Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wits in Lost Songs of the Nibelungs

I think a detailed example how Qualities will be structured and what they can do would be helpful to understand Lost Songs of the Nibelungs a bit better. And it's what I thought about on my way to work, so this is what I got ... Anyway, after presenting the outlines of the core system I have in mind in my last post, this will give an impression how those ideas could manifest in the rules.

Nothing is set in stone yet, of course (as the point buy aspect needs to be calibrated and I need to see how strong all those ideas impact each other). But some of the stuff is oriented on house rules I've been using for quite some time now, so it's not really arbitrary or random.

Short summary of the rules, a detailed example and magic ...

I'll take Wits as the first example, because it will also give an impression what magic will look like in LSotN and it's my gold standard for the rest of the game (need first to know how those elements of the game shape up that have nothing at all to do with combat). Here goes (summary of the rules first):

Characters are defined by a set of six Qualities: MUSCLE, WIT, NERVE, FINESSE, GRIT and WYRD, each with a random value of 3d6. As the characters advance in level, the players decide where the characters strengths will be by assigning the Core-Points they get with each new level (1 Core-Point per level, 10 Core-Points all in all). With human characters one Quality needs to be the Primary Core Quality. It's the one Quality that needs always to be higher than the other Core Qualities (from now on referred to as Secondary Core Qualities). A Quality can't have more than 5 Core-Points (Core Value).

Choosing a Quality as Primary or Secondary Core Quality will have several benefits. There are, for one, several aspects the Qualities will be used for (a value function, a passive function and an active function) and being a Core Quality will bring benefits with those aspects. In addition to this, choosing a Quality as Core enables a player to choose from several traits associated with a quality (number of points available is the number of the new level a character achieved - you level up to 3, so that's the number of Trait Points you get to spend).

A character can't have more basic Traits than he has Core Value in a Quality, but there will be traits that'll stack with a basic Trait (see Mana Pool in the example below). The stacking is not unlimited, though. it's a system that'll work like Skill Mastery and Combat Mastery (both will be discussed in another post, but it's not unlike the Weapon Mastery the Rules Cyclopedia uses), which (in short) means that mastery has 5 steps (basic, skilled, expert, master, grand master) and a character can't go beyond that.

WITS

Justification: To describe Wits as some variant of Intelligence doesn't do the term justice. Wits is an old word and if you assume that it connects somehow to "wizard", you'd  be right about that. It's all connected and that's how Wits describes best all the functions the quality needs to have in the game: the magical (like in "wizard"), the sanity (like in "not losing your wits") and the knowledge (as in "quick learner").
Unseen Academics do not approve ...(art by the great Paul Kidby)
Value Function: Every Quality or Skill Check were Wits could be used, allows for a roll of Wits + D20 (+Endurance)*  vs. Difficulty

Passive Function: Pool of Sanity a character has.

Active Function: Can be used instead of Mana to cast magic.

As Primary Core Quality:

  • Core Value as permanent Skill Buffer for knowledge and social skills (every skill-check needs a difficulty, the Skill Buffer does not reduce that difficulty but allows a partial success if the result of the check is not below Difficulty minus Core Value).
  • Core Value as bonus to the healing rate of sanity.

As Core Quality:

  • Core Value as skill points to distribute per level.

Traits (examples):

  • 1 Point: buy 1d6 Mana, this allows the use of Cantrips (which basically means a character with this trait can spend Mana to get an edge on several checks and saves, even in Combat). The trait may be purchased more than once. With every level up a re-roll of all the bought dice is allowed and the higher result is kept.**
  • 1 Point: Cast level 1 spells
  • 2 Points: Cast level 2 spells
  • 2 Points: Force 1d6 Mana from the surroundings (takes one round, every living thing is entitled to a saving throw for half the damage (or no damage, if they have the Trait mana pool) and will be seriously pissed). Can be bought more than once (Trait Mastery).
  • 3 Points: Cast level 3 spells
  • 3 Points: Create minor magic items
  • 4 Points: Cast level 4 spells
  • 5 Points: Cast level 5 spells
  • Variable: The Spells themselves cost the original point value of the spell level minus 1 (1 point will either buy 2 level 1 spells or 1 level 2 spell).*** A character can't hold more spells than his Core Value (so the maximum is 5 spells per spell level).
I could go on and I guess there will be quite the list before I see what gives way and what holds.

A few words on Magic

To cast spell costs two times the level of the spell in mana/essence/spiritual energy (for now I'll call it Mana ...). It's as easy as that. Mana usually regenerates over night, but only if Wits was not affected. If Wits has been in any way affected, mana won't regenerate until Wits is completely restored, too. With the right trait, a character could get some mana from his surroundings, but such a deed might have dire consequences.

A word on armor and magic. With the mana approach there is an easy solution to handle the effects on armor on a caster: the Armor Class a character is wearing is added to the spell level before it is multiplied with 2 (so in order to cast a level 2 spell, a warlock wearing armor with a bonus of plus 4 would need 12 mana to cast the spell instead of 4). The maximum Mana a character could muster is 50, and only if he's very lucky****. So wearing armor might not be a wise decision (but possible).

Wanted to keep it short, but fresh ...

That's it so far for today. Rituals and other forms of magic will be part of another post, as will be several other posts

This wants to happen, so who am I to complain?

* One of our house rules in D&D was that a character could spend Endurance points to substitute a gap between his role and a difficulty. So making a successful skill check wasn't the problem anymore (which is good to have) and a character depleted a resource he had (also something I wanted to have in the game). Here is a post with some thoughts I had about it back in the day.
** An idea I first encountered in the fantastic retro-clone Epées & Sorcellerie (if you've never heard of the game, check out this review I wrote in February 2014), although there it was used for generating Hit Points (and I still might formulate a Trait for Grit to allow something similar ...).
*** Incidentally, if a character advances to level 5 and buys only spells with his Core-Points, he could buy 2 level 1 spells, 2 level 2 spells and 1 level 3 spell (costs: 1 + 2 + 2), which mirrors exactly what a level 5 character in the Rules Cyclopedia can memorize ...
**** Another house rule of mine I intent to implement into LSotN is that if the highest natural result of a die is rolled, it will produce an echo. This echo is nothing else but adding another roll with the next lowest die to the result (a rule inspired from HackMaster, here are more old words about it, but I'll write an update soon ...). So with 5 possible dice, a player might wind up echoing all the sixes with some d4s. And if someone would manage 5 sixes with the original set and 5 fours with his echo, he'd have reached the 50 points maximum. It's unlikeley, but possible.

Maybe I should write a post about all those house rules I intent to use. Ah well ...

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