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Author Topic: Fading Suns system impression & thoughts  (Read 3154 times)
jeffd
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Posts: 58


« on: November 10, 2003, 09:49:15 PM »

I'm not sure if this is the appropriate forum for thoughts on an existing system.  If not, I'm sure it'll get moved.  :)

Quote
Hi Jeff,

I was going to reply to your initial post, until I read the bit about the dream sequence and was overcome by an audible physical reaction that cat owners will recognize. Glad to hear you've decided against it.

Please tell us everything about your system/mechanics experiences with Fading Suns.

Best,
Ron


Sure thing.  Where to start....

The basic mechanic of fading suns is interesting.  Rolls are made on a D20 against an goal that is almost always arrived at by adding and attribute and a skill.  Naturally you want to equal or under your goal.

This is where Fading Suns gets interesting - and what I think is the highlight of the system.  The final roll on your D20 (assuming it succeeds) is translated into a number of "Victory Points" that are actually used to determine success.  The higher you've rolled, the more victory points you get.  A roll of 1 is a simple success with no victory points, for instance.  A roll of 12 gets you 3 victory points.  More victory points indicates a larger success.  What makes this interesting is that not only do you have more of a likelihood of success as you advance, you also have a greater potential for *great* success.  

Rolling a 19 is an automatic failure.  20 is automatically a critical failure (I think they call it a fumble but we all know what they're talking about).  If you roll equal to your goal it's a critical success which doubles the number of Victory Points earned.  

That covers the basics of the system.  There are a couple of things that I'm going to deal with more closely.  These are mostly criticisms, though I'll try to be positive when possible - just for full disclosure I'm a pretty critical person by nature.  :)

First, it's not very clear at all what constitutes "average" in this universe.  I don't know about the rest of you, but when chargen for an RPG I like to have a reasonable idea of what constitutes average so I have a frame of reference to build my character around.  The book seems to indicate that a rating of 3 in an attribute and/or skill is average - but that would give you a goal of six, which would have you failing the vast majority of the time.  Even a pretty well trained character (attrib + skill of 12) is going t be failing almost half the time, which is kind of a letdown.  The way I've solved this in play is by only having rolls be called for in times of duress - this works out just fine but I do consider it to be a result of an inadequate system.

This segues pretty nicely into something else Fading Suns has - a "lifepath" style creation system.  Basically you make choices about your background and are given attributes, skills, etc based on those choices.  The problem with this is that you end up with a character with a lot of 3's, 4's, and 5's on your character sheet.  Going back up to the system consideration above - you have a character that fails a lot at a lot of things.  Even deliberately trying to use the lifepath system to create a bullet-shaped character results in goals around a 12.  Personally I'm a big fan of lifepath systems - I think they're a great thing for people who are a) new to a system and don't want to number crunch on a character sheet or b) just don't really feel inclined to number crunch at all.

Since we're talking about attributes and skills (kind of), I'll mention this - Fading Suns has a pretty unique jargon that goes along with the sort of sci-fi/fantasy crossover it is.  This is cool and atmospheric and all, but it's also really really confusing - it's not always clear to the new player what the hell everyone is talking about.  "repair" for instance is known as "redemption" - and further complicating matters is the fact that there are several different types of redemption, each of which has to be purchased seperately.  This confused me at first when I played my first FS character years ago - an engineer named Garret.  I thought Redemption was a catch all skill and later on learned it wasn't, which left me with a character who could comprehend the intracicies of a starship hyperdrive but couldn't repair a broken flashlight reliably.  Redemption as a skill (as well as a few others) would have been better off using a sort of "related skill" system ala proficiencies in Riddle of Steel - a certain level of ability in one type of redemption gives you automatic ability in others.  

One other interesting aspect of the system is the attribute "Tech."  Tech represents - vaguely - the ability to relate to and interface with technology.  The higher your "tech" the more you can comprehend.  Mid-twentieth century technology is expressed as tech 4.  Tech 5 is "diaspora era", when humanity first took to the stars.  Tech 8 it vautech, the technology of humanity's greatest and most inscrutable rivals.  Tech 9 is Ur tech, the most advanced technology in the game.  Many items in the game have a "tech" rating - in order to use them your character has to have a tech attribute equal to them.  This caused a problem in my game when a Vorox Commando with a tech of 4 was unable to shoot the laser rifle the group had acquired - mechanically speaking he simply couldn't do it no matter how many times he was taught.  The ruling I had to make is that you can be taught to perform specific, limited tasks beyond your tech rating - with some instruction the Vorox could shoot the rifle but if it jammed or otherwise needed maintenance it was beyond his understanding.

Now I'm going to get into what I think is the worst part of the FS mechanics - the Spirit Attributes.  Fading Suns implemented these as a personality mechanic, but they've got huge issues.  First, let me describe them:

In Fading Suns Second Edition there are three pairs of Spirit attributes:  Extrovert/Introvert, Passion/Calm, and Faith/Ego (First edition also had Alien/Human, but it was discarded).  The sum of both members of a pair can never exceed 10 - so you can have Introvert 4 Extrovert 6 but never Introvert 5 Extrovert 6.  

It's interesting, but it's pretty damned retarded.  

For starters, they're largely useless.  The rulebook itself admits at one point that it's not likely you'll roll most attributes at all.  For the most part they only come into play with the psychic powers - even then only Introvert and Faith get involved.  There are some vague rules provided for "inciting passion" which ostensibly would give you bonuses if you're real fired up, but given that the roll to do so is *only* passion and it uses the straight VPS chart for success you fail pretty often and even when you succeed it's kind of anemic.  

The second part is - the descriptions suck and are contradictory.  My favorite example here is Introvert and Extrovert.  These are described as your affinity for solitude vs. your affinity for being in a crowd - they are *not* a measure of any ability.  Well and good so far - it's possible to have someone with high extrovert who's a total jackoff (think of that annoying hanger-on who is always following the crowd but constantly running his mouth and doing nothing but eliciting eye-rolling and catty remarks).  Likewise you can have high introvert but be quite charming and affable - you just prefer to be alone.  

Well, in the "systems" chapter that describes how to resolve common situations it contradicts this 100%.  Want to make a stirring speech to rile up the troops?  Roll Extrovert+Oratory.  Want to score rhetorical points?  Extrovert+Debate.  Want to seduce that Decados Baronet with the four extra nipples?  Roll Extrovert+Charm.  Want to scare the bejeesus of that prisoner?  Extrovert+Impress.  

The only use for Introvert seems to be art.  But only painting or sculpting - if you want to sing or play an instrument, well that's Extrovert+Performance.

You get the picture.  The other two sets of spirit attributes are similarly muddled.  Passion of course represents your capacity for extremes of emotion, whereas calm represents balance.  Faith represents your belief in the power of things outside yourself (pretty much god, as Faith doesn't seem to have any use other than in Theurgy, though I guess you could use Faith+Stoic Mind or something to resist torture by relying on your faith), whereas Ego represents your belief in yourself (only really ever used by psychics).  

The third problem I have with spirit stats is their coupling.  While I guess it makes sense that Introvert and Extrovert are coupled (it's a pretty binary situation), I don't really buy that the other four are as exclusive as the system makes them out to be.  Why can't I be a level-headed warrior who believes fervently in the justice of my cause (high calm and passion).  Why can't I be a devoted churchman who also has a great deal of faith in my own abiliities (high faith and ego).  

Yea.  You get the picture - as a personality mechanic they're almost entirely broken.  Most Fading Suns characters won't have very high spirit stats simply because it isn't worth it.  The only one that gets any points put into it after chargen is calm, since you can ostensibly use that to keep cool under pressure and not screw up (ie, eliminate penalties to a roll based on duress).  

I mentioned psychic powers above.  There are two types of "magic" in the Fading Suns world - psychic powers and Theurgy.  Their origin and the details of their mechanics are different, but broadly speaking they are the same - just shit you can spend Wyrd on (Wyrd is a derived attribute that has a few other uses, see my analysis of the metagame mechanics below).  

Psychic powers come in "paths" of related powers.  In order to access higher level powers you need to posess all the powers below it.  Powers have different crunchy bits (is that the term) in terms of their duration, range, etc.  They also have an activation cost - usually one Wyrd.  each power has a roll to activate it as well - something plus something.  Here's where the system really breaks down - what you're rolling is largely all over the map and has nothing to do with anything.  Extrovert + Volt Redemption, for example.  What this means is that if you want to be even a slightly effective psychic (say 2-3 powers with a reasonable chance of success) you pretty much have to buy all sorts of utterly unrelated attributes and skills that likely have nothing to do with anything your character actually does.  A better choice IMO would have been to have each path be associated with a single attribute and then have the individual powers be based off of different skills.  Oh, I forgot to mention - psychics have one extra attribute, Psi, which pretty much governs how powerful they are.  You can't buy a power at a level higher than your Psi.  The fact that psychics have to raise this attribute along with all the others means that you don't see potent psychics all that often.  

The problems in this system really become inherent when the GM decides to create a potent psychic adversary.  Even a NPC who is reasonably talented (goal of 14 or so) in 3 powers and relatively talented (goal of 10-12) in a few others is going to have a monstrous looking character sheet.  

Theurgy is largely the same, except therre are no "paths" - you can pretty much learn any theurgic right you want so long as you've got the stats for it.  

I mentioned Wyrd - Wyrd is the game's metagame mechanic.  Most starting players have around four Wyrd.  It can be used to either fuel powers or accent rolls.  When you accent a roll you either raise or lower your goal, in the process adjusting your VP chart.  When you accent a goal up, you get fewer VPs - this represents you being extra-special careful.  The result is that you are more likely to succeed but you're not going to succeed as dramatically.  Likewise, you can accent a goal down but get more VPs.  I've never seen the latter done, despite playing in 2 games and GMing another.  

You can also spend a point of Wyrd and then roll your Passion to incite passion.  If you succeed you can pretty much adjus tyour goal up by however many VPs you got.  I've never seen this done.  

That rounds out the character sheet, mostly.  Now let's talk combat.

Combat is pretty standard fare.  A basic exchange involves rolling attack while your opponent (if he's so inclined) rolls defense.  I say if he's so inclined because you don't need to roll defense often, as I'll explain later.  If one roll fails, than that's that - it's a hit or a miss and you check VP's if it's a hit.  If both rolls succeed, assuming the attack was higher you subtract the lower roll from the higher and then compare that result to the VP chart.  It's kind of convoluted but it prevents a roll of 12 from blocking a 13 (when both would give you 3 VP).

By the way I'm totally guesstimating how many VP a given roll gives you, I'm not a walking VP chart.  :)  

Now, initiative is the standard D&D style frozen in time shindig.  Initiative is based entirely off of the skill you're using - if you're swinging at me with a melee of 8 then your initiative is an 8.  This can be adjusted by combat manuevers, which I'll get to in a bit.  Frankly I hate this initiative system - it's entirely arbitrary, and given the mechanic the person with the higher skill pretty much always wins a fight because they will *always* go on the attack (unless armor comes into play, which I'll mention in a bit).  So if we're dueling and I've got a melee of 6 and you've got a melee of 4 and neither of us has armor odds are really really good I'm going to win, just because you'd be retarded not to defend with every action.  

The game tries to spice things up a bit with Combat Actions.  You buy these with XP and each one lets you adjust one of the following things in combat:  Initiative, Goal, Damage.  So you might have a speedy manuever that's really accurate - a quick thrust - that is +1 to goal and initi but -1 to damage.  Some combat manuevers have prerequisite manuevers as well, so you've sort of got a manuever tree going.

Damage uses D6's (wierd, huh?)   Basically you add the VP on your attack (if any) and the weapon damage and roll that many D6.  Your opponent rolls however many dice of armor he has (also D6).  Not too bad so far.  The thing that kills this system is shields.  Oh, hits and armor all work on a D6 roll of 1-4.  5-6 fails.  

Shields are energy fields in Fading Suns that react to kinetic impact.  Shields are given a rating of x/y where x is the activation threshold and y is the limit.  5/10 is a common rating and one we'll use here.  Basically, 1-4 damage will get under the shield and hit armor.  At 5 damage your shield starts sucking it up, so if you take between 5-10 damage nothing happens; your shield just loses a charge.  At 11 damage you start going over the threshold - so at 11 you'd take 1 damage to your armor.

Needless to say, a PC with an energy shield and 4 dice of armor is something to be really really feared.  From a purely mechanical perspective they've got an even shot of the armor stopping any damage that gets under the shield, as well as 4 that goes over.  That's an incredible range of damage that you are probably going to avoid - 1-14.  For perspective, the best melee weapons in the game do 8 damage.  With that in mind you'd have to have a whopping 6 VP to have a *shot* at damaging that shield wearer with his armor (did I mention that armor imposes no penalties yet?).  

It gets worse if you eat the penalties to wear platemail and spend the cash on a battle shield.  Suddenly you're at 5/15 on your shield with 10 dice of armor in case that doesn't work.  I saw a PC in one game who did this - pretty much untouchable.  (Worst case scenario is a 5/20 shield whie you wear power armor that can suck up 15 damage).  

Shields do have a limited number of charges, and they don't protect against fire.  They can also be overloaded - lots of impacts at once (eating a clip of assault rifle ammo at point blank range) or a broad impact (read: a big fall or being hit by a truck) will overload the shield, frying its energy source.  They do cost money to recharge as well - most standard shields only get around 10 activations before they die.  

Oh, you can do multiple actions but frankly the cost is prohibitive.  A single extra action gives you -4 to the goal on both of them.  Two extra actions means you have -6 to all of your actions.  Extra actions are pretty much pointless, which makes combat very much an uninspired dull affair - very conservative, very slow, very boring.  

Frankly, the combat system in Fading Suns is in shambles.  Initiative sucks, and if a character's got a shield and some armor they're untouchable.  I had to make the following changes to the combat system.

First, victory points cause static damage.  If you hit with four VPs, you get 4 damage period.  This represents your blow being well placed.  Oh, I forgot to mention - you can "pull" VP damage from any attack before you roll it (if you're say trying to get under a shield).  

Second, I totally redid initiative.  Roughly speaking combat now takes place in 30 segments ranging from 30 to 3.  Your initiative is a roll of wits + dex + 1d10.  You get an action every 10 segments; so if your initiative was a 24 you'd get actions on 24, 14, and 4.  With an 18 you'd get actions on 18 and 8.  There are rules for "jumping the gun" and defending out of initiative.  I find this makes combat a lot more fluid - knowing they'll get more actions means characters take more risks, which is fun.  It also means that initiative isn't entirely karmic in nature; so you don't have the higher skill ALWAYS being on the offense.  Kudos to the awesome Fading Suns website Empire of the Phoenix Throne for this system, it's not my invention at all.  

Third, I've not allowed *any* shields except for the standard shield, and I've made it *very* expensive to recharge them (more so than the book reccomends, as it's not hard to play a PC with lots of cash).  You can't just plug your shield into a wall socket to recharge it - the fusion cell is extraordinarily rare and it costs a fortune to recharge (about 200-1000 dollars in real world terms, depending on where you are and who you're getting to charge it).  

Even then, combat is largely academic for a well-armored PC.  At best you're going to nickle and dime them to death with a wound here and there.  At worst (a well equipped PC versus NPC) you're going to have a fight that lasts hours and hours.  

So what about XP?  Truth be told I've got no idea.  I've run with my own Xp system since before time it seems.  It works out like this:  I do Xp at the beginning of each session after a player gives us a recap (the recap responsibility rotates every few sessions, if a player does a good job with recaps after 3 or so sessions he or she gets an xp as a reward).  

1XP for showing up last session (the ubiquitous warm body award)
1XP for telling me something pithy or cool your character did (pith is the vernacular we use, really it's just something particularly in character and entertaining).
1XP for the best one-liner or exchange of the last session (same person can't win this two weeks running).
1XP for best RPing, player consensus (same player can't win this two weeks running)
1XP for answering a question about your character that the GM poses.  Ideally I come up with an insightful question that will get you to really think about your character and his or her place in the world.  Sometimes I just ask what their favorite food is or something if I'm feeling uninspired.

Generally you get 3-4 XP per session, which is about right.  Oh, OK I'll go ahead and look up the real XP system.

Looking this up reminds me of something - the core book is HORRIBLY organized.  It's often really non-intuitive as to where something might be, and the index isn't always helpful.  

OK, Experience is "based on the overall success of the character's endeavors".

1XP for failure or marginal success
2XP for the average game session
3XP for over the top success.

That's for the group's endeavors.  There's individual XP as well:

1 point for a character who performs a great deed
1 point for roleplaying well
1 point for a character who learns something new

So I guess I give more XP than I should, but I'm also picky about letting characters spend XP.  You can raise just about whatever you want during downtime, provided you tell me how you've done it.  Want to learn a new fencing manuever?  Better get someone to teach you... oops, that'll cost you 20 firebirds.  If you want to raise XP between sessions with no downtime, it's got to be based off of something you did in the last session or two - either you used that skill/attribute a lot or you botched or critically succeeded.  You can't raise your knavery cuz you tried to pick one lock and failed.  

So that's the Victory Point System in a bit more than a nutshell.  Frankly it kind of sucks - the main reason I'm using it is it's what most of the players are comfortable with.  I've thought about doing a Riddle of Steel conversions (it would gel really well with some additional skills, the sorcery system would work for psychic powers; the only problem I see is the lack of a "Tech" analogue attribute).  

Let me know if you have any questions or clarifications.

JD
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2003, 03:24:45 PM »

Hi Jeff,

Wow!

I guess I wasn't 100% clear ... as it happens, I've played Fading Suns, although not very much. I met the designers and participated in a demo they ran, quite a while ago, and I'm sure they don't remember me. I own the game and a fair piece of the associated library.

The reason I asked for your input about it is that I often find myself turning to the books for flip-throughs, but my suspicion of the system, my absolute inability to slog through the setting material (even the "abbreviated" version in the core book), and certain other features have led me never to begin a solid game. I do think that the "Priests of the Celestial Sun" sourcebook is one of the ten finest available sourcebooks in role-playing. I have toyed with the notion of using either Sorcerer or HeroQuest as the system, to mine that book in particular to use the Fading Suns setting, or a rather stripped-down version of it. But that sort of game-stripping has become more and more exhausting to me over the years, so I'd put the idea aside.

For future reference, your rules-breakdown and description of the game is solid gold, even if it wasn't absolutely needed on my part. What was needed, though, was what you also provided - the points of breakage.
There is a gaming-jargon term, I believe, to describe a dice-mechanic in which one rolls best *under* a score, but as high as possible. The term may even be a reference to a game show title, although there my knowledge fades past the clutches of my memory. The new version of Orbit, recently published, presents a very clever approach to this concept.

I think that this brand of two-step resolution - how successful was I, vs. how successful were you, subtract, now apply to defense - is a poor resolution paradigm. White Wolf entrenched it and still clings to it, and that's clearly where Bridges et al. got it (they were WW veterans before striking out on their own). It's cleaner but still a bit clunky in The Riddle of Steel. HeroQuest neatly solves the problem by moving to a four-part scale of success, and Sorcerer (if I may so say myself) does so as well by eliminating target numbers.

What we're really talking about, then, is the Whiff syndrome. And if the lifepaths for character creation only cement it deeper, then ... well ...

I know what you mean about the funky terminology: redemption for repair, etc. Same thing in Obsidian, in which "damage" is Penance. I think the whole religious-SF-dark-future thing was into this.

Tech is a neat attribute in any game. But you've pinpointed the usual trouble with it, and with similar features in many games: when the effectiveness rating is supposed to indicate both how good you are at it, and the degree of your depth/breadth of understanding. There's something charmingly geeky in the rule (a belief? a hope, perhaps?) that how deeply you "know" something is also how well you use it, but in play, as you point out, it's dead annoying.

The spirit attributes have floored me each time I've picked up a "prep Fading Suns" pen and paper. It's clear where they came from: Pendragon. In fact, that might clear up your confusion about their binary nature, if you're not familiar with Pendragon. Suffice to say that in that game, the equivalent attributes are binary and their values shift back and forth between the two partners. They are intimately related to character behavior on a near-constant basis, using two separate systems for that purpose (in one, the roll dictates what the character does; in the other, the player-stated behavior dictates what the attribute's value does). The game also includes Passions, a separate and very significant mechanic which prefigures Spiritual Attributes in The Riddle of Steel.

But what I didn't understand is how these things in Fading Suns are freakin' employed during play in any way that seems fun. (By the way, I only have first edition, so it's news to me that Alien/Human was discarded. Kind of a bummer, I sort of liked it.) Your discussion really clarifies why for me, which I couldn't have figured out without playing. This is really why I asked about Fading Suns in detail, you see - you got elected to be my experiential proxy for this game.

As far as I can tell, what we're seeing is total lack of meaningful playtesting. If the demo I participated in was any indicator, the designers were skilled illusionist-GMs who wanted players (a) not to mess with their plots through those damnable successful rolls, (b) to have a lot of color to imagine (much like L5R), and (c) to get kind of "deep, my character" during character creation and (say) ballroom scenes. They took the Storyteller system, Pendragon'd it a little, and then failed to bake it much through playtesting because "system doesn't matter" anyway.

I think it's awfully interesting that "magic" has to be powered by the same stuff you use for the metagame interference. (And looking through my book, I may be wrong, but in first edition, Wyrd seems only to be used for Passions and for Occult, not metagame/combat.)

I was also confused, I now realize, about the "adjusting roll" thing. Anyone can use Wyrd to seesaw between to-hit & effectiveness, right? But that seems redundant with the Combat Actions, and I guess that's why I had been under the impression that anyone had access to all the Combat Actions from the get-go.

Looking over your comments about combat, I think I'd probably shift all the way over to Swashbuckler, which has, for my money, hands-down the best combat system around for most of my purposes of play.

Energy shields have been a whopping pain for RPG designers, as they so badly want to do the whole Dune or "Doc" Smith thing. Shields stop bullets and beams, so people have to use swords - that's the drill. Gamers have a terrible time coming up with rules for all this, if they use Simulationist-facilitating mechanics. They know the effect they want (must use swords!), but instead of starting there, they feel they have to get there. In this case, the effect seems to be the annoying "all or nothing" - the armor works against everything, except when you don't have it.

I imagine you already realize you've drifted the bejeezus out of the reward system. You are all about Character Exploration, in a big way - be there, play your guy, enjoy your guy, tell me about your guy. The original is far more roll-outcome-oriented and GM-oriented ... "character learns something new" stands out especially, as well as "great deed," because in Fading Suns play as I experienced it, the only way you perform a great deed is if the GM hands it out to be done.

I'll finish up with a question. Unless I'm misreading, you're still jockeying around your system preferences for playing in this setting. How radical are you interested in getting with that? After all, there's always stuff like The Pool, which is extremely satisfying when everyone is highly committed to the (for lack of a better word) genre. Or for me, I'd probably use Swashbuckler (great social stuff in that game too). The Riddle of Steel is a good choice, although you'll probably have to construct the psychic rules by tweaking sorcery heavily.

Thanks again for posting about all this! It met my needs very well.

Best,
Ron
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Jeph
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Jeff Schecter


« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2003, 04:23:25 PM »

Ron, are you thinking of "The Price Is Right" for roll under but roll high type mechanics?
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Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2003, 08:08:00 PM »

Hi Jeph,

I don't know. I don't know game shows, past or present, very well at all. I'm only referring to a reference made by others which apparently made sense to them, and since it had no toggle in my own memory to jog, the actual title used didn't stick. So the better-informed people are the ones to tell me.

Best,
Ron
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jeffd
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Posts: 58


« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2003, 09:32:06 PM »

Hey Ron,

Sorry I took a while to respond to this - must have missed the post when I was skimming the forums.  :)  Thanks for your reply; I'll try to see if I can't clear things up / respond to you.

Quote

I guess I wasn't 100% clear ... as it happens, I've played Fading Suns, although not very much. I met the designers and participated in a demo they ran, quite a while ago, and I'm sure they don't remember me. I own the game and a fair piece of the associated library.

The reason I asked for your input about it is that I often find myself turning to the books for flip-throughs, but my suspicion of the system, my absolute inability to slog through the setting material (even the "abbreviated" version in the core book), and certain other features have led me never to begin a solid game. I do think that the "Priests of the Celestial Sun" sourcebook is one of the ten finest available sourcebooks in role-playing. I have toyed with the notion of using either Sorcerer or HeroQuest as the system, to mine that book in particular to use the Fading Suns setting, or a rather stripped-down version of it. But that sort of game-stripping has become more and more exhausting to me over the years, so I'd put the idea aside.


Personally, I think the fluff (in the mini-wargame world of Warhammer 40k fluff refers to background fiction and whatnot, I tend to use it a lot with RPGs) of Fading Suns is the best attempt I've seen since probably Dune of blending fantasy and science-fiction.  It's really what's gotten me into Fading Suns - if you have a group of players who understand the factions in the world & are willing to actually roleplay the tensions it makes for some great games (however, all to often you get the typical "nice guy" RPer instinct of not wanting to play a noble who's kind of a bastard about it; they prefer to play the enlightened noble who has realized that everyone really really is equal....).  

Quote

...
What we're really talking about, then, is the Whiff syndrome. And if the lifepaths for character creation only cement it deeper, then ... well ...


Exactly - "Whiff syndrome" was precisely the description I was looking for.  Failure is just way way way too easy in the Victory Point System.  

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I know what you mean about the funky terminology: redemption for repair, etc. Same thing in Obsidian, in which "damage" is Penance. I think the whole religious-SF-dark-future thing was into this.


I'm sure this has been gone over elsewhere, but here's my two cents - I think this was probably an attempt to provide atmosphere.  The thing is, I don't think the rules are a place to try to get cutesy with atmosphere.  Have the rules reflect the atmosphere sure, but don't have them do it in their literal text - their application is the place to do it.  

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But what I didn't understand is how these things in Fading Suns are freakin' employed during play in any way that seems fun. (By the way, I only have first edition, so it's news to me that Alien/Human was discarded. Kind of a bummer, I sort of liked it.) Your discussion really clarifies why for me, which I couldn't have figured out without playing. This is really why I asked about Fading Suns in detail, you see - you got elected to be my experiential proxy for this game.


Happy to be a proxy - as you can see I've got a lot to say.  And here's a good place for me to repeat something about the spirit attributes - the book itself says for most of them that you won't use them very often.  I duno, when the designers acknowledge the flaws in a system in the writeup, it makes me doubtful...

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I was also confused, I now realize, about the "adjusting roll" thing. Anyone can use Wyrd to seesaw between to-hit & effectiveness, right? But that seems redundant with the Combat Actions, and I guess that's why I had been under the impression that anyone had access to all the Combat Actions from the get-go.


I don't know if I was clear enough - Combat Actions let you adjust one of three variables:  Your "to-hit" goal, your damage roll, and your initiative.  

"Accenting" a roll - which is what the metagame mechanic is formally known as - lets you either raise or lower your goal.  Along with this comes a different amount of VPs for the final result, whic his something combat manuevers don't do.  

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Looking over your comments about combat, I think I'd probably shift all the way over to Swashbuckler, which has, for my money, hands-down the best combat system around for most of my purposes of play.


I've already shifted it a lot, and I'm reluctant to go any further.  I've had bad experiences when I do major system-changes in game.  I ran a Mage game once under the 2nd edition rules and when I switched to 3rd it was disruptive enough to kill off the game - suddenly no one knew what they were capable of any more; stuff that used to be second nature took a herculean effort and whatnot.  The combat system at this point works for what it is - it's clunky and ugly but hey it doesn't get in the way and at least the results of duels isn't basically predetermined...

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I imagine you already realize you've drifted the bejeezus out of the reward system. You are all about Character Exploration, in a big way - be there, play your guy, enjoy your guy, tell me about your guy. The original is far more roll-outcome-oriented and GM-oriented ... "character learns something new" stands out especially, as well as "great deed," because in Fading Suns play as I experienced it, the only way you perform a great deed is if the GM hands it out to be done.


Enh, I nicked the XP system from a friend who ran the game a while ago.  But yea - it's clearly about Character exploration, which is what most of the people in my gaming group are into (they probably won't say it like that but that's what they're all about).  Personally I'd like to get more into some narrative roleplaying - once I wrap up FS I'm going to give either Sorcerer or Riddle of Steel a shot.  

One observation you made earlier was about Bridges & Company being White-Wolf alum... I think it's reflected perfectly in their reward system, which seems to be almost word for word lifted from any of White Wolf's books.  

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I'll finish up with a question. Unless I'm misreading, you're still jockeying around your system preferences for playing in this setting. How radical are you interested in getting with that? After all, there's always stuff like The Pool, which is extremely satisfying when everyone is highly committed to the (for lack of a better word) genre. Or for me, I'd probably use Swashbuckler (great social stuff in that game too). The Riddle of Steel is a good choice, although you'll probably have to construct the psychic rules by tweaking sorcery heavily.


Oh, I'd love to scrap the VPS for anything at this point.  Even D20!  However, my players won't have any of it - they're all very much into the whole "System Doesn't Matter" thing and are resistant to messing around with the core mechanic.  It's no big deal - I'm still honestly having fun with it even though I'm bitchy about the rules system.  :)  

JD
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