[Knights of Twilight] Ronnies feedback

Started by Ron Edwards, January 12, 2011, 04:06:44 PM

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Ron Edwards

I've been a little stalled on Ronnies feedback in the past few days. I do have notes for every game; the issue is strictly about turning them into readable prose, and a couple of time-eating events struck right in my anticipated windows for writing. I'm hoping to bust out a new wave of them today and tomorrow.

I included Davide Losito's Knights of Twilight in my "Baking" category in the results thread, so I figured I'd try to develop that concept a little in case it can help the development of the game.

What I mean is that not one single aspect of the game should be changed entirely into something else. The system, setting and character concepts, general color, and general "what this game is about" are all reasonably suitable. However, each one includes details which hinders how the parts interact, or especially for this case, fails to support the purpose of play (in this case, "fighting" as stated in the text) as well as they might. The main issue is the setting.

Starting with the strong Polaris vibe throughout the text, I think it needs an equivalent or at least very engaging connection between (i) one's character's achievements, failures, and fight outcomes and (ii) the larger struggle, which is to say, the crisis of society in this darkened time. The text asks, "Will you die for it?, but there is no particular identification of "it" and whatever good or desirable qualities it may have.

Concretely, individual fights, Quests, Missions, et cetera should actually accomplish something. In the text as written, they don't. As a side point, this means that the GM is unnecessary, as anyone could take up the task of rolling for the demons.

Perhaps the place to start is stronger specific Color for the setting, look & feel, naming conventions, and more. The text mentions Fortresses, Bishops, High Circle, the Cinder Plains ... but they're just words, no content at all. What are they like? What is life like there? Why would one want to change it?

And related, does the game really do Orlando Furioso? Not to get off too far on a literary tangent, but it seems to me that Orlando's story is fun and exciting because his love for Angelica is definitely disastrous for his role as Charlemagne's main bad-ass, but is colorful and fun enough to be entertaining. Again, this means that the Missions and Quests have to be about something in order for deviation from them, for instance declining a Quest, to be interesting. Whereas in the text, there's really no point at all to doing that.

The terms use isn't bad, but it's no better than "OK." Soldier is interpreted as militant cult member – basically sent on missions, and that's it. It's not out of bounds, but not that strong either. And what is all this nonsense about axe and spear? No way! That makes a sword just another weapon on a list. And there's more to this than merely thinking about Ronnies requirements. I mean, these are guys with un-removeable, demonic armor! Are they going to wield weapons off some stupid rack of options? No way again! They are going to have swords, not just swords, but the swords.

Now for the fighting. I would be happy to describe the combat/sword rules from The Riddle of Steel, Lace & Steel, and Swashbuckler, all of which are extremely interesting and fun to use. But for purposes of this thread, I merely recommend finding copies where and how you can. This isn't to say that you should alter your own system for any reason, only that as someone who'd like to see exciting sword-work in role-playing, these games were written by people who felt exactly the same way.

Oh, that reminds me, for everyone reading this. I don't want to get into the issue of whether fencing is "real fighting" or not. I personally have no stake in this discussion but I'm aware that people hold intense feelings about it. For purposes of this thread, I'm taking it as a given that fighting is expressed as fencing in this setting and flatly stating that deviating from this idea is off-topic.

1. I really like the combat sheet. The text doesn't state that the middle track is for monitoring opponent positions, but it's not hard to figure it out.

2. I like the way that one can set up later rounds via early tactics. Specifically, if one has a lot of black and white dice, one retains them for the next exchange, which is very handy and permits more aggressive red-die moves from a stronger base. Setting up an opponent actually looks possible in this game. Then add the combat Replies rules to that point, meaning that if you are the responder in a given exchange, your moves are restricted based on what the attacker has done. So let's say I see my opponent racking up dice for the next exchange. I might do well to seek the initiative, because if I get it, I can prevent him from making an attack.

3. Given a dice system based on early-rolled pools, with lots of subsequent steps, the question is whether one can see the outcome merely by looking at the initial rolls, or whether that only happens, if it does, with extreme differences. That is precisely what I'd be seeking to learn through playtesting.

4. I need to bring up an issue with rolling Fudge dice pools. More dice does not equal a better chance, but merely produces a more extensive bell curve centered on zero. I'm pretty sure that you avoid this problem for most of the system, as more dice means staying in the fight and plusses don't combine with minuses. But in one place, initiative, it looks at first glance suspiciously like more dice (a higher score) is expected to yield better results. Whereas given that plusses and minuses are combined in a classic Fudge summary, any die pool rolled at that point will have zero as its mode. Maybe I'm mis-reading that part.

5. Minor comment: Two-handed weapon use should be a sub-category within Attack, right?

6. Narrations of Reaction and Movement of NPCs based on total plusses seem too restricted and picky to me, and perhaps entirely unnecessary. This ties into my main concern about the setting as I described above - who cares what the NPCs feel and do? Why? (Also, there is a textual contradiction between the instruction that the narration applies to "one character" and the "half the crowd" being narrated for in the example.)

7. The initiatory scene as well as the various Training scenes seem great, much like the Three Musketeer sequences, especially in the 1970s movies.

8. Sequential duelling during a Mission seems a little boring, to me. The horde in particular seems like nothing more than a speedbump. Also, why do demons have Honor? It's conceivable for the Dark Champion, I suppose, but I can't see how it would apply to the demon-guy they fight second.

One setting feature that seems way off to me is that every cavalier is clearly destined to become a demon. What possible good could a Mission do that offsets the constant loss of knights and their conversion into demons?

I do think that character mortality should be important and not uncommon in this game, so I think you need a way to cycle in new characters without difficulty.

In conclusion, I don't know if you plan to develop this exact setting into a game for your combat system. But even if it's not this one, I think that my points will apply for the one you eventually choose.

Best, Ron


Thanks a lot for your feedback.
You found all the spots I knew were weak, mainly for the lack of time (hey, this was still a 24-hours contest...)

Currently the setting of the game is marginally important; I picked up something that could support a "duelling" system and I came out with that, which is mostly inspired by video-game Dragon Age Origins rather than Polaris, but this is not a real issue.

The main "piece" of my submission was the combat system, and all you found "missing" is clear to me that it actually is. I know there's a lot of work to do to make Affections fit into the whole game and the way I will fix this is the keypoint around which Orlando will came out or will be left out of the project.
I have a couple ideas, but I don't know whether this is the right place to talk about them or not, as they are currently not present in the game.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that you liked the combat exchanging idea so far.

The issue of point 5.
"Two-handed weapon use should be a sub-category within Attack, right?"
In the meaning of this game fighting techniques, grabbing your waepon two handed means you take half a step back and pause, changing the fighting "stance".
It is not the act of using the weapon two handed that is a defensive technique, but the fact you almost break the exchange to cross-switch your forefoot and rise your unused hand to grab the weapon hilt.
Indeed what is listed in the "technique of defense" is the act of "using your off-hand".
It is actually a non-declined techniques, as it may also be movement or attack, but I like symmetry so it seemed quite "ordinated" to have 5 techniques of each type.
I am valuating whether to move that specific "using off-hand" into a own category, rather than listing it into any of the other three techniques types.

Point 8.
I know sequencing fighting looks poor, I mean, I imagine it.
It is there because sequencing fighting is the way they manage olympic fencing "team" events. So considering the whole combat system is inspired by that, I thought it could be fitting.
I wanted to avoid the usual "take the higher skilled character and add +1 for every supporter".
Do you think the game would suffer if I remove "teaming-up"?

What I care most is point 6, instead.
Why do you think the narration based on plusses is restricted?
I am making you this question because I have the option to eliminate the Fudge dice and using "tokens", but this forces me to reconsider a couple things in the whole schema.

The game will be developed, I just don't know how long will it take.

Ron Edwards

Hi Davide,

The combat system looks fine on paper. I have to playtest it before making any further judgments.

Here's another thought that occurred to me about setting, whether this one or any that you might eventually decide upon for further development. I strongly suggest that respect for one's foes, or at least some of them, is a necessary part of a context in which this system can shine. In this version, the foes seem more like speedbumps or tactical exercises based on varying scores.

Best, Ron