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Author Topic: The Riddle o'Steel 'n' me  (Read 5599 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: June 13, 2002, 01:46:29 PM »

Hi everyone,

I'm three sessions into a fairly extended sequence for The Riddle of Steel, with Dav and Mario for players. I don't know how many sessions it'll play out to be, but right now, it looks like at least eight and maybe more. See the Setting up the drama thread in the TROS forum for some comments on my prep and play.

All of the following is presented for discussion and comparison. I suspect I'm missing a few rules here and there, so let me know if you do things differently.

Spiritual Attributes during play
Oh, these are so wonderful. I knew they would be.

I may have mis-read something, but I am permitting characters to spend Spiritual Attributes for improvement on the spot during play itself. This has an effect on play that I like a great deal - empty an SA that's important to you (and that you've maxed to 5), and keep acting in accord with it to pump it back up relatively quickly. As long as you don't keep improving a given attribute or proficiency multiple times during the session, you're cool.

I like this because the players therefore don't hit 5 per SA and then just go ho-hum in their role-playing because they're maxed.

The Tormented flaw reeeaally sucks for the player! I enjoyed how hard that's hit Dav's character. I suspect he was looking for one of those weeny not-really-Flaws and focused on the "behavioral" ones because they don't really matter, right? And that's all just the role-playing part, right? See, Dav's the kind of player who takes "won't kill" as a disadvantage and then amends that in play to "when I don't feel like it," or similarly, takes "socially inept" and then plays the character so endearingly that the GM basically forgets to penalize the social rolls or play NPCs as rejecting the guy.

Sorcerers who care are very, very bad news
All that SA stuff especially applies to sorcery. Sorcerers may have insane SP pools, especially for a sorcerer with 14 SP and really kickin'  SA dice - when you realize that could possibly boost up to 25 more dice ... wowsers! And Destinies, Drives, and (most of the time) Passions aren't used up.

However, none of that means jack if you're casting something that takes many minutes and you get a sword through your region VI. Therefore, the key to sorcery is held Formalized spells, especially with that many dice to kick around. The TN's are kept down a bit by the Formalizing, and the casting time is basically "poof" because it's held (could be I'm over-simplifying; I don't have the book on me at the moment). With upwards of 30 SP, that's plenty of vile prep. My favorite instance was the character who pegged the sorcerer in the throat with his morningstar only to discover that the damage was reversed right onto himself. It'd be interesting to see how everyone else would write this as a spell ...

Tactics and the learning curve
The good news first: Dav tried to break the system the same way he did L5R, and it didn't work. It's easy, he said, read the weapons tables and take the biggest nastiest one, and you're all set, right? ... until he realized that a flail had a DTN of 14 or whatever it was. You never saw a character scurry so fast back to the shed to change weapons.

Now, when it comes to real fisticuffs, I am thought by some to be an unpleasant customer. However, in table-top gaming combat strategy, Dav's more clever than I - and last night I lost a good NPC, into which the players had poured much hatred and fear, because I played his combat stupid, and Dav simply poured a bezillion dice into a single frontal attack. All I had to do was Full Evade, and it would have become a fine personal, vicious battle, even if the bastard lost, and possibly I might even have kept my NPC to continue tormenting them with. Very annoying.

The key, to paraphrase Ursus from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, is evade, evade, evade. It's not immediately clear from the Maneuvers lists, at least not to dumb-bunnies like me, that you have all three Evasion options open to you all the time. That's a big deal. Partial evasion, Duck and weave, and then a few of the canny maneuvers like Block Open and Strike, are wonderful things, just as they are in a real fight.

My only insight, I suppose, is that Jake was giving extremely valuable advice when he suggested running a lot of combat prior to "real play." I'd run a couple of one-sessions, but nothing with blood-soaked, armored, morningstar or poleaxe combat. Bad idea - I strongly recommend that all would-be TROS GMs do exactly that.

Covert Drift?
I'm looking over Clinton's enthusiastic testimonies to TROS play, and I'm squinting suspiciously ... in fact, I'm wondering about a lot of the play we're hearing about. Are people really ...
a) buying initiative as written?
b) playing the NPC opponents with full and brutal tactical acumen?
c) keeping track of Blood Loss, Pain, Shock, and Knockdown, per hit?
d) dropping CP for armor, maneuver costs, and most especially weapon length?

'Cause some of these bog down play significantly, especially in combination. I'm suspecting that groups are finding personal combinations of these rules to retain or jettison, and not realizing that they do it.

See, some local modifications have crept into my game, and some of it isn't my doing. For instance, these two players are very accustomed to discussing tactics and actions out-of-character, so that they are finding the red-die white-die thing to be redundant - they like advertising to the group as a whole that they're gonna attack now, and no one (including me) uses the knowledge for tactical advantage to other characters. The inherent strategizing against one another in that mechanic isn't very interesting to them and they override it by "giving it away" first.

Less significantly, I ignore Blood Loss a lot unless it's gruesome (spurt!), because it doesn't affect combat much at the moment - unfortunately, that also means that Health loss tends to get run by ... hence you get these guys being unwounded when they should be hurt a bit.

We've hit a couple of walls, too - as when two red dice are thrown, and then the two characters tie on their "hit first" rolls. Is that a double hit? Or ...?

It's important to be Social
Dav and Mario present a great case study of creating two cranky combat monsters, then suddenly realizing that you don't get Destinies, Passions, and Drives easily under way when you have no friends.

Soc and Per were also both especially useful for Battle and Tactics rolls, which again, I don't think they were expecting. Probably it was the legacy of many years of games in which Soc was for seduction and chit-chat, and Agility was for fightin', with no crossover between the two ...

Anyway, those are some of my current thoughts preparatory to writing my review. Any comments or responses out there?

Best,
Ron
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2002, 02:21:52 PM »

Quote
We've hit a couple of walls, too - as when two red dice are thrown, and then the two characters tie on their "hit first" rolls. Is that a double hit? Or ...?


Go back and re-read that section. I agree that "stealing initiative" is a bit over-complex, but this issue here is simple.

Can't wait for the review.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2002, 03:06:43 PM »

Hi Jake,

Got it.

But that was a teeny weeny iddle point. Any comments on the other material? Anyone?

Best,
Ron
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Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2002, 03:26:51 PM »

Sure Ron,

(just lost a long reply.  Hint to everyone: Avoid the escape button while typing...)

As one of the players of Clinton's game:

a) Yes, but we only bought initiative twice in the whole run.

b)Most of our opponents were either 1) untrained but still pissed serfs and peasants,  2) Thuggish guards who specialize in beating up said serfs and peasants,  or 3) Decent but not elite mercenaries in small numbers.
Much of our fighting involved surprise, trickery, and slick moves.  Many of my unorthodox moves required NPC's to make surprise rolls to be able to defend(killed by a door...), which many had failed.  

So far there have only been two fights which were with "equals or betters" one of which was a formal duel at the tourney, the second of which was the grand finale between Martin and Baron Duval. In both cases, a lot of manuevers were pulled out, and Clinton didn't hold back.

As far as some of the other threats, it never hurt that Savaric was usually around to throw a knife into someone's back as support :)

c) We kept track of Pain and Shock.  Bloodloss only if it was high, and not necessarily every round(most anyone in the danger zone was out of the fight anyway).  I think we only used knockdown if it was in the damage charts or a trip attack.

d) Yes, yes, and most of the time, yes.  Most of us didn't wear armor, so it wasn't much of a problem.  We found that the CP costs for manuevers was a great way to handle some of my more fun and "not in the book" actions(kick a barrel at a foe, slam a door on em, etc.)  As far as weapon length is concerned, we accidentally ruled that the person with the advantage gets more dice, instead of the person with the disadvantage losing dice, but it didn't seem to be a major difference(about 1 die either way).

Personally, I like most of the rules, but I think most manuevers again boil down to: More dice for me or less dice for you, which is really a currency thing.  I'm not sure how I would handle bloodloss, but I think its the most inelegant rule of the set.  Knockdown I would say is also an extra I'm not sure I would use except in the case of sever damage/tripping attacks.

Also let me know how fast skills improve for your group.  It seemed that the better you were at a skill the easier it was to improve it.

Chris
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2002, 07:55:23 AM »

We did drift in one way - when it's completely obvious that someone is going to attack, we just said it, instead of rolling red die/white die. I actually see this as pretty functional - if someone's bristling and stroking their sword, the character's going to notice, and probably defend if he's got any sense.

I'd say we used the rules-based method (roll red die/white die) about 80% of the time, and 20% of the time I as the GM just out and out said "The fool's going to attack you - attack or defend?"
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2002, 08:20:55 AM »

A few interesting points. The first is that the way you handle it Clinton--in fact, the way you ran Riddle in general from all reports, is exactly how it was intended to be run (initiative, etc.), despite the fact that that isn't always overtly stated. So I'm happy. I also think that a few articles on my web page, talking about optional streamlining in play to make things more like the way I (and you) run them would be great.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2002, 08:30:14 AM »

Hi Jake,

One of the things I'm trying to summarize for TROS, and will submit to you for approval, is a combat-sequence that keeps the essential stuff and minimizes the extra-crunchy stuff (or saves it for when you want it). Of course, the point is not to have the "light" vs. "complete" sequence to depend on different variables in some way that makes them different actual games.

Our ratio of using the red/white dice "for real" and just plain saying "I'm goin' in" or whatever, is about 50/50 - again, due to the players mode of announcement, rather than to deliberately changing the process.

Best,
Ron
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2002, 08:42:44 AM »

Remember, too, that the red/white thing represents the stand-off. Anyone that's been in any kind of a fight knows that the first guy to attack isn't the faster one, it's the one that makes the decision to attack first. If a player is saying "I'm going in," then his opponent is either (a) unaware, and gets creamed, or (b) aware, and sees the player a-comin'. So the opponent says, "well, let's start out on defense, then," or "I've got one hell of a reflex, let's attack simultaneously." The red/white is an "impartial" way of figuring out who decides to attack first. If it's obvious from context, run with it.

What's fun to do, though, is have an opponent try something brave but stupid, such as saying "oh, you're attacking, huh? Well so am I!" You'll get a few more double kills and player maimings/deaths that way, but they will learn that caution has its virtues.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2002, 11:40:41 AM »

Jake,

I'm especially interested to know your thoughts regarding spending Spiritual Attributes for improvement right there in play.

Example (in theory)

Let's say I've maxed my character's Drive, Passion, and Destiny, and they all apply to the current situation in a big way.

Scene A: I've used those 15 extra dice to get into milady's bed-chamber, in time to prevent the assassin from killing my lover (who's disguised as milady, blah blah).

Scene B: I spend those 15 dice, right now, to improvement some things (whatever: Proficiencies, Attributes, buy off a Flaw, doesn't matter as long as I haven't improved it or them already this session). Note that my three SA's are all now flat zero.

Scene C: While we are escaping the tower, we get hammered by enemies who again represent a fine instance to exercise Passion, Drive, and Destiny. Great! I fight like a bastard without any SA help ('cept now it's time to spend my Luck, say). But I go up at least one point in Destiny, Drive, and Passion, due to my actions. Cool!

Then, during Scene C, on the next exchange, I have three to five SA dice to add, right there. Same thing happens through the next round, if I live through it - and, although it might take a scene or two, I'll be back up to 5 in all three of those SA's within the foreseeable future.

So Jake, am I doing horrible things to the TROS system? As far as I understand it, this phenomenon is textually perfectly acceptable by the rules. I also consider it a wonderful, fun, and player-exciting element of play.

Best,
Ron
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2002, 11:45:35 AM »

What's this you say? You're having fun? Then you can't possibly be doing it wrong. The SA rules, as written, leave a lot of intentional room for interperetation. Some people prefer to use them rarely (go figure) and to only hand out/give about 3 points per game, if that. Others go gung-ho with it, have more dramatic stories, and a "bigger" adventure. That's great, too. Nothing you are doing is in any way "forbidden" by the rules that I can think of. Nowhere does it say that SA's are used up at the end of a session, or that you can't use them, spend them, then go get some more.

That's all just fine to me.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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