Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Replacing the Flux Capacitor

I am the Warden!!

If you've read my last post on the Matrix: Restoration playtest, then you'll know that we broke the Optional System. And it's a good thing. Breaking the game allows you to see the long-term flaws of a game should you allow it to extent to the point of ridiculous bonuses and limitless potential. If you don't push your mechanics to the limit, you'll never know what they can do.

This past weekend, we were rolling into the 70s, 80s, and even 90s on some rolls. It... was... insane. And while this may seem to border on the absurd, one key element remained. We had fun. Every playtest I've ever run so far has resulted in every player shouting out for joy at least once. That, to me, counts as a huge success. From these results, we discussed what worked and what didn't to develop revisions to many of the core mechanics of the Optional System. There's quite a few of them, so get comfy and let's get started.

Master Dice
Lord a-mercy, master stats and master dice were the deal-breaker. As we were relegated to 2 players for the playtest, I gave each character an additional 5 training points to boost their dice in the hopes of keeping the fights and challenges for the game equal to what was printed on paper. And they took advantage of the condition allowing them to spend 3 training points to boost a master stat by +1d12, leaving one character with +5d12 master dice whenever his character was in the Matrix. Oh, that was always. Huge deal breaker.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind that the system is designed to go this far, but my intention was not to allow that many dice with as little as 30 training points. Most of this was possible because it was a one-shot and the player was not having to save up all his training points solely to boost his master stat; these boosts have yet to happen in my regular playtesting campaign because they've only received training points one at a time rather than one large chunk. Still, this had to be addressed to prevent similar outcomes.

Solution: A complete change to the stat mechanics and master dice training. Take what exists for stats and chuck it out the window. They're gone, over. Instead, stats will work identically to master stats.

Stats will now exist as a collection of 4 categories: Master, Body, Sense, and Mind. Starting characters have 2 stats they can choose from for either Body, Sense, or Mind while creeds provide Master stats. Each stat is similar by name to what's been listed before, except each stat allows you to gain +1d12 master dice towards one roll in a series. (And never mind what you think a series is, cause that's changing too.) Once a stat has been applied, you cannot use it again until it refreshes at the start of a new series. While Master stats can apply to ANY roll you desire, the remaining three can only be applied to their particular category, so a Body stat can only be used with an active or opposing Body roll.

Increasing stats requires more than just training points; think of them as your character's "level" of power. Stats can only be improved through major achievements commonly found at the conclusion to an adventure. Whenever you kill the witch causing a plague on the village, rescue the derelict spacecraft from falling into a black hole, or kill the terrorists before they detonate the nuclear bomb, you gain a major achievement and can increase an existing stat by +1d12 master dice or gain a new Body, Sense, or Mind stat. Creeds still allow character to gain additional Master stats through training points and dedicated training time.

Series and the Edge
So far in playtesting, no one has taken advantage of a defensive option. While they do work (I've tested them myself), the concept behind them is disheartening to players. Yet they play an essential element to gaining the edge over an opponent, which in turn keeps the game from running in the standard "everyone act in the same order" as every other game. This also needed a change. Plus, there needed to be a management device for keeping track of when a character's stats would return.

Solution: A series is now defined as a "round" in which every Team uses all their original options. In short, a series lasts until every Team has used all their minimum options and has nothing left to perform. You can no longer "enter a series" by making 3 successful rolls in a row. But don't worry, there's something even better coming up to stay in line with the new focus on hits instead of success.

When your defense roll beats the attack by at least 3 hits, you gain the edge over the opponent. Your Team regains control of combat and can continue to use their options while the opponent fails the roll and loses the option. If your Team does not have options left, the edge instead transfer to the next Team in line. While this number remains to be playtested, this places the emphasis on the game on gaining enough hits rather than simply winning the roll, a facet truly appreciated by the players thus far.

Losing the Edge
Originally, you could only lose the edge when an opponent seized it from you. In combination with the lack of defensive options applied in a game, this never happened. We're changing that too.

When a character fails an active roll with the edge, the edge shifts to the next Team in initiative order. The losing Team keeps any options remaining within this particular series, but they don't get a chance to use them against until they gain the edge back either by stealing it with a good defense roll or when it falls back to them in initiative order. Losing the edge does not result in an automatic attack or punishment against the losing character, but you still feel a great deal of shame and another player may slap you on the back of the head.

Critical Options
So if you gain the edge by gaining 3 hits on a defense roll, is there something similar to gaining at least 3 hits on an active roll. Sure, what the hell! This is a critical hit. All dice options will soon include a Critical disclaimer to provide examples of what can happen when you roll at least 3 hits on your opponent, such as bonus reactions, automatic options, or just plain cool effects to make your attack even more bad-ass than before.

Overall Thoughts
What I'm hoping is to create an even faster, wilder implementation of the Optional System through these changes. Everything up to this point has been wildly successful and not one player has yet to look at me and say "What the fuck were you thinking?" to my face. Like I said, every game thus far has had the player raise their arms in the air and hoot for joy as they narrowly beat that crazy opposing roll. Within a couple of weeks, we'll find out if these new changes make a manic game even wilder.

But what do you think?