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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Baneful Word 4
Coherent Mind 1
Debilitating Blow 3
Deflecting Word 4
Distracting Taunt 4
Martial Arts 2
Passing Attack 1
Quick Load 1
Ranged Weapons 2
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.