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Topics - GreyMantle

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General Legend Discussion / Should this have been a party sweep?
« on: October 13, 2013, 05:47:13 PM »
The party:

Level 3; Legendary

Ranger: Vigilante/Reign of Arrows/Professional Soldier
Sage: Just Blade/Force of Will/Arcane Secrets
Paladin: Judgment/Heroica/Smiting

Ranger had the Mr. Atlas ability so he could use Dead-Eye every round.
Sage had the Indestructible ability.
Paladin had the Chameleon ability; she didn't use it.

Optimization-wise, none of them were great, but the characters were competently built.

Total EL: 7-9ish

The baddies:

3 level 2 Monks (standard)
1 level 4 Swashbuckler/Esoterica Radica/Acrobatic Adept

Total EL: 6-7ish

The Battle:
It was an effectively nondescript room; the Paladin showed up on the second round of battle. Other than that, it was pretty much a straight melee. No one played their character perfectly: the Paladin misread how Truly Bad People worked and only used it once instead of once every round, and the Ranger forgot about Return Fire a time or two. But I know I missed a few of the enemies' passive abilities as well. I was rolling reasonably above average; their rolls were about as you'd expect.

Despite this, the battle was pretty one-sided. The party had managed to drop one or two of the monks before they all got merc'd. Should I have expected this? By my rough reckoning, they probably should have been able to prevail. But they totally did not.

Legend Mechanics & Balance / Decreasing Everything's Hp
« on: July 24, 2013, 01:43:33 PM »
Say I were to decrease everything's hp by a a factor of a third or something, but leave every other mechanic that interacts with hitpoints alone. To what extent would this fuck over Legend's underlying maths and make me a terrible person?

General Legend Discussion / What Feats Actually Get Taken?
« on: March 11, 2013, 01:10:01 PM »
As I read through the descriptions of Legend feats, almost every one makes me think, "Oh wow, that could make for a pretty fun character." (Which is certainly a stark contrast from normal D&D.) But a number of feats (Objective Analysis, By Will Sustained, Chatty Bugger, Senseshift Adept, etc.) really don't do all that much crunch-wise. They'd be neat-o to have, certainly. But they might not make the cut for a real character.

Still, never having run a Legend campaign, I don't really have a sense for what sorts of feats an organically grown character might pick up over time. I can write up builds and plan out progressions, certainly, but that's not quite the same. So I pose this question to the general forum collective. What is the range of feats you see get picked? Do some get picked very frequently? Any other weird feat-related stories, patterns, quirks, etc?

Legend Homebrew / Amorphous Zones of Indeterminate Size!!!
« on: April 12, 2012, 04:21:17 AM »
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Zones in Legend: Tactical Abstract Positioning

The Problem
It's time for a confession. I really do not like miniatures and gridmaps. Like, at all. I know that the roots of roleplaying lie in these storied tradition, I've noticed how player engagement is often higher during battles that use minis, I've witnessed how people will spend hours painting and perfecting their minis, but I just don't get it.

My reasoning behind this intense distaste has two primary origins.

The first is that I feel that that traditional 5-foot squares are genuinely bad for RPGs. They sharply limit the roleplaying of battles, both in the imagination and in a more tactical sense. When you have an area that is made up of dozens of identical little squares, it's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that each character totally fills up his square. That a battle is made up of rows of dudes standing in place swinging their swords at one another until someone falls over. And that's just a really boring scene to think about. (It's also fairly unrealistic, but that doesn't matter nearly as much.) If we want our battles to be engaging and exciting, we want ideally to have a system that promotes dynamic movement, or one in which the interpretation of static combatants is much harder to arrive at. Grid systems tend to make players and MCs think of the world in terms of squares, which is an incredibly damaging design feature.

Five foot squares tend to also be very limiting in a tactical sense. First we'll have a really obvious example: The seating in my car is maybe one 5-foot square. In d20 rules, this means that at most one human can fit into it easily. Clearly, that is not the case. The choice as the 5-foot square as the universal unit of measurement means that 3.x and Legend cannot effectively simulate close-quarters combat without serious improvisation. And that seems like a weakness. In media, some of the most engaging and gripping battles are often fought between people within spitting distance of each other. With a game like Legend that focuses so thoroughly on the emulation of media, it's absurd to force every conflict to be in terms of 5-foot squares. And, because Legend's world is made up of squares, dungeons and locations are also made up of 5-foot squares. So we lose the possibility for a lot of irregular terrains and features.

I also have more personal reasons for disliking grid systems. I am a college student. As a college student, my living accommodations are severely limited in a spatial sense. And boxes of miniatures and large battlegrids occupy a noticeably nonzero amount of space. As such, my goal as a game and amateur designer is to minimize the amount of space I have to dedicate to extraneous possessions while maximizing the amount of enjoyment my friends and I derive from cooperative storytelling.

Finally, battles fought using minis and grids take a noticeably longer time to resolve than those that do not. Part of this is that players will contemplate possible movements more if they have the battlefield in front of them. And that's generally a good thing. But it also takes a fair amount of time takes time to physically push minis around a board.

The Question

Now the obvious question is, do RPGs (and Legend in particular) even need explicit positioning and movement systems at all? I've thought a decent bit about this, and my answer is a resounding and firm “...Maybe.” Let's consider two systems with minimalistic positioning mechanics: Shadowrun and After Sundown.

Shadowrun is a game about shooting people in the face for money. What combat there is tends to be lethal, brutal, and short, but it still occupies a decent amount of time. But almost all of that combat is with guns. Unless you're a ninja stealth assassin or an impoverished ganger fighting bums, melee is usually a death sentence. So there's no real need for explicit range and positioning rules. We just need to know roughly what a battlefield looks like, that the ork is somewhere over there, and that you can totally shoot him in the face if you want to.

After Sundown is a game about positioning and locations, but of a social nature. Melee combat is not necessarily a bad idea in it, but combat in general is not assumed to be especially prominent part of most sessions. The rules and fluff of the system support this assumption, so After Sundown can get away with having a fairly hand-wavey positioning system.

D&D/Legend are not like this. A nonzero amount of facestabbing is assumed to take place in almost every session of most campaigns. The vast majority of Track abilities are combat-related. And the fantasy zeitgeist involves combat that is primarily melee. Now, Legend is fairly good at letting characters be adept at ranged and melee combat, but I'm going to guess that most combat in Legend will follow the zeitgeist and feature swords and axes and daggers and maces.

The Solution

This year, my friends and I have been playing a homebrew D&D clone that I wrote over the summer. The game is honestly kind of shite, but it includes a prototype positioning system that I think could totally work in Legend with a bit of refinement. I'll post what I have here as I work on a more thorough adaptation, and we'll see if anybody digs it.

First though, to give credit where credit it due: Most of my inspiration for this system came from these two threads:  and I have shameless ripped off a lot of the ideas presented there.

And a disclaimer: I have only used this system for one group of seven or eight players. The mathematical decisions I made were not tested with anywhere near the dedication RoC has used for Legend.

The solution I like to the conundrum of movement is an abstract Zone system that still allows for tactical melee decisions. Legend already uses abstracted movement to a degree, most notably with its handling of flight. Personally, I think that the Flight system is a bit too abstract. I haven't read it fully, but Mystify's alternative Flight system looks to be noticeably deeper without sacrificing too much simplicity.

So first let's dive into this.

A Zone is a discrete unit of indeterminate size and shape. Any time a battle is about to commence, the battlefield is divided up into some number of Zones. Barring special abilities or the radical redefinition of a battle's scope, these Zones remain unchanged until the end of the battle. An indefinite number of characters may occupy any given Zone. In addition, the position of any given character is rarely any more specific than that he or she is occupying a Zone. We absolutely do not have the sort of Cartesian mapping a gridsystem uses.

This definition begs two questions: How do we decide what a Zone is?, and Who decides what a Zone is?

How: These are the rough guidelines I used.

   Tactical Relevance: Consider the following battlefield: We have a large grassy field dotted with chest-high walls. Located at some point in the field is an altar to an eldritch abomination. Next to the altar stands a heavy, wide table made of obsidian. Behind the altar is a pool of brackish water. When Zoning up this region, it's not that important how many Zones make up the field. We could have five, we could have seven, we could have ten. Any point in the field is tactically equivalent to any other point. If a character is somewhere in the field and she wants to take cover behind a chest-high wall, we assume that she can just do that.

The features, however, are a different case. The altar might exude a harmful aura to those in its Zone. Or it could let you use a powerful ritual attack if you make an Arcana check. You could totally try to push someone into the pool, or even drown them. And the table would make a decent hiding place for a rogue. So each one of these major features should get its own Zone.

   Ease of Movement: Now let's say that parts of the grass in our field has been permanently enchanted to grasp and pull at those who walk through it. One way we could represent this is to make the Zones with the enchanted grass be smaller than normal grassy Zones. Because the number of Zones a character can traverse in one round tends to be fairly low, it will take noticeably longer to move through 5 or 6 Zones than it will take to move through 2 or 3 Zones. Ease of Movement Zone placements will thus funnel the flow of a battle in certain directions, which has nice tactical implications.

   Area: This is the least important qualification, but it's still one that should be considered. In general, Zones in a given battlefield with similar conditions should be of similar sizes. In the grassy field example, every grassy Zone should be of comparable sizing. In a typical outdoor settings, I've found that Zones with areas of 25 to 100 square feet on the low side, and less than 1000 sq ft on the high side work fairly well. Interior Zones should necessarily be much smaller: A battle could be fought inside a trailer, in which case the Zones might only be a few square feet each. But I'm aware that that this is a very handwavey solution, even for as abstract a system as this one. It leads to verisimilitude issues, primarily with AoE effects: “Why does my Elemental Ball cover a few hundred square feet when I'm outside, but only like a tenth of that when I'm inside?” A Legend adaptation of a Zone system should strive for a greater degree of size quantification.

Who: So far, I as the MC have decided all Zone placements. This works for a variety of reasons. My players trust me to not screw them over when it comes to positioning. They know that my placements are meant to induce interesting tactical decisions and engaging narrative styles. But this is also something I'd like to quantify a bit more. See below for a more thorough discussion of this issue.

So that is the basics of a Zone system. Here are some of the ways that I implemented the system. Some of I think would be eminently suited to a Legend adaptation; others might need to be changed.

Movement: Advance and Withdraw

Characters are generally assumed to be constantly moving around in their Zone. But changing Zones is always classified as either Advancing or Withdrawing.

   When you Advance, you confidently stride into new territory with the intention of kicking ass and taking names. You do not provoke Attacks of Opportunity from opponents who occupy the Zone into which you are Advancing. You do, however, provoke AoOs from enemies who are in the Zone you are leaving.

   When you Withdraw, you are cautiously slinking back from a position in which you are clearly outmatched. You do not provoke AoOs from enemies who occupy the Zone you are leaving. You do provoke AoOs from enemies who might be in the Zone into which you are Withdrawing.

In my system, most human-sized characters can move one Zone per turn. You can give up your attack action to move another Zone. Abilities and magical items can increase that. This reduction in effective speed mildly hoses melee, in that it often takes longer to get to a fight. But I think the greater variety of available targets once melee is joined makes up for that.

States: Dynamic and Static

While in a Zone, you choose for your character to adopt one of two States. These States describe the general way he is acting for that turn. Shifting from one State to another is a Swift Action.

   Dynamic characters are assumed to be actively moving around a Zone as they strive against their foes. This means they can melee any other character in their Zone. If someone in their Zone tries to hit them with a ranged attack, this provokes an Attack of Opportunity. However, they are also out in the open, which makes taking cover difficult. If a character in a different Zone Snipes or Bombards them, the attacker gains a bonus to his attack roll. If the attack involves a Saving Throw being made, the Dynamic character takes a penalty to his throw.

   Static characters have decided to hunker down for the moment. If their Zone has some feature that would lend itself to cover (such as a table or chest-high wall), they are probably assumed to be staying around that feature. If it doesn't, then they are merely crouching and trying to stay out of notice. Static characters are much better at dodging ranged attacks. If they are Sniped or Bombarded, they gain a bonus their AC or Saving Throw. Static characters are also better at shooting things. If they make a Snipe or Bombard, they gain bonus to hit. However, they give up a lot in the mobility department. They are unable to make any melee attacks while Static. If a Dynamic character attacks them, they take a penalty to AC.

For my system, I used +/- 3 for all of those bonuses. But Legend has a much stricter RNG, so +/- 1 or 2 would probably be a better idea. Depending on the context, I often ad-hocced an additional Cover bonus for Static characters.

I think that a Legend adaptation would also benefit from a third state, Guarding.

   Guarding characters are so alert. They gain a bonus to Perception checks. If an enemy tries to Withdraw from a Guarding character's Zone, the enemy still provokes an AoO. (This could work as an opposed check resolution as well.)
Certain tracks might gain an ability called Bodyguard.
   Bodyguard: To use this ability, you must be Guarding. If an enemy tries to attack an ally in your Zone, you may make [some sort of attack or check or something] to redirect it toward you. We want a variety of success and fail states for this check, such as
      Great Success: If the attack succeeds, you take only half damage, and your ally takes none.
      Mild Success A: You take full damage. Your ally takes no damage.
      Mild Success B: You and your ally both take half damage.
      Great Failure: You and your ally both take full damage.

Maneuvers: Bursts, Snipes, Bombards, Splits

All offensive maneuvers are classified into four types.

Bursts are maneuvers that hit one or more targets within your Zone. Three examples of Burst maneuvers are a standard attack, the Path of Destruction's Whirlwind circle and an Elementalist's Elemental Burst ability.

Snipes are maneuvers that target some number of enemies in a distant Zone or Zones. Two examples of Sniping are shooting an orcish scout with a crossbow and using the Arcane Lore track's Black Tidings circle.

Bombards are mighty blasts that target everything within a specified Zone or Zones. They tend to be big, nasty, and draining to the SFX budget. An example of a Bombard is the Demo Man track's High Explosive circle.

Splits are effects that divide Zones into more Zones. The occupants of a Zone targeted by a Split must make a (usually Reflex) saving throw. Failure means that the Splitter gets to decide where the occupants are placed. Success means the occupants may choose. An example of a Split is the Tactician's Wall of Force spell.

… … …
Anyone still here? Okay. If, by some ungodly chance you actually made it through that, you will now understand how a Zone system might function in Legend. I could probably go through the Core Book and convert stuff. However, I'd rather hear any input and criticism the community might have. In addition, there are a few quirks of Zones that could use some additional resolution.

Things to Change/Add:

Player Agency in Zone Distribution: I would like it if having scouted out and snuck up on your enemies gives you some input in how the Zones are distributed for a battlefield. So you could arrange things such that you have a tactically advantageous position in the ensuing struggle.

Forced Movement: Legend has a few abilities that push or shove you some number of squares. A Zone system does not have any immediate analogs. My idea is that you would have to choose whether or not a Push ability can shift a target's Zone. However, Pushes can always be used to knock people Prone and to force them to interact with some environmental feature, like a wall, a spiked pit, or a bottomless hole.

Melee Range: One of Legend's best innovations is its expanding definition of Melee range. In a Zone system, we would not have scaling as smooth as what Legend currently does. But we could do something like it. Let's suppose we have four fixed ranges: Close, Near, Medium, and Long. Level 11+ characters might be able to shift the range of all their attacks up one category. A bit like what Mystify's Sniper does.

Size Ratings: This is a biggie, easily the most pressing current problem a Zone system has. We probably want to establish Zone size classes. I'm open to the real world ranges that correspond to these sizes, but they need to scale from very small to fairly big.
We would want Bombards (and possibly other maneuvers) to have a Size Rating as well. If your attack's Size Rating is greater than the Size Rating of the targeted Zone, you can affect multiple Zones.
The natural extension would be to also give people and monsters Size Ratings. Legend already sort of has this with Towering and Colossus, but it's fairly ambiguous in the current state of things.

Importantly, we'd want a Size Rating of n to indicate the same size, no matter what if it refers to your elf, his bed, or a young dragon.

Well. That's it. Now we play the “Does anyone care enough to read this entire thing and respond?” game.

\end{Great Wall of China of text}

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