*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 24, 2014, 10:49:25 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 31 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [Untold] The giant Samoan, the rolly-ball robot, and the not-either-a-unicorn  (Read 2128 times)
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« on: March 24, 2011, 09:54:22 AM »

Look what I found! Actually, the authors contacted me, and I'm glad they did. The game is called "Untold," and it has an extensive Untold website. I bought a copy of the "start it up" pack and a couple other bits that looked fun, and eventually managed to get a practice session in at the Dice Dojo, with me, Phil, Crystal, and Sam.

The whole idea of the game is that it uses only cards and a single d20. You can play it as a competitive, battle-type CCG if you want, but the bulk of the rules and the most sophisticated use of the mechanics assume that you're playing a genuine, no-doubt role-playing game. The setting is a confluence of three realities: a nuclear-blasted ("Apoc") U.S.A. inhabited by militarist crew-cutted survivalists and tattooed barbaric survivalists, a magic-wonder realm inhabited by the L'Na, spiritual, shape-shifting animals, and a robot realm called the Great Machine inhabited by quite nifty robots called the Klik.

There's a downloadable primer that's intended to work a group through the learning curve, and the claim is that after that, you can play just from the cards. The primer is full of very enthusiastic prose about "not like any other game," "better than any game out there" to wade through, but it's clear and helpful. I wish I'd printed it in order to use when we played ...

When you have the Starter Pack, character creation goes like this. You get a base card and a list of other cards, and a pool of points from 30 to 50, determined by the GM. Some of them are Hot Swaps, which you put aside for use during play; you don't have to pay for them now. You buy any of the remaining cards with your points, but it's a good idea to leave some unspent because you'll be using those to bring in Hot Swap cards during play.

Your character sheet is now, effectively, your base card, a bunch of cards you've bought, and a sideboard of waiting Hot Swaps. In mechanics terms, you have three attributes (Mind, Body, Soul, each with attack/defense/boost values), a number of secondary attribute scores, and a number of cards providing you with options and additions of various kinds.

We used 50 points in our game simply because that's what the example character in the rules starts with, but now that I know the game a bit better I think starting lower would be a little bit more fun - it'd make characters a lot more specific and lead them to use Hot Swapping more often during play. Still, the characters we created were a lot more individualized that it looks like they might be just from reading the rules.

The main reason for that is that you have to provide specific sorts of information into your character's back-story or current situation in order to buy power-type cards. So each character comes with a few-sentences paragraph which is quite handy for everyone and socks in a lot of setting and circumstances information that is often left in limbo in most game designs.

Crystal made up a Klik roller with a lot of speedy stuff and shoulder-mounted net-gun, defining the character as a courier with a lot more diplomatic and social skills than one expects from a typical robot. So this hit my underground-comix buttons wonderfully: a personable, speedy robot! Cool!

Phil chose the L'Na Dawn, effectively a unicorn although he feebly tried to refute our finger-pointing and laughter. We made much fun of the anime-style idea that the economic and military apocalypse always seems to "awaken" the spiritual animals, but it was good-natured mockery and we accepted it as part of the setting. He found that this choice led to focusing on the Hot Swaps and relying strongly on a core required card to use a bunch of others. His back-story was a very solid, "trapped here, hunted by barbarians, trying to get home" situation.

Sam chose the Apoc Churl, buying all sorts of huge and fearless and leaping cards, reinforced by stone's bones and a crystal club. This base card and its list led to a much simpler build: a hell of a lot of resources, a character who can be whittled down for a while without losing effectiveness. His back-story stuff was especially fun and produced the picture of a really big Samoan guy with a lot of volcanic color, basically walking the earth looking for the chance to do good.

Here's another good part of the design, which is effectively taking a long-standing but non-textual best practice and making it a rule: the GM is required to take the three back-stories and situations, then effectively dictate how they're all already intertwined and in action. So play tends to begin with the characters together, in a particular place, involved in one or more characters' goals and situations, and already in action.

Let me be absolutely clear what kind of role-playing this is: raw Participationism, with a GM-led story as the key component. The players' role is largely thespian, although there's room for decision-making that will feed back into the GM's process of setting up the next situation. The rules are very clear about this, which I consider a virtue, and although I burned out on dedicated Participationist play a long time ago, I'm able to GM it pretty easily and can enjoy it for a while especially when the Color is fun and engaging, and/or the System is genuinely fun and coherent. For this game, both are the case.

(Can't say I like the name, though. The setting is so colorful that I figure a more specific and evocative name wouldn't be all that hard. It seems to be a minor trend with grassroots games, as with Undiscovered and others. I don't know why.)

Anyway, just as in the example, I took the three sets of character information and wove them into a situation. The Churl saved the L'Na from hunters and helped it understand the world it's trapped in, and now, the Klik is "delivering" the L'Na to some kind of freaky nature-council enclave of L'Na because the way is on its regular route. So, they're on their way through all sorts of blasted badlands, and no surprise, I just framed'em right into a fight without fucking around.

The way this works is, the GM has a giant assortment of foe-type cards to choose from, and as far as I can tell, you just pick the ones you like subject to certain point limitations. All the things a given foe can do are on the card, in a mini-rulebook way. So in theory, all you need is to grab the cards you're going to use, one per NPC, and don't have to deal with multiple cards per character like the players do.

Our heroes were ambushed by a Skumrunner, an icky bug-humanoid smuggler thing, backed up by two NAU grunts (the militaristic race-purist survivalists) as minions. I figure that the smuggler and the courier have crossed paths before and this time, the Skumrunner wants to pirate the package. So we fight!

Well, the rules sheet provided in the Starter pack are fine as far as they go, but the real rules are the 42-page primer on the website, and it so happened that I didn't have a hard copy and we had to use Phil's teeny Blackberry-type thingie whatever it was to read them. So we kind of fumbled our way through some of the mechanics. The basic structure is quite traditional: rounds, initiative, rolls to hit, damage and armor effects.

The main thing to know about Untold play is that the values on the cards are one thing, but the values "in the air" are another. You have one or more values off the cards that you have to add together, and you have to add that to a roll to reach a total. So there's a fair amount of arithmetic on the fly, conducted completely mentally or on very ephemeral bits of scratch paper, which is a feature if you like it and a horrible curse if you don't. To do it right in this game, it's pretty important to grasp the rules for Boosting and for Magnitude, which at present I'm not really sure that I do, to be discussed a little bit more below.

The combat system is based on matching two d20 rolls against one another, each one packed with crazy bonuses, then applying the difference to the loser as damage. The effect is similar to what I've been observing when playtesting my old Gray Magick rules: when the difference in bonus totals is very high, then the roll has little (although some) chance to affect the outcome, but when the difference is low, i.e., when the foes are well-matched in this particular way, then the dice really tell the story. The net lesson is that when you fight tougher foes, go defensive and get out fast, but when you fight evenly-matched foes, then everyone needs to be ready for combat to swing absolutely one way or the other, because it well might do so. You really can't predict combat outcomes, except in ridiculously overmatched cases. I'm not saying this is good or bad, but it is a distinctive and particular design feature that needs to be understood in order to enjoy it.

In our case, I rolled such dog-ass ridiculously bad rolls that it's not even funny, especially matched against Crystal's absurd "20 again!" rolling. The effect was a good amount of mutual but minor destruction between the foes and two of the player characters, but the Klik came out of the situation pretty well unscathed, having put down the Skumrunner - just barely - with maximal-effect hits. It's clear, however, that the hero-foe match was pretty even in fixed-number mechanics terms, as the fight could very easily have gone the other way if the dice had behaved differently.

Since I didn't have a good idea of how much foe would provide a good enough fight for the three player-characters, I'd also selected a Disciple of Pain to bring in as a new opponent, if necessary. Given the way the dice bounced against me, that turned out to be a good idea. Funnily enough, this NPC is basically a Shroud from Anathema - "Hey! we're fighting ourselves from last week!"

A lot of attacks in the game inflict Banes and Conditions, themselves represented by cards. So if you get hit by the Klik's SML net, then you're Entangled, and I grab one of my Entangled cards and lay it down over your base card, and all the rules for it are right there. It's really, really convenient. The Disciple had the fun effect of making its targets Demented, and if it hits you again while you're Demented, then you go Insane. This time, I got some good rolls and Demented all the characters, although not before the Disciple got grabbed by a big elemental earth-hand.

That scenario led to an extended sequence that was lots of fun in a way I remember well from my earlier role-playing days. Every round, the player of a Demented character had to roll to see what he or she would do. I wasn't really able to dope out when and how the "overcome" or recovery roll was made, but we just ran one every round in addition to the action. There ensued a kind of comedic sequence in which the characters did in fact try to kill the downed and imprisoned - but still psionically dangerous - Disciple, but sometimes came to blows themselves and sometimes babbled or ran off. As it turned out, the Klik managed to bag the Demented L'Na in the net-gun thing and both recovered, and the Disciple finally got put down.

I did some bad GMing, though, because I didn't really anticipate the "bonkers" sequence going on and thought that we were done quite a while before we were. Sam's character was the first to be Demented and he rolled "run off screaming" or something like that right away, so we basically saw his very large, very mobile character disappear into the distance on that round. I mentally wrote the character out of the scenario at that point, because I figured we'd only play for anothe round or two, but as the situation extended into a rather entertaining dance between the risks of being Demented vs. the chance to finish off the Disciple, it turned out that I'd inadvertently dissed Sam by removing his character from play. By the time he and I figured this out, I was barely hanging onto the rules with my fingernails and couldn't really face folding one more character back into the scene.

The textual "no sheet no rulebook" ideal turns out to need a little help, especially since characters are defined in practice by the ways that numbers on their cards combine and the little cards to record these summaries on are quite crucial during play. As far as card use is concerned, I found them a bit dense in text and teeny-type, but generally pretty and the information is usable although I still think I'm on that learning curve.

Going into play, the concept that interested me most was Hot Swapping, but as it turned out, that's only one manifestation of many fascinating structural concepts founded on the card-component basis for the characters. The one which excited us the most in play was damage. OK - your character has a point total, currently expressed by the cards lying on the table and the Hot Swap Buffer, i.e., the point total that you didn't spend. Damage knocks down this total, and the player (not the GM) is free to interpret that mathematically however he or she wants. You could, for instance, reduce your Hot Swap Buffer by the required amount, leaving your card array untouched. You could reduce your Body, Mind, or Soul, and those cards are rather nicely designed to let you flip them around to express that. Or most interesting, you could have bought your Power cards at the higher cost listed on one side, and upon being damaged, turn that card over to reveal exactly the same power bought at a lower cost, effectively having pre-paid for a "Soak" effect. What you do, and how that was set up during character creation, leads to a hell of a lot of tactical and conceptual range for a given character type as the damage comes in. This is one of those games where it's more fun to be hit than not to be hit.

They put a lot of thought into the three basic models for character creation. The L'Na seem to be built such that damage will knock out various powers, but as long as you keep a given core card in play, it permits Hot Swapping in all sorts of flexible stuff. So that creates a very adaptable character who's in pretty good shape until they take too much damage, and then it's an "Oh no, my magic is exhausted" type situation. The Churls are the most straightforward, with a lot of base cards and high attributes, all of which can be knocked down in steps and so taking damage is pretty much linear all the way down to being taken out. The Kliks offer the niftiest build, in that a lot of their features are integrated across cards, so the character's structure remains intact until one of the cards goes for good, and then all the little dings and minor inconveniences that so far didn't hurt effectiveness now turn into a malfunction, and you have to Hot Swap in your repair kit in the middle of a tight situation. In my opinion they're the most charming of the bunch as well, and I might like to try a Klick-centric game some time.

Back to that learning curve, here are some of the trickier spots we struggled with.

I think I was a bit confused about the yellow cards - Body, Mind, and Soul - and how they factor into character creation. We might have screwed that up. The list of cards to choose from for starting characters, per base card, lists some of these. I now think that that list is the "grocery" for those cards, specific to each base card, and you can't just buy up Body Mind and Soul cards

Our biggest rules issue at the table concerned the crucial mechanic called Magnitude. At first glance, it's the total you get when you roll the dice and add what you're supposed to add. But then there's this item on a lot of cards, including the character's base card, also called Magnitude, and we couldn't always tell whether it was supposed to include the individual value called Magnitude on the character's card or not. And finally, one of the most important and most in-your-head in-the-moment mechanics is called Boosting, which by definition adds to Magnitude, and we sort of guessed that you didn't get to use that Magnitude on the card unless you Boosted ... but I'm still not sure that we weren't double-dipping on more than one occasion.

But now, anyway, I've printed out the Primer and plan to try the game again soon, and so maybe some of this is merely a matter of reading the rules in a cooler and more convenient environment.

The whole thing charmed me a lot and I'd like to try it more seriously over a longer period of time. It's a really ambitious design vision in action, and I'm very interested in the design jumping-off points scattered throughout the rules. I strongly recommend it even if that particular mode of play isn't your favorite, and I'm kind of hoping that the next year shows us some good inspirations on the path that these guys have blazed.

Best, Ron
Logged
SamuelRiv
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2011, 05:50:23 PM »

I had a lot of fun with this game, and I'm trying to figure out why. The Dice Dojo runs RPGA games (D&D 4.0 run in an essential video-game combat-square-rules-only-dungeon-crawl) on Mondays. I went once, never went again, and not for lack of great imaginative roleplayers - it's just that I hatehatehate video games of this sort in an OCD-hateantihate manner (much ameliorated when, as in Oblivion, there's some eye candy to compensate).

So how was this different? As the makers claim, it functions equally as a rote mechanical card game. But I believe that unlike RPGA, the dropping of "mechanics" involving strategizing over game squares, line-of-sight, etc makes a lot of room for imaginative scene-making. And unlike MagicTG, all your cards are extensions of you yourself, and not a Noah's Ark of pooping Camel Raiders next to trained polar bears overheating in the desert.

Particularly fun was the notion of who I was and what I could do, all without penalty. For example, I had my gigantic club of death (which looked hilariously like a feather duster on the cards - otherwise great art). But when the roleplay called for it, I decided to throw a giant boulder at one of the mooks instead, with equal efficacy yet slightly different effect mechanic, namely in terms of the effects of pumping and perhaps some unique situations, like if the enemy is entangled or using mind control, etc. These are, upon reflection, what made the roleplay here so satisfying in a game I had groans about at first.

Now the drawbacks:

1. lack of adaptability, though I think anybody can reasonably design whatever character they want with slight modifications to the diverse templates, since as said before they are comparable in efficacy and depend mostly on how many levels you buy.

2. It's a fighting game. Good, fine - at least it admits it up front. None of the D&D roleplaying ambiguity between being diplomatic in in-game dialog versus making a successful diplomacy check (at least from the rules we saw - I didnt see if there were cards for diplomacy, though I believe there were some for espionage and stealth).

3. When we're hit, we sacrifice abilities. This was a hard thing to swallow in our tragic session of Freemarket - equipment and abilities were of few defining characteristics of the characters we made in that small session. However, it seems that the abilities come back in normal healing.

In a sense this is a counterpoint to what Ron said about arithmetic - while there is a numbers game that's unclear in our somewhat-incomplete ruleset, once written our "status" and "health" really don't need to be kept track of - they are right in front of us for all to see - the pen is less mighty then my giant feather-duster club.

So first glance seems this game has shown that the dual-purpose goal of rote and roleplay is possible, and perhaps they have achieved it.

P.S. - It wasn't a diss, Ron - it took a second to figure out your intent, but really I wanted to roll and narrate my insanity more, even if perpetually off-screen, since you guys were having all the fun.
Logged
ashy
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2011, 07:52:30 AM »

(Can't say I like the name, though. The setting is so colorful that I figure a more specific and evocative name wouldn't be all that hard. It seems to be a minor trend with grassroots games, as with Undiscovered and others. I don't know why.)

The reason for the name selection will be made clearer as we move along. Think Untold potential, etc...  :)

The way this works is, the GM has a giant assortment of foe-type cards to choose from, and as far as I can tell, you just pick the ones you like subject to certain point limitations. All the things a given foe can do are on the card, in a mini-rulebook way. So in theory, all you need is to grab the cards you're going to use, one per NPC, and don't have to deal with multiple cards per character like the players do.

Bear in mind, you're not limited to merely the Minion Cards. You can also overlay Aspects and Powers if you like, so long as you keep balance in mind. :) That's actually a way to very quickly turn a "mook" Minion into a specific BBEG or NPC.

The main thing to know about Untold play is that the values on the cards are one thing, but the values "in the air" are another. You have one or more values off the cards that you have to add together, and you have to add that to a roll to reach a total. So there's a fair amount of arithmetic on the fly, conducted completely mentally or on very ephemeral bits of scratch paper, which is a feature if you like it and a horrible curse if you don't. To do it right in this game, it's pretty important to grasp the rules for Boosting and for Magnitude, which at present I'm not really sure that I do, to be discussed a little bit more below.

True, but we tried really hard to keep those "in the air" numbers low and you should be able to easily scan across the cards and compute them quickly. I will address Boosting and Magnitude below as well. :)

The combat system is based on matching two d20 rolls against one another, each one packed with crazy bonuses, then applying the difference to the loser as damage. The effect is similar to what I've been observing when playtesting my old Gray Magick rules: when the difference in bonus totals is very high, then the roll has little (although some) chance to affect the outcome, but when the difference is low, i.e., when the foes are well-matched in this particular way, then the dice really tell the story. The net lesson is that when you fight tougher foes, go defensive and get out fast, but when you fight evenly-matched foes, then everyone needs to be ready for combat to swing absolutely one way or the other, because it well might do so. You really can't predict combat outcomes, except in ridiculously overmatched cases. I'm not saying this is good or bad, but it is a distinctive and particular design feature that needs to be understood in order to enjoy it.

Again, bear in mind here that unlike most other RPG's, you can change this on the fly in Untold. With Swapping and the ability to Story Swap your Aspect cards and add new cards (like Adrenaline Boost), you can very quickly change your Attack, Defense and Boost numbers, while at the same time (because of Swapping) adding to the collective story.  :)

The textual "no sheet no rulebook" ideal turns out to need a little help, especially since characters are defined in practice by the ways that numbers on their cards combine and the little cards to record these summaries on are quite crucial during play. As far as card use is concerned, I found them a bit dense in text and teeny-type, but generally pretty and the information is usable although I still think I'm on that learning curve.

We've found that this really depends on the type of player you are. Most math-heads don't have an issue with this, but some (like me) do. We created a QRC (Quick Reference Card) that helps with this. You can download them free here: http://www.untoldthegame.com/downloads and we're about to release an app for ipad/iphone/itouch that allows you do create 100 Untold Characters and their QRC's (as well as change them on the fly).
 
Going into play, the concept that interested me most was Hot Swapping, but as it turned out, that's only one manifestation of many fascinating structural concepts founded on the card-component basis for the characters. The one which excited us the most in play was damage. OK - your character has a point total, currently expressed by the cards lying on the table and the Hot Swap Buffer, i.e., the point total that you didn't spend. Damage knocks down this total, and the player (not the GM) is free to interpret that mathematically however he or she wants. You could, for instance, reduce your Hot Swap Buffer by the required amount, leaving your card array untouched. You could reduce your Body, Mind, or Soul, and those cards are rather nicely designed to let you flip them around to express that. Or most interesting, you could have bought your Power cards at the higher cost listed on one side, and upon being damaged, turn that card over to reveal exactly the same power bought at a lower cost, effectively having pre-paid for a "Soak" effect. What you do, and how that was set up during character creation, leads to a hell of a lot of tactical and conceptual range for a given character type as the damage comes in. This is one of those games where it's more fun to be hit than not to be hit.

You're not alone. ALOT of folks love the Damaging/Swapping system. :) It becomes second nature and very intuitive after just a couple of games, too. :)

They put a lot of thought into the three basic models for character creation. The L'Na seem to be built such that damage will knock out various powers, but as long as you keep a given core card in play, it permits Hot Swapping in all sorts of flexible stuff. So that creates a very adaptable character who's in pretty good shape until they take too much damage, and then it's an "Oh no, my magic is exhausted" type situation. The Churls are the most straightforward, with a lot of base cards and high attributes, all of which can be knocked down in steps and so taking damage is pretty much linear all the way down to being taken out. The Kliks offer the niftiest build, in that a lot of their features are integrated across cards, so the character's structure remains intact until one of the cards goes for good, and then all the little dings and minor inconveniences that so far didn't hurt effectiveness now turn into a malfunction, and you have to Hot Swap in your repair kit in the middle of a tight situation. In my opinion they're the most charming of the bunch as well, and I might like to try a Klick-centric game some time.

I'm impressed. You're the first person to catch this so far, Ron. We designed each Race and Archetype specifically to fill the roles we're so accustomed to in gaming. The Apoc span the gamut of your fighter types - all the way from the raging barbarian to the focused and trained samurai. The Klik are your skill-users - your rogues, bards, rangers, etc. while the L'na capture the entire spectrum of spell-casting, from subtle magic/faith/psionics to the bang-flash casters. ;)

Back to that learning curve, here are some of the trickier spots we struggled with.

I think I was a bit confused about the yellow cards - Body, Mind, and Soul - and how they factor into character creation. We might have screwed that up. The list of cards to choose from for starting characters, per base card, lists some of these. I now think that that list is the "grocery" for those cards, specific to each base card, and you can't just buy up Body Mind and Soul cards.

You're not alone. This is one of the biggest hurdles that we see with new folks learning the game. It's come from what I've started terming the "D&D Character Paralysis". So many of us have become conditioned to assume that we can only change our characters at pre-defined points or moments in time. I.e. at the end of the adventure, when we gain a level, etc. The whole structure of Untold allows you to change your character pretty much ANYTIME you want. So, say you build your Churl with a Body 1 card but in the middle of combat, you decide you need to make your Body attacks, defenses and boosts more powerful. No problem - you Story Swap (i.e. tell the story of how your character is getting angry, and when he gets angry he gets stronger -or whatever-), pay your UP and change your Body Card to Body 4, or Body 10 - whatever. Your character is NOT static. :)

The values listed on the Deck ID cards are merely a suggested build.  :)

Our biggest rules issue at the table concerned the crucial mechanic called Magnitude. At first glance, it's the total you get when you roll the dice and add what you're supposed to add. But then there's this item on a lot of cards, including the character's base card, also called Magnitude, and we couldn't always tell whether it was supposed to include the individual value called Magnitude on the character's card or not.

Magnitude is a measure of how effective a given Power is. How good that Power is at doing its job, so to speak. For instance, we all know that the main job of a club is to inflict damage. A regular club is only so good at inflicting damage, while a magical Club of the Ancestors is going to be somewhat better at inflicting damage. So, when you use that Power successfully, then the Magnitude tells you how well you did that job. The Magnitude on the Race card is tied to the (Integral Power) IP of that card. All Race cards have an "integrated power", which allows you to attack with just your Race card and nothing else, if you so chose (or are forced to do so via Downgrading). I've seen character builds with nothing but a Race card and a massive Aspect card - just a hulking Churl wailing away with his fists!  :)

And finally, one of the most important and most in-your-head in-the-moment mechanics is called Boosting, which by definition adds to Magnitude, and we sort of guessed that you didn't get to use that Magnitude on the card unless you Boosted ... but I'm still not sure that we weren't double-dipping on more than one occasion.

Not quite, it's much simpler that that. Here's a good explanation of Boosting - http://www.untoldthegame.com/primer/untold-quick-clip-what-boosting - there are lots of other Videos in our Video Primer (http://www.untoldthegame.com/primer/) as well, you should check them out. :)

But now, anyway, I've printed out the Primer and plan to try the game again soon, and so maybe some of this is merely a matter of reading the rules in a cooler and more convenient environment.

The whole thing charmed me a lot and I'd like to try it more seriously over a longer period of time. It's a really ambitious design vision in action, and I'm very interested in the design jumping-off points scattered throughout the rules. I strongly recommend it even if that particular mode of play isn't your favorite, and I'm kind of hoping that the next year shows us some good inspirations on the path that these guys have blazed.

Thanks for the kind words, Ron - we're looking forward to it as well, and your continued insights! :D
Logged
ashy
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2011, 09:08:26 AM »

I had a lot of fun with this game, and I'm trying to figure out why. The Dice Dojo runs RPGA games (D&D 4.0 run in an essential video-game combat-square-rules-only-dungeon-crawl) on Mondays. I went once, never went again, and not for lack of great imaginative roleplayers - it's just that I hatehatehate video games of this sort in an OCD-hateantihate manner (much ameliorated when, as in Oblivion, there's some eye candy to compensate).

So how was this different? As the makers claim, it functions equally as a rote mechanical card game. But I believe that unlike RPGA, the dropping of "mechanics" involving strategizing over game squares, line-of-sight, etc makes a lot of room for imaginative scene-making. And unlike MagicTG, all your cards are extensions of you yourself, and not a Noah's Ark of pooping Camel Raiders next to trained polar bears overheating in the desert.

Particularly fun was the notion of who I was and what I could do, all without penalty. For example, I had my gigantic club of death (which looked hilariously like a feather duster on the cards - otherwise great art). But when the roleplay called for it, I decided to throw a giant boulder at one of the mooks instead, with equal efficacy yet slightly different effect mechanic, namely in terms of the effects of pumping and perhaps some unique situations, like if the enemy is entangled or using mind control, etc. These are, upon reflection, what made the roleplay here so satisfying in a game I had groans about at first.

These were many of our desires - giving flexibility back to the gamer while, at the same time, empowering folks to tell awesome stories in their games, all while keeping things balanced. :) The Battle version of the game was a happy side-product of the creation of the game, but the core of Untold is the RPG. :)

Now the drawbacks:

1. lack of adaptability, though I think anybody can reasonably design whatever character they want with slight modifications to the diverse templates, since as said before they are comparable in efficacy and depend mostly on how many levels you buy.

We're releasing new decks all the time (roughly one a week, in fact) and have released over 30 to date. In those releases, we've covered ALOT of ground, which only add to those diverse templates you mention, allowing for more and more modification. Also, we encourage our fans to create new Powers, Races, and so fort and even credit them by name on those cards, so we like to work WITH our fans to expand the world and the game. Lastly, we even offer the ability to create custom decks for our Untold: Elite members and plan to, in the coming year, expand this functionality to non-Elite members too. :)

2. It's a fighting game. Good, fine - at least it admits it up front. None of the D&D roleplaying ambiguity between being diplomatic in in-game dialog versus making a successful diplomacy check (at least from the rules we saw - I didnt see if there were cards for diplomacy, though I believe there were some for espionage and stealth).

It seems combat heavy, because we knew folks would test us there first. However, it is not JUST a combat-oriented game. We have Powers that require you tell jokes in game in order for them to work, we have Powers like Diplomatic, Actor, Linguist, Silver Tongued, and so forth, so we cover all the bases. (Those Powers can be found here, BTW - http://www.untoldthegame.com/store/powers-core-basic-skills)

3. When we're hit, we sacrifice abilities. This was a hard thing to swallow in our tragic session of Freemarket - equipment and abilities were of few defining characteristics of the characters we made in that small session. However, it seems that the abilities come back in normal healing.

Yes, when you heal, you get to add Powers and Aspects back into your character. The only exception to this is Equipment, which if destroyed, must be replaced (and gives the GM a handy plot-hook...). However, please note that the enemies you defeat also lose Powers, so while your Grenade Launcher might have been slagged, you may get to pick up the Flamethrower the NAU Firebug lost when you nixed him. ;)

In a sense this is a counterpoint to what Ron said about arithmetic - while there is a numbers game that's unclear in our somewhat-incomplete ruleset, once written our "status" and "health" really don't need to be kept track of - they are right in front of us for all to see - the pen is less mighty then my giant feather-duster club.

Absolutely, you can tell very easily how your character is doing simply by glancing down at your character. WOW - intuitive. ;)

So first glance seems this game has shown that the dual-purpose goal of rote and roleplay is possible, and perhaps they have achieved it.

P.S. - It wasn't a diss, Ron - it took a second to figure out your intent, but really I wanted to roll and narrate my insanity more, even if perpetually off-screen, since you guys were having all the fun.

Thanks so much for the words. Looking forward to more constructive feedback. :)

Brannon "Ashy" Hollingsworth
Untold Co-Creator
http://www.untoldthegame.com
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2011, 12:09:31 PM »

Hi there,

Brannon, I think that when you say "most RPGs," whether here or in the game text, you're saying "D&D! D&D! D&D! Not like D&D!" ... which leads to two comments you may wish to consider.

1. There are a lot of RPGs out there which are neither D&D, nor built within that particular set of assumptions. Untold is a remarkable game design in a lot of ways, but not in others. All this text positioning Untold so far and so unique from "other RPGs," "all other RPGs," "most other RPGs," is fine as a one-time promotional device, and I'm happy to indulge it as part of the game text, but I suggest not ringing that bell too often after that.

Also, games which allow rapid and constant use of points to re-build characters on the fly have been around since the Variable Power Pool appeared in Champions III, in the mid-1980s. It's a familiar concept for me and not a source of confusion about flexible character builds. My confusion about the yellow cards is based on whether or not I'm allowed to buy things that are not on that character card, for a starting character. The rules are pretty clear that I can't, but it seems to me as if you're saying here that I can. Which is it?

I hope I can, because that means I can get cards that require Body Boosts, if I can buy my starting character's Body up. But it also means that I'll be aiming toward the low end of the permissible point spreads when I organize my next game, so that characters aren't huge soak-pools for damage via yellow cards.

2. If your desire is to position Untold as far as you can from D&D, then you are working against your goals by describing your character build models in terms of D&D. It's a trend I've seen a lot: "my game is so not D&D!" but then "look, you can play a ranger and a drui and a paladin in our game too!" It's a contradictory combination: "not D&D" plus "whatever D&D does we do it too."

What charms me about the character types is not that you've covered all the D&D character concept bases, but rather that each one offers some edgy, weird, unique content that I, at least, look forward to seeing in the game. The Klik, as I say, are strangely human rather than cold and forbidding, and I think that to my eyes at least, there is considerable room for scary ethnic issues between the Apoc elite - who look a lot like military-survivalist supremacists to me, "pure-blooded" and all that - and the Apoc churls, who look ready-made for gloriously satisfying contrast to that outlook.

I'm not saying that you, the designers, went into this planning such content, but I think it might be cool to look at what you've made with an eye toward what it literally and directly offers that has nothing to do with D&D. Verbalizing that would be more effective for promotion.

OK, those two points are over, merely as food for thought, for you to take or leave, and there's no need to pick over them or get into some kind of wrangle. With the exception of my little question in the middle, I'm leaving it behind.

I'd like to understand Magnitude better. The fact is, I don't get it and maybe you can talk me through it a little.

I've built a character for fun on minimal points. This is the Klik Roller, on 30 points. Check me on all the details, because some of them are guesses and I need them clarified.

Mind 1, Soul 1
Wheel Hooks and Grappling Hooks in the Swap pile
Paid for, all at minimum cost: Microgear Medicdisc, Klik Armor Plating, SML, SML Net, Quick Response, Diplomatic
That leaves me 12 points in the Swap Buffer, just enough for my Swap cards if I need both during an adventure.

He ain't very tough - no Body, for instance. But he's cute!

To calculate his Vitality, he gets 1 from the base Klik card, and the Armor card has Magnitude 2, and it allows me to add its MAG to Vitality against Body attacks. So that's Vitality 3.

But what about other cards' Magnitudes? Do they go into Vitality too, when they're used? If he shoots someone with the SML Net, do the 2 from the one and the 12 from the other add 14 to Vitality against incoming Body attacks that round? Or one and not the other? Or does the whole "Add MAG to Vitality" only apply to the Armor and nothing else?

Now let's talk about MAG and adding to rolls. He's shooting a dude with the SML Net. If I have this right, I add 1 for the Klik card (that applies to everything all the time, right?), 2, and 12, for the two cards I'm using for MAG additions, for a total of 15 to add to my roll. Do I have that right?

Part of the trouble for me is that the game term "MAG" seems to be doing double duty. First, it's the total value you get by rolling and adding everything you're allowed to the rolled value. Second, it's each individual card's contribution to that. So I get pretty confused when a card says "MAG" and I'm not sure what to use for that value.

For the record, I know I'm confused about this, so you don't have to start by explaining to me that I'm confused. I'm not one of these guys who says "Your rules make no sense" because he doesn't understand them. Instead, I'm looking for the answers specifically so that I'll be able to play.

Best, Ron
Logged
ashy
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2011, 08:57:12 AM »

Hi there,

Brannon, I think that when you say "most RPGs," whether here or in the game text, you're saying "D&D! D&D! D&D! Not like D&D!" ... which leads to two comments you may wish to consider.

1. There are a lot of RPGs out there which are neither D&D, nor built within that particular set of assumptions. Untold is a remarkable game design in a lot of ways, but not in others. All this text positioning Untold so far and so unique from "other RPGs," "all other RPGs," "most other RPGs," is fine as a one-time promotional device, and I'm happy to indulge it as part of the game text, but I suggest not ringing that bell too often after that.

Not looking to ring bells here, merely to explain/enlighten. :P

Also, games which allow rapid and constant use of points to re-build characters on the fly have been around since the Variable Power Pool appeared in Champions III, in the mid-1980s. It's a familiar concept for me and not a source of confusion about flexible character builds. My confusion about the yellow cards is based on whether or not I'm allowed to buy things that are not on that character card, for a starting character. The rules are pretty clear that I can't, but it seems to me as if you're saying here that I can. Which is it?

True, point buy and pools are nothing new. Making it as easy and interchangeable as Untold is, at least in my humble opinion.

Not sure where you're getting the rules that say you can't, because that ain't the case. If you want to build a Klik Roller with Oaze powers, go for it. If you want a L'na Dawn who packs a M201 Assault Rifle, I say awesome. The only things that prevents you from selecting a certain card for a certain character build are the pre-requisites for the cards themselves (i.e. a card that says you have to be a Klik to use it, etc.) or your GM says you can't...

I hope I can, because that means I can get cards that require Body Boosts, if I can buy my starting character's Body up. But it also means that I'll be aiming toward the low end of the permissible point spreads when I organize my next game, so that characters aren't huge soak-pools for damage via yellow cards.

Again, only your GM or the cards themselves can prevent you from using cards in your build.

2. If your desire is to position Untold as far as you can from D&D, then you are working against your goals by describing your character build models in terms of D&D. It's a trend I've seen a lot: "my game is so not D&D!" but then "look, you can play a ranger and a drui and a paladin in our game too!" It's a contradictory combination: "not D&D" plus "whatever D&D does we do it too."

That was just an example. I just want you (and others) to know that the game is flexible enough to handle pretty much whatever you want to play. We've got folks playing "Army Of Darkness" style games, fantasy games with dragons and such, and even Vietnam-era conflict games...all with nothing more than the sets we've released.

What charms me about the character types is not that you've covered all the D&D character concept bases, but rather that each one offers some edgy, weird, unique content that I, at least, look forward to seeing in the game. The Klik, as I say, are strangely human rather than cold and forbidding, and I think that to my eyes at least, there is considerable room for scary ethnic issues between the Apoc elite - who look a lot like military-survivalist supremacists to me, "pure-blooded" and all that - and the Apoc churls, who look ready-made for gloriously satisfying contrast to that outlook.

I'm not saying that you, the designers, went into this planning such content, but I think it might be cool to look at what you've made with an eye toward what it literally and directly offers that has nothing to do with D&D. Verbalizing that would be more effective for promotion.

We actually do a fair amount of that on our website with all of the free characters, ecologies and setting info we produce. We also welcome fans to "lay claim" to parts of the world and develop them on their own, which we then sanction as "fanonical"...  :)

OK, those two points are over, merely as food for thought, for you to take or leave, and there's no need to pick over them or get into some kind of wrangle. With the exception of my little question in the middle, I'm leaving it behind.

Coo.

I'd like to understand Magnitude better. The fact is, I don't get it and maybe you can talk me through it a little.

I've built a character for fun on minimal points. This is the Klik Roller, on 30 points. Check me on all the details, because some of them are guesses and I need them clarified.

Mind 1, Soul 1
Wheel Hooks and Grappling Hooks in the Swap pile
Paid for, all at minimum cost: Microgear Medicdisc, Klik Armor Plating, SML, SML Net, Quick Response, Diplomatic
That leaves me 12 points in the Swap Buffer, just enough for my Swap cards if I need both during an adventure.

He ain't very tough - no Body, for instance. But he's cute!

To calculate his Vitality, he gets 1 from the base Klik card, and the Armor card has Magnitude 2, and it allows me to add its MAG to Vitality against Body attacks. So that's Vitality 3.

Correct

But what about other cards' Magnitudes?

They determine how effective those Powers are at doing their job.

Do they go into Vitality too, when they're used?

Not unless the card says they do (i.e. like Klik Armor Plating).

If he shoots someone with the SML Net, do the 2 from the one and the 12 from the other add 14 to Vitality against incoming Body attacks that round?

No, the MAG on the SML Net only has to do with the SML net. In this case the 12 Magnitude becomes the number your opponents must Overcome to break out of the net.

Or does the whole "Add MAG to Vitality" only apply to the Armor and nothing else?

It only applies on the Klik Armor Plating, in this case. There are eight Power card types, each works a little differently. (http://www.untoldthegame.com/primer/conflict-and-combat#power-types)

Now let's talk about MAG and adding to rolls. He's shooting a dude with the SML Net. If I have this right, I add 1 for the Klik card (that applies to everything all the time, right?),

Nope. The 1 MAG from the Klik Race Card only applies if you're using that card (i.e. the IP of the card, which is Punch) to attack.

2, and 12, for the two cards I'm using for MAG additions, for a total of 15 to add to my roll. Do I have that right?

Nope, only the 12 applies, unless you're Boosting. :)

Part of the trouble for me is that the game term "MAG" seems to be doing double duty. First, it's the total value you get by rolling and adding everything you're allowed to the rolled value. Second, it's each individual card's contribution to that. So I get pretty confused when a card says "MAG" and I'm not sure what to use for that value.

MAG plays variable duty, but never double duty. MAG always applies only to a specific card. MAG describes how well a given Power is at doing's it job. That job might be doing damage, providing healing, conveying a condition, adding protection, etc.

For the record, I know I'm confused about this, so you don't have to start by explaining to me that I'm confused. I'm not one of these guys who says "Your rules make no sense" because he doesn't understand them. Instead, I'm looking for the answers specifically so that I'll be able to play.

I hope my answers have helped. :D
Logged
Tyler.Tinsley
Member

Posts: 55


« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2011, 11:08:49 AM »

Cool! I had seen this in a few places but it's nice to hear about it from Ron. It's great to see other designers formatting their RPGs with components, I have been working on www.seedrpg.com for some time (before I knew anyone else was thinking of using cards for their rpg). While we are doing comparable things I can tell we have some very different goals.

My only question is why label your game as a "card based RPG"? early on in my own project i was thinking about similar branding but I was worried it made the game sound like card play was significant feature (like having a deck, drawing from it, using a hand of cards, that sort of stuff). Is card play significant in untold?

Anyway I think the more RPG's out there using cards and components the better!
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2011, 11:45:09 AM »

Hiya,

Thanks Brannon! That helps a lot. It's too embarassing to admit to you how high some of our MAG additions got during our game due to our confusions ... I think the characters turned out a tad more effective on that basis than the game design permits.

I am not sure whether I've made it clear to someone else reading this how much fun it was to bring the cards in and out of play whether through Hot Swapping or Downgrading (damage), and to see how one could maintain a coherent build for one's character as the details shifted about. And having that take place in units of cards is constraining in the best sense: allowing choices without being overwhelmed by them. It's true that keeping track of the resulting numbers like how much Boost you have available is a skill, but as far as I can tell it never gets harder during play, so once you know how, that's all you have to do.

I think the main thing I'll be clarifying to people up-front, when introducing the game, is that cards are placed in a face-up array in front of you, and that's your character, with the addition of the Hot Swap cards placed similarly in a separate array. There is no "hand" or "deck" to concern yourself with, there's no drawing, and you don't play cards out of a hand in direct opposition to other cards as in most CCGs. Instead, there are simply all the other cards available floating out there in a huge pool, which are available for "re-writing" your character when and if you want. But most of the time, the ones laid out in front of you and visible to everyone are what you'll be working with during play.

None of that caused us any confusion in our evening of play, but it does strike me as the most straightforward difference between Untold and the prevailing assumptions that people may bring to any situation when they see a bunch of cards to be used as the primary mechanic.

Best, Ron
Logged
ashy
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2011, 12:14:45 PM »

Ron really said it best above. We call it "card based" because, well, it is. It is an RPG that uses cards as it's primary tools as opposed to rulebooks, character sheets, etc. However, there are no elements of card play (drawing, turns, etc.) needed. However, we are introducing some of those elements for those that like those sorts of things in their games. That's another of the elements of flexibility that Untold allows - you can add or remove these sorts of things and it does not break the fundamental mechanics of the game itself.

For example, after Gamma World came out, we released a deck called "Flux Mutations", which you can see here: http://www.untoldthegame.com/store/flux-mutations - which DOES act in a random draw, blind card kinda format. You draw a card and then have to Story Swap it into your character until a time when you can "get rid" of it (if you want to - it might be something that your character wants to keep). The add-on rules are included with the deck (and can be found for free online here: http://www.untoldthegame.com/files/flux_mutations_rules.pdf) so you can take it or leave it as you see fit. :)
Logged
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!