Friday, 5 August 2011

Matrix: Restoration (Part 3)

I am the Warden!!

I need a breather from all the awesome tweets and blogs talking about Gencon. As technology steps up to meet the pace, it becomes more and more obvious every year just how much I'm missing. Even Lady Warden knew it was Gencon and she's far from the roleplayer we are (though she does know which is the d10 in the pile). If you're sitting at home like me wishing you were invading a convention center at 1:30 in the morning rolling dice and sliding minis across a map, let's comfort each other, shall we?

Now that we have all that bonding out of the way, let's talk Matrix!

Monitors: A Creed for the Matrix
Click here or find it in the Optional Library to the left. This 8-page PDF is the first draft of the monitor creed developed for Matrix: Restoration premiering at GATLing weekend (only 3 weeks away). Seeing as we just talked about creeds yesterday, let's take this opportunity to discuss the core features of the monitor and how they access the OSRPG and enhance it.

(Please note you'll find more than just creed benefits inside this PDF - I've designed it to work as an all-encompassing document for character creation and rules. Hence the sections of stats and weapons which you'd never find in other creeds.)

This initial presentation of the creed offers up a slew of core essentials to operating as a monitor in the game. Consider them the "cheats" to any creed, abilities and functions which do not require an option or dice roll to enact (per se). A creed's benefits are the definition of the creed and in this case, it's all about the hack points.

Hack points are what makes a monitor more than just an interloper in the Matrix. They are a pool of cheats, diversions, and monkey wrenches designed to push the limits of reality as programmed into this alternate reality. They are the source of a monitor's power and also their weakness. Cue the quote!

Your presence within the Matrix corrupts the original coding of this elaborate ruse and allows you to hack its parameters. You do this by accumulating hack points. Hack points eliminate 1 difficulty dice used to oppose any dice options attempted in the game; you can spend as many hack points as you like when the Operator rolls difficulty dice and remove any difficulty die you wish. When you remove a difficulty die, it cannot explode. You can only use hack points on difficulty dice rolled against active rolls using your Matrix master stat.
            You can also redeem a hack point to gain +1d4 bonus dice to any roll, though if these dice explode, you’ll risk alerting an agent to your location. The Operator has rules for these scenarios.
            When you first enter the Matrix, you may roll 1d4 bonus dice and gain this many hack points; if these bonus dice explode, you risk alerting an agent (the Operator will take care of that problem for you). When you leave the Matrix, you lose all your hack points.
This is why I love bonus dice. Earlier playtests revealed a few close calls and narrow misses where a single d4 could have saved the day for certain players (Nick!) yet the consequences of using them can be quite drastic indeed. Roll a 4 and you risk alerting an agent. And trust me, you do not want an agent on your tail. Or two. Should you take that chance and only roll a 3, that risk will pay off when you need to jump from one building to another and the difficulty dice don't like you.

The safest application of hack points are the removal of difficulty dice. This facet was tricky at first; before they came along, I was torn between granting monitor crazy amounts of dice whenever they attempted any option to offset the difficulty dice. Were I trying to build this game for another system, I'd only have to play around with difficulty numbers or boost their efforts with massive bonuses. It would work, but seemed wrong and counterintuitive to my interpretation of how the Matrix works. Until I watched the scene where Neo tries to jump across two buildings in the first film.

Neo's problem wasn't making the jump; it was the reality of jumping from one building to another and falling to his doom. Without the rules embedded into the Matrix's code, he could do it no problem. When a monitor makes a jump, they're not boosting their ability to jump, they're cheating the code so that the jump doesn't seem like such a big deal. The problem from a mechanical standpoint is the difficulty dice. And so hack points were born.

The Matrix Master Stat
Every creed includes its own master stat and today we have the Matrix master stat. When your monitor enters the Matrix, this master stat kicks in and buffers your character with a +1d12 master die, thereby unlocking additional powers and options. At this point, rather self explanatory.

New Option: Download
Ah, the download. When Trinity calls up her operator and says she needs to learn how to fly a helicopter, it was brilliant, and needed to go into this game. Since it requires concentration and effort, downloading a new skill required an option. Make it an automatic option and clarify how you cannot be in the midst of a fight while using it and you've got instant access to a new skill or the means to increase an existing skill at half the price.

Next Time?
Weapons. For that matter, equipment. Anyone who knows me personally has long had to deal with my stance on equipment in RPGs (from tabletop to video games). I've always found them a crutch in so many games and set out to design a game which did not require equipment, yet had benefits to carrying them. For the Matrix: Restoration, that meant guns... but we're running out of time for today. When next we meet, we'll talk guns, ammo, and weight.