[PTA] Yet another PTA resolution hack...

System: Primetime Adventures (www.dog-eared-designs.com)
Hack Type: Alternate Mechanics 

Posted to an rpg.net thread about a minimally impacting way of making conflicts seem a little more proactive and ability-oriented in Primetime Adventures, stealing mojo from Cold City and Sorcerer. http://forum.rpg.net/showpost.php?p=7723881&postcount=10 is the link - if I get generally positive feedback about it, I'll probably expand it and put a cleaner version of it with play examples here.

[Fate/PDQ] Because it had to happen sometime...

System: Fate/Spirit of the Century (www.faterpg.com) and Prose Descriptive Qualities (www.atomicsockmonkey.com)
Hack Type: Alternate Mechanics

So, here's a link to a post I made on rpg.net about a variant on Fate that takes some cues from Chad Underkoffler's PDQ system: http://forum.rpg.net/showpost.php?p=7417164&postcount=32

And here's a link to a Word document of the same hack: http://darkwood.wikidot.com/local--files/game-tools-and-hacks/PDQ%20Fate%20Merger.doc

That is all.

[PTA/PDQ] Primetime Descriptive Qualities

System: Primetime Adventures (www.dog-eared-designs.com) and Prose Descriptive Qualities (www.atomicsockmonkey.com)
Hack Type: Blasphemous

This hack is called PTDQ, Primetime Descriptive Qualities. It is a not-in-a-gay-sense love letter to Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue.

Assume everything about PTA and PDQ as written, except for the following:

Issues and Screen Presence -- Screen Presence translates to a number of points, like PDQ's Hero Points, that you get in a particular episode to help you resolve conflicts. Pick an Issue and chart out the season out as usual - minor episodes give you 1 HP, supporting episodes give you 3 HP, and your spotlight episode gets you 5 HP.

Traits -- You have 8 MOD points and one Weakness to distribute between traits, creating and rating Edges and Connections exactly like you would create Qualities in PDQ. You have to have at least one Edge and one Connection, and you can put your weakness in either category. If your Weakness is a Connection, that person is probably your nemesis, according to PTA rules. 

Depending on how many different types of action your show regularly features, you may want to adjust the starting MOD to 10, or cut it back down to 6. Also, if your Weakness is an "Edge", picking something that ties directly into your Issue is doubly cool, and gets you props from me.

Fan Mail Economy and Budget -- At the beginning of each episode, the Producer gets Budget equal to double the sum of each character's screen presence. Budget is used to create opposition for the Protagonists to face in conflicts; each point of Budget either assigns the opposition a permanent Upshift from Average for the purposes of rolling dice or additional Failure/Damage Ranks (free default is 1) that the opposition can ignore. Unlike normal PDQ, Failure/Damage Ranks never take away from the opposition's score - they're removed more like hit points.

So, for example, at the beginning of an episode, the Producer has 18 Budget. In the first scene, one of the Protagonists gets into a conflict, and the Producer spends 3 Budget - one to put the opposition at Good [+2], and two more to allow it to ignore 3 Damage or Failure; the fourth would spell defeat. The Budget is reduced to 15, and 3 points go into the Audience Pool.

The rest of the economy works essentially as in PTA. Fan Mail translates to additional Screen Presence in the hands of the players. You may need to adjust the Budget formula if the Protagonists start with 10 or more MOD for Traits.

Conflict Procedure -- Determine involvement and stakes, just like in PTA. Figure out what trait is going to be used in the conflict, and roll off with the Producer. Whoever wins inflicts Damage/Failure equal to the margin of success on the loser. If the loser is a Protagonist, the ranks are taken from Traits.

Narrate what happened according to your preferences, but the winner of the round has final say. If neither the opposition nor the protagonists have zeroed out, run another round until all but one person has or has given up. That person wins the stakes, and also final say over how the conflict turns out.

Protagonists regain 1d6 Damage or Failure ranks after a conflict. Unlike normal PDQ, there is no distinction between momentary or continuing danger. You can get another 1d6 back by framing a scene in your personal set. All Damage and Failure heals between episodes.

Using Screen Presence and Fan Mail -- You can spend a point of Screen Presence or Fan Mail to get an Upshift in a conflict roll and/or ignore a rank of Damage or Failure. There is no limit to the amount of points you can spend on a single roll.

Regaining Screen Presence -- You can regain Screen Presence in a number of ways. Any time your Weakness comes into play, you get a point back. Any time your Issue forces you to do something stupid or risky, you get a point back. Any time the Producer has to hose you to set up a scene or conflict, you get a point back.


There are a lot of different ways you can hack this to be even more like standard PDQ or PTA - I consider this to be "right in the middle" along that continuum. Enjoy.

[DitV] Powers and Spells

System: Dogs in the Vineyard (http://www.lumpley.com/games/dogs.html)
Hack Type: Additional Mechanics / Genre Hack (fantasy, supers, supernatural)

Vincent Baker posted some off-the-cuff magic rules to the Forge, in response to someone asking about using the system for a fantasy game. You can check those out here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=23654.msg232590#msg232590

I was pretty much floored by this post - the possibilities there burn my mind. So much so, in fact, that I'm writing this post to refine and expand on what he's done, by way of adoring thanks.

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[SotC] A Closer Look at Weapons

System: Spirit of the Century (www.evilhat.com/?spirit)
Hack Type: Genre (gritty), Revised Mechanics

So, some folks like a greater disparity between weapons and tools in a conflict other than a taggable aspect. I say okay, and make this:


More Detailed Weapons for SotC

Much of the benefit you get from weapons in a conflict is situational - you're in the right position, you're using the weapon in ideal circumstances, etc. Some of it is also inherent to the weapon - you have a .45 ACP, I have a .22, etc. The ideal is to be able to deal flexibly with both.

Hence, in this system, weapons are given a rating from 1-X (where X is probably 6 or so at most) that represents a maximum threshold for how useful they can be in a combat situation. This rating should be taken to represent the best possible circumstances in which to use the weapon on top of its raw power. When you use the weapon in combat, you roll an additional number of Fudge dice equal to its rating on top of your normal 4dF roll, and take the best four dice as your result.

So, suppose your broadsword is rated at 3. In ideal circumstances, you'd roll 7dF and take the best four. This means you're more likely to have results in the +2 to +4 end than someone rolling just the default.

What if the circumstances aren't ideal, and what does that mean? Then you'd simply remove bonus dice or eliminate their use altogether, depending. And it means whatever you think it means, because a.) this is Fate and hence supports fiddly interpretation room on some level and b.) no two people have the same concept of the effectiveness of weapons in a fight. 

So, you might say that if you're in an enclosed space, you only get 1 bonus die from your broadsword because those things usually need something like four feet of clearance on all sides to use properly. Or you might say that knives don't get their bonus dice unless you're close enough to grapple. Or whatever. GM has the final say, or whatever your group does to resolve such matters. Armor would either remove bonus dice or add their bonus dice to a defense roll, depending on which you think is easier to manage.

And that's it. Everything else works the same. Here's why I think this approach is cool:

* You get the benefit of both dramatic and concrete bonuses - a battleaxe might get up to 4 dice, whereas a dagger might never get more than 2 even in ideal circumstances, representing the sheer mass of the battleaxe. But you can also have fun with situational or dramatic bonuses to your heart's content.

* Big weapons in ideal circumstances means lots of dice hitting the table, and yet because you're taking the best 4 dice, it does not require evil maths any greater than the system already calls for. So you get the tactile fun without the hassle.

* It accomplishes the goal of making the person with the best comparative weapon or circumstance win fights faster, and retains concrete effectiveness in the realm of firearms, because the bonus dice for your gun would not apply to your Athletics roll for defense. So it preserves a certain "guns are damn dangerous" component of more gritty genres.

* Using bonus dice instead of a numerical bonus circumvents some granularity issues with the Fudge/Fate ladder, while still providing a clear advantage.

* It doesn't require screwing with the default stress w/ consequences layout to achieve any of the abovementioned results. 


If you want an example set, let's say brass knuckles and saps are rated 1, knives and small clubs at 2, most one-handed melee weapons at 3, polearms and two-handers at 4. For guns, let's say really small calibers (.22, .25 ACP) are a 1, small pistol calibers (.38, 9mm) are at 2, large pistol calibers (.45 ACP, .357) are a 3, and shot-shell is a 4. If you want, you can say that being fired from an SMG gives you +1 and a rifle gives you +2, so that MP-5 might be rated at 3 and that .30-30 Winchester might be rated at 5.

Obviously, this can also translate to stuff other than weapons, to provide a mechanic for handling the benefits of gear in other conflicts. You'll have to decide locally how to handle choosing between this mechanic and temporary aspects, but at least you're not lacking in options.

[True20] Damage and Fatigue Redux

System: True20 (www.true20.com)
Hack Type: Revised Mechanics

So, good on True20 for not using hit points. Bad on True20 for clouding up their damage system with more criss-crossed "if, then" condition-oriented statements than I care to keep track of in the course of a tense action scene, and allowing for combats where people can totally get owned without even getting to act just because they roll bad a few times in a row. Instead, I propose this alternate approach, stealing a little from Mutants and Masterminds and my brain on over-the-counter cold meds:


When you fail a damage save, compare your results to this chart, noting whether the attack is lethal or non-lethal:

Damage Save Failed By:
1-5       = 1 Hit
6-10    = 2 Hits
11-15  = 3 Hits + Staggered (non-lethal) or Disabled (lethal)
16+      = Unconscious (non-lethal) or Dying (lethal)

A Hit: -1 on all future damage saves. That's it; no other rolls are affected.

Staggered/Disabled: You are severely shaken, losing all dodge and parry bonuses to defense as well as taking a further -2 penalty. Until the condition is healed, you can only take a single standard or move action in any round. If you push yourself and do both, you immediately worsen to Unconscious or Dying. This replaces the definition of these conditions in the standard rules.

Unconscious/Dying: As per standard True20 rules.

Cumulative Results: All Hits that you receive in combat stack, so if you get a Hit in one round and two more in the next round, you'll be at -3 to your damage save for the following round. Condition effects do not stack from multiple hits; you can only receive any condition one time from any source. So if you fail your save by 11 two times in a row, you'll have 6 Hits and be Staggered or Disabled.

Recovery: Non-lethal Hits fade at the rate of one per minute, and lethal Hits fade at a rate of one per hour. The Cure power instantly removes all Hits. Other conditions recover as per the normal rules, and require a recovery check, which the Cure power can also provide.

Adepts and Fatigue: Whenever you fail a fatigue save, compare the results to the above chart and apply Hits/conditions as per the above. Unlike damage, these Hits are applied both as a penalty to power checks *and* to future fatigue saves, as you wear down your inner spiritual strength; they do not, however, stack with Hits from damage saves. Also, Hits/conditions from fatigue are always non-lethal, and recover appropriately.


Groups looking for more heroic results can nix the penalty to the power check and just have the adept's Hits affect fatigue saves. Consequently, groups looking to be real bastards to their magic users can say that Hits from fatigue also stack for damage saves. This is appropriate in some genres, but I went more with the idea of fatigue from casting representing an inner "soul-weariness" type of thing. Fatigue effects not related to magic would just go down as non-lethal damage, in my game.

And that's all. I choose you, TheraFlu. Peace out.

[SotC] Psychology of Violence

System: Spirit of the Century / Fate v3 (www.evilhat.com/?spirit)
Hack Type: Genre (modern, noir)

So, I've been thinking about running some gritty, noir-ish investigative stuff using Fate, and I swear it has nothing to do with inspiration from The Dresden Files (about to move onto TV, yay), Robin Laws' new Esoterrorists game, or the upcoming Trail of Cthulhu by Kenneth Hite. Nothing at all. I swear. Really.

Part of what I need to help the transition into a modern setting is to systemically convey that modern folks aren't psychologically built to handle lethal violence as a common occurrence of daily life. Even people who are trained for such things, like soldiers and cops, often require both casual and professional support to cope with even one violent incident, let alone several. People report all kinds of weird stuff happening in real-life gun battles, like lapses in memory, altered perception of the flow of time, slight hallucinations, loss of motor skill and muscle control, and so on as adrenaline wreaks havoc on the nervous system.

I'm not really sure why it's a prevailing trend in role-playing games to overlook just how seriously fucked up it is to point a gun at a man and pull the trigger. I could guess, but as stated in my introduction, I'm not here to editorialize. Suffice it to say, I'm interested in something a little different, and so I propose something like the following:


In this system, any kind of violent conflict carries a chance of inflicting permanent mental damage to the participants. Groups can adjust this dial as specifically as they want - for some people, it won't be plausible to apply this system for fistfights or any other type of combat that more often results in subdual than permanent injury or death. By default, though, I'll say it applies to all forms of violence, because I'm lazy and that makes it easier on me.

Like any other damage in SotC/Fate, this damage is expressed as stress and consequences.

Whenever you're in a violent conflict and you inflict Health stress on an opponent, you take Composure stress in return. The amount of mental stress you take is equal to the stress you inflict on the target, minus your Resolve score. So, if your Resolve is Good (+3), and you hit your opponent for 5 stress, you take a 2-stress hit on your Composure track. 

If your opponent takes a consequence as a result of the attack, add +2 to the stress you take. So, if the example above had resulted in a consequence for the defender, you would take a 4-stress hit on your Composure track.

Your mental stress is adjudicated as normal, and can bleed up into consequences, which should represent the psychological damage caused by engaging in the fight. Note that this means you can concede and be taken out in a conflict purely from your own actions, simply losing the will to fight or just being so shocked that you freeze up and can't continue. It also means that you'll be less able to participate in other social/mental conflicts if you walk away with consequences, as your damaged psyche leaves you less able to deal with further mental pressures.

And that's it. The "nicer" variant of this has you rolling Resolve as a defense against a mental "attack" that you take whenever you inflict a consequence on someone - treat minor ones as Fair (+2), moderate ones as Great (+4), severe ones as Fantastic (+6). I'd recommend letting the mental stress hang around for a few scenes if you're going to do that, to give the chance for the stress to pile up in multiple fights.

Why I thought this up on Christmas Eve, I'll never know.

The Toolbox - Intro

So I've finally figured out what to do with a LiveJournal. I really don't like writing about myself extensively, and I really don't like pontificating on topics where my authority (and nearly everyone else's) is dubious, especially given that I generally suck at communicating with people on the Internet. 

I do, however, like to hack print RPG systems and tweak them. Lots. I think about it every day. So, that's what I'm going to put here. You can expect: 

* Minor rules tweaks for several different RPGs. They basically would represent that 5-10% additional drift that a rules set might require to better match your local preferences when you play. I say "your" because I often do system hacks that I wouldn't even use, and will probably put them here in the hopes that they might match someone's preferences. 

* Genre mixes of established systems. As long as I don't think it'd interfere with the system's agenda support, I'll sometimes recast a system in a different genre. 

* General tools that you can use regardless of what game you're playing. This one's kind of tricky, because not all those tools are going to be good with all games. I definitely don't believe in one game or one set of techniques that "rules them all", and I don't believe there's a magic formula to good play. So, there's a healthy dose of general discretion required and expected here.

* Links to other places that have tools I like on them.

What you shouldn't expect:

* Protracted discussion. This space is primarily for me to brain dump. I'm not really interested in discussing or revising the content too much once I post it, because a lot of it is half-baked stuff anyway. I'm fine with people adding comments to suggest their own refinements or additional ideas, and for them to discuss amongst themselves, but I don't intend to participate extensively in that. The time I spend here, I want to spend adding new material.

* Heavy, ground-up redesigns of a given game. As a big 'System Does Matter' proponent, I'm quick to point people to different systems when they exhibit preferences far outside the range of what I think a given system provides. When someone complains about the strict adherence to equipment and gear recording in D&D, I don't make up an abstract equipment mechanic - I point them to PiG's Iron Gauntlets instead. I stand behind the idea that it really is worth learning a whole new system in those cases. Like I said, this is for the last 5-10% you might need to drift a system to get it perfectly in line with your local situation - it's not for giving Spirit of the Century the detail and minutiae of Pulp Hero, and it's not for making a World of Darkness game into Sorcerer, and it's not for making Primetime Adventures into Now Playing.

* Outreach. If you don't know anything about pen-and-paper roleplaying games, you're not going to find introductory material here.

* Regular updates. I do this when I have time. I don't have a lot of time, most of the time. That's all.

So, I hope that whoever reads this journal gets something cool for their game out of it.