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 STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)

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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:27 pm

I like your later idea of moving the generic benefits over to surges rather than focus. It reflects what surges translate to in 4e - daily powers - and as you said, ensures that the surge always does something. Since you worked out that option A, the automatic crit, works best with this idea, I'd say that you've got your solution.

****

Something else I was pondering was whether the combat style restrictions for the Defender, Sentinel, and Sharpshooter really amount to much. Just taking Basic Training from either the Commoner or Military backgrounds (or a utility that grants access to the same) works around it barring free strikes, and in the case of the Berserker, can let a character get a bonus to Dodge/Armor that you probably didn't intend, if they went with Reflex for their Basic Training. Meanwhile, a Sentinel could choose Strength for Basic Training with ranged weapons and work just fine, and the Sharpshooter doesn't care about free strikes. About the only class that would come up short is the Defender.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:07 pm

Yeah, I spent most of the day playing around with options and I do strongly prefer the surge always having some effect and it also keeps the effect scaling down a bit (i.e. no stuns until level 6 without stacking).

I’ve been giving thought to how best to address the negatives of each option for fixing things and the auto crit was the only one I made much progress on. Specifically that the “what happens when you already have a crit going (the target is vulnerable)” issue. Essentially borrow from the High Crit property all it needs is a “if the attack would already be a critical, you deal extra damage equal to your level.”

It also occurs to me that by switching it from accuracy to damage, it encourages you to try and leverage flanking, prone and other lesser effects (i.e. actual tactics) to set up your attack where you spend focus instead of just dropping it at the earliest opportunity for the attack bonus.

As to the reroll option, it turns out that best of three is still pretty good (roughly akin to a +5 modifier on average) in terms of being an improvement over best of two, but it’s admittedly not as good a fit as the extra damage option.

* * * * *

As to the combat styles and the few remaining limits with classes, the big limiter has always been the Berserker’s trading Armor for soak points. It basically has to be kept away from anything that could give it an armor bonus; which is also why they can’t pick the Wary option (since that can apply to Armor defense too) and why the classes that focus most on ranged attacks (i.e. they can make REF their primary stat) had to be denied them.

You’re right about the Basic Training utility and its effects though.

So I’m thinking the main problem is actually how I go about giving the Berserker it’s low Armor score (i.e. tying its soak points to wearing light armor and blocking it from classes and the Wary focus that would encourage it to make an Armor boosting stat either primary or secondary.

For example, if instead it was “As a free action you take X penalty to defenses to gain Y soak points and a free recovery check at the start of your turn (ENT)” that would work regardless of armor used or if REF/WIT were a primary/secondary score and that would eliminate the need to silo it away from those elements.

Lemme bake my noodle on that a bit. I’ve had a very long day and don’t want to make any major pronouncements without a little shuteye first.

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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:24 am

I like the new idea for the berserker - it neatly models the idea of going into a rage, especially how you have to keep using a free action to keep it going from turn to turn. Having the ability to let it lapse also makes it much more flexible. I think that with this rework, you could ditch the siloing altogether, if the berserker's the only real concern.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Apr 17, 2018 9:43 am

Yeah, it's always been the main problem in terms of balancing the options. Having slept on it I'm actually thinking thinking that the penalty should actually be the flat-footed condition. The thinking here is that it fits since they're being absolutely heedless in their actions, but it's also something of a buff in a way since tactical penalties don't stack and the shortcoming is already accounted for in the benefits gained.

The main trick is in accounting for not just Armor, but all the defenses being lower. I think the easiest solution for that, which also makes the rules a bit simpler, is to also remove the -5 penalty to the recovery check (so it's just a normal free recovery check instead of one with special rules). The soak points may also need to be tweaked upwards or some extra resistance added (such as to fear effects) as well since it makes for a fairly inviting target unless it has the resources to soak it's fair share of the hits.

I think that switching the key stat for the soak points from Focus to STR might also be in order, along with letting them use STR for Armor defense regardless of the armor used (whereas Strong can't do it with light or no armor). This also makes the Berserker's benefits self-contained. (ETA: I just realized I'm being silly with switching the soak points to key of STR. Focus grows with level to higher than STR so other than possibly levels 1-3, Focus is always going to be as good or better.)

Once the Berserker's issues are resolved then, yeah, soloing the remaining Skilled classes becomes unnecessary.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Apr 17, 2018 9:57 am

So the new berserker would be flat-footed and gain Str THP, can use Str for all armor, no penalty to recovery checks, and this state can be turned on an off by not spending a free action during your turn? Interesting.

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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Apr 17, 2018 10:32 am

That would be the gist of it, yes.

I think it would specifically be worded as;

Berserker: You gain +1 to your choice of Dodge or Willpower and can use STR in place of REF for your Armor defense and attacks with thrown weapons. In addition you gain the following action; Berserker's Rage: Free Action (you start your turn) / You make a free recovery check, become flat-footed, gain Focus + level soak points and resistance to the terrified condition (ENT).

It wouldn't need the limitation against taking the Wary combat focus anymore and all the style restrictions to classes should be able to be dropped (though there are certainly benefits to using the styles I had previously restricted it to).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:43 pm

Okay, I think I just came up with an even better and more streamlined idea for the Beserker's Rage ability to bring it down to just two simple effects.

Beserker's Rage: Free Action (you start your turn) / You become flat-footed and gain Resist All (SNT).

Resist All cuts the damage taken in half (eliminating the need for soak points) and also reduces all staged effects by one stage (eliminating the need for an extra recovery check because they're getting hit more often... instead it just takes two shakens to make them shaken and four to stage them up to scared, etc.).

It should also scale better with different sized fights as the focus gained and extra recovery check were always only ever enough to throw off the effects of one extra hit per round (about what you'd expect from the typically net -3 to Armor the build used to have or the flat-footed it has now), but a big fight where they're bottle-necked as the only good target could see a lot more extra attacks than that and while a normal character's higher Armor would soak up the expected amount proportionally, the extra soak points and one free recovery check could get overwhelmed pretty quickly.

I'm going to need to run some comparison tests, but THAT might actually be the key to making the Berserker work in an easier to track way.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:58 pm

It's scary how the simplest solutions can be the most effective at times.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:54 pm

I sometimes think it’s human nature to make things more complex than they need to be. 3e/PF certainly fell into that trap. 4E started to correct where it could (take cutting down the triggers for opportunity attacks from a page to just two for example), but even they had sacred cows they couldn’t bring themselves to slay.

Honestly, 5e probably could have been a great edition if it hadn’t been hampered by the need to appeal to nostalgia (i.e. throwing 4e under the bus) and a development team who had even basic standards for mechanical rigor and understood that not every problem has the same solution.

For example, while I expressed my dissatisfaction with it back when 5e first came out, I do have to admit in retrospect that dis/advantage is actually a pretty elegantly simple mechanic; particularly for chaotic situations where a variable modifier would better model the situation... if it wasn’t their answer to pretty much every situation where a modifier once affected the outcome.

As seen in my own design, I also agree with the assessment that a more bounded set of modifiers for combat is also a good thing, but I also didn’t try to make those modifiers to everything because skill checks need different results than what happens in the chaos of battle (skills also don’t typically have a separate factor like damage that can be scaled in place of larger attack and defense numbers).

While there are limits to how simple you can make things, I definitely think my design starting point was way more complex than it needed to be as just about every major structural improvement to the mechanics (removing attack/defense scaling, splitting the twelve dual role classes into what ended up being 18 single role classes, paring down the skill list, stripping away requirements, etc.) has involved simplifying things rather than making them more complex (I don’t believe adding new options to species/archetype/backgrounds really increases complexity meaningfully since any given PC will only be using a few of those at any one time).

I’m hopeful that my latest round of updates will follow that rule. I’ve got a few different things to test (and others to re-test to make sure the first results aren’t flukes) with a group tomorrow night. We’ll see how they go.

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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:55 am

Some updates after the most recent playtest; some expected, some not so much.

First off, the berserker change was pretty well received; it definitely stood up better against larger fights than it did in the past thanks to half effect instead of soak points and a recovery check.

The focused advantage changes were interesting. After having played it for so long the previous way there was a bit of unlearning involved, but once that occurred the tactics that developed of trying to leverage flanking or other effects to get a hit bonus before spending the focus to get a free crit became the norm.

One unexpected element was that when players had more than one class attack available they'd mostly use an attack with 'spend focus on hit' if they had one early in the fights (since they could save the 'crit' until they hit and spent the focus) and then saved any other powers with 'spend focus when you attack' effects for when the target was actually flat-footed before using those.

Less well received was the change to heroic surge spending. The few people who used that option in prior tests to actually boost attacks (most people just used them for healing and extra attacks) didn't like losing access to the major effects (i.e. being able to stun or restrain or blind) until they hit level 6+. They'd been leveraging the "focused advantage" rule to also get +3 on those attacks (on a flat-footed target if possible) as well as the major conditions to all but knock enemies out of the fight and they didn't enjoy the 'nerf' at all.

That said, I'm keeping it because while those particular players may not have liked it, as a GM I noted that the fights fell much more into line with mechanical expectations, and because a couple of players who hadn't really used them before started to since it was a better sure thing to drop an effect on a target (and have it potentially last via "sustain hit") than just spamming an attack twice and having to spend focus on each one (or only on one if they were level 5 or less).

In other words, Attack Surge (as its now being called) works better now than before and only a few power gamers are annoyed by the change since they can't pull the lock-down shenanigans they used to (and had been for so long they thought it was safe from change). I call that a win.

The really unexpected result though... one I had to re-test with a different group just to be sure... was how much better people liked the 'reroll, use best/worst' instead of static bonuses for conditions. I do have to give props to 5e (though it first showed up with the 4e Avenger) for recognizing the rather visceral appeal of getting to roll again if your first roll fails (I suspect for the same reason 'extra action' is actually the most used heroic surge expenditure, even edging out healing) or when an enemy has to reroll after their first hit was a critical because they've been saddled with the worst of two rolls.

Even though mechanically it's about the same as a +3 to a single roll, even the players who didn't have problems remembering to add the condition modifiers liked the feel of rerolling better than the static bonuses (though they did appreciate that other powers and abilities still granted static numbers... the rerolls only came from flat-footed, cover/obscured, shaken and taunted).

I feel like I need to run another re-test just because its such a 5e-associated thing, but I suspect the results will be the same; players like to roll more dice and its been so overwhelmingly positive that making it just an optional rule in the GM's Guide (instead of the other way around) feels like the same sort of 'ignoring player feedback' that's gotten so many other projects into trouble. Even I was enjoying it at the table and my gut reaction is to hate all things 5e-like on principle.

If anyone has any anecdotal experience to counter this result I'd love to hear it... or is rerolling just a flat-out more fun thing?
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:42 am

I have heard that using ALL re rolls in 5e may be a problem for some, it sure removes some of the subtely.

I am pretty sure the benefit of a reroll is closer to +4 almost 5 on average

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Apr 21, 2018 1:24 pm

Yeah, I was keeping it purely to specific conditions... flat-footed (the only one that gave 'advantage'), obscured (which included shadowed), shaken and taunted. Everything else was still flat modifiers (ex. the "Distraction" clever trick still gives you a +1/2 Focus bonus to your next attack roll and "Defensive Posture" still grants +2 to your defenses).

As to the math, there's the odds of hitting a specific target number (where the roll twice method can improve or worsen the odds by up to 25% depending on your target number) and then there's the average effect (i.e. what is the average result of all 400 possible combinations the two d20's) on the die result.

The average effect on the die results from it is to shift the average result from a 10.5 up to a 13.825 (keep best) or down to a 7.175 (keep worst)... or a variance of 3.325 over the course of multiple rolls. That's what I was using for my measure of it being roughly equal to a +/-3.

I am perfectly willing to concede that my math might be off; it certainly wouldn't be the first time. If it is though, it means I'm probably going to need to adjust some numbers because I'm now three for three on groups liking the re-rolls better than the flat bonuses.

What that third test also confirmed for me is that the appeal is almost pure emotion, not any sort of rational calculation of better odds.

The ability to ignore that 3 on the die you just rolled (which not even a +5 bonus added to the usual +7 would have helped turn into a hit against the opponent with Armor 16) and instead use the natural 20 you got on the reroll (so from utter whiff to a critical hit) holds a LOT of emotional appeal.

It doesn't matter that your odds of failing a TN 16 check with a +12 on the die are only 15% while the odds of failing with a +7 and a re-roll are 16% (so slightly worse); when you miss, you feel bad and the re-roll is almost like a "Saving Throw vs. Failure."

Its the endorphin rush of taking a gamble (with only a 60% chance of success on the re-roll) and having it pay off that makes the re-roll option so appealing.

That situation above; the player rolling a 3 on the die and so the flat bonus just wouldn't have made a difference, but the re-roll was a natural 20; actually happened in the test.

I logged the other rolls that night and for every other one the flat bonus would have also succeeded in making it a hit or the extra roll made no difference at all because either the first roll had already hit or the re-roll still didn't hit the target number; but that didn't matter. All anyone talked about afterwards was how that whiff became a critical hit because of the rule change and how awesome that was.

I have no intention of compromising my system's math over feelings, but IF I can make the math actually work in conjunction with the feelings... that's something worth exploring further I think.

In conclusion; NOT pulling the trigger, but I am going to explore the math further (probably with some actual dice and a spreadsheet and not just via what statistics say).

* * * * *

Along a more productive vein, I'm doing some re-organization on the species entries after some feedback.

First, only beastmen, dwarves and malfeans have anything other than normal vision and only dwarves have a base ground speed that is not 6 paces.

The suggestion was that, if this system is Exception-based... why not only list the exceptions and put the rule (normal vision and base ground speed of 6 paces unless noted otherwise) in a more general location? It removes two lines from what are already long species entries.

I'd already done that once with languages when I switched from about 10 specific languages to the Culture-check based system with both languages and dialects (only the Avatars, Elves, Golems and Malfeans still have a trait that gives them a bonus fluent language) so it seemed like a fairly logical choice to implement.

The second and third suggestions also go together. The second was that I should put a clearer break between mandatory species traits and optional ones. Currently they're just after the mandatory traits with (Optional) after them. It was suggested that the Optional Traits would look better if they were put into a separate section like the Avatar/Beastmen/Mutant examples were.

After trying it out, I liked it because it made the optional traits less cluttered... the avatar, for example, had a full page of traits with (Optional) after each one.

The third suggestion, which was completely obvious in hindsight, is that some of the options (example, the enhanced breath weapon attacks) really should be obtained using specializations (since they provide a direct combat benefit) instead of utilities since it was breaking the usual siloing of combat and non-combat options (the general rule for utilities was always that they should only add options on par with normal combat options, not improve you past that point... the breath weapon and a few others were specifically breaking that rule).

After making that change, I also decided that some of the 'break-even' offensive options (ex. natural weapons or armor) should be able to be purchased using either a utility OR a specialization (if they're extra options instead of what the species provides via default) because not every player is going to prioritize combat options over non-combat options (i.e. they'll take natural weapons if they can spend a specialization on it, but not if they have to give up a utility for it).

In other words, there's a little more flexibility on what you're giving up to get some of the species options now.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Apr 21, 2018 10:23 pm

Chris24601 wrote:
Yeah, I was keeping it purely to specific conditions... flat-footed (the only one that gave 'advantage'), obscured (which included shadowed), shaken and taunted. Everything else was still flat modifiers (ex. the "Distraction" clever trick still gives you a +1/2 Focus bonus to your next attack roll and "Defensive Posture" still grants +2 to your defenses).

As to the math, there's the odds of hitting a specific target number (where the roll twice method can improve or worsen the odds by up to 25% depending on your target number) and then there's the average effect (i.e. what is the average result of all 400 possible combinations the two d20's) on the die result.

The average effect on the die results from it is to shift the average result from a 10.5 up to a 13.825 (keep best) or down to a 7.175 (keep worst)... or a variance of 3.325 over the course of multiple rolls. That's what I was using for my measure of it being roughly equal to a +/-3.
Researching the math looks like you are correct...

I vaguely recall 4d6 take the highest 3 averaged 13 also... actually makes the extra die roll even more interesting.  There was a Martial Ploy feat that allowed aid other to enable the aided a re-roll.  There is a different feat that allows it to be a static +3. And it is the amount of benefit from skill focus.

This is from 4e ofcourse. 5e didnt abandon everything from 4e just some of the best parts.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:10 am

True about the roll twice not technically originating in 5e, it was just codified there; kinda like how the warlock technically originated in 3.5e, but it was 4e that really codified its background as coming from a pact you personally make (3.5 had the option that its powers might have come from a pact your ancestors made hundreds of years ago that you've just inherited).

That does make me feel a bit better about using them.

As to the math though, I actually did roll it 400 times and recorded it in Excel (took about an hour) and ran some calculations and I think we were both right and wrong at the same time (though I think you were more right than I was overall in that your initial statement was the more relevant).

The average die result result works out to 3.325 average modifier, but that is only if you include every possible target number from 1-20 as a valid result. If you limit the target numbers only the dice results likely to be meaningful in the game (in combat the number you'll need on the die will probably fall between 6-15 for a hit) however, the average modifier jumps to a 4.56.

The big question though with numbers is always, "what does this mean?" The precise thing it means is that the effect of rerolling against a flat-footed target is more like a +4.5 modifier while attacking a target under cover is more like a -4.5 penalty.

The second question to ask is "Does this matter?"

In the sense that my starting math was based on a ±3 (with ±5 for extreme cases) modifier for conditions, it certainly matters as the default conditions are now closer to the extreme condition modifiers in terms of how much more or less likely someone is to be hit and take damage.

Conversely, it doesn't matter in two senses;

First is that there's nothing about my math that came from modelling reality. I chose ±3 because the ±2's of 4E felt too small, but the ±4's of 3e felt a bit high (at least after 4E). At the same time, up until about a month ago, you could also stack totally obscured, terrified and taunted for a cumulative -13 modifier to someone's attack.

The point being that there's nothing actually sacred about ±3 vs. ±4.56... only that if I used the latter number some of my damage calculations for brittle and brute monsters would probably need to be looked at.

The second way in which it might not matter is that it applies to both sides equally. Cover, Obscured/Shadowed, Flat-footed, Shaken and Taunted are all common effects for both PCs and their opponents to have. It makes the effects a bit more potent, but it does so for both sides so its balanced in that sense.

Clearly, the next thing I need to look at is how this interacts with my 'edge-case' monsters; the brutes and the brittles, because it seems like their defenses/Edge scores are where this is likely to break... rather like how the berserker was breaking down against too many conditions hitting them in a round (the interesting thing there being that the flat-footed penalty was actually about a -1.25 to defenses worse than I figured it would be, but the Resist All element instead of soak/free recovery covered for that completely).

One other random thought I had in this regard that came from "if its 1.25 higher/lower than normal, what if I just tweak the defense numbers a bit" is that if I bumped the monster non-Armor defenses up about 1 point each (to average 14 instead of 13) they'd actually be in line with PC defenses (with heroic surges, utilities/specializations and more focus being what sets PCs apart) and that has all sorts of interesting implications for building NPCs and custom opponents.

Yes, I realized about 30 seconds after I came up with the thought that it wouldn't be useful as a solution for the rerolls because it needs to adjust up and down simultaneously; but it WAS an interesting thought because a big part of getting the monsters up to the expected damage output in general was to bring their accuracy and damage numbers right into line with the PCs and their Edge scores for non-grunts have always been in the same range as the PCs and right now its only the non-Armor defenses being about 1 point lower, no surges or background/specialization benefits and much lower focus scores; 0/1/2 (by tier) for normal ones vs. 3-8 for a PC depending on their level; that set them apart (elite and champions getting extra EDGE and some additional focus is basically how those guys compete with PCs).

4E rightfully did away with the need to build monsters like PCs. I definitely think that's the right choice overall. But I can also see the use in being able to convert characters built like PCs into opponents for special situations too (Big Bads for example). Since I'm actually in the process of writing up the monsters and NPC rules (when I'm not flailing at the player-side feedback from my playtests that is) this is definitely something I want to look at.

* * * * *

In other news, the Fetch is really shaping up and will probably be back in the Player's Guide in a few weeks.

Along with the 'using PC rules to build special monsters' I also had a notion about creating some type of more generic astral player species (perhaps generally... The Fae) based on the abilities gained from "Aspects" and the "Summon Ally" spell.

There's no way it would fit into the current Player's Guide at all, but at the very least I'm going to be looking at combos of those elements for some of the Astral origin monsters as it adds to the world-building if players can actually choose specific extraplanar allies to summon up with the Summon Ally spell.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:04 am

Chris24601 wrote:
(3.5 had the option that its powers might have come from a pact your ancestors made hundreds of years ago that you've just inherited).
That was an Elric of Melnibone reference...

In general I like that in 4e even the Warlock dripping with flavor such story elements are entirely under player control distinct from the mechanics.

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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:50 am

I tend to agree about the warlock. My primary point was that while it first showed up in 3.5e (so did the dragonborn) the Warlock didn't fully bloom into its full potential until its 4E incarnation. I was comparing that to how the elements of roll twice pick best/worst did first show up with specific powers or class features in 4E, but matured into the Advantage/Disadvantage system in 5e.

That's the case with a lot of things in D&D's evolution actually; the concept will turn up as an optional element in one edition will be taken and run with as a core element in the next. You can trace back a LOT of 4E's DNA to late 3.5e. Reserve feats (at-will spellcaster spells), the Tome of Battle and Star Wars Saga Edition all served as prototypes for what 4E eventually became.

In that sense, I kind of think of Terrors & Tactics as more "what 5E could have been if the developers turned right instead of making a left-hand U-turn." The places where my design coincides with 5e are simply that we both recognized some glitches in 4E's mechanics that needed to be addressed... but they had an additional agenda of "nostalgia" to appease.

What's really amusing to me is that I found some old notes from circa 2011 which was the first time my player group at the time had played around with flat math for attack/defense in order to better scale monsters and allow for mass battles using the "Hard Boiled Armies" rules (great starting concept of treating units like single monsters, but never quite made the leap to; we really need the attack/defense numbers to be flat or higher level armies will just annihilate anything of lower level, even if they gang up on them 10 to 1 because of how attack bonuses and defenses scaled).

I found an even earlier house rule that had been used for awhile where we'd replaced encounters and dailies with a general endurance pool (valued at 1 per encounter attack + 2 if they had any dailies) so that people could use their powers a bit more freely and prior to that, a house rule that just let players use 1 daily per encounter.

You can also see a lot of the design elements in nascent form in my old Essentials Options article.

The point again being, a lot of the elements that worked their way into Terrors & Tactics got their start well before I actually started the project and looking back at some of the earlier versions is rather like looking into a time capsule of sorts.

* * * * *

I have made some progress on the mechanical evaluation of brittle/brute critters in relation to using the roll twice style modifiers and they'll probably be okay so long as the math for the standard monsters continues to function. Their defenses are basically +/-3 from the norm and the TNs in those ranges still fall within the primary range of target numbers where the average modifier is 4.56; just at the edges where the average modifier is about a 4.2 in terms of effect.

In other words, so long as I'm okay with the size of the modifier, it should work. I'm still not 100% sold, but the players do like it (tried static mods and roll twice yet again and the results are still the same).

The amusing thing is that they've expressed liking it even when they are the ones having to take the worst of two rolls instead of a flat penalty, because there's still a chance they could get two rolls good enough to succeed anyway and that feels like more of a shot than one roll with only a -3 penalty to it. Objectively the -3 penalty is better odds for just about any TN in the game, but that doesn't matter as much as the feeling that having to use the second roll if its lower is better odds.

In terms of deciding I'm not just grabbing feedback, I'm also researching the psychology of good game design. What I'm getting from actual researchers is that the appeal of the multiple dice is probably that it increases a player's sense of engagement.

Put simply, doing math (i.e. applying modifiers) isn't as engaging to most players as rolling another die is, because rolling another die is a physical and tactile action that the player performs in an effort to aid themselves. Math by contrast is a purely mental function.

* * * * *

In an unrelated area I've been getting some feedback on skill modifiers and that the non-proficient proficiency bonuses are leading to some confusion... particularly when it comes to these also applying to ability checks (the gist of which is that there are players who are just adjusting their ability scores, using those for their derived traits and then adding the proficiency bonus for skills on top of that).

In other words, its not as clear as it could be... particularly once you hit level 3+ and I wasn't there to hold people's hands. I'll also be the first to admit that even I have to have a table on hand to quickly calculate ability and skill check modifiers as I build the monsters (particularly for the variants).

When you actually dig down into the math you could almost replace the 3+1/2 level proficiency bonus with 3+1 at 4 and 10 bonus on top of the non-proficient +1 at 3,6,9,12 and 15 bonus and end up with virtually identical numbers on all but a couple of levels.

It gets even clearer when you strip out the initial +3 from proficiency... Here's the proficient / non-proficient bonuses by level and the net difference in parenthesis.

Level 1: +0/+0 (+0)
Level 2: +1/+0 (+1)
Level 3: +1/+1 (+0)
Level 4: +2/+1 (+1)
Level 5: +2/+1 (+1)
Level 6: +3/+2 (+1)
Level 7: +3/+2 (+1)
Level 8: +4/+2 (+2)
Level 9: +4/+3 (+1)
Level 10: +5/+3 (+2)
Level 11: +5/+3 (+2)
Level 12: +6/+4 (+2)
Level 13: +6/+4 (+2)
Level 14: +7/+4 (+3)
Level 15: +7/+5 (+2)

Another interesting bit of feedback tangentially related to this is that one guy reviewing my rules thinks I could probably reduce quite a bit of complexity if I just let ability scores improve by 1 per tier.

That would eliminate the need for the scaling proficiency bonus to attack rolls (+1/tier) and the need to gain additional heroic surges with level (also +1/tier) and eliminate the need for several other "by tier" elements designed to mimic the effects of scaling weapon proficiency on an ability check (ex. the avatar's fearsome roar option).

You'd have to reduce the rate of level-based focus gain since you'd get +2 from the improved ability scores, probably adjust the proficiency bonuses to skills if you wanted to keep the upper end numbers in line and it would mean accepting that climb/jump/swim speeds would increase by 1 in the higher tiers and that defense scores would also improve by 1/tier instead of remaining entirely static*, but it might be worth it to streamline certain systems.

* your damage would also go up by a point per tier, but with it already running at +1.5/level with a 1 die bump at 5 and 10 that's basically background noise. Honestly, I should revisit my damage math anyway. Being able to get a number of free crits equal to your number of class attacks each encounter (even when not every one is going to hit) is slightly better in terms of damage per round than just a +3 to hit and the two extra dice at 5 and 10 are big part of that spike.

There are times I wish I didn't care quite as much about mechanical rigor as I do... but I do; so its something I've got to look at.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:16 pm

It’s funny the things that can spark ideas in other directions. What started with some comments about the complexity of proficient vs. non-proficient/ability checks ended up spreading to touch ability scores, focus and surge gain, weapon/implement proficiency, Armor types and the scores used to determine it.

Let’s start at the top and work down.

All your ability scores improve by 1 at levels 6 and 11. This replaces the +1/3 levels to ability checks and non-proficient skills. While a smaller bonus to non-proficient skills (though I did add a Skill Breadth universal utility to compensate) this change allows the increases to apply to your derived traits (ex. Base Load, climb/jump/swim) as well and allows various species and background abilities to more easily interact with defenses without a lot of complexity.

As a cascading benefit, this eliminates the need to scale the proficiency attack bonuses and Surge values since those will scale by the desired amount via increased ability scores.

On the other hand, the values for skill proficiency and focus gain do need to be scaled back slightly to keep the values in line. For skills that worked out to 3 + 1 at levels 4, 7, 10 and 13. For focus it worked out to +1 at levels 4, 9 and 14. Since these add directly to the current ability score value it should make the math a bit easier for those who were struggling with it.

Because this also leads to slightly scaling defenses I also took a look at those numbers to see if I couldn’t improve them a bit. I’ve never entirely been happy with the fact that medium armor proficiency is of literally no help to non-STR based characters and that it was only useful to the STR-based ones because class benefits let them sub in STR. If you didn’t have that class feature there was no reason to ever wear medium armor.

By the same token the ability penalty (which only ever applied to determining your Armor defense was another level of complexity that I think really deserved to be questioned.

The trick was how to keep STR-based in medium armor in line with other scores in light armor without something like that... and if you shifted it out of the armor to the archetype level (ex. change medium armor to 13 and let the build use STR-1 in place of REF) how do you work around non-standard builds that could get around it (ex. a Strong Wary build using their full WIT with the medium armor)?

Here’s how it finally shook out. Armor got drawn back to just light (Armor 12), medium (Armor 13) and heavy (Armor 14) with the built-in shield bonuses being moved to Fine and Legendary quality armor. There is no more ability penalty and the default ability scores added to this base value are STR-1 or REF with specific builds allowing the use of an alternative score (Berserker gets full STR, Spellcasters usually get their casting score or that score-1 if the option gives them medium armor... ex. Potent Rune and Militant Astral).

The net result is that the expected Armor defense values remain where they are (16 for most, 17 w. small shield or 19 for guardians), but the math for players should be a little easier and, more importantly, improving your armor proficiency will always improve your Armor defense.

All of which filters over to monster design in a couple ways. First it’ll make adjusting ability/skill checks for different level monsters a lot more intuitive. Second, with the easier armor values I’m looking at adjusting the way monster defenses are determined from essentially a default array to something at least peripherally connected to the monster’s ability scores and in line with PC defenses such that custom opponents can be built using the PC rules instead of the quicker monster math if the GM wants a particularly notable opponent.

Side-bar: By the math, a PC would be an Elite monster. The doubled Edge score and free recoveries account for Rallies and other means of Edge recovery and ending conditions available to PCs in adventuring parties and Elites’ ‘make two attacks’ effect is akin to a desperate PC burning surges for extra actions to survive a fight.

Part of the goal here is to allow GMs to control the level of complexity in the monsters they field. Those who like 4E’s simple monster math can use the basic monster creation rules while those who want 3e style monsters built like PCs can also do so and the end results will be comparable.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:27 pm

Chris24601 wrote:

The average die result result works out to 3.325 average modifier, but that is only if you include every possible target number from 1-20 as a valid result. If you limit the target numbers only the dice results likely to be meaningful in the game (in combat the number you'll need on the die will probably fall between 6-15 for a hit) however, the average modifier jumps to a 4.56.

That explains it...ie who cares about the results below the range that actually accomplishes something... or even that massively exceeds required values.


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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:31 am

Exactly. If I had target numbers likely to fall outside the middle half of the d20 (i.e. 6-15) it’d be relevant to consider the 3.36 modifier. But that only happens with absolute edge cases like a character making an improvised weapon attack (ability modifier only; 3-4) against a brittle blocker (Armor 21; so needs a 17-18 on the die) so the math is more accurate if I use the mid-range numbers.

In that sense, I think the +/-4.5 from roll twice can work. The trick is they can’t be the only modifiers (just the biggest ones) and any worse conditions (ex. Heavy Cover or Totally Obscured) can’t make the hit math any better or worse respectively (the two above instead halve any damage dealt; obscured never affects AoEs though... and a super-flat-footed condition like say combining ravager’s oath with flat-footed would probably work best as a critical hit).

* * * *

The Fetch mechanics are nearly done, though a couple of elements still need some evocative names. Unlike the elves with their castes, death is more egalitarian and the primary divide is between the “comforters” (those who come to basically good people to provide a friendly face to guide them to the afterlife) and the “reapers” (those who hunt down souls that reject the afterlife and instead flee to the Shadow World). Once I get those names down I’ll be able to complete the fluff text for them.

I’ve also decided that the Player’s Guide needs an “Old Praetoria Primer” as an appendix. Just enough about the region that a player can have a bit of history, what the main religions are, what the notable locations are like. Basically just enough to be able to choose their allegiances and have some idea of the default setting without needing to reference the GM’s Guide.

* * * *

As I mentioned previously, I’m looking at the option of being able create some NPCs using the normal PC options. To that end I’m thinking of including some NPC only species/spellcasting paths in the GMs Guide to represent the more problematic concepts for PCs (such as being soulless monsters or literally lacking free will) in a place that makes it clear these aren’t viable for PCs but still have a place in the setting.

Right now I’m looking at Shades, Undead, Demons (similar to Avatars with the Malfean elements) and Fae (Astral Spirits that aren’t Earthbound like Elves and Fetches and so have a full time gig doing the bidding of their patron god) for NPC-only species and the demonic and Shadow Spellcasting paths for NPC only paths (I’ve clarified in the Player’s Guide sidebar on other Spellcasting paths that both ultimately destroy their user’s free will and so are unsuitable to PCs).

The Spellcasting paths are already designed (and have been for a while) and the species don’t need anywhere near the level of fluff that the player species have (I’ve always had an easier time with mechanics than fluff) so they’d be easy to implement in the GMs Guide.

This way too, if the GM wants to play with different setting assumptions (say the Nentir Vale or Eberron) they can open some or all these up to the players if they desire.

* * * *

The other area I’m developing are the optional rules. The primary idea here is to present “dials” that enable styles closer to other editions of D&D. The 4E specific options are;

- “simpler distances/areas” (i.e. diagonals cost the same as edges and square bursts)
- “static modifiers” (drops the roll twice for static modifiers)
- “splitting heroic surges” (returning them to separate healing surge, action point and daily pools)
- “designated focus” (create set encounter and daily powers using focus with some bonuses for not having the flexibility of a focus pool)
- “active free strikes” (turns them back into opportunity attacks).
- “move actions” (requires all movement to be done at once).

Older school options include;
- “random abilty scores” (ranging from 4d6 drop lowest to a 3d6 in order rolled depending on severity).
- “everything’s random” (tables for randomly rolling species, background and archetype/class).
- “0th and ‘i’ level characters” (for the true zero-to-hero experience PCs can start as 0 level or -1 “i” level with proportionally less Edge, ability scores, equipment and so forth).

There’s also the rolling more or less (or no) dice option for those who prefer buckets of d6s for their fireballs or the damage reliability of D&D minis style combats.

* * * *

So despite my haranguing over things like static modifiers vs. roll twice I just wanted to reassure people that the rest of the project is proceeding at pace. I’m more likely to post here about things I’m struggling with than the things that aren’t having any issues with their development.

Honestly, other than things that richochet into it from player feedback, the GM’s Guide hasn’t had any significant issues. The biggest issues I see with it are going to be GM advice and the setting fluff text because those parts aren’t mechanics and fluff is harder for me write (not impossible, just slower and more plodding than mechanics for me).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Apr 28, 2018 11:29 am

So today's little tidbit is that, as an offshoot of creating a Demon NPC species, the Malfeans ended up finally getting a seventh Elemental Echo to match the seven Elemental Affinities of the avatars/primal spirits. The new Echo is Vermin, the fallen version of the Feral (i.e. animal affinity).

They picked up the Dust Malfean's (more on them in a second) resistance to forced movement and squeezing (they break apart briefly into a swarm), can deal toxic damage (poisonous insects) and their Absorb ability requires rotting food (which their swarming body literally devours). Their skin has a chitinous sheen, their eyes have insectoid facets to their pupils and their horns resemble antennae.

The Dust Malfean got a minor tweak in that they picked up resistance to and are able to deal storm damage instead of forced movement and untyped. The rationale is the static charges that can build up in dry dusty places, but it also serves to line the demonic dust spirits up with the lightning breathing desert dragons.

Here are the actual correspondences (and damage of their elemental projections);
-Air (storm) to Miasma (toxic)
-Earth (force) to Dust (storm)
-Feral (acid) to Vermin (toxic)
-Fire (fire) to Ember (fire)
-Frost (cold) to Slush (cold)
-Plant (toxic) to Husk (shadow)
-Water (force) to Brine (acid)

The Demon NPC species is currently shaping up as a combo of the Malfeans' Elemental Echoes with the Avatars' Incarnate Form with Optional Traits pulled from both. For GMs looking to create specific demons for the PCs to face in their campaigns they should be just the ticket.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Apr 28, 2018 3:17 pm

So what are you doing in the Rituals and Martial Practices arena? One of the things I have been developing is full support for Martial Practices for 4e. These for what I can tell virtually do not exist in most rpg environments -- some might implement with very open ended interpretations of skill or other ability use... or ones like HERO which basically allow player and dm full design powers have it covered but other wise not so much. It's one of the arenas 4e fell down on as far as Martial parity is concerned.

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Apr 28, 2018 5:26 pm

Rituals are actually classed as magic items in the game and anyone who can read Arcanos can use them (though those with a good Intellect and proficiency in Arcana will have an easier time of it). The basic game has 44 rituals in the Player's Guide for use. Any skilled hero with the Tactical Focus (Int-based) could pick up the Arcana skill (either in their background or as their "any one other" skill) and use rituals as well as any wizard if they desired.

Martial Practices fall under utilities you gain from backgrounds and you gain 2 (3 if human) to start and gain a new one at every odd level. They are almost too numerous to list, but here are a few examples;

Combat Engineering: In one hour of effort, you and your allies can excavate a number of squares of earth (but not solid stone) equal to the number of people assisting. The material excavated from each square can be used to fill a square within 2 paces of where it was excavated.

Distracting Words: You can replace an ally’s Stealth check against a creature that is aware of you with your own Deceit check. If the ally would be able to flank the creature with you, then they also have total cover from the target for purposes of moving without breaking cover.

Hero to the People: Main action / One ally that can hear you may Rally or make a recovery check with a bonus equal to your PRE score. Special: If you spend a heroic surge this effect applies to all allies that can hear you.

Master Plan: If you have five minutes to prepare before an encounter, you can spend a heroic surge and create master plan. A number of times equal to your Focus score you can, as a free action, cause any creature to re-roll an action check they just made and use the new result (EoE).

Rapid Jury-Rig: You can perform the Jury-Rig action in half the usual time (this stacks with the time reduction for being proficient with engineering). For 1 focus you can reduce the time needed per check to one minute, to one turn per check for 2 focus or completing the entire process in a single main action (regardless of cost) for 3 focus. This effect lasts until the item you are jury-rigging is complete or you fail a check.

Ready Ambush: By spending one minute before a battle you can create a zone that is a Melee Burst 2. You and allies gain a +1 bonus to their defenses when they have any cover in the zone and +5 to Stealth checks to hide in the zone before combat begins.

Survival Preparation: By spending one hour in preparation, you and your allies gain immunity to normal environmental heat or cold dangers and +5 to Fitness checks against other environmental hazards for the next 24 hours.

Trapsmith: Minor action+1 focus / Rig a trap in an adjacent square (EoE) that inflicts 3+½ level damage and one effect; slowed (ENT), flat-footed (ENT) or prone (choose when the trap is set). It is triggered by the first unaware creature to enter or exit the square on its turn (TN 16 + ½ level to detect).

Words of Reason: Minor action + 1 surge / Make a PRE vs. Will attack on each enemy that can understand you (+2 to the check if you are proficient with Persuade). Targets hit will not attack you or your allies until they or one of their allies is attacked or one of their unaffected allies makes an attack. If you affect every enemy with this effect, you attempt other actions to end the conflict without additional combat.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Apr 28, 2018 9:12 pm

Definitely some intriguing stuff there.

I particularly like the base effect and get more by putting heroic effort into it, I have been thinking of the same thing in some Martial Practices.

Hero to the People: Main action / One ally that can hear you may Rally or make a recovery check with a bonus equal to your PRE score. Special: If you spend a heroic surge this effect applies to all allies that can hear you.

I also considered the idea of giving martial classes quicky style practices like the mage gets cantrips. So I am seeing a bit of that thought in there too.

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“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Apr 28, 2018 9:44 pm

you just reminded me of something.... In AD&D Gygax at some level lumped spells as magic items, And when he was thinking about it he suggested that perhaps the non-magical characters were intended sort of to be compensated with more of them.

Note you see in the Paladin a trade off between magic items and divine gifts.

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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Apr 28, 2018 9:49 pm

A base effect that improves with resource expenditures is the default mechanics for the game. Focus is essentially what you burn for ‘encounter powers’. Surges are the currency of ‘daily powers’ and ‘action points.’ (and rituals... nearly all the rituals cost a surge to complete).

The core concept for most of my magic is that it’s an alternate path to the effects that mundane effort can produce. Skilled heroes can use focus and surges to pull off effects on par with magic.

Wizardry is what smart characters who lack the strength or reflexes to be lethal with a sword or bow. Their attack spells are about as dangerous as a skilled heroes’ bow attacks. An arcanist’s feather fall and a monastic’s slow fall both use the same mechanics... but one uses Acrobatics and the other Arcana.
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