You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.

Scene six, seven, eight and nine have been posted, but I couldn’t allow scene seven to stand without further comment.

I was completely at a loss going into the scene in Courqan’s office. For the first time in this process, I knew exactly where the next scene was going to take place and what was going to happen in it, so I didn’t exactly need Mythic for anything. And yet, I wanted to involve it somehow, so I started asking questions and along the way it got a little complicated. Although this is one of the reasons that there’s no exposition about the scene inside of Courqan’s office, hopefully the explanation below will give some insight into the greater plot and also how I’m using Mythic.

First, I checked for an altered scene and received a negative response. Then I asked if Courqan was going to punish the boys and Mythic responded in the positive and tossed a random event at me.

The random event was NPC Action (Attainment & Pleasures). To me this meant that Courqan would force the two boys to go on an unpaid job, but I needed more information, which meant more questions. Next I asked if the pleasures Courqan was seeking were illegal. Mythic said yes. Then I asked if the illegal pleasures were drugs. Mythic said strongly no but popped up another random event.

The second random event (which I took to be just more color on the existing scene) was NPC Action (Create & Friendship). Because of the previously established details, I took this to mean that Courqan was looking for a prostitute, but to make sure it was illegal and also unsavory, I decided that the prostitute should be a very young child.

This I felt would be completely unacceptable to Sen and I asked if he would quit on the spot as soon as Courqan explained himself. Mythic said yes. I also wondered if Goran would follow suit since I was hoping that he’d have some sort of moral compass. Mythic said no.

So now I had Sen quitting and storming off and Goran staying in the office. I had just a few things that I needed to know. I asked if Courqan would seek vengeance on Sen immediately. Mythic said yes. Then I asked if Courqan would exact his vengeance using Goran. And, of course, Mythic said yes.

This is where we joined the story. With Goran being manipulated into chasing after Sen with no clear orders. I suppose I could have explored the scene inside the office, but on some level I think I like the abruptness of the scene transition. I’m also a little unsure about exactly how evil and cruel I want to paint Courqan in the narrative at this time. There’s no doubt about who and what he is after this behind the scenes look. Rest assured that if I was actually going through this playtest with other players, we would have roleplayed the scene in full, but here I think wasn’t really as necessary.

Scenes four and five are now up in the actual play section.

A quick note on the interaction between Sen and Cyese in scene four:
Going into the scene, I had intended to have a much more meaningful interaction between Sen, Hoda and Cyese, but in keeping with the goals of the project, I left a lot of the decision making about the conversation to Mythic. So, realizing that Sen was surprised by Cyese’s presence and that he was already stressed about the way the night had gone, I asked if Sen would lie to Cyese and Hoda. And, Mythic gave me an exceptional success.

Now, Sen is a decent liar, but not a great one and yet he managed to pull off a bluff check (15 vs. 14 & 12). This is where Cyese decides to cut his losses and just ends the conversation. I think clearly Cyese suspects that Sen is hiding something although he doesn’t realize the extent. Hoda knows that Sen is hiding something, since he and Sen have spoken about trancing before. I don’t think it’s a question that Hoda will fill Cyese in completely (if he hasn’t done so already).

What I think this does is set Sen up for a bit of a surprise if and when he arrives at Salmera University and Cyese already has a good idea about his capabilities. Although, with Mythic, nothing is set in stone, the story could take a wild turn between now and then.

Details about the player characters and non-players characters have now been posted and scenes one through three are now up in the actual play section.

You may have noticed that the non-player character page of the Actual Play section doesn’t include any stats while the player character section does. This is completely intentional. I don’t want the reader to have any insight into the relative power-level or skill-set of particular NPCs, I want the reader to be as surprised as the main characters are when they discover things about the NPCs. That’s not to say that I won’t be posting stats in the Behind the Screen segments, because I most certainly will. I’ll likely be posting full stats, or interesting snippets as the story goes on and as NPCs pass out of the story. Just as I intend to keep die roll information out of the actual play narrative, I want to keep the NPC list (which might get quite long) free of non-story information.

A quick note on format:
I’m writing the actual play narrative in a bit of a mishmash of styles. You’ll notice that I tend to leave a lot of detail out, but sometimes I’ll increase the granularity of the scene and break out actual dialog. There’s a few reasons for this. Chief among them is the fact that I’m both the GM and the player which means that for the most part, the details can remain unspoken because they’re in my head. But it’s also because I’m going to focus in the direction that moves the narrative along. If the event focus that comes out of the emulator and the character action point in the direction of detailed dialog, that’s what I’ll be writing.

About weapons:
In the Great City, there are very restrictive laws about armaments. For the common man in the city, there are only two things to be concerned about: no man can carry a blade longer than his hand-span (thumb tip to pinkie tip when the hand is splayed) and no man may carry a cudgel longer than the length of his forearm (elbow to the tip of his middle finger). The glaring exceptions to this are officers of the law (who carry long rattan canes (and occasionally crossbows) and nobility (who are allowed to wear swords). In practice, however, these laws are flaunted all the time. And, I’m not just talking about Sair Courqan’s penchant for wearing a small sword. Rather, most well-to-do citizens who care about personal safety have taken to carrying metal tipped canes (some of which conceal swords), and almost everyone else carries an over length swagger stick if they’re expecting trouble. In addition, enterprising members of the criminal element have realized that not only do hatchets and hand axes don’t violate either part of the law, but many common tools make effective weapons while not attracting any attention.

I’ve decided to couple my solo Mythic campaign set in the Great City with a series of “behind the screen” posts. There are a few reasons for this. First, I wanted to give a clear view into how Mythic works without actually inserting metagame information into the narrative of my actual play report. Second, I want to provide regular insight into the larger world behind the game, again, without breaking the flow of the narrative. Finally, I realized pretty early in my experiments with Mythic that exploring my interactions with the system might illuminate something about my game mastering style, and I wanted to follow that train of thought.

It may end up that writing a series of Behind the Screen posts in addition to my actual play narrative is just too much work for me to bite off, but I’m interested to see where it all leads.

When I decided to start the solo-play campaign as a way to playtest Fluidity Project, I created a whole series of characters before I settled on one that I though would work best. At first I started by translating a serious of old characters that I’d played before into Fluidity, but I realized that tactical combat with powerful characters, while fun with a group, doesn’t utilize Mythic to its full potential and is less fun when I’m the one rolling all the dice.

Once I realized that. it occurred to me that I was going to have the most fun playing a character-focused game with minimal combat. To meet that goal, I decided to start from scratch with a character intentionally designed to excel in a low-combat, RP-heavy game. This approach as afforded me the opportunity to explore a game setting that I’ve been working on for a while and it’s given me to a great feeling for how well Mythic works.

Here’s a look at the character designs I rejected as well as the two characters who are the focus of the Actual Play campaign:

Read the rest of this entry »

When I was throwing characters together at the start of my actual play experiment, I came across two problems with Fluidity Project.

The biggest problem was that none of the characters I created had enough skill ranks to go around. To solve this problem, I proposed that every time a player spends CP on skill ranks, instead of getting one skill rank for 3 CP during character advancement, they receive a number of ranks equal to their Intelligence bonus. Although high level characters will have more skill ranks and thus higher skill bonuses than their d20 counterparts, I think that after a certain point a high-int character will  just stop buying ranks and focus on Skill Level instead. I’ve found, so far, that the characters built using this change sink a more appropriate amount of CP into skills which allows them to be far more well-rounded.

The second problem is something fundamental to making a point-buy version of the d20 system. In short, the system is geared too much towards combat and there are far too many fiddly pieces that are essential for survivability. Although I though that the biggest hurdle with FP would be min-maxing playing buying too much BAB and gaining access to powerful feats at game-breakingly early points in character development, the opposite is appearing true. I feel that there is a serious risk that players will neglect vital areas of their character like hit dice and saving throws in order to gain more utility and ‘coolness’ through feats and skills. More playtesting will reveal the truth, but I think that characters with crippling weaknesses have the potential to make the game un-fun.

As much as it pains me to move away from point-buy, to solve this problem, I proposed a level-based system that retains the core ideal of Fluidity Project. At character creation, players choose their character’s level load-out. CP are earned as described in the Fluidity Project rules and every 20 CP characters gain a new level. Each level characters gain increase statistics just like normal d20.

Starting characters have a baseline of: d4 hit dice, 1/2 base attack, 1/2 base defense, all poor saves, 4 skill levels and 2+int skill points. Characters have a total of 8 upgrades to raise their level-based statistics. Upgrades are cumulative, so d4 HD to d12 HD costs 4 upgrades. The upgrade cost for each statistic is listed in parentheses below:

Hit dice (full hit points at first level): d6 (1), d8 (2), d10 (3), d12 (4)

Base attack: 3/4 (1), full (2)

Base defense: 3/4 (1), full (2)

Fortitude save: good (1)

Reflex save: good (1)

Will save: good (1)

Skill points: 4+int (1), 6+int (2), 8+int (3)

Characters get 2 feats at first level and another feat every level.
Characters have one class and one class only, no multi-classing necessary. However, each level, characters get to swap one upgrade. So, a character with full base attack and d6 hit dice could drop the base attack to 3/4 for a level and pick up d8 hit points for a level. The following level, the character could keep the 3/4 and d8, change them back or change something else. If a character doesn’t opt to swap an upgrade, they can’t save the opportunity: either they use the swap or they don’t. Characters can only swap one upgrade per level.

I really like the way core FP handles skills, to port that over use the following: Skill level becomes equal to character level plus 3 (4 at 1st level, 23 at 20th). Characters start with skills ranks equal to Intelligence bonus and increase as so: 2+int (1), 4+int (2), 6+int (3). I think very quickly characters will max out their desired skills, so some combination of skill tricks from Complete Scoundrel (each trick costs one skill rank) and high DC/penalty skill challenges (from Iron Heroes) should be used to provide an outlet for excess skill ranks.

I haven’t been in a good headspace for design lately, and since I haven’t been able to do any playtesting, I’ve had to seek alternate means to explore Fluidity and other projects. What I’ve come up with is a solo campaign using Fluidity Project as a base for character creation, normal d20 conflict resolution and Mythic GM Emulator to handle the campaign setup and play.

Read the rest of this entry »

With Game Chef 2010 rapidly approaching, I thought I might share a story about Little Game Chef 2010.

After I missed last year’s Little Game Chef, I had every intention of entering this year. Unfortunately, the timing of the contest happened to coincide with my vacation. So, I suspected that not only would I be unable to finish an entry on time, but I wouldn’t be able to submit my entry since I would be out of town. However, regardless of my lack of ability to enter the contest, I tried my damnedest to slap together a game with the intention of posting it here with the relevant links to the contest. As you may have suspected, things didn’t quite go as planned.

Read the rest of this entry »

…but it’s nice.

Fluidity Project is a class-less, level-less, point buy system designed to port D&D 3.x wholesale, while adding new feat based magic options. That much is obvious. But, Fluidity Project grew out of my desire to graft a better magic system onto Iron Heroes. And, I love Iron Heroes because it adds a level of visceral grittiness to the bog-standard (and cliched) fantasy tropes of core D&D.

And yet, Iron Heroes (like all d20 games) starts to get a little ridiculous in the mid-levels. May I present E6, the solution to mid and high level wonkiness. At first, I was sceptical. I mean, c’mon, only six levels and then we can’t buy anything but feats? That’s nuts. But I though it might work and I was willing to give it a try. Then I read this article by Justin Alexander.

The lynchpin of the whole article is the Knowledge and Crafting section. That’s where this crazy E6 thing clicked for me. If the whole world is populated by level 1 to level 5 NPCs with a sprinkling of higher level guys, those level 6 PCs that just hit the E6 cap are going to be legendary heroes. Or better.

Of course, characters in E6 are gritty for a whole different reason than characters in Iron Heroes. And, E6 has the potential to strip any sort of mythic heroism out of your fantasy game which might make players understandably wary. But then, plenty of people consider levels 3 to 7 to be the sweet spot of 3.x.

So, if you don’t mind classes and levels and you want a higher quotient of realism and grit in your games, read the essay and then check out E6. Then make your way back here and let Fluidity Project take care of all of your feat-based magic needs.

I haven’t mentioned it here, but elsewhere I’ve made no secret that I hate 4th Edition. My complaints echo those that can be found all over the internet, so there’s no need to rehash my loathing for many of the specifics of the new edition. But, I’ve come across something that makes me think I might have to revisit it.

Over on Story Games, I came across this gem of a thread. Not only is it one of the best actual play posts that I’ve ever read, but I think it shines a rather bright light on one of the hidden truths of my own gaming: I’ve gotten so wrapped up in trying to game the math behind the game that I might have forgotten to just enjoy the fun of the game itself.

James Nostack sums it all up perfectly:

… [4e] is pretty much nothing but a combat system, and you might naively think that’s all there is to the game. But the real game…is to be so clever that you always fight on your terms, or never have to fight at all. There aren’t any rules for this; you’ve just got to imagine better. From our comparative experiences, it sounds like this aspect of Dungeons & Dragons is still alive and kicking in 4e. That’s wonderful and really brings a smile to my face. For all the fancy moves of the new combat system, you shouldn’t get so complacent that you stop thinking.

I’ve been reading a bunch of message boards where all these die-hard 3e people are harshing on 4e, and are saying things like, “This encounter is too hard! This monster has too many hit points! Mike Mearls is a lazy idiot who can’t do math! Waaaahh waaaaah waaaaaahh!” Buddy, maybe your fancy Excel spreadsheet is a liability; maybe you’ve got to think like a 7 year old goin’ hogwild in a fantasy world made out of Lego’s.

Priceless.

The whole thread made me want to go back to drawing board and add 200% more fun and awesome into my own games. And to start playing with minifigs.

Also, as a quick aside, a lot of the action in Tony’s post on SG reminded me of the actual play examples I’ve read from Storming the Wizard’s Tower. Maybe there’s something there…

Iron Heroes brought us mastery feats, and I’m a huge fan. Here’s a quick and dirty way to bring mastery feats into a Fluidity Project game.

MASTERY FEAT TRAINING
Prerequisites: 1 hit die, Base attack bonus +1, Base defense bonus +1
Benefit: Choose a mastery feat category (power, finesse, defense, lore, etc.). You can now select first level mastery feats from your chosen category.
Special: You can purchase this feat more than once. Each time you purchase this feat, you can either gain access to the first level of a new mastery feat category or gain access to the next level of a mastery feat category that you already have access to.  You cannot purchase access to more than three mastery feat categories. Each time you purchase this feat, the prerequisites increase as described below.
For the first selected mastery feat category, the prerequisites increase by 2 per mastery level purchased.
For the second selected mastery feat category, the prerequisites increase by 3 per mastery level purchased.
For the third selected mastery feat category, the prerequisites increase by 4 per mastery level purchased.

After purchasing mastery training, the mastery feats are purchased as normal feats according to the prerequisites listed in the Iron Heroes rulebook.

Here’s a chart of the prerequisites for quick reference:

Mastery Level Feat Category Prerequisites
1st First Category 1 hit die, Base attack bonus +1, Base defense bonus +1
Second Category 1 hit die, Base attack bonus +1, Base defense bonus +1
Third Category 1 hit die, Base attack bonus +1, Base defense bonus +1
2nd First Category 3 hit dice, Base attack bonus +3, Base defense bonus +3
Second Category 4 hit dice, Base attack bonus +4, Base defense bonus +4
Third Category 5 hit dice, Base attack bonus +5, Base defense bonus +5
3rd First Category 5 hit dice, Base attack bonus +5, Base defense bonus +5
Second Category 7 hit dice, Base attack bonus +7, Base defense bonus +7
Third Category 9 hit dice, Base attack bonus +9, Base defense bonus +9
4th First Category 7 hit dice, Base attack bonus +7, Base defense bonus +7
Second Category 10 hit dice, Base attack bonus +10, Base defense bonus +10
Third Category 13 hit dice, Base attack bonus +13, Base defense bonus +13
5th First Category 9 hit dice, Base attack bonus +9, Base defense bonus +9
Second Category 13 hit dice, Base attack bonus +13, Base defense bonus +13
Third Category 17 hit dice, Base attack bonus +17, Base defense bonus +17
6th First Category 11 hit dice, Base attack bonus +11, Base defense bonus +11
Second Category 16 hit dice, Base attack bonus +16, Base defense bonus +16
Third Category 21 hit dice, Base attack bonus +21, Base defense bonus +21
7th First Category 13 hit dice, Base attack bonus +13, Base defense bonus +13
Second Category 19 hit dice, Base attack bonus +19, Base defense bonus +19
Third Category 25 hit dice, Base attack bonus +25, Base defense bonus +25
8th First Category 15 hit dice, Base attack bonus +15, Base defense bonus +15
Second Category 22 hit dice, Base attack bonus +22, Base defense bonus +22
Third Category 29 hit dice, Base attack bonus +29, Base defense bonus +29
9th First Category 17 hit dice, Base attack bonus +17, Base defense bonus +17
Second Category 25 hit dice, Base attack bonus +25, Base defense bonus +25
Third Category 33 hit dice, Base attack bonus +33, Base defense bonus +33
10th First Category 19 hit dice, Base attack bonus +19, Base defense bonus +19
Second Category 28 hit dice, Base attack bonus +28, Base defense bonus +28
Third Category 37 hit dice, Base attack bonus +37, Base defense bonus +37

I know it’s been quite some time since I posted anything design related, or anything at all for that matter. Things have been busy for me and I haven’t had quite the time that I would like to devote to the various projects that I’ve been working on concurrently. In addition, I lost my playtesting group, so I’ve been unable to run any of my design projects through playtesting sessions. What all of this means is that my output of new material has slowed to a crawl.

A lack of new testable material has provided an unexpected boon in the form of more time spent with the Fluidity Project and its associated supplements. Because of that, I’ve been able to edit the game documentation again and I’m going to be posting a new version soon.

There’s more in the works, and I’m hoping that I will be able to get back to testing soon because I think some of it is really close to being ready.

It has just come to my attention that the web-enchancement for Eclipse: the Codex Persona contains rules for running Eclipse without levels. Since I haven’t had the chance to experience Eclipse in a real game setting, I can’t offer more comment other than I like what I see.  I particularly like this part:

Eliminate Intelligence Modifier based bonus skill points.
Give each character (Intelligence) skill points as a base
and add their (Int Mod) to each skill they invest at least
1 SP in. If a skill is based on Intelligence, add the
Intelligence Modifier twice. Characters will have higher
skill bases, but are unlikely to increase them much.
Many minor skills, such as Forgery, Craft, Profession,
and the more unusual Knowledges are likely to see
more use, since a point or two can give a high-
intelligence character a substantial bonus to such rolls.

As I’ve said before, the power-creep and over-specialization are definite concerns with a level-less system. This new system for Eclipse seems to tie most of the character features to attributes which serves as a defacto power cap. An interesting and elegant solution.

Regarding levels, I also particularly like allowing a magic user to use his or her effective caster level as character level when resisting magical effects. This allows a player to model the frail old man who has powerful magical powers, but very few (or very small) hit points.

The Eclipse: the Codex Persona web-enhancement is most certainly worth a look if Eclipse is up your alley.

Ever since I designed The Great Steeplejack Chase I’ve wanted to use the action/move dice pool in a roleplaying game. I think it has a lot of potential so here’s my first attempt at shoehorning it into a resolution mechanic.

The system uses a roll-under, count successes dice pool mechanic. Just like in The Great Steeplejack Chase each character has a dice pool (I was thinking d10s would we easy enough to find and would offer a nice spread of numbers).

Either the dice pool would represent on a general measure over overall character strength (sort of like one die for every character “level”) and a character’s dice pool would grow as the character develops though the campaign. Or, every character would have the same sized pool and overall character strength would be measured by the number of times in during a conflict that the character could refresh his pool. Either way, to prevent unwieldy dice pools the pool would have to be capped at a reasonable size (perhaps 10 dice). In the first option, once characters reached the dice pool cap, they could get an ability that refreshes their pool a certain number of times per scene.

The turn structure is exactly like it was in the Great Steeplejack Chase. Each character gets as many actions as they wish, but each action will either use up dice for the turn, or use up dice for the encounter.

To attack, characters roll any number of available dice from their pool attempting to roll under a governing attribute. All dice that do roll under the attribute count as successes. A defender operates likewise, choosing any number of available dice, rolling under an attribute and counting successes. The attacking and defending dice are lost for the current turn and successes cancel each other. Any leftover attacking successes knock dice out of the defender’s pool and make them unavailable for the rest of the scene. When a character runs out of dice, the conflict is over.

It’s important to note that, as far as actions go, defending is free in that it can happen at any point in the turn and it is entirely voluntary. The attacker can only attack during his turn but only attacking successes knock dice out, any extra defending successes are lost.

Of course, in addition to the simple back and forth of attack and defend, characters can spend dice (making them unavailable for the rest of the scene) on special abilities. The exact type and power of special abilities would need to serious testing, but they’d probably end up looking something like keys from The Shadow of Yesterday.

On top of all of this, I’m toying with the idea of characters being able to attack attributes directly which would lower an opponent’s chance of success in the future (perhaps a good use for special abilities). I’m also thinking of several different methods of applying temporary penalties to the dice rolls themselves. Either lowering the face value of all dice rolled, forcing a character to toss out the highest rolled die or even forcing a character to roll an extra success.

In the case of unopposed conflict, the GM would also have a dice pool. Instead of attributes to roll under, the GM would also have a difficulty level that operates on the same scale as the player attributes (1-10). Then, the conflict proceeds exactly as described above.

It’s my hope that the above mechanics (or something similar) can be the base of the two games that I’m currently working on: Tales of the Great City and Sword Mage. Previews for both games should be following shortly.

Porting Steeplejack Mechanics

Ever since I designed The Great Steeplejack Chase I’ve wanted to use the action/move dice pool in a roleplaying game. I think it has a lot of potential so here’s my first attempt at shoehorning it into a resolution mechanic.

The system uses a roll-under, count successes dice pool mechanic. Just like in The Great Steeplejack Chase each character has a dice pool (I was thinking d10s would we easy enough to find and would offer a nice spread of numbers).

Either the dice pool would represent on a general measure over overall character strength (sort of like one die for every character “level”) and a character’s dice pool would grow as the character develops though the campaign. Or, every character would have the same sized pool and overall character strength would be measured by the number of times in during a conflict that the character could refresh his pool. Either way, to prevent unwieldy dice pools the pool would have to be capped at a reasonable size (perhaps 10 dice). In the first option, once characters reached the dice pool cap, they could get an ability that refreshes their pool a certain number of times per scene.

The turn structure is exactly like it was in the Great Steeplejack Chase. Each character gets as many actions as they wish, but each action will either use dice for the turn, or use dice for the encounter.

To attack, characters roll any number of available dice from their pool attempting to roll under a governing attribute. All dice that do roll under the attribute count as successes. A defender operates likewise, choosing any number of available dice, rolling under an attribute and counting successes. The attacking and defending dice are lost for the current turn and successes cancel each other. Any leftover attacking successes knock dice out of the defender’s pool and make them unavailable for the rest of the scene. When a character runs out of dice, the conflict is over.

It’s important to note that as far as actions go defending is free in that it can happen at any point in the turn and it is entirely voluntary. The attacker can only attack during his turn but only attacking successes knock dice out, any extra defending successes are lost.

Of course, in addition to the simple back and forth of attack and defend, characters can spend dice (making them unavailable for the rest of the scene) on special abilities. The exact type and power of special abilities would need to serious testing, but they’d probably end up looking something like keys from The Shadow of Yesterday.

On top of all of this, I’m toying with the idea of characters being able to attack attributes directly which would lower an opponent’s chance of success in the future (perhaps a good use for special abilities). I’m also thinking of several different methods of applying temporary penalties to the dice rolls themselves. Either lowering the face value of all dice rolled, forcing a character to toss out the highest rolled die or even forcing a character to roll an extra success.

In the case of unopposed conflict, the GM would also have a dice pool. Instead of attributes to roll under, the GM would also have a difficulty level that operates on the same scale as the player attributes (1-10). Then, the conflict proceeds exactly as described above.

It’s my hope that the above mechanics (or something similar) can be the base of the two games that I’m currently working on: Tales of the Great City and Sword Mage. Previews for both games should be following shortly.

A while back I mentioned that I had come across Eclipse: the Codex Persona. Well, I’ve had a closer look at it, and it looks like my initial fears were baseless. Eclipse, while it tries to reach the same destination as Fluidity, takes a completely different path. That having been said, I found Eclipse pretty interesting. Make no mistake, it’s a really dense piece of reading and I would certainly like to actually see the system at work in a campaign environment before I gave it my full endorsement, but at first glance it seems to work. And, for the most part, it seems to work well. Since it’s shareware you can’t go wrong with a quick look, especially if you’re interested in point-buy d20.

Unfortunately, Eclipse doesn’t do away with levels, which was one of the initial goals with Fluidity Project. I wanted a free form point buy system that allowed for smooth (or fluid) character growth and gave the players something to purchase at least every game session. While I was checking out Eclipse: the Codex Persona, I came across a pair of systems that also do just that.  Buy the Numbers is a class-less, level-less, d20 compatible system that is significantly closer to that I was looking for when I first started designing Fluidity Project. Complete Control is an adapted and updated form of Buy the Numbers that has (from my perspective) better math behind the character advancement system. Complete Control also has a supplement called Complete Gear, which deals with magic items in a new and innovative way. Complete Control is also from the folks at Dreamscarred Press, so it contains a lot of native support for psionics.

Both Buy the Numbers and Complete Control are almost exactly what I envisioned when I started Fluidity Project, but the both have the same major problem: too much math. The CR system in 3.x (for all its faults) allows GMs to created balanced and interesting encounters, but it also walks hand in hand with an unwieldy XP system.

A quick aside, when I migrated my home campaign from core D&D to Iron Heroes, XP was the first thing I did away with. In Iron Heroes, there’s no magic items, so there’s no crafting, so PCs don’t need XP for anything other than leveling. Mastering Iron Heroes introduced the concept of Marks instead of XP. In a nutshell, characters get 1 mark for an encounter with a CR equal to their level and 2 marks for an encounter with a CR 3 or more above their level. Characters in 3.x are supposed to level every 12-14 encounters and Mastering Iron Heroes suggests leveling every 10 marks, but in my campaign I found that leveling every 20 marks was actually better for the game (as always, your mileage may vary). The concept of marks became the basis for Character Points in Fluidity Project.

Which brings me back to my problem with Buy the Numbers and Complete Control. Both systems use raw XP as the currency of character advancement and price all the character components out with three and four digit XP costs. For example, in Complete Control, if I wanted to purchase Power Attack it would cost me 100 XP if it was my first feat purchase or 2,760 XP if it was my seventh. In Buy the Numbers, if I wanted to purchase Power Attack it would cost me 50 XP if it was my first feat purchase or 2,100 XP if it was my seventh. In Fluidity Project Power attack costs 3 CP no matter when you purchase it. In Fluidity Project each CP represents a single equal CR encounter, but when using XP the awards vary depending on the party’s level and the equivalent CR of the encounter.

It’s my opinion that we should look to Occam in this case. Why force the players to play accountant with thousands upon thousands of experience points when they could quickly count out a few character points, buy a few character upgrades and get on with the game? Why offer the players different die sizes for hit dice when they’re playing a point buy game and can buy as many as they want? Of course, both games cap all purchases at 20 so that point is kind of moot. But, the larger question stands — Is staying close to the source material really desirable for any other reason than player familiarity? If there is a less complicated but fully compatible option isn’t that always the better option?

Night Terrors on the surface is very much like the mutant offspring of Dogs in the Vineyard and The Rustbelt. Which, of course, makes sense since both games had something that I wanted to emulate. What I liked best is that the dice mechanic in Dogs encourages almost poker-like play around the table during the conflict resolution phase. I wanted a similar feeling largely because I felt that the card based mechanic would facilitate and enhance it. I just found out that there is an “official” Dogs mod that uses playing cards instead of dice (check it out here). Unlike Night Terrors, it’s almost a direct port. As always, your mileage may vary.

I want to preface this by saying that I’ve been having some problems with the design behind Night Terrors. The system is good and the mechanics work — I know this. But, the game isn’t coalescing the way I want it to. After spending a lot of time going back over my initial notes, I came to the realization that at least part of the problem is that there’s really not much game to play. I’m pretty sure that any seasoned roleplayer (especially one familiar with games like Dogs in the Vineyard) could pick up the mechanics and use them to play a meaningful game. But, as currently constituted, Night Terrors just isn’t meaningful. There’s nothing about the game that cries out “play me!” Even a game like Sync which has even less character overhead and a simpler resolution system than Night Terrors almost jumps off the page with a game that can be played.

I spend a lot of time on the Forge and while I still struggle with the finer points of GNS and The Big Model, I get the gist. So, I was pretty sure that the problem with Night Terrors was with the color of the game. But, when I went back to my notes, I realized that the color was fine. The players play people who can no longer sleep and their insomnia has driven them insane (or perhaps sane). Either way, they can now seen the terrifying reality behind the reality and the horrible creatures that are feeding on the dreams of all the people around them. The only problem is that those horrible creatures don’t really like being seen and now they’re going to kill the player characters. Seems simple enough – toss the player characters in with some nightmare creatures that feed on loved ones and make the player characters hunted – instant conflict.

But it’s not that simple.

Then, the puzzle pieces started falling together. (Apologies if this seems a little random, it’s all leading somewhere. I promise.)

I was reading Peter’s Molyneux’s interview on Gamasutra (a pretty interesting read, by the way). I was particularly interested in the design theory behind the companion dog in Fable II. But, there was another nugget that stuck in my mind. In the course of a dialogue about critical and emotional choices in the game, Peter says, “…where the real emotion comes is when you really start testing people…There are a lot of philosophical questions that come up in your mind when you’re doing that.” The larger lesson here (to simplify greatly) is that the emotional investment in the game at large is very dependent on player choices and how those choices affect the game world at large.

By coincidence, I happened to be over at Vincent Baker’s site following up on some RPG Theory and I came across this gem:

“Suspense doesn’t come from uncertain outcomes. I have no doubt, not one shred of measly doubt, that Babe the pig is going to wow the sheepdog trial audience. Neither do you. But we’re on the edge of our seats! What’s up with that? Suspense comes from putting off the inevitable. What’s up with that is, we know that Babe is going to win, but we don’t know what it will cost.”

And, it occurred to me that RPGs are exactly the same way (Vincent makes a very similar point albeit less succinctly). When a player makes a roll, the roll shouldn’t merely inform him about the raw success or failure of his chosen action. Instead (and I agree with Vincent here), there needs to be another layer between success and failure. For any game to have a real emotional connection with its players there needs to be some cost or danger (or both) associated with each roll.

[Further reading on this topic is readily available on Vincent’s site, the Forge and elsewhere. In addition, the Otherkind Dice mechanic (described here) does all of the above in a succinct and elegant way.]

Later on, I was reading Powers Volume 12 and during the denouement at the end, right in the middle of the splash page as the plot lines come crashing together, Walker says,

“I knew I might not make it, but I did what I had to do… I have and may again make the choice to do what I think has to be done. Every hero you have ever heard of, in that moment, has made the same decision you made.”

And I thought immediately back to Molyneux’s interview on Gamasutra. The player characters in the typical roleplaying game are a bit more of an ensemble cast than Deena and Walker in Powers, but they are every bit the heroes and protagonists in their own story. So, inevitably the PCs will be in a situation where they’re the only one who can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. And, it occurred to me that there’s not reason why it can’t always be that way. Why can’t each and every player choice be about something that has potentially serious consequences and has to be faced at that time by that player’s character?

But, what really tied it all together was a truly awesome talk by Dallas Snell at ICG East. Dallas’s talk was one-half memoir, one-half psychology and all about social games. It was hugely entertaining, but unfortunately it was the kind of talk that loses a lot if you can’t be there to experience it as it was delivered (some good notes on the content here). One of the biggest things I took away from the talk is the concept of “The Four C’s of Happiness.” The four C’s apply more broadly across life, but Dallas pointed them directly at social games and I turned them on roleplaying games.

Choice is the ability to do something the way that you want to. Specifically relating to games, this means empowering the player to conquer challenges using a variety of different methods.

Competence is the ability to do whatever you’re doing well. This means presenting the players with a game that is relatively easy to learn, but has nuances that can be discovered through repeated play. (In other words, a game that can be “gamed.”) But, it also means presenting players with challenges that not only can be overcome, but are somewhat easy to overcome.

Connection is doing something with friends (or people you like). Tabletop RPGs almost by definition are social games that are played with friends (or people you like).

Commendable is doing something that has meaning and relevance on a larger scale. In roleplaying games this means allowing player decisions to make significant, obvious and long term changes in the game world and the characters in the game.

Based on what Dallas said, if the player and his friends have the ability to decide the best way to tackle the presented obstacles and then can overcome them with some degree of learned and applied skill. And the players see that their actions are changing the game world and their characters (for better or worse), they’re on the road to fun. Some basic reading at the Forge will reveal that there are frequently larger issues with creative agenda and shared imagined space involved in tabletop games. But, by and large, it seems to me that designing with the Four C’s in mind will lead towards games that are more fun for the players.

To tie it all back together, I still think that the problem with Night Terrors isn’t a problem with the color or game premise. I think that what Night Terrors needs is a reason for players to care that their characters are taking blood. What Night Terrors needs is some more information about the game world and how to build characters that fit with the theme of the game. Moreover, Night Terrors might need a little bit more character overhead. It might need a small package of character descriptors or some other kind of metagame construct that direct the game plot and inform character decisions. It also might need a plot structure closer to the one in Dogs in the Vineyard with self contained, short vignettes instead of an open ended plot structure. And, Night Terrors definitely needs a solid description of the stock engines of conflict: the nightmares.

When I posted the full and edited Elementalism rules, I mentioned that I was partially inspired by the M:tG mythology and mentioned that Mana Burn might be worth checking out. Later on, I mentioned that Eclipse: the Codex Persona was also a point-buy d20 system that appeared to be treading similar ground to the Fluidity Project.

Well, coming full circle, I now should mention that Paul Melroy, the author behind the aforementioned Eclipse (as well as a host of other products) also has a roleplaying game that is based on Magic. Mr. Melroy also has a wealth of RPG crunch (covering such disparate topics as Amber, Battletech and Champions) at his blog.

Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, my entries for Game Design Challenges don’t make it to Game Career Guide. What follows is a trio of entries that for various reasons were never submitted. The game designs are raw and largely unfinished, but are being recorded for the purposes of posterity

Read the rest of this entry »

A while back, I mentioned that while designing Counting Sheep (Getting into Bed), I set out to design a narrative roleplaying game that uses playing cards as the only conflict resolution mechanic, but quickly abandoned it when the write-up grew too large to submit to the contest. What follows is a quick look into the guts of the game. Design notes and a complete writeup will also be forthcoming shortly.

The Character

Each character is represented by one of the face cards in a standard 52 card deck of playing cards. Each character has a value (King, Queen or Jack) and a suit (Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts or Spades). The character’s card stays in the deck so it is available during play, but the value and suit give the character bonuses that will be explained later.

The Pools

Characters also have three pools that represent their overall mental health, physical health and fatigue. The pools should be represented by some physical counter (poker chips work well), but in a pinch, players could keep track of the pools on a piece of paper. Each pool has a value of 20, they can never be larger than 20, but during play they will most certainly get smaller.

The three pools are: Blood, Sweat and Tears.

I use red poker chips for Blood, white poker chips for Sweat and blue poker chips for Tears. When using chips, it’s convenient to count the pools from 20 (full) down to 0 (empty). But, a player using paper to keep track of his pools might find it more convenient to count from 0 (full) to 20 (empty). The methods are functionally the same, any difference is one of convenience. If both methods are being used at the same table, using phrases like “I have 10 blood left.” might facilitate player understanding.

Blood is a measure of blood loss, damage to vital organs, metabolic damage due to toxins and disease, and any other damage that is potentially life-threatening. When a character’s Blood reaches 0, they go into shock and become incapacitated.

Sweat is a measure of weariness, stress, soreness, pain, and other fatigue. When a character’s Sweat reaches 0, the character is completely exhausted and may Crash.

Tears is a measure of despair, emotional and psychological damage, pent-up feelings, and inner turmoil. When a character’s Tears reach 0, the character becomes so depressed, distraught, and/or overwrought that he is incapacitated and may Snap.

The Cards

At the beginning of each play session, the GM deals each player a hand of four cards. Between scenes player’s hands reset to four cards. Starting to the GM’s left and proceeding clockwise, players must reduce their hands back to four cards by discarding any cards that they choose. Any player who has fewer than four cards draws enough cards to increase his hand to four. At this time, any player who wishes may refresh his hand by discarding any cards he no longer wants and then drawing his hand back up to four. Players should always keep their hands hidden.

Conflict

To start a conflict, the important questions are the what, the who, the where and the how. The what concerns what’s at stake, why is there a conflict and what is there to be won at the outcome. The where concerns the location of the conflict and what’s around, this helps set the atmosphere and feel of the conflict. The who concerns who has a stake in the conflict, who is participating and sometimes why they are participating.

Conflict proceeds using a back and forth play that’s very similar to betting on poker. When a conflict is started, the aggressor chooses how they are addressing the issue and raises using two cards to back up their action. All of the other players involved in the conflict see the raise using their own cards. Once cards are used to raise and see, they’re gone and are reshuffled into the deck after the conflict is over. After one character raises and all other characters see that raise, the cards are removed and play continues around the table. The next player plays two cards as a raise and all other players must see using their own cards.

Depending how well a character sees, he might have to take fallout from the exchange. Fallout can represent anything from broken bones to cuts and bruises to mental and physical fatigue. The amount of fallout is often a key factor in determining how long a character stays in a conflict.

When a character is losing a conflict – they’ve taken some fallout or they’re running out of cards – they can push (essentially volunteering to take fallout) or escalate the conflict. Because, there’s nothing that ends an argument like pulling a gun.

When a character gives or when a character doesn’t have enough cards to see a raise and they can’t or won’t push or escalate they’re out of the conflict. Whoever is left when a conflict is done gets to decide the fate of whatever was at stake in the conflict and narrate the outcome appropriately.

Using the Cards

Once the important questions are dealt with the conflict starts and all players draw an additional four cards. While all players can discuss the stakes of a conflict, only the players directly involved in the conflict and draw cards and play cards during the conflict.

Generally the player who starts the conflict gets to choose what type of conflict is taking place. The type of conflict governs what suit is the trump suit. When the suit of the card that represents a player’s character matches the trump suit of the current conflict, that player gets to draw an additional card at the start of the conflict. The same holds true when the conflict escalates and the trump suit changes. For instance, if a player’s character is represented by the king of spades and the guns come out, that player would draw five cards instead of the normal four.

  • If the conflict involves just talking? The trump suit is Diamonds.
  • If the conflict involves doing something physical, but not fighting? The trump suit is Hearts.
  • If the conflict involves fighting hand-to-hand or with melee weapons? The trump suit is Clubs.
  • If the conflict involves fighting with guns? The trump suit is Spades. (Spades should also cover anything that’s likely going to result in serious injury or death, like battle magic, running someone over with a car and other things like that.)

The player whose character started the conflict must raise with two cards (whose values are added together). All other players in the conflict see with two cards, the total of which must equal or exceed the value of the raise. If any player can see with one card, it’s called a reversal. A player who plays a reversal does not lose the card he plays, instead, he may use it as a third card in his raise (if he acts next), or he can use it to see (if he doesn’t).

If any player cannot see with two cards and has to see with three or more cards, their character takes fallout equal to the highest middle card that they have played. If any raise contains a trump card, the all players who see must also contain play a trump or their character takes fallout equal to the value to the trump he can’t see.

During play, face cards double the value of any card that they are played with (ex. a six and a king equals 12). If any two face cards are played together, their total value is 20. In addition, if the face card is also a trump, the trump carries over to the other card (in the previous example, any player who couldn’t see with a trump would take 6 fallout). In the case of two face cards where one is a trump, the players who must see the raise risk taking 10 fallout.

At any point when a player can’t see a raise, he has three options:
1) Give and accept the consequences of loosing the conflict.
2) Push and accept a price equal to the difference between the played cards and the value required to see.
3) Escalate the conflict.

When a player chooses to escalate the conflict, all players in the conflict draw four more cards (or five if the trump switches to your suit), the trump switches to reflect the escalation and play continues.

Fallout and Price

When a character is forced to take fallout, or chooses to push a conflict and accept a price, the payment depends on the trump suit of the conflict.

If the trump suit is Diamonds, price or fallout is paid in tears.
If the trump suit is Hearts, the price or fallout is paid in either tears or sweat.
If the trump suit is Clubs, the price or fallout is paid in either sweat or blood.
If the trump suit is Spades, the price or fallout is paid in blood.

This is where the value of a character’s card comes into play, since the card value changes the type of price or fallout a character has to pay.
When his Price includes Sweat, a King can trade up to half of his Sweat for Blood or Tears.
When her Price includes Tears, a Queen can trade up to half of her Tears for Sweat or Blood.
When his Price includes Blood, a Jack can trade up to half of his Blood for Sweat or Tears.

Narration

This, of course, is just the raw mechanical method for resolving conflict. There’s nothing in this post about the themes of the game, there’s nothing about healing all that fallout the characters took as they escalated their way from stern words to a deadly shootout and there’s nothing about how the game is supposed to play around the table. In short, each player narrates his action as he plays his cards. What the character says is what happens, the cards just back up the actions. And, to a certain extent, inform the actions of the other characters. I’ll be going into much greater detail about narration methods and play styles in the more complete writeup that will follow.

The beginning of 2009 has been extremely busy for me, and I haven’t had quite the time I wanted to devote to the various design projects that I’ve been working on. In addition to being busy, I had increasingly started to think that maybe Fluidity had run its course. My first thought was to place the entire project on indefinite hiatus, but, between Threshold Magic and the psudo-level system that I’m posting below, I think that maybe I’m not as done with Fluidity as I thought I was.

Read the rest of this entry »

In the spirit of building upon the core foundation of the Fluidity Project, I’ve come up with a rough outline for another magic system. The system is based (loosely) on the magic in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series, where mages are merely conduits for vast magical power and don’t actually hold any power in themselves. Tentatively called Threshold Magic, the system is designed to be used with magical schools or paths which contain spells and either spell based augmentation (like Psionics) or universal augmentation (or both). Threshold Magic also makes use of a Channeling skill much like Elementalism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Last week’s game design challenge at Game Career Guide was to create a “race to the end”-style board game to be played online by 11 to 15 year old English speakers in America. My entry The Great Steeplejack Chase (sort of a cross between Donkey Kong and Chutes & Ladders) received an honorable mention.

Read the rest of this entry »

Last week, Game Career Guide‘s game design challenge was to design a game based on insomnia. My entry, titled Counting Sheep, was recognized as one of the best entries on the contest. In retrospect, my choice of name might have been a poor one. But, I’m glad that the GCG editors who were managing the challenge were able to look past the (admittedly) silly name and see the merit of my game.

With the challenge’s 500 word limit, some of the things that I wished I had more time to discuss in my design document were the different (and completely unexpected) strategies that evolved during playtesting and the different design choices I had made.

Read the rest of this entry »

A complete and edited version of Elementalism is finally available. Elementalism brings a new trait, a new skill, more than 40 new feats and over 50 new spells to the table. It should be noted that Elementalism probably needs a lot more playtesting before it can be considered balanced. In my final read-through before posting I saw several areas that could be potentially problematic. And, while all of the scaling mechanics seem to work well at low CRs, higher level play might reveal serious breakdowns. I would hope that I erred on the side of caution and any problems at higher CRs have to do with a dearth of power as opposed to a glut.

As I’ve said before, in addition to the complete magic system, Elementalism has a strongly implied setting. The setting was inspired by Magic: the Gathering when I started working on the Fluidity Project in mid-2007. But, as the magic system evolved into Elementalism in the intervening time, the influence of M:tG was greatly diminished. Clearly however, the echos of M:tG remain in the five primal elements, their associated fluff, the concept of elemental mana and the mana symbols used as shorthand.

On a somewhat related note, if you’re looking for a roleplaying game that actually uses Magic: the Gathering cards, check out Mana Burn.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, Elementalism is, as a whole, an extremely derivative work. Most of the mana feats began life in Magic of Incarnum. The spells and spell effects were mostly distilled from already existing spells and a few originated from Spiritualism (which can be found in the awesome Iron Heroes Player’s Companion). The augmentation effects were inspired by the mechanics in the Expanded Psionics Handbook and the highly underrated Redstar Campaign Setting. And, the Ruin Construct and Verdant Defender were ripped almost whole cloth from the Astral Construct power.

Regardless of what may prove to be several serious mechanical faults and my concern about a perceived lack of originality, I think Elementalism holds up well as a more complete example of what a magic system would look like in a game built using the Fluidity Project. I think that Elementalism should hold its own with the core Fluidity magic system, Ethercraft and any other magic systems that are compatible with the Fluidity Project.

Ethercraft was meant to be my answer to 4th Edition’s version of magic. All of the groundwork was done in late 2007 before anything concrete was known about 4th Ed. Of course, now we all know exactly what 4E is all about. And, as it turns out, what I extrapolated from the early reports was pretty far off base.

What the preview contains should be enough to get a feel for the flavor, terminology and structure of the magic system.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s old news at this point, and it’s not an RPG, but I thought it might be worth mentioning that way back at the beginning of October I received an honorable mention in Game Career Guide‘s Game Design Challenge: No Jumping.

The other entries were pretty cool, but I was really shocked that some of the designs discussed in the forum for this challenge didn’t even warrant a mention. Which makes me wonder if they were even submitted, since I thought some of them were really good.

I’ve been enamored with reserve feats since I first saw them.  Unfortunately, I find that reserve feats are (for the most part) not really powerful enough, or situationally useful enough to warrant the use of a character’s extremely limited feat selections.  Obviously there are exceptions, Minor Shapeshift being the most obvious.

But, in general, I wanted more.  I didn’t necessarily want for the feats to be more powerful, or to be more useful than the litany of spells available to an arcane caster in 3.5.  What I wanted was to make reserve feats feel like a viable choice for a low level caster and still be a useful and effective choice when that character reached a higher level.

To that end, I wrote up a ten level prestige class that gives an arcane caster not only more uses for her reserve feats, but also has some interesting and potentially powerful powers that are fueled by either prepared spells or spell slots.  The Reservoir Mage might be a tad on the powerful side, but I tried to cut down on that with a daily limit for the mid-way and capstone powers and forcing a caster to decide between casting a spell and using a class ability.  Of course, playtesting may prove that using a 3rd level slot to empower the fiery burst feat is significantly less effective than casting a fireball, but the metamagic aspect is one small part of what the Reservoir Mage gets to do.

I did leave out  a lot of the “fluffy” bits of the prestige class since, for the time being, I’m most concerned with the mechanical aspects of both the Fluidity Project and any other diversions I might find along the way.

Way back on July 17th I was preparing for the first playtest of the Fluidity Project and I mistakenly gave Shadowfoot credit for inspiring (and informing) my collection of feats. As it turns out, the old post that I read on the WotC boards (which appears to not exist anymore), was written by Talen Lee. Mea culpa, I should have paid better attention.

Not to take anything away from Shadowfoot, his collection of feats is wonderful and should be used as a resource for anyone wishing to make use of the Fluidity Project.

I’ve been frequenting the forums over at Indie RPGs lately, and I’ve also been reading a lot of ORE (Wild Talents and Reign specifically) and Burning Wheel. I guess things have been percolating around inside my head. Because, sparked by this thread and the idea of gobble dice from ORE, I’ve thrown together some minimalist mechanics during my lunch breaks over the course of about a week. The system outlined below is supposed to be abstract, minimalist and gritty while still allowing for some good roleplaying and action.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tome of Battle already includes two great feats for non-martial adepts, Martial Study and Martial Stance. For a character made with the Fluidity Project, these feats are a boon, but the distinct lack of a high initiator level or a recovery mechanic means that such a character cannot make full use of the maneuvers presented in Tome of Battle. The below feat is designed to alleviate this problem.

PRACTITIONER OF THE SUBLIME WAY
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +3, Martial Study (see ToB), Martial Lore Rank: Trained (see ToB)
Benefit: Your initiator level is equal to your base attack bonus. You can ready a number of maneuvers equal to 1/3 of your total hit dice (minimum of one). You can recover your expended maneuvers by spending a full round action to do so.
Normal: A character’s initiator level is equal to half his total hit dice.

The Tome of Magic also contains feats that are a boon to characters that wish to dabble in either soul binding or truespeaking. The below feat, True Soul Binding, may be a bit powerful. If you find it to be so, requiring a player to purchase the Bind Vestige feat for each vestige they wish to have access to would be a good fix.

TRUE SOUL BINDING
Prerequisites: Bind Vestige (see ToM), Improved Bind Vestige (see ToM), Practiced Binder (see ToM)
Benefit: You gain the soul binding special ability. For the purposes of binding vestiges, you are treated as a Binder with a level equal to your hit dice (see ToM). You gain no other features of the Binder class, this feat only allows you to bind more powerful vestiges, benefit from all vestige abilities when you bind a vestige and purchase feats which have Soul Binding as a prerequisite.

Some more homebrew vestiges can be found here. There are also several official sources of vestiges:
Dragon Magic (Ashardolon)
Dragon Magazine #341 (Primus and Kas)
Design and Development article (Vanus)
Mind’s Eye article (Abysm, Arete, The Triad)
Cityscape Web Enhancement (Astaroth, Deshartis)
Class Chronicles: Binders (Zceryll)
Dungeon Magazine #148 (Ahazu)
Dragon Magazine #357 (Astaroth, Ansitif, Cabiri)

The utterance feats (Minor Utterance of the Evolving Mind, Utterance of the Evolving Mind, Utterance of the Crafted Tool and Utterance of the Perfected Map) should suit a character built with the Fluidity Project if the skill prerequisites are converted. However, if a player wishes to speak utterances higher than 1st, allowing Utterance of the Evolving Mind, Utterance of the Crafted Tool and Utterance of the Perfected Map to grant access to higher level utterances shouldn’t be a game breaking change.

The other option for a DM who wants to delay a character’s access to higher level utterances, but who wishes to take full advantage of truespeaking is to keep the existing feats that allow a character to select 1st level utterances in each lexicon. And to use the three feats below.

UTTERANCE OF THE EVOLVING MIND
Prerequisite:
Truespeak Rank: Trained, Skill level 9, Minor Utterance of the Evolving Mind, know at least three utterances
Benefit: You learn one utterance from the Lexicon of the Evolving mind.
Special: You can purchase this feat more than once.

UTTERANCE OF THE CRAFTED TOOL
Prerequisite: Truespeak Rank: Skilled, Skill level 12, Minor Utterance of the Crafted Tool, know at least four utterances
Benefit: You learn one utterance from the Lexicon of the Crafted Tool.
Special: You can purchase this feat more than once.

UTTERANCE OF THE PERFECTED MAP
Prerequisite: Truespeak Rank: Mastered, Skill level 15, Minor Utterance of the Perfected Map, know at least five utterances
Benefit: You learn one utterance from the Lexicon of the Perfected Map.
Special: You can purchase this feat more than once.

Unfortunately, as cool and flavorful as Shadow Magic is, there are no plans currently in the works to offer a conversion for it. The core magic system in Fluidity Project could be retrofitted to provide an avenue for those players who wished to pursue Shadow Magic. But, right now, all the focus for the project is directed towards finishing Elementalism and the third magic system — Ethercraft.

In anticipation of Saturday’s playtest, I’m posting the three major playtest documents.

The first is a quickstart guide. It contains everything you need to get a quick game of your own off the ground. Of course, at the very least you’re going to need a copy of the SRD (found here, here or here) as well. And you’re probably going to want a copy of the Iron Heroes book and most likely the PHB, DMG and Monster Manuals.

The second is a magic system. Like the document says, this magic system is designed to let players use all of their favorite spells from any book. If you’re not a fan of trance mechanic, feel free to modify it or scrap it all together. I favor more limitations on spell casters, but, your mileage may vary.

The third is an unindexed feat document. I would have liked to have had the time to put in a big, easy to reference chart at the beginning of the document, but that will have to wait. The document contains the core class features converted to feats as well as a compilation of feats from the SRD and from a very old post on the WotC message boards by Shadowfoot. Shadowfoot’s work is currently maintained here and here. You can also find a lot more useful feats here.

There is a second magic system that I’ll be playtesting on Saturday. It’s a complete magic system that comes with a strongly implied setting (based loosely on Magic: the Gathering), a new trait, a new skill, over 40 new feats and over 50 new spells. I’ll post the full rules after they’re playtested and the document goes through another round of editing.

Edit: It has come to my attention that the very old post on the WotC message board was not written by Shadowfoot as I had initially thought, but was rather written by Talen Lee.