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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 87 - most online ever: 843 (October 22, 2020, 11:18:00 PM)
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Author Topic: [Playtest report] War in Khale  (Read 4975 times)
Sam!
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« on: January 25, 2009, 11:46:15 AM »

So, we took the challenge and decided to try out Eeroís new stuff. It may have something to do with the fact that one of us is Eeroís brother and the rest are his friends. Anyway, our gaming project for the spring is to test this war campaign stuff.

Thereís the war band

Jari made an orc-goblin with lots of war-related Secrets and Abilities. As his character has both the key of mission and of bloodlust, Iím quite sure thereís going to be a rain of experience points - and hence also rapid character development. Within the fiction this orc chieftain is a leader of orc mercenary unit fighting for Ammeni.

A-P made a rich Ammeni with conscience. A clear chance for a strong dilemma, so Iíll try to milk all the drama out of that one.

Pyry brought in an adventurous Khalean warrior, who has just returned home. Nothing particularly new test material here, but itís good to have a Khalean in the row. Maybe heíll find the war Secret stuff handy in no time.

I myself act as the Story Guide.

As anyone can see, we got a character on each side of the war (I wouldnít be surprised, if the orcs switched sides at some point). Therefore I decided to draw two war maps, one for Ammeni and one for Khale. Ammeniís goal is to obtain the moonmetal and in order to do this first find it and then seize it securely. Khale war map is essentially about uniting the tribes and pushing Ammenis back across the Poison river. Then I went on to sketch an adventure map according to the guidelines in Solar System. I brought in quarrelling Ammenis, their smuggling slaves and divided tribes. So the Ammeni war map can be sabotaged from within, where as the Khale war map represents mainly only one tribeís effort - Pyryís characterís tribe, of course. I tend to use them mostly akin to the back story; if the player characters do nothing, the NPCs are going to follow their war maps.

The first touch

We are supposed to start out the first war campaign session this Thursday, but me, Jari and Pyry already played one kind of flashback last Thursday.

Jariís orc chieftain has both Secret of Discipline and the Secret of Guard. When these were combined with orcís trick to fill their Vigor through violence and the key of Bloodlust, the orc military unit seems to be quite a war machine. Still, the characterís fighting ability was 1 and the Guard effect was 1, and so offered one equipment rating (which was infantry +1). So in the end his skill for fighting is 2 and no single character may try to check him. In the fiction he managed to invade a half-empty fortress with it. At the same time, elsewhere, Pyryís Khale fighter took their ship back. The characters did meet, but despite the cries for help, Pyry decided not to fight against the orcs.

However, this led us into an interesting discussion about playing styles. Jari and Pyry were a bit unsatisfied by the way I played up the opposition to their characterís actions. They claimed it to be too easy to win conflicts, especially invading the fortress. If we look at the situations in mechanics (provided that I remember right), Pyry went with ability 1 + a penalty die against ratkins, who had ability score 2 and a bonus die. Invading the fortress happened in two conflicts. First one was about the courtyard with ability 1 + troopers 1 vs. skill 1 and a bonus die. The second one about seizing the actual keep was with skill 1 + troopers 1 + 3 bonus dice against ability 2 + 2 bonus dice.

A couple of questions about the rules regarding this stuff:
1) Equipment rating (ER) is added to the check result only after the character has succeeded. So they donít count as a ready success level, but only make the success bigger, right? So if you had a ER +1 and an ability of 1, you donít roll the dice and add in 2. Instead you add the dice and your skill and only if you are victorious, you add in the ER. Equipment don't make you better, just able to dish in more Harm. Right?
2) If you make an Effect out of an opposed check, the Effect value is your victory margin. Again, in example: my result is 3, yours is 2, so I get to buy an Effect worth of 3-2 = 1. (Narrating the success, p. 29-30, is still based on the actual roll, not on the victory margin.) Right?
We did exactly otherwise during the session, which might explain the easiness.

Anyway, my main explanation was simply that Iím in for drama, not challenge. Iím more interested in what do the characters choose than do they overcome challenges. After the sessions, at least I consider the orc to be a brute, who is in only for blood-spilling; Tolkien would be proud. The Khale warrior is no better. He turned a deaf ear to the pleas of help and pillaged the unarmed farmers while orcs ransacked the keep. The actions the characters choose tell a lot about what kind of persons they are - whether they succeed or not determines only the consequences and the follow-up story. This is not to say that one cannot play SS / TSOY rough, but it just isn't my cup of tea.

The actual question here is whether my style is okay for the war campaign. Iím all in to use all kinds of war crunch, but Iím not really playing to see if the Ammeni can obtain the moonmetal but what kind of moral choices to they make on the way. Yes, letís have army battles, but for what ends? Who do they attack against? Will Pyryís Khalean warrior side with his tribe and fight the Ammeni? Will the orc side with the Ammeni to the end? What Iím after here is that while the context and the crunch is for warfare, the real deal is in the moral, not tactical choices. Does this sound like a proper angle to approach the whole war campaign?
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Sami Koponen
Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2009, 01:05:58 PM »

A couple of questions about the rules regarding this stuff:
1) Equipment rating (ER) is added to the check result only after the character has succeeded. So they donít count as a ready success level, but only make the success bigger, right? So if you had a ER +1 and an ability of 1, you donít roll the dice and add in 2. Instead you add the dice and your skill and only if you are victorious, you add in the ER. Equipment don't make you better, just able to dish in more Harm. Right?

So one would think, and that's how the Finnish language TSoY was translated, but it's not how Clinton intended it. The Solar System booklet has the correct rules: equipment rating is added to the Ability check result if the check was successful - this is different from being victorious, as any non-zero check result is successful. So you might roll a weaker check than your opponent but get a victory anyway thanks to your equipment rating.

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2) If you make an Effect out of an opposed check, the Effect value is your victory margin. Again, in example: my result is 3, yours is 2, so I get to buy an Effect worth of 3-2 = 1. (Narrating the success, p. 29-30, is still based on the actual roll, not on the victory margin.) Right?
We did exactly otherwise during the session, which might explain the easiness.

In opposed checks you can only make an Effect out of the victorious check. The value of the Effect is equal to the full value of the victorious check, not the margin of victory. In general, the issue of margin vs. full value is another of those rules that have been frequently misread from the original TSoY text, but which I tried to clarify in the SS booklet. The basic principle is that unless the text clearly instructs otherwise, you shouldn't use the margin of successes for anything - you always use the full value of the victory. Doing otherwise favours unresisted checks too much in comparison to resisted checks.

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Anyway, my main explanation was simply that Iím in for drama, not challenge. Iím more interested in what do the characters choose than do they overcome challenges. After the sessions, at least I consider the orc to be a brute, who is in only for blood-spilling; Tolkien would be proud. The Khale warrior is no better. He turned a deaf ear to the pleas of help and pillaged the unarmed farmers while orcs ransacked the keep. The actions the characters choose tell a lot about what kind of persons they are - whether they succeed or not determines only the consequences and the follow-up story. This is not to say that one cannot play SS / TSOY rough, but it just isn't my cup of tea.

I'm not sure that is is fruitful, but try it for a size: the basic theory for this sort of thing is that you don't want to create challenging, difficult environments in a narrativistic adventure game merely because you'd want to challenge the players or their characters - the reason for having strong mechanical resistance against the player characters is that you want their choices to have consequences. When a character decides to go to war, part of the tension in this choice is the chance that they'll get hurt or die in that war. If the Story Guide insists on soft-balling the war because he's just interested in the choices and not their consequences... well, the original choice loses some of its gravity if the consequences are wimpy or non-existing.

This is why I recommend running antagonism in Solar System based on the facts as they stand in the fiction: do not care about whether your chosen antagonists are "too strong" or "too weak" for the player characters, but rather choose the statistics based on the in-setting facts and let the consequences fall as they may.

That being said, I don't particularly feel that your chosen opposition in these cases was especially wrong. NPCs at Ability levels 1-2 are perfectly reasonable if we're talking of minor and mediocre support cast. A minor fortification somewhere in the outback will likely be garrisoned by NPCs at those Ability levels, if that. The important thing is that you as the SG choose your fiction to match your dramatic coordination - if you specifically wanted to not introduce strong NPC antagonists, then it's reasonable to only bring in weak NPCs, who are then most likely rolled over by the player characters. If the players think that you're going too easy on them, perhaps that's a sign that they want tighter dramatic coordination from you. They don't want to fight skirmishes with storm troopers, you should bring in Darth Vader to kick their asses. A colorful, interesting NPC with enough mechanical strength to make them a worthwhile adversary is useful when you actually start creating drama.

The most important thing in SS is to not pull your punches as the SG for any reason. If you want to put a PC up against Mordred the Mongrel, the famous Maldorian warlord with a steel jaw and silver teeth, then stake him out at Master or Grandmaster level of Ability and give him some awe-inspiring Secrets, too. Then the players get to genuinely consider the possibility of losing. On the other hand, if you don't want to put them up against a powerful NPC, then it's no wonder if they find low resistance from the nameless support cast. Ideally the players'll provoke you to bring in some interesting, powerful antagonists by reaching farther with great ambition.

Quote
The actual question here is whether my style is okay for the war campaign. Iím all in to use all kinds of war crunch, but Iím not really playing to see if the Ammeni can obtain the moonmetal but what kind of moral choices to they make on the way. Yes, letís have army battles, but for what ends? Who do they attack against? Will Pyryís Khalean warrior side with his tribe and fight the Ammeni? Will the orc side with the Ammeni to the end? What Iím after here is that while the context and the crunch is for warfare, the real deal is in the moral, not tactical choices. Does this sound like a proper angle to approach the whole war campaign?

Sure, I don't find that problematic. Just remember that consequences are an important part of the whole narrativistic adventure deal. You can't expect the players to care about the choices they make if you don't provide believable antagonism. That's what the war crunch and the war-related choices are for - characters need to choose where and why they're willing to risk their lives and the lives of their men, and if you don't provide a solid sandbox for this to happen, then those choices won't appear, either.
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