Wednesday, November 26, 2008

d20 Rethought: Hits and the Status Track

In d20 Rethought, hits represent different conditions that have a negative effect on a character's performance. These conditions can be due to poison, fatigue, physical injury, mental trauma or some other cause. There are many different kinds of hits, with different nasty side effects and criteria for removing them; what they have in common is that every single hit a character currently has moves them down a step on the status track.

In and of itself, the status track is an unabashed rip-off of the SWRPG Saga Edition's condition track- an escalating series of penalties. You from being fine to receiving a -1 penalty on all checks, then -2, -3, -5, -10 and finally unconsciousness. Six strikes and you're out.

Hit the jump for an outline of some specific hits and what this means for the system as a whole.

Lethal Hit: You receive a lethal hit each time you lose any amount of wound points. Whenever you take a physically strenuous action, you take damage equal to the number of lethal hits you have. Lethal hits do not go away; instead, they must be treated in order to be downgraded to subdual hits.
Subdual Hits: When you lose wound points due to subdual damage, you receive a subdual hit instead of a lethal one. Subdual hits have no special drawbacks; you can heal one per day with 6 hours of rest and two per day with constant rest. Proper medical attention doubles the payoff.
Shock Hit: Mental equivalent of a lethal hit. (You receive a shock hit each time you lose any amount of trauma points. Whenever you take a mentally strenuous action, you take mental damage equal to the number of shock hits you have. Shock hits do not go away; instead, they must be treated in order to be downgraded to stress hits.)
Stress Hits: Mental equivalent of a subdual hit. (When you lose trauma points due to stress damage, you receive a stress hit instead of a lethal one. Stress hits have no special drawbacks; you can heal one per day with 6 hours of rest and two per day with constant rest. Proper therapy doubles the payoff.)
Stun Hits: Stun hits last until the end of an encounter and have no special drawbacks.

All this has several effects on how d20 Rethought plays. The single most significant aspect is that when a PC is taken down, it will usually be due to having accumulated six hits on the Status Track and fallen unconscious. Dying by running out of wound points becomes a much more unlikely scenario, akin to death by massive damage in 3.X. Players now have a motive to avoid any sort of notable injury or mental trauma, even if they have plenty of wound/trauma points remaining. This system also makes it much more feasible to swap out mental and/or physical damage tracking in favor of damage saves, depending on the focus of the game. Picture it- an investigative horror game, with occasional violent conflicts covered only briefly with the focus instead being on keeping your trauma points high lest you start to crack under the pressure. With one quick variant d20 Rethought can handle this just as well as an action-oriented gunfighting game.

Next time, I'll likely be doing a review of all that's been posted regarding d20 Rethought's combat, and how it compares and contrasts to d20 3.X.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Maelstrom: Preface

Maelstrom is a new setting I'm brainstorming, one that started as a series of suggestions for Mr. Skrittiblak's Elysium Nebula campaign. These suggestions were aimed at giving greater depth and originality to a setting that that on the surface is a space opera starring the cast of D&D. (My impressions is that about half the suggestions were of use to him; the background I had in mind only partly overlapped with the secrets of the background he'd already conceived.) Over the course of our discussions I realized that if you took this fledgling concept and stripped away most of the elements that were being taken from stock science fiction and fantasy, the background meant to justify the presence of those elements could instead lead me to something intriguingly original.

Of course, this also makes the resulting concept really hard to summarize. I have only myself to blame.

The best way I can put it is this: You know how Firefly was the wild west in space? Maelstrom's "____ in space" is the world of the 19th century as depicted in fiction. And not just modern works, but a range of fiction that extends past pulp magazines to include the famous authors of the time, such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne. Picture a vast and diverse realm- you have hard-bitten settlers eking out a living on the frontier, ambitious scientists racing towards new discoveries (that could lead to triumph a la Tesla or tragedy a la Jekyll and Frankenstein), intrepid explorers who venture deep into unknown territory, and strange natives of unknown civilizations whose leaders wield mysterious powers. The "civilized world" has its intellectuals and industry as well as its fair share of armed conflicts and bogeymen in the shadows. Mysterious foreign empires are known through countless legends and a handful of firsthand accounts.

Take that all, and spread it out not between continents but between large numbers of moons surrounding four gas giants which all follow the same orbital path around their star. In this solar system the would-be vacuum of space is instead filled with Aethereal mists and populated by an ecosystem of strange and varied creatures. Space fills the roles of both the open frontier and the high seas, as towering starships sail past herdsmen on crystal-winged mounts.

I don't see Maelstrom as resembling the 19th century in any aesthetic way- the 'space cowboys', for example, wear goggles and breath masks while having no need for wide-brimmed hats. I'm just using the time period as a guideline for creating a believable world of mystery and adventure; a place where society is close enough to our own to be sympathetic and understandable, without having advanced enough for you to know whether the note on the map saying "here there be dragons" is true.

Make sense?

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