for free as a method of getting my name out there for the future.