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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4284 Members Latest Member: - Nicholas Mizer Most online today: 167 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Cold Iron] Applying "know what you're rolling for before you pick up the dice"  (Read 3117 times)
ffilz
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« on: December 21, 2005, 12:03:03 PM »

We had another session of Cold Iron last night, and I got to apply some new rules I've been hashing out. Cold Iron has a perception attribute, Alertness, which has always been used to avoid surprise and otherwise notice things. But it's had no solid mechanics and has been what Chris Chinn calls "floaty".

In my blog I've been sharing thoughts about Cold Iron and the areas where I'm working on it since it's really an incomplete game.

I will probably have to refine my encounter distance mechanic, but last night I used it twice, and it worked really nice. It was really cool that I couldn't just negate the players rolls. One thing I should have done though it told the players about the new mechanic. For one thing, the mage talked about using a spell that would have helped alertness for one of the encounters. One thing I have resolved to be upfront in the future with is circumstances that might lead to an easier ambush (snow storm in the first case, a trail with lots of shrubbery in the second case - the snow storm could have been dealt with by a spell improving vision in snow) before and encounter comes up. This way, the players can react to the condition, making the condition something that opens up tactics, rather than an arbitrary penalty applied by the GM.

The way the numbers work out, without spells, the current group of PCs has somewhere near a 75% chance of detecting an ambush with some time to react. With spells, they could potentially boost this. One the one hand, part of me was feeling that it was too easy. On the other hand, I think it's really cool that the PCs in fact are pretty hard to ambush.

On a not so good note, we're still struggling with bookkeeping time. Cold Iron is a bookkeeping heavy game, which is something that works for a lot of people, but it can leave players with their eyes glazed over while someone else does necessary bookkeeping. I need to work a bit better on my prep. I think I also need to work on ending game sessions at a reasonable enough time that people can stay late for bookkeeping rather than starting sessions with bookkeeping. I think things will improve as the players get more used to the system.

Frank
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Frank Filz
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« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2005, 12:24:06 PM »

Hi Frank,

What changes did you make?  Also, what sorts of things do you have to keep track of?

Chris
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ffilz
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« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2005, 01:30:21 PM »

I took up your idea of the three classes of creature (stealthy, normal, and can't be missed) and added another category for invisible w/silence and set base difficulties for each class, and a meaning of failure or success for each class, with an indication of how much the warning was improved by a really good success.

Here's an example of what might have happened the old way:

The player with the best roll calls out "I got a 25 alertness check" and then I would think, gee that was pretty good, I guess I'll give them some warning, and then set up the encounter, and then discover the creature could close in one round.

Here's what happened the new way:

I decided the snow trolls in the snow storm were stealthy. A player got a 25 alertness check. That was a success (DC was 20) which gave 1 turn of warning. Exceeding the DC by +3 was good for an additional turn of warning. So I set up the snow trolls two turns of their movement away from the PCs.

The only thing that would modify the DC given placement in a particular stealth class would be specific creature abilities, or specific spells. Snow trolls are "almost invisible in a blizzard" so with a blizzard, I might give them a modifier to the stealth category (and perhaps even gain the failure possibility of invisibility - success on invisibility still doesn't give much warning because it's such a total condition, so that would not be appropriate).

Letting the players know what their options in a snow storm are would improve their ability to respond tactically (or strategically - if it's just too likely to get surprised, perhaps you just hole up until the storm is over). Of course being aware of what the possibilities are also would allow better character generation (in particular, I think players need to know what the effect of taking a midling alertness would be).

Frank
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Frank Filz
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« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2005, 11:00:29 PM »

Hi Frank,

Is there any reward changes based the odds of ambush?  For example, do you give more xp when players are ambushed by snow trolls in a blizzard?

Also, is it possible for players to get enough warning time to set up a counter-ambush?  And if so, do the monsters risk losing turns?

Chris
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ffilz
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« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2005, 11:42:50 PM »

I've always run Cold Iron with very ad-hoc experience. I do use a bit of a challenge guage as an informal input. I think it would be good to develop more concrete guidelines. And treasure has been even looser, though I think I do have vague thoughts on what creatures should have for treasure (also, the tool using creatures use most of their treasure, so more treasure equals more challenge). The consumable nature of most of the treasure makes it a lot less important to carefully meter treasure (which is one of the features I like best about the system).

Though I also ended up abandoning the concrete guidelines for my Arcana Evolved campaign, and that seemed to work fine.

I'm at a real loss for how to systemize experience, and as to how important that actually is. But it's also real hard to tell how people feel about different rates of experience. I probably used to have more variance between players than I do now.

As to the PCs getting enough warning to set up a counter-ambush - that would definitely be a good thing to make sure is possible. I have considered that the chart can be used in reverse if the PCs are sneaking up on an enemy, or laying in ambush, but I think I might want to put some kind of "PC bonus" in there (beyond the PCs considering use of magic to improve the odds of sneaking in). This option certainly becomes a lot more possible with this system.

Frank

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Frank Filz
ffilz
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« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2005, 11:47:46 PM »

Of course there's another possibility with enough warning - just avoiding the encounter. And that's good also.

Frank
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Frank Filz
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« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2005, 12:05:46 AM »

Hi Frank,

As I've mentioned before, it's a good idea to look at the larger issues of the game you're working with before going to the details.  It might be a good idea to nail down a basic structure of play, even if you're missing chunks, before worrying about detailed sub-systems like Awareness.

For example, if you nail down character generation, combat, and how to set up challenges, you'll have something people can work with and playtest.  As it stands now- there's too little for anyone to really get a grasp on and give meaningful input.

Chris
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ffilz
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« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2005, 09:06:09 AM »

Good point. What's gumming up the whole works is that I have two goals, which may not be compatible.

The first goal is to improve the play of a functional system that I have used in the past, and am now trying to use. But this system exists partly in my head (and there's a valid question if it can be successeful with a group where the only connection to my college community of play is through me).

The other goal is to produce a system, that is at least in the spirit of that old college game, that is complete, and doesn't exist only in my head. This goal is complicated by IP issues since major chunks I would like to use are not my creation (including the name).

My ultimate goal is to have a system I can stand behind, that is in a form easily shared with my players. If that also is a system others find useful, then that would be cool (and I'm willing to put some amount of work into that effort because I think there are some good ideas worth sharing).

I'm curious how others have approached this type of problem.
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Frank Filz
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« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2005, 12:25:48 PM »

Hi Frank,

As long as you've been around, you've talked about this game.  From all the tidbits, I'm assuming either a) the game has some really strong points in it worth play, or b) you haven't played enough games.   Assuming the former, and not the latter, the question is- how can anyone, at the Forge, or else where, really help you with either goal?

If you are unable to share how play works with your friend's game, we really can't comment on it- it's vapor ware, as far as we know.  If you are trying to create something new- we can comment on that- but we can't tell you "how different" your new game needs to be, because we don't have the original to compare from.

My recommendation?  Write up an outline of the Structure of Play for YOUR game.  Base as much or as little of that off Cold Iron.  Make all the little changes (or big ones you want) to the system.  Write up something folks can use, and watch how feedback will change it.  I bet by the time you have a solid structure that works in a non-floaty (aka, not in your head) way, the rules will be significantly different than Cold Iron.  Acknowledge the original, the author, as heavy influence and continue on.

Otherwise, there's not much development help people can give you.  I'm interested, but again, there's not enough to go from to really help you.

Chris
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ffilz
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« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2005, 01:04:17 PM »

Ok, that's fair. I have been working on and off on putting my thoughts into words, and I need to put some concentration into that.

In the meantime, while I'm running a game, I really only need to worry about specific mechanics in areas where they are causing a real problem in actual play. I'm not sure how serious the alertness problem was, but your feedback has been really valuable in getting me to think about not just the die mechanic, but the procedure of how an encounter is introduced.

I guess step one is to put an outline down and identify the parts that are relatively well filled in (for now), and then concentrate on the parts that are not well filled in.

Frank
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Frank Filz
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« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2005, 02:02:52 PM »

Sounds like a good plan!  I look forward to seeing more, especially since the resource management ideas seem like a very solid and useful way to handle gamist play.

Chris
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ffilz
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« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2005, 02:09:50 PM »

I just posted a rough draft outline on my blog, also I posted the latest documents for the game. Hmm, would it be useful to see my current really rough draft of the how to play guide? I haven't posted it yet, and I think I really need to do some more work before it's too useful to post.

My Cold Iron web page
My blog


Frank
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Frank Filz
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