Wednesday, 3 August 2011

In Absentia

I am the Warden!!

Last night, I posted a link to the current draft of Optional: Playtest. If you're looking at a proper website (not the mobile version), you'll notice the link under The Optional Library to the left. What's posted here is only a fraction of the actual Word file (that's jumped up to 63 pages as of last night and I haven't even added the monitor creed from the Matrix work), but Optional: Playtest contains the basic elements to understand what the OSRPG is all about.

Or is it? Where's the combat chapter? There is none. There is none?! How can I design a fluid RPG designed to emulate martial arts films without a combat chapter. That sounds like a blog entry to me.

One Roll To Rule Them All
As thousands of geeks line up in airports and hotels flocking to GenCon, major announcements are being made for new roleplaying games, supplements, minis, and more. Cubicle 7 just posted the core rules for their new The One Ring system... everything except for combat. Those are forthcoming.

Every RPG (to my knowledge, there are always exceptions, I'm just not aware of any right now) has a combat chapter or clearly marked section of their rulebook. Combat encompasses so much of a RPG's time and energy, all the rules for engaging an enemy in deadly combat warrants its own category. Normally, this requires unique variations of the core mechanics and a flurry of variations to account for all the possibilities you can utilize within those rules.

Now let's turn back to The One Ring preview. As of August 1st, we know about the basics of their system: you gain a Feat die and various Success dice to roll against a difficulty number. All the basics of the game revolve around this. Does combat work off this principle? We can't say for sure yet, though it seems probable the answer is "yes."

As I've stated before, one of my objectives was to avoid exceptions at all costs. To me, posting rules for combat recognizes a standard in most RPGs: there are always exceptions to allow for different utilities. From this point on, I'm going to stop comparisons with TOR and just point my finger generically. Many games have two difficulty numbers: the standard difficulty number made for ability checks, skills, and so forth then a defense number. D&D is the biggest example: you make skill checks against a DC and attacks are rolled against AC. This is an exception.

It's a minor detail, really it is. I honestly don't care that there are two names for the same objective and it doesn't affect my love and appreciation for these games. But it's something I've always found odd. Plus it gets worse as time goes on. Cover provides a +2 bonus to a target's AC, but not the DC. So if I'm trying to spot an object beyond some trees, that object doesn't gain cover by the exact definition of the rules - it doesn't have Armour Class and you're not rolling to hit its AC. So why does cover only work part of the time, according to the rules as they're written?

Exception are bizarre little glitches in the system and, to me, they spell a lack of foresight in game design. The core fundamentals should be able to account for any crazy fucked up thing out deviant little minds can come up with. As soon as I read that combat works differently from skill checks, that tells me one of the two was added after the fact. (Likely skill checks.) These exceptions never used to bug me until 4e - that game is ripe with exceptions. The core design of power application was so tight and precise, anything else you want to do with it requires significant tweaking.

Get To The Point Already!
So where are the combat rules in the OSRPG? Listed with the options. This game features one mechanic: To attempt any action where there is a chance of failure, you roll against opposing dice. That's the core and it happens like this no matter what. Options provide the exact details on what you accomplish with a successful dice roll. You wanna attack that guy? You use the Attack option for rules on engaging him in combat.

I've poured long and hard over whether or not to add a combat chapter and, as you can see, I've gone with not adding one. When it comes down to it, combat rules are actually quite minimal because so many other factors will apply to any number of situations. In the OSRPG, finding an object behind some trees requires dealing with cover just as it does with planting an arrow into an opponent hiding behind those same trees. Does it work this way? You'll have to tell me.