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Author Topic: [Solar System] Modelling WtF Werewolves - Shapeshifting & Regeneration  (Read 15725 times)
Courage75
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« on: August 18, 2009, 07:52:53 PM »

Hi All,

This post relates to my monthly Werewolf: the Forsaken game, which I converted to Solar System a while back. I am having problems with handling shapeshifting and the bonus dice that result from the five different forms that werewolves can take in the fiction. I am also having problems with handling the supernatural regeneration that werewolves enjoy in the fiction
as it tends to make physical conflicts between werewolves indecisive. I shall address each problem in turn.

Shapeshifting

Here is the crunch I am using at the moment for shapeshifting:

A werewolf shapeshifts with a successful Primal Urge (V) check, which takes an action, OR by spending 1 Vigour, which happens instantaneously. Using either of these methods, a werewolf can take any four of the five forms. Shapeshifting back to the default form, Hishu (man) is automatic and instantaneous - it doesn't require a check or Vigour expenditure.

Werewolves can shapeshift at any time and stay as long as they want in any form, apart from Gauru (wolf-man), which is limited to a number of round equal to 1 + Primal Urge (V) rating in any extended conflict. If rendered Incapacitated, werewolves revert to Hishu.

The five forms of werewolves, including bonus/penalty dice and natural weapons, are:
  • Hishu (Man): No Changes
  • Dalu (Near-Man): +1 to all Vigour Abilities, +1 React (I), -1 Resist (R)
  • Gauru (Wolf-Man): +3 Brawl (3), +2 to all other Vigour Abilities, +2 React (I), -2 Resist (R), +2V Bite, +1V Claw,  +1V Armour, +1 Track by Scent [uses Primal Urge (V)]
  • Urshul (Dire Wolf): +4 Athletics (V), +2 to all other Vigour Abilities, +2 React (I), -1 Resist (R), +1V Bite, +1 Track by Scent [uses Primal Urge (V)]
  • Urhan (Wolf): +3 Athletics (V), +1 Endure (V), +3 React (I), +1V Bite, +3 Track by Scent [uses Primal Urge (V)]
The reason I have allocated all the bonus/penalties and weapons in this way is because I wanted to translate the advantages each form had in the WoD system to Solar System. I realise that a more elegant way would be to simply have the Primal Urge (V) check to shapeshift create a free Effect which can be spend as bonus dice on any Vigour ability, but I decided that I wanted something crunchier.

The problem with this crunch is that it tends to generate a lot of bonus dice, especially in Gauru and Urshul forms, which are available at every exchange in a conflict. This becomes an issue when werewolves are fighting each other, since they typically take their most powerful form. This results in frequent ties as opposed checks almost always give a result of 3+ due to the amount of bonus dice being rolled. One solution my players came up with was just allowing any bonus dice on opposed checks to cancel each other out, but I am hoping there might be a better way.

In addition, the way I am modelling werewolf regeneration compounds this problem.

Regeneration

In the fiction, werewolves regenerate incredibly fast. To model this, I have altered Vigour healing using the following crunch:
  • Minor Vigour Harm: Automatically healed at the end of each round, starting with the most serious level
  • Level Four Vigour Harm: Costs 1 Vigour to heal
  • Level Five Vigour Harm: Costs 3 Vigour to heal
  • Mortal Vigour Harm: Costs 3 Vigour to heal
  • Silver: Any Vigour Harm caused by silver cannot be healed in this manner
Werewolves can spend Pool in extended conflict to heal Vigour Harm in this manner. They cannot heal any other Harm in this manner.

Again, I did it this way to reflect the mechanics in the WoD system. However, the effect has been to compound problems Vigour-based conflicts between werewolves. Because werewolves can draw upon standard amounts of bonus dice, the difference between their opposed checks (when they don't tie) is usually Minor Harm. However, since any Minor Vigour Harm is erased at the end of the round (unless caused by silver), this "resets" the Harm Track and the fight becomes inconclusive. The combined effect of this is that werewolves lose fights with other werewolves only through superior numbers or because they run out of Pool from constant tying.

As you can probably tell, this is a very unsatisfying result for me and I want to improve it.

So, any suggestions?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2009, 11:58:34 PM »

My own approach in these matters is to look less into the specific mechanics a given game has and more into how similar things are best approached in the Solar System. For example, I probably wouldn't do a complete revamp of the Harm rules just because werewolves are supposed to heal fast - Harm is not directly about physical injury, it has structural qualities that tend to get thrown out of whack by messing with it in a major way.

The first thing to realize is that there is no reason to model werewolf regeneration at all if all the characters are going to be werewolves. The special quality cancels out, you see - if everybody heals fast, you can just describe all the injuries as more grievous than humans would withstand and get a balanced system out of it. And if you have humans or other creatures without regeneration mixed into it, you can just have describe Harm differently for them: while taking a bullet or two would be Major or Mortal to a normal man, the same fictional detail could describe just a Minor Harm for a werewolf. How much Harm you're going to take is prescribed by the system, so just describe it appropriately for each character.

And should a player want to have some mechanical oomph for his own character's regeneration, what I'd do would be one Secret that gives a solid, interesting twist. Something like this:

Secret of Lupine Regeneration
The character can use his Primal Urge (V) as a healing Ability when it comes to his own injuries. If his check fails to match any Harm the character has, lower a particular level by the check result instead. Cost: 1 Vigor

If you get twitchy because all werewolves are supposed to be able to regenerate, you might wish to emphasize that they all do and it's just that the other players have not decided to emphasize this mechanically. They all survive great injuries and are on their feet for the next scene, even if their Harm track gets fuller and fuller. This is actually much more fun than having the character be very immune to Harm mechanics; you might wish to think of the Harm as a semi-abstract gauge for how close the character is to his dramatical breaking point instead of staring intently at whether his physiology should or shouldn't be able to handle the stresses put upon it - ultimately it's pretty arbitrary when we as storytellers decide that a something like a werewolf has gotten "injured enough" for it to actually affect him. In dramatic terms something like regeneration is really almost just pure descriptive color: instead of dodging damage the character can take more of it, and it just doesn't matter to him as much. Something as simple as taking a defensive action with Endure (V) can easily be seen as the regeneration in action: the character sure got hit by a car, but it doesn't matter to his robust physiology as much as it would for somebody else.

A final point about regeneration and SS mechanics: usually I find it much easier to control my mechanics if I make them strongly modular. Instead of giving all characters a huge set of new rules that allow them to dodge the limitations of the system, it's much easier to put those mechanics into Secrets and allow the players to control how and when they introduce parts of it into play.

--

As for shapeshifting, I wouldn't personally like having a detailed list of bonus and penalty dice to work from. It's certainly a possible approach, but I'd feel it as constraining and fiddly. Also, as you say, it results in a pretty dicey crunch environment. Rather, I'd go for something like this:

Shapeshifting (V)
The character's skill at using his alternate shapes and switching between them. You could also just use Primal Urge (V), I just like the idea of having characters have a bit different profiles instead of each and every one stocking up with one single Ability.

For normal shapeshifting just have the player declare that he changes forms and make a Shapeshifting check to support whatever it is that they're trying to accomplish. Or make an Effect, whatever. Just like any Ability. Then, when they want more mechanical punch, give them something like these:

Secret of Urhan/Hishu
The character can shift from man into wolf and back with his Shapeshifting (V). The wolf-form has the same Pools the character normally has, and other Advances equal to the character's Vigor Pool to begin with; shifting forms effectively allows the player to swap character sheets temporarily. The forms share experience points, but Abilities and Secrets are separately purchased. I don't remember if new Werewolf has the concept of naturally wolf-formed werewolf, but if it does, then those use this Secret to turn into a human instead of a wolf. Note that when shapeshifting to unnatural forms with the other Secrets, below, the form the character starts from determines his base capabilities that get modified.

Secret of Dalu
When the character shapeshifts, the player can move one Advance from his Reason Pool to any wolfy purpose, such as his Vigor Pool or some wolfy Secret. The change in statistics may be made permanent even after the shapeshift ends. Requirement: Secret of Urhan/Hishu Cost: 1 Vigor to make permanent.

Secret of Urshul
The character gains natural weapons akin to the Secret of Equipment when shapeshifting into a wolfy form. I'd probably use the new equipment rules from TSoY for this to make it a bit more intricate, too. Requirement: Secret of Urhan/Hishu Cost: 1 Vigor

Secret of Gauru
When the character shapeshifts into a wolf-man, he immediately gains his Shapeshifting (V) check result as temporary advances to allocate freely for his character's wolfy capabilities. These enhancements go away at the end of the scene. Requirement: Secret of Dalu or Secret of Urshul Cost: 1 Vigor

This shapeshifting system is pretty radical in some ways, as it requires you to track the character separately in his wolf-form and man-form. It will probably be the most rewarding if you have a solid idea of how you're playing wolves to begin with - I find this fun, but it might mostly be because I have some pretty intricate mechanics for animals in my new TSoY book which I can see immediately usable for this sort of thing. I also have wolf-men in it, those should be useful for this sort of thing.

Remember that if you decide to hack the system radically in the midst of play, it's best to talk about it with the players and allow them to redistribute their Advances to reflect the details of the new approach.
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Courage75
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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2009, 08:50:50 PM »

Thanks Eero. I have to say, I am really impressed with your responses at such short notice! Awesome stuff!

Regeneration

I take your point about modelling werewolf regeneration as being more abstract in SS. However, does this mean that whenever a werewolf character takes Vigour Harm, I have to consider whether it what level it would be for a werewolf as opposed to a human? In other words, should I:  (a) reduce the level of Harm depending on its source (e.g. getting punched by a human only does Minor Harm, but getting clawed by a werewolf does Major Harm)? Or (b), is this implict in the description behind the Harm? For example, if a werewolf suffers Major Harm from a human using Brawl(V), then the human inflicted Harm that would usually be enough to Incapacitate a human, such as a broken arm/leg rather than a single punch, but thanks to the resilence of the werewolf, it is taken as Major Harm. Also, it could have been a flurry of brutal punches and kicks rather than a single, lucky punch.

I would say option (b) is what you mean, but I want to be sure. Also, since werewolves get plenty of bonuses to Brawl (V) in other forms, it wouldn't be common for a human to be able to inflict Major Harm on a standard opposed Brawl (V) vs. Brawl (V) check for Harm in any case.

I really like the Secret of Lupine Regeneration. I am thinking for giving it to all werewolf characters as an innate Secret, since I think it captures the regeneration advantage werewolves have over mortals and other supernaturals. Just to be clear, though, would a werewolf be able to use this Secret during extended conflict?

If you get twitchy because all werewolves are supposed to be able to regenerate, you might wish to emphasize that they all do and it's just that the other players have not decided to emphasize this mechanically. They all survive great injuries and are on their feet for the next scene, even if their Harm track gets fuller and fuller. This is actually much more fun than having the character be very immune to Harm mechanics; you might wish to think of the Harm as a semi-abstract gauge for how close the character is to his dramatical breaking point instead of staring intently at whether his physiology should or shouldn't be able to handle the stresses put upon it - ultimately it's pretty arbitrary when we as storytellers decide that a something like a werewolf has gotten "injured enough" for it to actually affect him. In dramatic terms something like regeneration is really almost just pure descriptive color: instead of dodging damage the character can take more of it, and it just doesn't matter to him as much. Something as simple as taking a defensive action with Endure (V) can easily be seen as the regeneration in action: the character sure got hit by a car, but it doesn't matter to his robust physiology as much as it would for somebody else.

So, essentially you are saying that a werewolf character can happily stroll around with a Harm Track filled up to Mortal and not visibily be any worse for wear until he takes another level of Harm, whereas a human might look like she is on the verge of collapse from pain/anguish/exhaustion. That's cool and very fitting with the setting fiction.

I will talk to my players and try to implement these changes to the current regeneration mechanics, which I agree are mucking up the Harm mechanics.

Shapeshifting

Yes, your proposed shapeshifting mechanics are quite radical and I am not entirely sure I understand them. Here is what I can gather so far:
  • There is another character sheet for Urhan (wolf) form, where Abilities and Secrets are purchased separately with Advances equal to the PC's Vigour Pool
  • The three other forms (Dalu, Gauru and Urhsul) are modifications of either Hishu (human) or Urhan (wolf) character sheets, depending on the direction the PC shapeshifts
  • In Dalu (near-man), the PC can (temporarily) reassign one Advance from his Reason Pool to his Vigour Pool or spend it on "wolfy" Secrets. I assume such Secrets would be things like tracking by scent, sharper hearing, etc? The PC can make the change permanent with 1 Vigour
  • In Urshul (near-wolf, dire wolf), the PC gets natural weapons akin the Secret of Equipment for the cost of 1 Vigour
  • In Gauru (wolf-man, hybrid), the PC gets the Shapeshifting (V) result as Advances to be spent on wolfy Secrets, which disappear at the end of the scene. Costs 1 Vigour
I like the idea of a separate character sheet for Urhan that the PC can build upon, but have to say, this strikes me as a lot of bookkeeping whenever a PC changes forms! Given that a PC might change froms around three or four times in an extended conflict, this could get too fiddly, especially with all those instant Advances flying around needing to be spent on something.

In that respect, I think I prefer a more static mechanic of bonuses in different forms, much like different martial art styles. Maybe I just need to shave down a few of the bonuses and add a few obligatory Secrets? I do like the Secret of Equipment idea. I'll also have to check out the new TSoY for all those new equipment rules and stuff on animals/wolf-men. Any chance of providing a sneak peak of them here (if you haven't done so already)?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2009, 02:49:44 AM »

I take your point about modelling werewolf regeneration as being more abstract in SS. However, does this mean that whenever a werewolf character takes Vigour Harm, I have to consider whether it what level it would be for a werewolf as opposed to a human? In other words, should I:  (a) reduce the level of Harm depending on its source (e.g. getting punched by a human only does Minor Harm, but getting clawed by a werewolf does Major Harm)? Or (b), is this implict in the description behind the Harm? For example, if a werewolf suffers Major Harm from a human using Brawl(V), then the human inflicted Harm that would usually be enough to Incapacitate a human, such as a broken arm/leg rather than a single punch, but thanks to the resilence of the werewolf, it is taken as Major Harm. Also, it could have been a flurry of brutal punches and kicks rather than a single, lucky punch.

There are two ways for characters to suffer Harm. The first is when the Story Guide considers a situation and sets an appropriate level of Harm as a consequence for an event (often a lost conflict). Here the key word is "appropriate": we choose a level of Harm that corresponds to the nature of the character who is suffering the Harm. If a character is immune to fire, then stepping into a bonfire won't be a cause for this sort of discretionary Harm at all. Similarly, if we've established that werewolves are not significantly harmed by, say, punching them, then there's no reason to cause Harm to them then.

The other situation that causes Harm is when the rules explicitly determine that some is caused. This is the case mostly for the extended conflict mechanics, in which case the amount of Harm is determined by the Ability checks. In these cases you might consider the fictional situation in reverse order: instead of looking at the fiction and assigning a suitable Harm level, you look at the Harm level and describe it appropriately in the fiction. So if a human takes a Major (4) Harm, it's a broken nose, but if a werewolf takes such, it's a steel girder through the gut. As the mechanics ultimately determine the consequences of action in the fiction, you should allow the mechanics to guide the details of what actually happens.

Quote
I really like the Secret of Lupine Regeneration. I am thinking for giving it to all werewolf characters as an innate Secret, since I think it captures the regeneration advantage werewolves have over mortals and other supernaturals. Just to be clear, though, would a werewolf be able to use this Secret during extended conflict?

I imagine he would, although whether it requires an action and whether it works on a time-scale of seconds or minutes would depend on how you view the fiction, exactly. Also, I'd up the cost of using it to 2 Vigor when the Secret is used in extended conflict if it doesn't require an action to use: you should have to pay for messing up the dramatic clock like that.

Quote
So, essentially you are saying that a werewolf character can happily stroll around with a Harm Track filled up to Mortal and not visibily be any worse for wear until he takes another level of Harm, whereas a human might look like she is on the verge of collapse from pain/anguish/exhaustion. That's cool and very fitting with the setting fiction.

That's pretty much how fiction works. If regeneration superpowers really always allowed you to bounce back like a rubber ball, those stories about regenerating people would be pretty dull. Instead they work just the same as stories about other folks do, except that you have to cause more grievous and cinematic injuries to the regenerating guy to slow him down, and you have to drop him into a vat of lava or something to get him to stop altogether. The actual dramatic rhythm is the same for everybody, though: dramatically it makes no sense to give somebody extra fight scenes just because he's difficult to injure. (Which is what it amounts to when you allow characters to heal Harm levels they've suffered) You'll note that action movies do not usually go into 15-minute segues where the hero punches a brick wall to get it to give in; miraculously those brick walls instead crumble instantly when appropriate, thus affirming that they aren't really interesting enough as opposition to spend several rounds of fighting time with.

Quote
Yes, your proposed shapeshifting mechanics are quite radical and I am not entirely sure I understand them. Here is what I can gather so far:

Yes, you got how I made those work. I like how the different forms do different things and interact with each other, but maybe it's not what you need here.

Quote
I like the idea of a separate character sheet for Urhan that the PC can build upon, but have to say, this strikes me as a lot of bookkeeping whenever a PC changes forms! Given that a PC might change froms around three or four times in an extended conflict, this could get too fiddly, especially with all those instant Advances flying around needing to be spent on something.

That's true. I suppose that this technique would mostly be appropriate if the players were interested in seeing their characters as dual creatures; unless I misremember my Werewolf lessons, the cosmology is more about the werewolves as very integrated entities than about being dualistic.

Quote
In that respect, I think I prefer a more static mechanic of bonuses in different forms, much like different martial art styles. Maybe I just need to shave down a few of the bonuses and add a few obligatory Secrets?

Reducing the bonuses is definitely useful, it seems pretty bothersome to have to fiddle with all of those. How about this:
  • Human form has no bonuses or penalties.
  • Near-man gets a bonus die to all wolfy things.
  • Wolf-man gets a bonus die to all physical activities and two bonus dice to combat; however, he pays 1 Vigor for all Ability checks he makes.
  • Dire wolf gets the wolf effect and a bonus die to violent and brutal actions.
  • Wolf form gets to swap Ability ratings between wolfy and human-y Abilities equal to the character's transformation check, moving good ratings into things a wolf could use and vice versa.
It's similar to your original vision, but reduces the number of dice involved to manageable levels.

Quote
I do like the Secret of Equipment idea. I'll also have to check out the new TSoY for all those new equipment rules and stuff on animals/wolf-men. Any chance of providing a sneak peak of them here (if you haven't done so already)?
I could provide a sneak peek, it's just that the book is quite wordy - many pages of stuff that goes into this. Perhaps once I'm back at the office. (I'm in Helsinki now, which makes messing with text a bit bothersome.)
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Courage75
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« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2009, 07:25:35 PM »

There are two ways for characters to suffer Harm.

Thanks Eero, that is a helpful distinction. I can see that if a human engages in extended conflict with a werewolf, it presupposes that the human can actually Harm the werewolf in the first place. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a conflict - the werewolf would simply steamroll over the human without even an opposed check.

However, I would rather allow a human to Harm a werewolf with the Brawl (V) ability than not because I like the idea that a trained martial artist has a chance against an untrained werewolf. Not much of a chance, but a chance. So, I would just match the Harm level with suitable fiction, as you suggest. If a human managed to clobber a werewolf with Brawl (V)and dealt Major Harm, this would indicate bone-breaking injuries that would normally lay a human down. However, a steel girder through the gut might be too much of a stretch, as that would technically be using the Weaponry (V) Ability (assuming the human could even lift the girder enough to use it) rather than Brawl (V), unless the human managed to push the werewolf off a building and the werewolf ended up impaled on the girder. I suppose it just comes down to what fits - describing the human dealing the werewolf a single punch to the head wouldn't make sense in this context, unless the human was incredibly strong. Pushing the werewolf into the whirling blades of a combine harverster (assuming one is nearby) makes more sense.

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
Quote
I really like the Secret of Lupine Regeneration. I am thinking for giving it to all werewolf characters as an innate Secret, since I think it captures the regeneration advantage werewolves have over mortals and other supernaturals. Just to be clear, though, would a werewolf be able to use this Secret during extended conflict?
I imagine he would, although whether it requires an action and whether it works on a time-scale of seconds or minutes would depend on how you view the fiction, exactly. Also, I'd up the cost of using it to 2 Vigor when the Secret is used in extended conflict if it doesn't require an action to use: you should have to pay for messing up the dramatic clock like that.

That's fair enough. In the fiction, werewolves can regenerate damage from blunt weapons (fists, feet, clubs) within seconds, damage from penetrating weapons (knives, swords, claws, bullets) within minutes, and everything else normally. They can also "supercharge" their healing by spending points from a limited pool. I'd like to keep this in the game if possible without breaking the system. Maybe I'll allow werewolf characters to use the above Secret for 1 Vigour if they take an action in extended conflict, or 2 Vigour if they don't take an action? That seems to fit the fiction pretty well.

On another tangent, werewolves have a vulnerability to silver. I am currently modelling this as an exception to the werewolf regeneration rules - in other words, werewolves cannot regenerate Vigour Harm caused by silver weapons like they can any other type of Vigour Harm and must heal it in the usual manner. Using the mechanics you propose, should I just exclude silver Vigour Harm from the Secret of Lupine Regeneration to model this?

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
The actual dramatic rhythm is the same for everybody, though: dramatically it makes no sense to give somebody extra fight scenes just because he's difficult to injure. (Which is what it amounts to when you allow characters to heal Harm levels they've suffered) You'll note that action movies do not usually go into 15-minute segues where the hero punches a brick wall to get it to give in; miraculously those brick walls instead crumble instantly when appropriate, thus affirming that they aren't really interesting enough as opposition to spend several rounds of fighting time with.

So would it be a better idea to preclude the ability to heal Vigour Harm in extended conflict altogether? On the one hand, I can see how allowing werewolves to spend Vigour to heal during combat would extend the conflict. However, I can also see that they would have to expend a lot of Vigour to do so - 2 Vigour per round unless they take an action to heal and do nothing else.

There is another wrinkle to this. You'll probably wince at this, but I have also modified the Pools mechanic. I have added a "super-pool" called Essence, that can be spent in the place of any other Pool. Unlike the other three Pools, Essence is limited because it cannot be increased directly and cannot be refreshed. Werewolves can only regain Essence through the following ways:
  • Draining it from a source of limited spiritual energy, called a locus, which renews every day
  • Enacting a specific ritual and hunting down a spirit (usually an extended conflict)
  • Witnessing the specific phase of the moon the werewolf originally Changed under (his auspice)
  • Devouring the flesh of humans, wolves and werewolves (despised as degenerate behaviour)

Typically, the PC werewolves visit their locus to regain Essence and sometimes enact the spirit hunt ritual if they need more Essence than that.

The intended effect of Essence is that werewolves have an advantage over humans as they can draw upon this super-pool for anything. However, this also means that combat scenes last a lot longer, especially between other werewolves. I know you will probably say that Essence is unnecessary and breaks the Pool mechanic, but do you have any suggestions on how I can model this better?

In regards to your shapeshifting suggestions, I like them much better but I will comment on them in due course.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2009, 02:03:51 AM »

Coincidentally I have aggravated Harm in my new TSoY book as well, so I know exactly how I do the silver thing. Aggravated Harm is marked as such on the Harm track, is not associated with any Pools and does not settle down after an extended conflict like Harm normally does. A character has to make some sort of healing check to transform aggravated Harm into normal injuries before it can be feasibly healed by natural healing.

I'd probably allow regeneration checks during extended conflicts as long as the cost was similar to the cost of natural healing - more than one Pool point, definitely.

For Essence, I'm not vincing; I could use a similar mechanic myself. However, I do recognize that the balance problems you're having with the system are partially due to how you've included a lot of mechanical stuff that has been introduced wholesale and provided for the player characters free of Advance cost. This way of introducing crunch obviates the normal, organic balance SS mechanics have, so it's no wonder if you encounter all sorts of small balance issues as things settle down.

The way you describe Essence makes it sound like it'd work in a simpler and more elegant manner as a normal Effect: whenever the character participates in essence-gathering just have him check some suitable Ability to see how much Essence he holds and can expend later on.
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Klaus_Welten
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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2009, 04:25:32 AM »

This thread is going right into my favorites. Eero, your are my heero. :-P
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Courage75
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« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2009, 03:10:48 PM »

Aggravated Harm is marked as such on the Harm track, is not associated with any Pools and does not settle down after an extended conflict like Harm normally does. A character has to make some sort of healing check to transform aggravated Harm into normal injuries before it can be feasibly healed by natural healing.

Wow, Eero, that is exactly what I am after. Awesome! I think for my Werewolf game I will require PCs who take Aggravated Harm from silver to make a Primal Urge (V) check to convert it to normal Harm. This could only be done outside of an extended conflict and probably costs Vigour.

Just out of curiousity, what circumstances inflict Aggravated Harm in World of Near?

I'd probably allow regeneration checks during extended conflicts as long as the cost was similar to the cost of natural healing - more than one Pool point, definitely.
Makes sense. I like this rule.

For Essence, I'm not vincing; I could use a similar mechanic myself. However, I do recognize that the balance problems you're having with the system are partially due to how you've included a lot of mechanical stuff that has been introduced wholesale and provided for the player characters free of Advance cost. This way of introducing crunch obviates the normal, organic balance SS mechanics have, so it's no wonder if you encounter all sorts of small balance issues as things settle down.

Wow, no wincing? I'm surprised :)

Yeah, I attempted to replicate some of the mechanics from the original system (the ones I liked) into SS and this is the result. In hindsight, I should been more selective and approached it from the angle of how SS works rather than trying to weld unwieldy crunch onto SS. The converted PCs got a heap of Secrets and Keys as I tried to model these mechanics. I would love to be able to redo the conversion and strip away most of them, but the game is well underway.

The way you describe Essence makes it sound like it'd work in a simpler and more elegant manner as a normal Effect: whenever the character participates in essence-gathering just have him check some suitable Ability to see how much Essence he holds and can expend later on.

Yes, this is a much more elegant treatment of Essence than what I did. I like the idea of the PCs getting Essence in this manner, since they would only be getting a randomised amount rather than a fixed amount, which is still limited. Nice!

The way I have determined the Essence Pool is also convoluted. In the setting fiction, werewolves can acquire status with the spirit world which is called Renown. It comes in five types: Cunning, Glory, Honour, Purity and Wisdom. I made each type of Renown a trait ranked one to five. Having Renown provides intangible status benefits, such as spirits being slighty less hostile to the PC and bonus die for Instinct checks against other werewolves who have a lower total Renown.

Each type also comes with a Key, as the spirits expect werewolves in according to their Renown. When a PC spends XP to Renown, they gain a Gift (a werewolf supernatural power) for free. More importantly, the total amount of Renown determines the total Essence Pool for the werewolf. This is the only way to increase the Essence Pool, which keeps it limited.

Pretty convoluted, huh? I am thinking a more elegant way to handle Renown would be to make each Renown type an Ability. Maybe Cunning (I), Glory (V), Honour (I), Purity (V), and Wisdom (R), and then rate them from Mediocre (0) to Grandmaster (4). But maybe even this is too much?

Another problem is that more experienced werewolf NPCs tend to have a lot more Renown than the PCs, which means more of an Essence Pool. I think this is generally okay, since this is the benefits of being a powerful werewolf, but it does have some balance issues.

As for shapeshifting:

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
  • Human form has no bonuses or penalties.
  • Near-man gets a bonus die to all wolfy things.
  • Wolf-man gets a bonus die to all physical activities and two bonus dice to combat; however, he pays 1 Vigor for all Ability checks he makes.
  • Dire wolf gets the wolf effect and a bonus die to violent and brutal actions.
  • Wolf form gets to swap Ability ratings between wolfy and human-y Abilities equal to the character's transformation check, moving good ratings into things a wolf could use and vice versa.
It's similar to your original vision, but reduces the number of dice involved to manageable levels.

I like these suggestions better. I especially like the idea of a werewolf having to pay Vigour to make ability checks in Gauru (wolf-man) form, as a werewolf is supposed to have limited time in this form and all the werewolf can usually do is howl, rampage and destroy things. Even using a weapon more complicated than a club is out of the question.

By "wolfy things" I assume you mean anything a wolf could do - track by scent, heightened hearing, howling, acting in a pack, dominating others (or being dominated), running, leaping, intimidating (through snarling/growling), etc?

This thread is going right into my favorites. Eero, your are my heero. :-P

Indeed. Eero is awesome :)
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« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2009, 01:36:52 AM »

Wow, Eero, that is exactly what I am after. Awesome! I think for my Werewolf game I will require PCs who take Aggravated Harm from silver to make a Primal Urge (V) check to convert it to normal Harm. This could only be done outside of an extended conflict and probably costs Vigour.

Just out of curiousity, what circumstances inflict Aggravated Harm in World of Near?

Surprisingly many things, when all is said and done. At least Three-Corner magic can do it; Vulfen bites that tear flesh and bone; professional goblin-slayers - coistrels - who learn to injure goblin anatomy; wooden weapons against moon-metal and moon-hearted men; Skironite combat magics against enemies rooted in the earth.

Quote
The way I have determined the Essence Pool is also convoluted. In the setting fiction, werewolves can acquire status with the spirit world which is called Renown. It comes in five types: Cunning, Glory, Honour, Purity and Wisdom. I made each type of Renown a trait ranked one to five. Having Renown provides intangible status benefits, such as spirits being slighty less hostile to the PC and bonus die for Instinct checks against other werewolves who have a lower total Renown.

Renown sure sounds like a bunch of Keys to me. That should work well if you let the players buy them as they would - giving them all to each of them for free is too much, doesn't leave the players with enough choice as to what their individual characters are about.

I could imagine doing the social aspect of renown by making each of them a Secret that provides whatever benefits they might have. Something like this:

Secret of Purity
The character is famed for his purity. A successful Status (I) check allows the player to establish that a given NPC is already familiar with his reputation when they first meet. The character can have one such check result as a free Effect at once, providing him with bonus dice to his dealings with spirits and others who care of his renown.

Quote
Pretty convoluted, huh? I am thinking a more elegant way to handle Renown would be to make each Renown type an Ability. Maybe Cunning (I), Glory (V), Honour (I), Purity (V), and Wisdom (R), and then rate them from Mediocre (0) to Grandmaster (4). But maybe even this is too much?

That's not impossible, but Abilities are a huge part of character identity - I wouldn't have such a large number of them unless you're spending lots of play time on the matter. Also, you have to be comfortable with what these personal virtue Abilities could or could not be used for in practical play if they're Abilities; I do have one culture in the new book that explicitly goes for virtue Abilities, but I do that in full cognisance of how different an approach that is compared to the default of Abilities representing real skills. Not something to do unthinkingly.

Quote
By "wolfy things" I assume you mean anything a wolf could do - track by scent, heightened hearing, howling, acting in a pack, dominating others (or being dominated), running, leaping, intimidating (through snarling/growling), etc?

Yeah, those sound like wolfy things to me.
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Courage75
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« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2009, 03:17:21 PM »

Surprisingly many things, when all is said and done. At least Three-Corner magic can do it; Vulfen bites that tear flesh and bone; professional goblin-slayers - coistrels - who learn to injure goblin anatomy; wooden weapons against moon-metal and moon-hearted men; Skironite combat magics against enemies rooted in the earth.

So the ability to deal Aggravated Harm is always determined by the situation, not the result of a check? For example, getting a result of 7 deals Aggravated Harm instead of requiring the PC to Transcend?

Renown sure sounds like a bunch of Keys to me. That should work well if you let the players buy them as they would - giving them all to each of them for free is too much, doesn't leave the players with enough choice as to what their individual characters are about.

The PCs had about 2 to 3 Keys of Renown each. But generally, yeah, they are overloaded with other Keys as well. There is one in particular I would like your opinion on, but I might start a new thread for it since it is slightly complicated.

Secret of Purity
The character is famed for his purity. A successful Status (I) check allows the player to establish that a given NPC is already familiar with his reputation when they first meet. The character can have one such check result as a free Effect at once, providing him with bonus dice to his dealings with spirits and others who care of his renown.

That's a useful Secret. I might use that one.

That's not impossible, but Abilities are a huge part of character identity - I wouldn't have such a large number of them unless you're spending lots of play time on the matter. Also, you have to be comfortable with what these personal virtue Abilities could or could not be used for in practical play if they're Abilities; I do have one culture in the new book that explicitly goes for virtue Abilities, but I do that in full cognisance of how different an approach that is compared to the default of Abilities representing real skills. Not something to do unthinkingly.

Fair enough. The PCs have plenty of other Abilities already (probably too many) so I probably won't go down this path.

Quote
Quote
By "wolfy things" I assume you mean anything a wolf could do - track by scent, heightened hearing, howling, acting in a pack, dominating others (or being dominated), running, leaping, intimidating (through snarling/growling), etc?
Yeah, those sound like wolfy things to me.

Cool :)
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« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2009, 11:49:47 PM »

So the ability to deal Aggravated Harm is always determined by the situation, not the result of a check? For example, getting a result of 7 deals Aggravated Harm instead of requiring the PC to Transcend?

Transcendent checks are very rare and over-powered, so that wouldn't work too well. Rather, this sort of stuff is usually predicated on Secrets. Like so:

Secret of Troll-slaying
Gorenite coistrels have studied goblin anatomy and may cause them grievous injuries. When the character causes Harm to a goblin, that Harm is AGGRAVATED, marked accordingly on the Harm track. Such Harm does not shake down and cannot be healed naturally. Additionally, the goblin suffers penalty dice equal to the highest aggravated level of Harm to any use of his ADAPTATION (V) Ability until healed. Cost: 2 VIGOR
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Courage75
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« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2009, 06:11:24 PM »

Transcendent checks are very rare and over-powered, so that wouldn't work too well. Rather, this sort of stuff is usually predicated on Secrets.

Cool, that makes sense. In the case of silver causing Aggravated Harm to werewolves, anyone armed with a silver weapon can inflict Aggravated Harm to a werewolf, even other werewolves. I expect this would be a piece of equipment rather than a Secret, unless using the Secret of Equipment?

Secret of Troll-slaying
Gorenite coistrels have studied goblin anatomy and may cause them grievous injuries. When the character causes Harm to a goblin, that Harm is AGGRAVATED, marked accordingly on the Harm track. Such Harm does not shake down and cannot be healed naturally. Additionally, the goblin suffers penalty dice equal to the highest aggravated level of Harm to any use of his ADAPTATION (V) Ability until healed. Cost: 2 VIGOR

I like the idea of Aggravated Harm also penalising an innate Ability of werewolves, like Primal Urge (V). Would this have to be particularised under a Secret, like above? Or is could this be worked in as a natural consequence of suffering Aggravated Harm?

Here is my adaptation of your TSoY Secret for Werewolf:

Secret of Silver Slaughter
You are especially talented at using silver weapons against werewolves. When armed with a silver weapon, any Vigour Harm you cause to a werewolf is instead marked as Aggravated Harm. Aggravated Harm cannot be shaken out and cannot be healed with a Primal Urge (V) regeneration check or by regular means. In addition, any Harm you inflict is so painful that the werewolf suffers penalty dice equal to the highest level of Aggravated Harm on any Primal Urge (V) check until healed. Cost: 2 Vigour
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« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2009, 10:04:44 PM »

Seems to work. Depending on how you handle equipment, you might want to make that whole Secret more of a property of silver than character skill with silver. In the TSoY book I do the imbuement thing - so something like that would be the "Silver Imbuement" on a piece of equipment rather than a Secret. Mechanically it's very similar, though, so depends on how you go about things in a given campaign.
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Courage75
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« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2009, 05:58:24 PM »

I like the Secret of Silver Imbuement better than what I have come up with. This is because making silver weapons is tricky - silver is a soft metal and isn't as tough as steel is. If a PC vanquished a foe and acquired his or her silver weapon, would this qualify as a separate Secret (Secret of the Silver <weapon type>)?

 
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2009, 06:15:58 PM »

I'm not sure I understand the question, but I imagine that a silver weapon would be handled the same way you'd handle equipment in the game in general. I've been doing this whole imbuement thing lately in TSoY. In that context I'd do the silver weapons thing like this:

A Great (3) Silver Sword
This sword has been made out of almost pure silver. It holds together thanks to runes etched onto its surface.
Ratings
+1 for swordfighting
+1 for impressing people
+3 for messing up werewolves
Imbuements
Silver (I)
Cost: 1 Instinct per scene.

Silver Imbuement
Equipment imbued with silver burns werewolves: any Harm caused by such an item to a werewolf is aggravated.

The above makes perfect sense in TSoY, let me open it up a bit: Imbuements are just like Secrets, except that they attach to pieces of equipment. They're basically swappable with Secrets: if something is a balanced Secret, it's also good as an imbuement, insofar as game mechanics go. Imbuements do not cost Advances for the character, however: instead, they increase the introduction cost of the equipment they attach to. The introduction cost is a Pool cost the character has to pay the first time he uses a given piece of equipment in a scene, for any purpose. The equipment itself costs one Advance no matter the number of imbuements, so adding more imbuements doesn't make the equipment more expensive to own in terms of Advances (like was the case in the old equipment rules), it just makes taking the equipment out and smacking people with it a more expensive proposition.

Thus, if a character owned the Silver Sword above, he'd pay an Advance to own it. Because it's a Great (3) sword, it can be broken with a Great (3) Ability check, should somebody want to. And because it has an imbuement, using it costs Pool. It also has a bunch of equipment ratings, those come free.

If a character wants to create equipment like the Silver Sword, in TSoY he needs a suitable Ability and perhaps a Secret that allows him to imbue the item.

Anyway, that's just how I'd do the silver thing after spending a lot of time with TSoY. No idea if that's pertinent to your game; I could well imagine running a werewolf game where equipment simply wasn't an issue, in which case a Secret for using silver (or even just knowing to use it) would be a perfect replacement for tracking who has or doesn't have silver weapons.
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