Forge Engine beta feedback (pt. 3)

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Forge Engine, Game Design, Mechanics, Playtest, Rules
Welcome to the third in-depth beta feedback and system discussion for Forge Engine.  This post contains feedback from RPG.net user Imbrium.

In the text below, the text in italics is the comment from the playtester/reader, and the following normally formatted text is my response and discussion. 

Forge Engine editing

Consistency: You use diamonds with numbers in the middle to represent both the number of d10s to roll, as well as results of rolled d10's in examples. This could could create confusion, might want to think of a different way to represent both concepts?

Interesting point, and several other beta testers have mentioned this, so I have changed the format of sample rolls to differentiate from ratings and dice pools.

Energy Economy: I like this, used for both powering abilities and just whenever players want to add dice to a roll, as well as removing some conditions. Good touch.

Ta. It's the whole point! 🙂

Action Pools: Externalities: Keep it simple. +2 for advantageous and -2 for disadvantageous. I wouldn't have two different standards, especially when you aren't separating by degree. A strong wind being as disadvantageous as a a blizzard during an earthquake is weird, but I understand wanting to keep things simple, so keep it simple and don't have people remember two different things.

+2/-2 would allow stacking better. I would need to floor it to not reduce below 1 die.  I have now implemented this change.

Defense pools: "active" defenses always slow combat down. These make me wary, but just be prepared for people complaining combat takes too long or there's too much to keep track of. As long as you are aware of this, just try to make it clear this is intended as gently as possible.

We've playtested a lot. Combat is 2-3 rounds generally. And the active defenses help engage the players.

Opposed Pools: Attacker only adds successes higher than the highest roll by the defender? This sounds like it will create some wild situations. Both in the favor for or against the players.

Yes, this is the case. In rare cases, die rolls can be swingy, but these are outliers. There are skills that mitigate this. These skills (like Twist the Blade) allow the attacker or defender to add extra dice to their pools after initial rolls. The death/dying mechanics are fairly forgiving, so getting dropped in combat is not too distressing.

Attribute Traits: This are way too gamey for my taste. I can get free points for attributes I never plan to use? In order to get the most benefit I can spend points at char gen, to get a stat at 1, only to raise it cheaply? I'm never a fan of these systems.

I too have struggled with the Attribute Traits. And previous feedback has been along the same lines as yours here. However, when I added the fantasy races into the game, I didn't want to have the races have different CP 'costs'. So I included the Attribute Traits (such as Vigorous and Feeble for Stamina) so that I can balance out the inherent characteristics of each of the races without assigning CP costs to individual races. When playing with normal humans, this feature simply means that each player selects an Attribute Trait appropriate for their character. For example, a fighter might choose Muscular to reduce the cost of Strength attribute increases, or a mage might choose Astute to reduce the cost of Intelligence increases.


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Forge Engine beta feedback (pt. 2)

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Character Sheet, Combat, Forge Engine, Game Design, Mechanics, Playtest, RPG, Rules, Skills, Spells
Welcome to the second in-depth beta feedback and system discussion for Forge Engine.  This post continues feedback from Reddit user htp-di-nsw.

In the text below, the text in italics is the comment from the playtester/reader, and the following normally formatted text is my response and discussion.  

Again this post continues the page-by-page feedback, but we also get some deeper revelations about how well the system as written delivers on its design intent:

I realized that this comes off as excessively negative, and I don't want you to come away thinking I hate it and think its garbage or whatever. That's not the case. It needs some polish and a few things need reworking, but even in its current state, I think its better than, say, GURPS. I would absolutely rather play FORGE than GURPS. Or HERO. Or any FATE or PbtA game except maybe Dresden Files or BitD (or maybe dungeon world...). 

Forge Engine Cover Sliver

Combat feels very static and lacks meaningful tactical choices. It's basically "throw as many dice as you can at the other guy without compromising your defense." Every round forever. There's no real incentive to mix it up or do anything else. Moving around even costs you precious dice to throw at their defenses.

I mentioned the metagame aspect of Forge Engine above; maximize your return on invested energy.

As I mentioned above, there are strong drivers in the game for maneuvering into tactically advantageous positions (to allow characters to utilize their specialized martial skills), and to move out of vulnerable positions (to prevent other characters from using their skills on you).  Additionally, there are moment to moment decisions for players to choose how to balance their character’s offense and defense, by allocating their energy to attacks or defenses.

And your comment ‘moving around even costs you precious dice’ is interesting.  Yes, moving costs energy.  This is part of the tactical decision making.   Should I move?  Should I stay where I am?  Should I take ratings in skills that increase my maneuverability in combat, such as Passing Attack?  Should I take ratings in skills that trigger off others’ movement, such as Opportunity Attack?  Should I take ratings in skills that allow me to maneuver others into vulnerable positions, such as Pressing Attack (which I have just added now).

I’m not sure what the criteria are for static combat and lacking meaningful tactical choices, but I’m interested to hear more.

My criteria for static combat is combat that doesn't move. At all. Because everyone wants to stay as still as possible to throw as many dice as they can. And tactical choices are those where, moment to moment, there's more than one potential course of action worth taking and you have to choose which one you're going to take. In this one, there's always one. Throw the most dice possible right now.

Or, spend 1 or 2 dice right now to move into a position that will give be 2 or 3 or 4 or more dice in my next attack (because it triggers my martial skills).

I don’t think that there are strong drivers to move in combat. Don't take specialized skills that require movement first. That's a fools errand. You spend energy to move, which means even if you get a discount on the energy:dice ratio for the special skill, you still paid energy for it.

As above.

Again, even if you move to get out of vulnerable positions, you're reducing your ability to fight back, and someone with a ranged attack will just wreck you. If you are BOTH melee, you moving just drags the combat at because both of you end up spending the same amount of energy to chase each other. It's subtracting X from both sides of a math equation. It's the same.

Not necessarily.  As I described above, the cost of moving can be greatly returned in future dice.

No, players can’t balance their character's offense and defense because you can't predict how many attacks will be made against you. In reality, players will decide how much defense they want to hold on to, and hold on to that amount every round forever. It's too opaque to handle it any other way.

In practice, players make moment-to-moment risk/reward decisions about how much energy to put into attacks and how much to hold back.

All the choices are made before hand. Heavy armor or no heavy armor? Did you take a ranged skill, too? Do you have a special martial skill that works regardless of positioning? Ok, good to go.

As discussed, GMs should be setting up combat situations that force players to make tactical decisions. 

I understand why you did it, but it is weird that you can't actually be better or worse at shaking off effects. I can shake off Poison, for example, equally well whether I am an anemic little elf or a sturdy dwarf with maximum stamina.

I struggled with this, balancing verisimilitude with playability.  In a super-simulationist world, each condition would know what imposed the condition, and then the test to remove the condition would be an attribute test appropriate for whatever imposed the condition in the first place.  However, I’ve tried to reduce the cognitive burden for players of carrying information for extended periods.

Which is a long way of saying that I decided the characters with more energy have inherently more capacity to shake off conditions, so that’s a thing.

OH, so attributes do matter to how much energy you can spend on an attack. It should not have taken 42 pages to know that, given how often you repeat information/

Indeed.  This is detailed on page 5 and page 21.  I have also added it to the Energy section on page 18.

Hmm, looks like you can dump Strength or Agility equally well because there are also ranged attacks with Strength, and defense isn't tied to a stat. Having bad initiative would be concerning for me, though.

Ranged attacks are mainly Agility.  Especially in modern games, where all firearms use Agility.  Strength-based ranged weapons have shorter ranges than Agility-based attacks.

I would never take Strength in a modern game. But it's probably better in a fantasy game just because armor is so good.

Armor is great in all genres in Forge Engine, and might be even more important in modern games because firearms basically increase the size of characters’ attack pools.  With these bigger attack pools, bigger defense pools are good to oppose them.

Oops, Agility is the cap for dodging. Nevermind, back to dumping Strength. Unless Strength actually determines carrying capacity or something, since armor seems amazingly strong.

Yes, Strength is for carrying capacity and non-finesse melee attacks.

Character creation was in the first 10 pages. The list of traits I require to make a character is not until page 45. There's something wrong there. Anyway, I will try and make a character, then stop for the night here.

Discussed earlier.

Sturdy is a horrible deal until you already have 4 in Stamina.

The twelve attribute traits in Forge Engine are: Muscular and Lean, Lithe and Uncoordinated, Vigorous and Feeble, Sensitive and Insensitive, Astute and Obtuse, and Incisive and Dull.

Sturdy, and many of the other ‘Attribute Traits’ are in the game to balance different species, ensuring that all species choices are free.

For example, Humans get to choose one of the six beneficial attribute traits for free.  Elves, on the other hand, get Dark Vision and Acute Vision for free, but they are also Lean, which means that Strength rating increases cost 1 extra CP.

Sturdy is not one of the attribute traits. It's one that adds HP straight up as if your Stamina were higher. Because it costs 4, unless your Stamina is 4 already, it's cheaper to just buy another point of Stamina.

Yeah, I actually missed it...so I'm kind of race locked based on what I want to dump. And if I dump Strength, I am never penalized by my Elven trait. Not a fan of that.

Okay.

You do not very clearly differentiate athletics and acrobatics. It's bad enough in D&D, but you don't seem address the similarity at all.

I’ve expanded these to clarify the nature of Acrobatics vs Athletics.

Stamina is starting to look really useful overall. You can maybe only dump 2 stats, then...

Yes.  Stamina is great for not dying, and for recovering health and energy.

Did you just tweak the D&D skill list? History? Really? Other than adding a tiny number of skills to the D&D lists (or maybe Exalted...Resist is an Exalted skill), I don't really understand what you're going for with this skill list. It's supposed to be universal, but there's so much missing.

The Forge Engine appendix includes a full breakdown of the skill lists from many, many RPGs.  For a long time, Forge Engine had this skill list:

Strength Skills: Athletics, Climbing, Construction, Intimidation, Swimming

Agility Skills:  Acrobatics, Boating, Crafting, Drive, Lock-Picking, Pilot, Ride Mount, Ride Vehicle, Stealth, Thievery

Stamina Skills:  Drinking, Endurance

Intelligence Skills: Alchemy, Arcana, Chemistry, Computers, Electronics, Engineering, Forgery, Gambling, History, Investigation, Knowledge, Language, Law, Mathematics, Mechanical, Medicine, Mathematics, Military Strategy, Native Language, Navigation, Occult, Science, Smithing, Research

Acuity Skills: Agriculture, Animal Handling, Art, Cooking, First-Aid, Empathy, Fishing, Forage, Herbalism, Insight, Lore, Perception, Scavenge, Streetwise, Survival, Teaching, Tracking

Influence Skills: Bluff, Captivate, Disguise, Etiquette, Fast-Talk, Grooming, Leadership, Negotiation, Perform, Seduction, Subterfuge

After much playtesting, I determined that there were too many skills.  This was because players weren’t incentivized enough to increase the ratings of their skills, because they were too narrow.

So I cut the skill list down to:

Strength:  Athletics, Intimidation

Agility:  Acrobatics, Crafting, Drive, Ride, Stealth, Thievery

Stamina:  Endurance, Resist

Intelligence:  Arcane, Engineering, History, Investigation, Knowledge, Language

Acuity:                  Animal Handling, First Aid, Insight, Perception, Survival

Influence: Deception, Leadership, Perform, Persuasion, Seduction

Wait, shooting a bow and shooting a gun is the same skill, but using a sword and using a sword on a pole (glaive) is a separate one? Why?

Nope, bows and slings should be Ranged Weapons while the various types of guns should be Small Guns, Long Guns, and Heavy Weapons.

I have updated the rules to clarify this distinction.

Bodyguard's stance seems like a no brainer for the entire party to take. You basically boost the defenses for your whole team by having everyone take a really cheap skill. Maybe you should add that you can't use bodyguard stance to give a defensive bonus to someone else also in Bodyguard stance?

The various stances (Bodyguard’s Stance, Defensive Stance, and Offensive Stance) are designed to offer simple to play bonuses for lightweight characters or for mook-style game characters.  The key thing is that when these stances are active, the character can’t benefit from any other specialized martial skills, such as Engaged Attack.

Bodyguard's Ward kind of cracks me up--you can dodge for an ally? How does that work?

In the flavor text, you’re pushing your ally out of the way of an attack, or otherwise interposing your defensive ability:

‘The snap of the bowstring catches your eye.  The arrow streaks toward Morton, who stands flatfooted.  You grab him and pull him from the path of the missile.’

Brace fixes defense problems from going Strength > Agility. Is there a Strength based initiative skill?

Nope, there isn’t a Strength-based Initiative skill.  There could be one…

Cleaving Attack seems really efficient. Well worth taking.

Hmmm.  Perhaps too efficient.  I’ve adjusted to give 1 die for each energy added to the original attack, up to your Cleaving Attack rating.

Holy Crap Debilitating Blow is sick. Seems almost too strong. Would totally suck to get hit by.

So when you damage someone, you can use Debilitating Blow to spend 2 energy to force your target to expend 1 energy.  The limit of energy they expend is the damage, or your Debilitating Blow rating.

Yes, this is powerful.  But you need to have the energy available to force the expend, and you need to do the damage, and you need to have ratings in Debilitating Blow.  So there’s a bit of investment required.  I have clarified this to allow the target to expend spent energy.

That helps it a bit. But since you can just attack again, it's really easy to use this. Just poke at them with a tiny weak weapon that costs very little to initiate an attack with until you deal damage, then drain them.

I’d love to see that build in play.

Deft Movement looks like it basically just doubles your speed.

Running extends your movement, however when you run you cannot Dodge to increase your PD, so you are vulnerable to attacks.

Deft movement allows you to Dodge while running, which is otherwise not possible.

Right, but my point is that the only reason not to run everywhere is that you can't dodge. With this skill, you can dodge while running. So, run everywhere from now on. It doubles your speed. I feel like that's an absolute must have so you can get into position for less energy and commence the beating.

Yes.  If you run you can’t dodge.  There’s a long discussion here about the costs and penalties for running.

Why does Distracting Taunt reduce someone's energy regeneration? It's awesome. Too awesome. How does it work in fiction? Debilitating strike plus one of these basically ends anyone.

It’s a bit like D&D’s Vicious Mockery, except that instead of dealing damage, it basically reduces the target’s will to fight.  In the fiction:

‘Their eyes lock across the blood-soaked field.  “Coward!” the accusation strikes home, its target staggers backwards.’

Feels like at least one of the "spend energy to add to MD" skills is mandatory...whatever your best mental stat is.

If you want to bolster your Mental Defense against attacks.

You obviously do. Why act like that's an option? It's not an option. You need to be able to do this.

Or you can just rely on having 2 or 3 dice in this defense pool.

Shrouding Strike! Wow, that's good

I like this mechanic.  Basically, each time you damage a target with an attack, your Physical Defense against that target’s attacks cumulatively gains 1 bonus die.

Very strong when combined with the poke until Debilitating Wound works strategy.

Again, I’d like to see this character build in play.

My mistake. All along I advised Strength or Agility. Turns out Arcane/Draining/Flaming Touch basically makes Strength/Agility pointless. You now want Stamina, Intelligence, and your choice of Acuity or Influence.

So these magic attacks are pretty good.  Basically, for each energy you spend, you gain an extra die for your matching Arcane Touch (or similar) skill.  So for these, you’re adding 1 or more energy to your attack pool, and gaining 1 bonus dice for each added energy.  However, there are no skills that can increase this ratio further, and you need to have bought into the magic school (2 CP), and you need to have the ratings in the specific spell skill.

2 CP is a low cost for completely dumping Agility and Strength. Why can't you use special skills with these attacks? Did I miss the section that says that?

Martial skills trigger off martial attacks, not magic attacks.

I really like in general that there are spells that don't expend energy, but I have to say--I basically would never use any of the spells that do. Energy is too precious to expend.

Yes, these are comparatively powerful spells.

I don't think any power is high enough for losing energy regen unless you are 100% sure it's the deathblow.

That’s the choice, isn’t it?  I wonder which skills and spells are appealing to players, and which are ‘too expensive’.

There are shockingly few magical skills. And I don't really understand why Anima can heal, but divine can't. Your magical skill splits are really odd in general, actually.

I generally don’t use D&D’s trope that divine magic is healing magic.  In my games, divine magic is focused on divine favor (so these are usually buffs), anima magic is of the physique, arcane is damaging, pyromancy is fire, necromancy is death and life-draining, mystical is influence and control, telekinesis is for controlling forces, and summoner is for manifesting creatures.

In Forge Engine I’ve tried to avoid having a huge number of spells and a comparatively small number of martial options.  So, there are currently 11 pages of martial skills and 9 pages of spells (across 8 magic schools).

Ok, I need to stop here before the gamemastering section. I'll actually make a couple of characters next time. My big problem is that I like Debilitating Strike and the taunt, but I can't really figure out what a character that uses those would really look like in fiction. Those abilities are so extremely mechanic focused--how does it translate in the game world? What am I actually doing to drain their energy/ability to regain it?

Debilitating Blow, as we discussed, forces the target to expend energy, and Distracting Taunt reduces the target’s energy recover in the next round.

In the fiction, the Debilitating Blow could be a blow that winds the target, or causes a bleeding wound, or causes a crippling wound that slows the target down. 

Distracting Taunt is more of a morale sapping mental attack, draining the target’s will to fight, planting doubts of their ability, or fostering fear of imminent death.  There are examples of this in films, such as the Emperor’s attacks on Luke Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BreakThemByTalking

And what I said earlier is really apt. Since most special moves other than dealing damage are special skills, you actually make all your tactical choices ahead of time at character creation. And choosing multiple ones is kind of pointless, right? Just use the best one.

Yes, you select your tactical options before combat, but you utilize those options during combat.  The situation, circumstances, and events determine which of your choices will come into play in any given combat scenario.

And because of the balance between escalating costs of attribute rating increases and the flat costs of skill increases, characters will usually have CP available to increase the breadth and depth of their character’s skill sets.

That's only true if you take the wrong special skills. If you correctly take the skills without required set ups, or with easy ones, you're set. You win this at character creation. Actual combat looks like going through the motions, which is exactly what happens in D&D, too. And most RPGs that claim they're about tactical combat, actually.

Sure.

Why would players take a wide breadth of skills? There's no benefit. You don't need many skills. Just one or two combat skills will work forever and that's a tiny fraction of your 30 CP for skills.

I’m not seeing this in play.

Ok these setting charts are really not super helpful. What is the point of this section? Oh, ok, because of the genre tweaks. Got it. I think people can do with less exposition here. Skip the chart. Just jump right into the genres.

A bit of framing never hurts.

I mean, it does, because I was very close to skipping the section entirely because of the excessive framing.

There’s just two short paragraphs, then a glance down to skip the introduction.

Urban Fantasy needs a Bureaucracy and Law Enforcement skill, but Modern games don't?

These are just examples.  Modern games seem more like they take place in contemporary warzones.  Whereas urban fantasy, to me, is at the crossover between our normal world of bureaucracy and official law enforcement and the world of the fantastic.

I think it's weird that you detail four kinds of encounters, then, immediately focus on and spend several pages on the fourth kind. Skimming ahead, it doesn't look like you ever go back to address the other ones. It's also really odd to me to see puzzle encounters detailed separately from the others. To me, every encounter is a puzzle--the point is to figure out the best things to do given the situation. Also, aren't you forgetting other stuff like physical conflict that isn't combat? Travel stuff (running, jumping, climbing), chases/races, stealthing around, etc.?

I never really got the hang of puzzles.

Look at how many of these settings you can run without fantastic elements! (Next section) Monster Mix. <_<

Legacy content, which I have updated.

I don't think using total energy is a great way to judge how powerful or dangerous an encounter is. Skills have to come into this, too. A scholar with 10 energy and few to no combat skills is nowhere near as dangerous as a 7 energy guy with 3 ranks of several combat skills. And a guy with 8 energy and 3 ranks of melee combat is nowhere near as dangerous as a guy with 8 energy, 3 ranks of melee combat, and 3 ranks of a specialized martial skill.

Yes, skills come into this equation as well.  But at the table, I tend to run fairly simple enemies, where I balance the energy of the enemies against the party’s total energy.  For these simple enemies, I assume that they have the relevant basic martial skills for their chosen weapons, plus another specialized martial skill like Engaged Attack.  When I build unique enemies, I throw in a couple more specialized martial skills.

In play, I’m pretty happy for the players to win, but I want to push them a bit so that they have to work to win.  And using this balancing mechanism, I can quickly set up a combat that they are virtually guaranteed to win, but where I will likely KO one or more characters (if I’m so inclined).

If your metric for how difficult an enemy is relies on using simplified enemies, you need to say that, and give explicit rules and advice about using simplified enemies. I don't recall seeing that.

This is how I play, because I am familiar with the way the enemies are built.  So I know what their energy, attributes, and skills are.

I understand that it's an industry standard, but you should be careful just how much of your jargon relies on people having played D&D before. Casually dropping phrases like "Wandering monsters" really shows your bias. And using art of classical this-is-only-a-thing-in-D&D monsters like they Otyugh on page 96 don't help. This game feels very strongly like, "This is my version of D&D." And that's ok, if that's your intent--we need better D&D in the industrty because, frankly, D&D just isn't very good. But if it's not your intention, you should be careful and re-evaluate your writing and presentation.

I will do another pass on the language here.

I already made ‘my D&D’, it’s Heroes Against Darkness.  It’s a class and level fantasy RPG with a strict action economy.

Forge Engine is the opposite of D&D.  It’s a class-less attributes and skills universal RPG with the world’s most flexible action economy… (Until I discover a game that demonstrates otherwise).

Ok, I have to be a rough critic here and say that I don't really see what's so flexible about your system. Your highest stats cap your total dice, and then you need to buy the right skills ahead of time and use the right equipment to maximize the dice you can throw with your capped limit of energy. Where's the flexibility? It's just a math equation. There will always be an optimal choice of how to do attacks based on your energy and skills. Solve for X. And it will be really frustrating for average people who don't see that sitting at the same table with people who do. They will be consistently outdone and not really even understand why.

Not necessarily.  As discussed, maybe maximizing your attacks leaves you vulnerable.  Or maybe moving is better.  Or maybe waiting until later in the turn is better.

Maybe it's all in how you're defining flexible?

I wonder how D&D defines it?  J

All of your advice on adjusting difficulty on the fly is too obvious. Players that are paying any attention will absolutely notice what you're doing.

I find that players usually aren’t paying too much on my work as the DM, whether it’s totally optimal use of my enemy’s abilities, or whether I bring enemies in or out of the combat (which I usually don’t have to do).

I know that the average player won't, but it only takes one to notice to ruin your day.

This is unknowable.

Personally, I am of the mind set that I'd rather use a system to accurately represent a monster/enemy/whatever, rather than get the correct rules to provide a specific amount of challenge, and then paste a monster or whatever on top.

Sure.  That’s a perfectly viable approach.

You are missing a paragraph in the Running Away In Combat section on page 97. The second paragraph starts with the word Second, but there was no first and it's mid idea. I think escaping combat in Forge looks really too powerful. If you don't have ranged attacks or an energy advantage, you straight up can't catch someone once they start running away. You can keep pace, but can't take any action at all otherwise if they just spend everything to run all out. So, you can follow indefinitely, but if they keep moving, you can't ever actually stop them.

Fixed.

There’s nothing worse than a 5’ by 5’ chase in an RPG.  In these situations, I usually switch as soon as possible to Stamina (Endurance) tests, or some other manner of contest to determine whether the character successfully escapes.

Then, I hope as part of your "fixed" entry, you actually said that in the text.

Yes.  Also fixed.

Your Total Party Kill advice is basically can you "deus ex machina them?"

Not really.  These are designed to spur the game master’s creativity and give them options other than outright killing the players’ characters:

  • If it looks like a TPK is coming, can the enemies demand they surrender?
  • Are the characters dead-dead, or just unconscious or dying, for easy capture?
  • Did anyone escape who could affect a rescue?
  • Do they have allies nearby who could help, dues ex machina-style?
  • If there are surviving enemies, would/could they keep the characters alive?
  • Are there other creatures/spirits/enemies/allies that could save the characters?
  • What would the enemy characters do with the characters; ransom them, force them to undertake some task for their lives?
  • Do they have the favor of their gods, benefactors, or higher powers?
  • Do the dead-dead characters want to start new characters?
  • Do the surviving characters have enough resources or the capability themselves to resurrect the dead characters?

Character progression is really fast. You do 2 per session? Damn. That's two skill points per session.

Yes.  I’ve been running my latest playtest campaign, 19 sessions so far, and the players’ characters are around 12 energy.

In general, I disagree with rewarding PCs for acting the way you want them to. It feels like you're treating them like dogs.

That’s the thing about Pavlovian responses; they work… J

There’s a lot of research about the effectiveness of particular types of reward cycles.

I feel like your Disposition/Magnitude rules for Influence are just going to get in the way most of the time. I don't understand why it can't just follow the general rules you have in place for Easy, Medium, Hard, Severe, etc. But then, it's also got elements of mind control...with 5 successes, you can get a friendly dragon to burn a whole village. What if that dragon, you know, wouldn't burn a village? What if asking it to burn a village would, you know, make him not your friend anymore?

Yes, you can run the Influence tests as a simple attribute test against a static difficulty number, but this section covers when you want to run this as an opposed test, such as with high-energy characters, or where you want to ensure that both characters have the opportunity to use their relevant attributes and skills.

Why do good modifiers add 1-3 or so, while bad ones mostly reduce the pool by half? That's pretty significant. Why is it so severe? Why is having an advantageous position less advantageous than having a disadvantageous position is disadvantageous?

There were two reasons; simplicity and meaningful impact.

I’m not sure that these goals have been worth the asymmetry, so I will switch to +X/-X.

No prerequisites! Except for magic! We don't want a small set of optimal builds. We just want to make sure players are committed to being mages and having the same powers as every other mage of their type...

As a game designer, this kills me too.  I wish I could find a better way of preventing players from building characters that simply cherry-pick individual spells from each school, such as dipping Healing Touch, Arcane Bolts, etc.

In addition, I didn’t want to overdesign, so there’s plenty of design space for additional spells in each school.  For this book, I limited each magic school to 1 page.

I do appreciate how much effort you spend explaining how to add custom material. I was going to do a similar section in my game and it's good to see another person doing the same thing. I do wish there was more theory and concept work in this section, though. Most of it feels just like lists and recaps.

Thanks.  I’m wondering what more theory and concept work would look like here?

These posts are a good start. You explained a lot of the thinking behind the game that just wasn't in the text. Also, even obvious stuff like how the meta is throwing as many dice as possible for as little energy as possible is worth stating.

I’ll put these up on the blog for posterity.

Your monster templates feel very 4e to me, and kind of miss the point, just as I think 4e did. There's no attempt to match mechanics to the creature or whatever, instead, you're trying to match creatures to mechanical archetypes to make it easier. That kind of design is backwards to me, and uninteresting.

The templates are just that; templates.  They are trying to match mechanics to generic creature roles.  A proper bestiary would more specifically match mechanics to creatures and enemies.

Your character sheet is really weird. For whatever reason, I want the attributes either at the top or left side. Putting them in an inner column is really disconcerting.

The character sheet is designed to follow the structure of the action mnemonic.  So we start on the left with the equipment (which are our Spend costs), then the attributes (which we can Add to our actions), then our skills (which we Gain to our dice pools).

Ok, I understand, but don't agree. People aren't actually going to be using your mnemonic unless you make them. It is not intuitive. I'm not saying my method of explanation (I gave in a post reply above) is the best ever, but it's an example of how people are going to actually think.

Sure.

Also, it wasn't until just now seeing the character sheet and me trying to figure out how to print it...what dimensions does your book have? I didn't notice how weird a size this actually was.

Thanks for noticing to page format.  Since Hero Kids I’ve used this format for its printability and versatility.  Basically, it’s a normal landscape US letter sheet (it also prints well on A4 for us metric territories).  Each landscape page is divided into two 12cm columns.  The great part about this format is that it allows me to easily reformat the book for PDF and for printing as a 6x9 inch digest-sized POD book from DriveThruRPG.

Hmm, it weirdly doesn't strike me as being that. It looks more than 8.5 and less than 11. Maybe I'm just not used to books being turned like that.  I'm going to have to look into paper sizes and crap when I am ready to publish. What a weird world.

Yarp.

I realized that this comes off as excessively negative, and I don't want you to come away thinking I hate it and think its garbage or whatever. That's not the case. It needs some polish and a few things need reworking, but even in its current state, I think its better than, say, GURPS. I would absolutely rather play FORGE than GURPS. Or HERO. Or any FATE or PbtA game except maybe Dresden Files or BitD (or maybe dungeon world...). It has good points. They're just not usually where people need help so they get lost in the mix.

Thanks!

So, I made a character. Some quick observations: skill points were actually really tight, as you said they would be, because I forgot all about regular base skills that do stuff outside of combat. I had to take much lower ratings than I wanted, but I accept this because of the strategic direction I took (cheap attacks to poke at defenses, fishing for Debilitating Blows).

High Fantasy Setting, so more HP and cheaper magic. It works without that, but it just seemed like a good baseline.

Concept is that I am a silver-tongued trickster and manipulator who wins by sapping energy and their will to fight in the first place

Race: I want to basically be a Tiefling, so, I'm going to take a Human base, then add Lean, Dull, Claws, and Horns. My human bonus trait is Sensitive. Altogether, that equals 0.

Traits:

Mystical Caster

Lithe (I will eventually take 5 Agility, so, it will pay off in this nonexistent scenario where I play this game long enough to level up a bunch)...if I was not doing High Fantasy, I would dump this.

Attributes:

Strength 1

Agility 3

Stamina 1

Influence 4

Intelligence 2

Acuity 1

Skills:

Acrobatics 1

Baneful Word 4

Coherent Mind 1

Debilitating Blow 3

Deception 1

Deflecting Word 4

Distracting Taunt 4

Initiative 1

Light 1

Martial Arts 2

Passing Attack 1

Persuasion 1

Quick Load 1

Ranged Weapons 2

Repel 1

Stealth 1

Unarmored Defense 1

The only weapon I carry is a Hand Crossbow

So, the overall strategy here is energy control and efficiency. I have 9 and I think I remember you expecting 8. I want to win initaitive if I can, then open with Baneful Words and/or Distracting Taunt. That sets the stage for energy control. Deflecting Word is my defense of choice, which makes attacking me even more costly. If I can, I'll go for a Distracting Taunt as well, but probably need to wait for turn two. That seals the deal and sets the stage. My opponent is behind the energy 8 ball here right from the start. If they get to melee, I poke them with my claws...low energy attacks and if they land, Debilitating Blow and passing attack away, forcing them to spend more energy to chase me. And with Repel, well, you can see I'm just slowly draining them all the time. If I need to finish things, once they're super crippled from being Exhausted and unable to act against me via Baneful word, I can ping them with crossbow shots, which reloads for free, or use my claws for real.

As I get more XP, I will be able to pick up more tricks, like Reflex Strikes, better mental defense, precision attack to store energy from round to round, etc. Basically, I own energy, the game's basic economic unit. Everyone else can suffer. And it absolutely fits the character concept well, too. That really came together. I would actually be pretty excited to try this for real.


You made it!

Now jump over to the Forge Engine page to check out the latest playtest packet.

Forge Engine beta feedback (pt. 1)

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Character Sheet, Combat, Forge Engine, Game Design, Magic, Mechanics, Playtest, RPG, Rules, Skills, Stat Blocks
This post and the next few blog posts include long and in-depth feedback and discussion from the recent Forge Engine beta playtest and feedback process. 

In the text below, the text in italics is the comment from the playtester/reader, and the following normally formatted text is my response and discussion.  Special thanks to Reddit user htp-di-nsw for this first round of feedback.

The discussion here is unfiltered and extensive.  One of the most interesting insights of this first round of feedback is the journey of the reader's page-by-page discovery of the system, the assumptions about how things work, and their reevaluation of those assumptions as they progress through the system.

So prepare yourself for some really deep discussion of the design intent of Forge Engine.

Gird your loins, fellow travellers.

Forge Engine editing

Diamonds are hard to read after 5 or so. World of Darkness used dots, but put a space between each 5 so it's easier to see at a glance.

Yes, noted.  I had segmented equipment with 6+ ratings, but I missed the examples, which still had ‘unsegmented’ die pools.

It's really unclear from just the name what your mental attributes actually do. I can guess it's Social, Smarts, and Perception, but most people wouldn't.

The Forge Engine mental stats are Influence, Intelligence and Acuity.  Influence is the character’s ability to get others to do what they want, encompassing their physical attractiveness and interpersonal abilities.  Intelligence is their straight-up problem solving and application.  And Acuity is their insight and connectedness to the world.

In D&D, these are Charisma, Intelligence and Wisdom.  There are a couple of minor differences here.  Charisma is defined as ‘physical attractiveness and charm that inspires devotion’.  Influence expands this slightly to broaden from ‘charm’ to generic interpersonal abilities.  Wisdom is ‘the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise’.  Again, there’s a lot of overlap of the traditional definitions of Wisdom and Intelligence.  To differentiate from D&D (for better or for worse), and to differentiate from Intelligence, I selected Acuity instead of Wisdom.

Ok, but what the stats actually do is identical. Nobody has thought of Wisdom as anything but "perception, willpower, and miscellaneous stuff clerics/druids do (like handle animal and heal)" for like three editions. The definition of these words means little in the long run. It's what people think they mean. Dexterity, for example, does not literally mean agility, but everyone who has ever played D&D probably thinks it does. I'm just saying, I think you tried too hard to be different for difference sake when something familiar would help people grasp what you're doing more easily.

We place a different value on the differentiation.

Energy pool being based on your three best attributes heavily discourages having average stats. It actually highly incentivizes dumping three in order to max the other three.

The philosophy here is to ensure that each of the attribute is useful (more on this later).  And the second philosophy is that the increasing cost of attribute improvements mean that eventually it’s more and more expensive to keep pumping attributes.

So while it might be a good character build strategy to max out three of your attributes, this is not a good long term plan.

They did not pan out that way because you created skills that undermine almost everything they actually do. The only hard and fast things I saw were: only Agility can do initiative (which you were even considering changing), only Stamina can do HP, and mental/physical stats can't cross boundaries for PD and MD. But there's a mental defense skill and an attack skill for every mental stat. There's a physical defense skill for all three physical stats, and two of the three have attack skills. It's almost like an express purpose of your skill system was "dump 3, keep 3." Or rather, dump 2, keep 4, really.

Yes, in many cases you can pay CP to compensate for low ratings in particular attributes.  As with all games, players can choose to build an all-rounder character, or can tip their CP into specialized areas to emphasize particular play styles.

Externalities is a terrible word and I think you just used it to make SAGE work.

I’m still looking for a better word.  The alternative was SAGA, which is already a whole RPG system.

Look, I could be wrong, but I don't believe that anyone is actually going to be sitting at the table thinking of SAGE to figure out what's next. Spend, Add, and Gain, are not even intuitive words for what's happening. If someone were to ask me how to sum up your system, I'd say something like:

"Your stats form your base dice pools, but each die you roll costs energy, so, you can use fewer dice if you want. If you use gear, it also adds dice for energy, but usually not 1:1. Bigger gear weirdly tends to have a better exchange rate, though, and there's no real incentive to not use the best ratio gear exclusively. Sometimes, extra skills basically grant maneuvers, and they let you pump the pools higher. Situational modifiers add/subtract at the end, but really, since most are location based, you had to spend energy to get them via movement, so it's more about "did you luckily start combat in a good spot?" Always save a couple for defense later, but not much. You get your full pool back every round, so if you don't spend it, it's wasted"

SAGE is just a cutesy ordering that I can't imagine helping anyone.

Interesting reframing.  Not what I would choose, but a different way of presenting the core mechanics.

Add seems to suggest your actions cost more energy if you are better at the action (i.e. because you're rolling more dice). Is that true? That seems wrong. Shouldn't being more skilled mean you can get more benefit for less energy? I guess it's kind of neutralized by the act that your overall energy is governed by your best stat anyway.

Okay, let’s break this down a little bit.

The spend cost of an action is the MINIMUM effort required to complete that action.  If you’re shooting a pistol, it’s pulling the trigger and vaguely aiming.  If you’re swinging a sword, it’s the effort required to swing the hunk of metal.

The add cost of an action is the additional effort that a character can put into the action.  Characters with higher attributes have more headroom here to add extra effort to the action (and by definition they also have more energy).

When you spend energy to swing a shitty weapon, you gain less dice in return (spend 3, gain 2).  When you spend energy to swing a big old two handed greatsword, you might gain slightly more dice (spend 4, gain 6).

The basic martial skills and the specialized martial skills only trigger from the added energy.  So now, when you add 1 extra energy to the attack, you also gain 1 extra die from your corresponding basic martial skill (e.g. Melee Weapons).  Here you use 1 energy, and get 2 in your attack pool.  Additionally, if you have other specialized martial skills that trigger, then this 1 added energy can put 2, or 3 or more dice into your attack pool.

The meta for Forge Engine is to maximize your attack pool for the minimum energy.

It feels like PD and MD are unbalanced. PD starts at 1, basically nothing, and raises mostly with actions and equipment. MD starts at your middle attribute, so, probably 2-3, but only really gets added via traits. I sure hope pools to attack PD and MD are formed differently, too.

Yes, PD and MD are asymmetrical.  MD is based on the middle of your Influence, Intelligence, and Acuity.  When defending attacks against their MD, characters can increase their MD pool by adding energy through skills like Coherent Mind, Iron Will, and Empty Vessel.

Why are they asymmetrical, though? I saw the spells and stuff later. You build pools against them the exact same way, just usually without a gear-based initial buy in.

Because there’s no ‘armor’ for spells, and I didn’t want to get into nickel-and-diming the spend costs for every spells.

It is insane to me that a short sword takes 3 energy to use, but a greatsword takes 4. That's the scale? I recognize that a greatsword isn't actually all that heavy, but a shortsword shouldn't start at 3...that's so high.

There’s always a limited resolution for the costs and benefits in RPGs.  So for D&D, the character class hit dice and weapon damage dice are constrained by the available set of polyhedral dice.

In Forge Engine, attack costs and attack effectiveness is constrained by the resolution of sets of d10 dice.

The smallest attack, with the least effort, requires only 1 energy.  The most strenuous attacks require 5 energy.

  • 1 Energy: Pull the trigger of a light pistol.
  • 2 Energy: Fire a heavy revolver or rifle, wield a light knife.
  • 3 Energy: Fire a heavy shotgun, swing a baseball bat/machete/fire axe, swing a mace, fire a shortbow.
  • 4 Energy: Fire a heavy machinegun, swing a heavy sword, fire a heavy crossbow, throw a war spear
  • 5 Energy: Fire a super-heavy arbalest, swing a halberd, fire a heavy sniper rifle.

So as you can see, there’s a fairly linear scale of increasing effort through the equipment.

I just think you worked yourself into a corner. You wanted it to be more energy to fire a heavy pistol than a light one, and nothing could be 0, so it had to be 1 and 2. Then you thought, "well, swinging any weapon is harder than pulling a trigger" so even light, easy to use weapons started at 3. I think you'd be better off if your energy cost scaling was different for ranged and melee. Just say aiming costs more energy than it seems. Whatever. That way unarmed or light knives can be 1 energy, a shortsword and weapons of that general size can be 2, and the medium weapons like longswords and stuff can be 3.

Aiming and reloading does cost a bit more than melee weapons, making these weapons less effective than melee weapons.

As for the other costings, they don’t leave enough granularity for my liking.

Ew, the opposed roll system is really awkward and seems time consuming. I love die pools, but changing the target number in a die pool is notoriously tricky and creates really opaque success chances. Defense pool is trying just to roll really high. You can have an awful defense pool, but if it comes up a 10, your attack is screwed. Meanwhile, a really bad defense roll just wrecks you. And yeah, you need to have the defensive roll first, so you can tell how well the attack did. Very time consuming. Opposed rolls are already time consuming enough when you compare successes.

Going back to principles; the core principle is that the player can choose how much energy their character uses on attacks, defenses, and other actions.  In play, this means that the player can choose to use energy to increase the size of their dice pools, or take a chance and use all their energy on attacks and rely on their basic physical or mental defenses.

The system’s inherent combination of attack pool sizes (6-12 dice), defense pool sizes (~3 dice), and character Health means that combat is generally over in 2-3 rounds.  The great thing about these numbers of dice is that the combats generally revert to the mean, they are generally predictable at a macro level, but unpredictable at a micro level.

By this I mean that there’s a fair bit of variability for the micro span of individual attacks, but that this variability isn’t generally reflected across the macro span of an entire combat.

At the table, we generally roll the attack pool and defense pool simultaneously.

Additionally, there are specialized skills like Sidestep that allow characters to add extra dice after the pools have been rolled to ‘fix’ a shitty defense roll.

Since the energy pool is so central to the game, I wish it was covered in more depth here early on. I understand how to add, spend, and expend, but I don't actually have any idea what typical values are, for example. That's pretty critical to understanding the game.

I figure we’re on maybe page 7 here.  I dedicate literally 4 pages to the use of energy from page 17-20, but I don’t think I can move that here ahead of character development.

Do all attributes start at 1, or do I have to buy the first point, too?

Yes, they all start at 1.  I have that up in the rules boxes, but I’ve added it to the first sentence of the section text.

If you spend the same pool of points on Attributes and Traits, they should not be separate character creation steps. And if you were to order them, Traits should go first because some of them alter the cost of attributes.

I’ve switched these.

9 pages into this, I can identify a frustrating pattern that is making it very hard for me to like/actually use this game: you keep highlighting a game term or rule or whatever, provide almost all of the detail I need to actually use that thing, then stop completely and move on to the next thing just when I am looking to complete my knowledge. It's getting really bad. It started with energy, which you have explained twice now, in slightly increasing depth, but still incompletely. But it was the worst when you told me to buy traits, then said "Oh, the list is like 15 pages away, though, so, you get to wait." GYAH! Just give me all the information I need for a single concept and THEN move on.

I feel your frustration.          

The book starts with a quick Fundamentals section, which covers the building blocks of the Forge Engine (including Energy, Action Pools and Defense Pools).  And then the Core Mechanics section covers Dice Pools and the use of the Energy Pool.  I could combine these sections, but I’m not sure that would alleviate your problem (but it might).

As for the Traits, I have deliberately separated all of the Traits, Skills, and Equipment into a standalone section of the book.  The intent of this Game Content section is for it to be separate and removable for players.  So once the core rules have been grokked, the players can simply use that Game Content section, without having to wade around through the rules to find the bits and pieces of content that they need.

It is not great that you can't increase a skill beyond its governing attribute. You basically don't allow anyone to get beyond their natural limit. What if someone is really bad at social situations in general, but really good at lying? They have a weak attribute with one good skill, but...uh...can't have that. You basically can't get better at a given skill without getting better at EVERY skill related to that attribute. Weird. This was the case in Godlike, too, which always bothered me. And it led to very symetrical characters. People basically had twice their attribute to every skill they actually cared about, especially since skills are so much cheaper.

I too have struggled with this.  The rule is there to make it explicit that in 95% of cases, the number of dice contributed to a dice pool will be governed by the appropriate attribute and the skill, and additional skill ratings will be wasted.  There are some rare cases where an attribute test might pair an attribute with a skill that’s not its normally association (such as and Intelligence (Perception) test to recall something a character saw in passing several days earlier).

In play, I’ve found that generally there are not enough character points going around for players to max out every one of their characters’ skills.

Step 9 just...why? That always cracks me up when that stuff gets included at all, but to put it last...? Shouldn't that be part of the concept when you first start, which actually isn't even a real step?

I know this comes at Step 9, but the second paragraph of this section is explicit about deciding your character concept ahead of creating the character:

‘Before creating your character, it is important to have an idea of the sort of character you wish to play and how that character fits in with your adventuring party and the game world where they exist.  A little forethought and planning here will save you the embarrassment of showing up to a post-apocalyptic wasteland with your halfling tinker.’

Yes, I know. That's why, if it's a step at all, it should be step 1.

Fixed.  Moved to step 1.

Initiative as a skill (looking at Wasteland Scavenger)? Yeah, there's no way that could go badly... <_<

So the Initiative skill gives bonus dice when making initiative tests.  These tests usually just use the character’s Agility attribute.  When you have the initiative skill, you have more dice for the test, but there are no absolute bonuses.  I’m intrigued to hear any possible exploits here.

Exploits are going first always wins in every RPG where initiative is measured. Going first matters. Making it a skill means it's a necessary skill. It's also some of the only (if not the only) skill dice with no energy cost. You're a fool not to max this.

Going first is good; which requires Agility.  Being strong is good; which requires Strength.  Having lots of health is good; which requires Stamina.  So instead of being fast and going first, you could instead tank and take the attacks, then retaliate even harder (Retaliation, Strikeback Attack, Hard to Kill, Weakpoint Strike, etc).

Actually, wait, I still don't know how much energy you get back every round? What's up with that? I should probably know that by now.

I’ve clarified this in a couple of places on pages 5 and 7.

Page 5: ‘All characters have an energy pool that reflects how much effort they can use in a short period of time, such as in combat.  All physically and mentally draining actions use energy from the character’s energy pool, which is replenished from round to round.’

Page 7: ‘Characters regain non-expended energy at the start of each of their turns.’

You don't see how neither one of those tells me an amount? When I saw "which is replenished from round to round." I was thinking "What the heck? How much is replenished? Why didn't he just tell me right now?!" Same with the second. Characters regain non expended energy. Ok, how much. If those are the sentences you want to use for this, you need to add words.

"...use energy from the character's energy pool, all of which is replenished from round to round."

"Characters regain all non-expended energy at the start of each of their turns."

Fixed.

The character called a Gunslinger has less skill in Hand guns than Brawling? Really?

My fault.  Fixed.

Wasteland scavenger has the same armor value as the Hospiter, but needs no skill while the Hospiter does?

My fault.  Also fixed.

The Hospiter has Engaged attack. I know it's meant to be hitting enemies that are attacking your allies, but, uh, doesn't that work the same as basically a sneak attack where you get better by attacking an enemy that's not paying attention to you? That's weird that it's the same thing.

So, the Sneak Attack ability in D&D-land is the rogue ability that targets unaware enemies, or enemies in reach of your allies.

For Engaged Attack, I wanted an ability that works like a combination of flanking and D&D Sneak Attack, but without the concept of facing or the necessity of grid combat.

Yes, I got that. But it's archetypally weird to give it to a Paladin, isn't it?

The Hospiter is more of a cleric than a paladin, and Engaged Attack is generally useful for any melee character.

None of these characters have 30 skill points. Most have half that or less.

This is the case.  I don’t have the page space to list all of the skills that 30 CP characters would have.

It is a personal pet peeve of mine when RPGs conflate Agility and Dexterity. It is so common, it's acceptable and doesn't make me hate the game or anything, but I do roll my eyes at least once at the idea of all those gymnast snipers.

I know.  I wish there was a better way, but I don’t want to try to separate these.

In the framework of your game, Acuity, which is basically just perception and traditionally Wisdom based magic, could do hand-eye coordination. It could be used for parrying and ranged attacks quite well. But that would leave blurred lines between physical and mental that I think you relied on. Again, though, this is minor. Everyone in the RPG world does this (except me...Agility and Dexterity are separate stats in my game).

Yeah.

You used the D&D 6 stats...why did you rename them? You didn't actually change any of their meanings whatsoever. Was it just to be different? You'd probably have more traction if you just went with the core 6.

As I mentioned above, I changed the definitions of Influence and Acuity from Charisma and Wisdom.  Agility and Stamina I changed so that Influence and Acuity wouldn’t be lonely.

Come on. You didn't. You changed the dictionary definition, but nobody uses the dictionary. Acuity does all the things Wisdom does in D&D. Influence does all the things Charisma does in D&D. You know it does.

I changed to the dictionary definition.  I don’t care greatly what D&D does.  That’s why I call the character’s characteristics attributes, and not ‘ability scores’.  D&D has ingrained some poor definitions, and I’d rather not perpetuate those.

I think writing numbers in the diamonds is fine, but you are inconsistent about what those numbers are, and that makes the notation more confusing than helpful. Sometimes, it refers to a stat rating, sometimes to the die pool total, sometimes to the number a die rolled, and sometimes to what the target number is. If you're going to use it, it should be for a unified reason.

As you point out, I use the numbered diamonds in two ways, to represent:

  • The number of dice in an attribute, rating, or pool (all through the book)
  • The results of rolled dice (only on page 7)

Seems like I need to find an alternate way to demonstrate the results of rolled dice on page 7.

How do you suggest people actually track energy? It looks tricky. I'd think you use dice, but there's a lot of uneven exchances and spending...could be very confusing very quickly. Oh, you explained literally one sentence later. I don't know, though, dice seem like it will get weird, but it's the best idea I have, too.

(I think we’re on page 17 here).

Yes, we use dice to represent energy.

There are two sets of dice, usually differently colored.  One set of dice is used for energy, and the second set of dice is for gained or bonus dice.

In fact, the playtest packet includes a dice mat that helps players organize and manage the character’s energy, action and defense pools.

So...wait, I get all my energy back every round? So, why does the game act like I shouldn't spend it all? I don't understand. It's an artificial limit, then. Your overall abilities are determined basically by your three best stats and that's it.

At your initiative you regain your energy.  However, Forge Engine combat takes place across concurrent rounds, and the game’s energy economy means that unlike traditional action economy games (like D&D), you don’t have to take all of your actions at your initiative.

Given that, you probably shouldn’t alpha strike all of your energy immediately at your initiative, unless you reckon you can stick the knock-out.  Otherwise you’ll be vulnerable further down the initiative order.

Yes, but you can and should spend it all before your next turn or its just wasted. So, only don't attack with what you're going to spend on defense.

Again, the concurrent rounds mean that you can’t always predict what you’ll need for attacks or for defense across each round.

Is there some kind of limit to how much energy you can spend to boost a die pool? In theory, I could just have a massive pool of energy and NO skills at all, but still have a big die pool?

You can only add energy up to the rating of your relevant attribute.  From page 5:

‘• Add energy up to the relevant attribute rating into the character’s action pool.’

Given that the target numbers are random, it seems like I'm way better off making several smaller attacks per round, rather than bothering to boost with energy. For example, with a Greatsword that is 4/6...if I had 8 energy, I could attack twice with 12 dice total, or I could attack and spend all 4 to add dice, which gives me 10...I'd need at least 3 skill to make that worthwhile.

I mentioned earlier the metagame of Forge Engine, which is to maximize the size of your dice pool for the minimum energy spend.

For any given energy pool (say, 10 Energy), a character could make 3 basic attacks or make 1 or 2 maximized attacks.

When making three basic attacks (where the character only spends the energy required to make the attack and doesn’t add any energy to bolster the attack), the character would spend 9 energy in total, and have three pools that sum up to 9 dice (across those three attacks).

Alternatively, the character could make two attacks, each of which gets 2 energy added to it.  So first, we have two attacks costing 5 energy.  Each of these attacks starts with 3 dice from the weapon, then gets 2 extra dice from the added energy.  Assuming that the character has the matching basic martial skill for the weapon, the 2 added energy is matched by 2 energy from the matching skill.  So even from just having the basic martial skill for the weapon, the character has spent 10 energy on two attacks, and each of these attacks has 7 dice, giving a sum of 14 dice for the two attacks.

Additionally, if the character has other specialized martial skills, then these dice pools could be even larger, depending on the other skills that the player can trigger.  For example, Engaged Attack is a fairly straightforward skill to trigger if the character has nearby allies.  Triggering this skill for the same attack cost and added energy would increase the sum of that dice pool from 14 dice to 18 dice.

Finally.  Due to Forge Engine’s concurrent combat rounds, each time a character makes and action, each other character (working down the initiative order) gets an opportunity to use their energy to take an action of their own.  So, when your hero makes their first attack, other characters have the ability to strike back or to move themselves into a more advantageous position (such as moving to negate some of your specialized martial skill combos).

I am frustrated that character creation was first, but I still can't actually create a character 23 pages into the game, because the absolutely critical skill and trait lists are later on.

As I mentioned earlier, the game content is deliberately collected together into a separate section for long-term usability.  So I’ve sacrificed a bit for this first read-through (possibly a silly decision), in order to optimize long-term use.

The other goal here is to allow space for other creators to come in and replace that entire game content section with a tailored pack of content that expands, focuses, or limits the available options.

I also can't really tell what attributes do anymore, besides cap skills and provide energy. It looks like maxing three and dumping 3 really is the smart move.

Don’t forget, you can only add energy up to the rating of your relevant attribute.

That wasn't made clear at the point I was at in the text. I understood that later, though.

I’ve emphasized this now.

Because of mental defense, you'd want to drop one mental stat, Strength (because Finesse Weapons makes strength pointless), and Stamina. I know you get fewer HP, but you get better energy, better Mental Defense, and no other obvious (at this time) drawbacks.

I’m enjoying your journey through build optimization.  Dumping Stamina is an interesting strategy...

Ok, so, attributes only matter during non-combat situations? When things don't cost energy? Why the stark separation of system here? Why is the primary factor of success in combat how much effort you put in, but everything else actually cares about your natural abilities? Ok, it's even weirder. So attributes matter during combat, just not for specifically combat rolls.

Attributes matter in adventuring and in combat.  Attributes cap the amount of energy that can be added to combat actions.

Ok, I understand knowing basically how actions and energy work, but I definitely don't need to know detailed movement rules before a list of traits and skills...

As discussed earlier, the game rules are self-contained, and the player-facing game content is self-contained.

What is the point of Empowered? You can't have more than your full energy, so, what, it's a buffer against incoming enervation?

You can have more energy than your maximum if it’s bonus energy (page 17).  This energy is over and above your normal maximum energy.

Ok, so, Empowered is incredibly amazingly powerful. Check.

Yes.  Which is why I haven’t found a place, or a way, to trigger it yet.

Blinded...doesn't affect attacks at all? You just get worse at perception and defense? Really?

Thanks for noticing, I’ve fixed this now.

‘You cannot see.

  • You automatically fail Acuity (Perception) tests that rely wholly on vision.
  • When making attribute tests that include vision (including attacks), your action pool is halved.
  • When defending attacks, your defense pool is halved.’

Grooming is a skill? Really?

Yarp.  Something about looking nice.

Why does initiative work like a defense roll?

I’m not sure about this; it’s a standard attribute test.

It's not. You aren't rolling for successes, you're rolling and looking for your single highest die.

True.

(Continued in part 2)


You made it!

Now jump over to the Forge Engine page to check out the latest playtest packet.

Why the Forge Engine?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Classes, DnD, Dungeons and Dragons, Forge Engine, Game Design, HAD, Hero Kids, Heroes Against Darkness, Mechanics, RPG, Rules

Nobody needs another RPG system, so I made one anyway…

“Why?”

Well you may ask. Some RPGs are written as homage, some to extend a family of games to a new generation, others to solve a specific problem, or to introduce a whole new approach to role playing.

My first full RPG – Heroes Against Darkness – is shamelessly a love-letter to Dungeons & Dragons. But as much as it was a tribute to D&D, I also designed it to ‘solve’ a number of problems I had with specific editions of D&D; namely that game’s implementation of Vancian magic, the glacial pace of combat in the later editions, and the complicated character build and optimization process in the middle editions.

Heroes Against Darkness tried to strip D&D to a simple core, while preserving the modern and elegant mechanics of the more recent editions.

 

Heroes Against Darkness - Cover

My second RPG – Hero Kids – tried to solve a different problem; Can you make a high-quality fantasy role-playing game that’s playable by kids as young as 4, while still maintaining the essence of the genre? The answer appears to be ‘yes,’ so that’s good…

So why did I design the Forge Engine then?

The inception of Forge Engine was the idea of taking an opposed dice pool system (inspired by my work on Hero Kids), and combining that dice mechanic with a variable action economy and then wrapping it all up in a classless (but not classless), skill-based system.

 

Hero Kids - Cover

Now I usually laugh at people who laud their amazing new dice mechanics, so feel free to laugh with/at me as I explain that the goal of the Forge Engine’s amazing new dice mechanic is to combine the resolution of character attributes, weapon effectiveness, variable effort, skills, damage, and armor into a single opposed dice pool roll.

The final goal of the Forge Engine was (and is) to design a system that supports multiple genres; such as fantasy, modern, cyberpunk, steam-punk, sci-fi, horror, and post-apocalyptic. This system reference document provides support for all manner of genres and play styles.

Another way of looking the Forge Engine is as the anti-D&D. Where D&D has a binary success/failure mechanic, Forge Engine has degrees of success. Where D&D is a class-based system, Forge Engine is a skill-based (classless) system. Where D&D has a fixed action economy with discrete major, move, swift, minor, and free actions each turn, the Forge Engine implements a variable action economy based around energy.

So after many years of development and playtesting, Forge Engine nears completion.

Check out the latest playtest packet on the Forge Engine page.

Forge Engine hits Beta

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Adventures, Characters, Forge Engine, Game Design, Playtest, Role-Playing, RPG, Rules, Settings, Skills

Work on Forge Engine has continued, and I've now gotten the system to the point where it's effectively Beta.  For the non-software developers out there, this basically means that:

  • The core system is complete
  • The content is largely (or wholly) complete
  • Some bugs may remain

Check out the latest playtest packet on the Forge Engine page.

To stress test the system, I've been playtesting a long campaign which I'm calling Raven's Nest. 

My playtest group decided on a 'rip-roaring' WWII Indiana Jones-style game.  So, they created characters who were resistance fighters working in the northern areas of France in around 1941.

Players being players, their approach to the game was anything but 'rip-roaring'.  But over a series of sessions and missions they investigated strange deliveries that the Nazis were making to an ancient French chateau.

The deliveries, it turned out, were religious artifacts, relics, and icons that the Nazis had looted from across Europe.  Here in the chateau, the players came face to face with the leader of the Nazi Völkisch movement.  From Wikipedia:

The völkisch movement, as it evolved, sometimes combined the arcane and esoteric aspects of folkloric occultism alongside "racial adoration".

Unfortunately for the players, their characters were captured by the Nazis.

The Nazis used the captured characters in an arcane ritual that was fuelled by these religious artifacts.  During this ritual, and despite their attempts to escape, the characters were all sacrificed. 

Five dead characters.

Dead.

Dead dead.

Everything black.

Except that they weren't dead.  I took them back 2,000 years to the exact same location in northern France, which was now Roman occupied Gaul.  Here their characters awoke in the aftermath of a barbarian raid on a Roman fort.

From this point, the campaign took a sudden turn.  Here, the characters' mission became a chase, pursuing the Nazis across the Roman empire to thwart their nefarious time-travelling plans.

The Raven's Nest campaign is now in its 18th 3-hour session, each of which I record for post-game review.  And as I mentioned, this campaign has stress-tested key parts of the Forge Engine:

  • Character development (player characters now have 11 or more energy)
  • Transposition of 'modern' characters into historical situations
  • Mapping of modern to historical skills
  • Utilisation of modern equipment in historical games (it turns out the Nazis came back in time too - with machineguns)

I'm pretty happy with how this campaign is progressing, and I feel like we're building towards a truly biblical climax!

Check out the latest playtest packet on the Forge Engine page.

Hero Kids – Pets II

Posted Leave a commentPosted in DriveThruRPG, Hero Cards, Hero Kids, Pets, RPG
This expansion for Hero Kids includes ten new monsterous pets:

• Beguiler - The beguiler's eyestalks unleash powerful and versatile magic
• Boar - The battle-boar carries stalwart heroes into battle
• Gorilla - Enemies' attacks only strengthen the gorilla's attacks
• Griffon - The griffon swoops down to carry off its prey
• Hydra - Each of the hydra's three heads has a different ability
• Phoenix - The phoenix is shrouded in blankets of flame
• Salamander - The quick-footed salamander radiates intense heat
• Wyrmling - This juvenile dragon spits balls of crackling lightning
• Wyvern - The wyvern fledgling buffets enemies with its wings
• Yeti - The thick-furred yeti throws hard-packed icy boulders

Get them now from DriveThruRPG:
Hero Kids - Fantasy Expansion - Pet Cards II

Hero Kids Fantasy Adventure Compendium

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Uncategorized

The Hero Kids print trilogy is (partially) complete!

The Hero Kids - Fantasy RPG and the Hero Kids - Monster Compendium print books are joined by the Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure Compendium.

The Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure Compendium includes seven classic Hero Kids adventures ideal for novice players.

Explore the wilds of the Brecken Vale in these adventures:
•  Basement O Rats
•  Curse of the Shadow Walkers
•  Escape from the Ghost Pirates
•  Wizard's Tower
•  Fire In Rivenshore
•  Yuletide Journey
•  Tomb of the Lost King

The adventure compendium contains print-specific versions of these seven Hero Kids adventures. This book does not contain printable maps or monster cards, which are available in the Hero Kids PDFs.

The Hero Kids - Complete Fantasy PDF Bundle includes a 50% discount coupon for the softcover print version of Hero Kids - Fantasy RPG, Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure Compendium and the Hero Kids - Monster Compendium (the coupon is emailed to you when you buy the bundle).

So if you want the whole lot (PDFs and print version of the rules), buy the bundle then use the coupon to buy the softcover print version of Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure Compendium for half price!

You can get the Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure Compendium here:
DriveThruRPG: Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure Compendium

Grab the complete Hero Kids PDF bundle here:
DriveThruRPG: Hero Kids - Complete Fantasy PDF Bundle

The Road to Ruin aka Holiday Report Pt. 3

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Uncategorized

My original goal for The Road to Ruin was for it to be a 60-card game.  However, as development progressed, it was apparent that the game would have to be larger.  Instead, I settled for a couple of formats for the game:

  • Medium pro-box from The Game Crafter
  • 120 Cards from DriveThruCards

The DriveThruCards version of the game was planned to only use cards, so the game had to work as a boxed game with dice and character tokens, or with dice cards and BYO character tokens.  With this in mind, I laid out the materials for each of the games, and also costed out both versions.  The costs are now out of date, so don't read into these...

So the unreleased DriveThruCards (cards only) version of the game, has 120-ish cards:

And the version for The Game Crafter is significantly different:

I even did a mock-up version of the box from The Game Crafter, and compared it to the actual version in this video: