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LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

I saw some posts earlier in this thread talking about the horrors of Phoenix Command and Living Steel. Would there be interests in doing a commentary on Phoenix Command and its derivatives? I'm actually quite fond of the system in spite of its major flaws, so I would perhaps not mock it as relentlessly as other people might, but I imagine myself as having a fairly deep understanding of how it actually works and what absolutely hilarious interactions there are in the rules. I could write mockingly about that, at least.

Like how smarter people run faster, or how putting scopes on a rifle will make it more accurate when fired from the hip. Or just how incredibly poorly written some of the rules are.

Or more pointlessly detailed things like how the creators created an incredibly detailed system for modelling firearms ballistics, and then made up numbers because their favourite guns didn't feel right...

Would there be any interest?

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LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?



The Phoenix Command Small Arms Combat System, or "PCCS" for short, is... not actually a role-playing game. It's a tabletop miniatures wargame for modern squad-level firearms combat. However, it mentions that it could be used together with an RPG if you want Realism!, so I'll talk about it here anyway. Especially since RPG players tend to talk about it in hushed voices and parade it around as an example of realism gone too far.

When people talk about the horrors that are PCCS, then tend to talk about things like this:

(Image not by me)

Tables. Tables. Oh so many tables. (The tables are far from the worst part of the game.)

Chapter 1: The Character

Chapter 1.2 tells you that your character has five characteristics; Strength, Intelligence, Will, Health, and Agility. Chapter 1.3 tells you that your character has six characteristics; the five aforementioned and Gun Combat Skill Level (GCSL). Editing is not really one of PCCS' strong points.

So, what are our characteristics?

Strength (STR): Your physical strength. The game mentions that high strength makes you capable of lifting more. It fails to tell you that high strength makes you move faster.
Intelligence (INT): Your mental dexterity. The game mentions that Intelligence makes you better at combat by making you faster.
Will (WIL): Your resolve and willpower. The game mentions that Will makes you hurt less and be less scared when the bullets start flying.
Health (HLT): Your "physical health". The game mentions that it helps you recover from wounds. It doesn't actually have any other effects related to how healthy you are...
Agility (AGL): "Physical coordination and speed." While it's true that Agility makes you move faster, in the core PCCS, coordination doesn't really matter that much.
Gun Combat Skill Level (GCSL): Your "ability". What the game fails to mention is what GCSL actually does. Like, at all. I guess we can infer that it makes you shoot better, but GCSL isn't actually explained anywhere.

In short:
STR: Move faster and lift more
INT: Move faster (Usain Bolt: Supergenius!)
WIL: Get knocked unconscious less
HLT: Get knocked unconscious less and die slightly slower
AGL: Move faster
GCSL: Move faster, shoot better, and get knocked unconscious less

As you can see, there's a certain level of redundancy here. Which would perhaps be fine, were it not for the fact that some characteristics do the exact same thing, like INT and AGL. All characteristics are generated by rolling 3d6, except for GCSL, which is arbitrarily set by the GM. The game says that 10 in a characteristic is "average", which is somewhat amusing since the average of 3d6 is 10.5. It also helpfully tells us that 12 in a characteristic is "Above Average", as if that didn't actually follow from the definition of what an "average" is.

Then comes calculating all the derived characteristics! Oh boy! I hope you like multiplication. And looking up stuff in tables!

"How do you expect me to fight with this helmet on? And this ammo weighs a ton!" - Humbert NoDose

First we have to total up the weight of all the stuff our character is carrying, in pounds. This is a bit difficult since we haven't been told how gear works just yet. Then we have to cross-index our Encumbrance and our Strength on Table 1A (table-count: 1) to find our "Base Speed". The characteristic Base Speed is never used for anything in the actual game. For some reason, Table 1A has STR values from 1 to 21, despite a PCCS character being unable to have a STR lower than 3 or higher than 18. (It is useful if you're using PCCS with another system though.)

Then we cross-index our Base Speed and our Agility on Table 1B (table-count: 2) to find out "Maximum Speed". The characteristics Maximum Speed is also never used for anything in the actual game. In a different PCCS-based game there's a rule that says you can't move faster than your Maximum Speed per 2-second combat turn, but this is not actually a rule in PCCS, for some odd reason. The range of AGLs is 1 to 21, despite your character's AGL being the result of 3d6.

Then we look up our Gun Combat Skill Level in Table 1C (*ding!*) to find out Skill Accuracy Level (SAL). You can tell this is an 80's game by how everything is abbreviated. SAL is basically just GCSL+6, so one has to wonder a bit why PCCS bothers to have the two be separate in the first place.

"Blam. Blam. 'Stop.' Blam. 'Police.' Blam." - Officer Axly. (Axly will appear many times in the PCCS games, almost always as an example of what not to do.)

Then we have to figure out our Intelligence Skill Factor (ISF), which is GCSL+INT. We were thankfully saved having to use a table for this.

Then comes figuring out our actual number of combat actions. A cookie to everyone who figured out that this would require cross-referencing values in a table before I said so. You have to cross-reference you ISF and your Maximum Speed in Table 1D (*ding!*) to find your number of Combat Actions per combat turn. Table 1D doesn't have the complete range of Intelligence Skill Factors though, and doesn't say whether we should round up or down when indexing. Each combat turn (called a "phase") is two seconds long, and divided into four half-second turns called "impulses". To figure out how many combat turns we have per in each of the four impulses, we have to index our Combat Actions in Table 1E (*ding*) Table 1D maxes out at 24 Combat Actions, but Table 1E just goes to 21, so what happens when you have 22 Combat Actions is not explained.

The last step is figuring out our Knockout Value (KV), which is 0.5*GCSL*WIL. If our Gun Combat Skill Level is 0, our KV is also 0 and our character will have a 1% chance to not get knocked unconscious from papercuts. Guns are everything in the world of PCCS.

"A Bullet in the arm // Does very little harm. // A bullet in the head // Can make your very dead" - Fred the Singing Bandit (sic)

The rest of the chapter contains an explanation of all the stats of your gun, a list of weights for various items, armour values for various kinds of gear, and some pregen characters. Each gun has about 14 characteristics, which is to say, your gun has more than twice the number of characteristics your character has. There's no explanation of what what the different armour types listed actually are. Is "light flexible armour" a bulletproof vest? Broiled leather? A thick jacket? What's the difference between Rigid armour and Medium Rigid armour? Each piece of armour has an armour value listed for its visor, if it has one. For Light Rigid, Rigid and Medium Rigid, the value is 0.8. A footnote helpfully tells me that Light Rigid, Rigid and Medium Rigid armours visors have an armour value of 4.

"If you can't dazzle them with style, riddle them with bullets." - Corley Norris (the motto by which Phoenix Command is written)

Table Count: 5
80's Action Film Dialogue Count: 5
----

As someone who's actually quite fond of Phoenix Command's hyperdetailed firearms rules and hit-location tables, the system is incredibly poorly written. You have numerous characteristics that all factor into each other. Every time you throw a hand grenade, you have to go back to the character generation tables to see if lightening your load has changed your number of Combat Actions, a process that can require cross-indexing four different values in up to four different tables. The tables have huge, sprawling gaps in them with no indication whether to round up or down. At times, a table will simply cut off and offer no explanation what happens if your skill is above the norm. It's poorly written and poorly edited. If you want to use PCCS' for hyper-realistic firearms combat, stay far away from the character generation rules. Use everything else, but not the character generation rules.

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 18:18 on Mar 31, 2014

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Hulk Smash! posted:

Move faster as in "go from point A to point B faster" or "think on your feet" i.g. Initiative rank? 1st one makes no sense but I could sort of see the 2nd.

My guess is that the book either uses the 1st thing or makes no mention of which one it means. :v:

Both. Moving faster also makes you shoot faster, think faster, and act earlier.

Gerund posted:

So you can design a character that throws X grenades during the first round of combat, and then gets X+Y actions because they threw grenades and lightened their total weight?

Throwing a grenade takes 2 CA, so no, you can't. You could make a character that has 17 CA per Phase on the first round of combat, spends 10 of them throwing 5 grenades, and gets a bonus action on his last Impulse, and has 20 CA per Phase afterwards.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Young Freud posted:

He actually mentions why he brings up INT means "Move Faster". He means you get more actions. The tl;dr of it is that your STR vs. Encumbrance determines your Base Speed, then your Base Speed is cross-referenced AGI to determine your Max Speed, which when cross-referenced with the sum of your INT score and SAL/GSCL determines how many actions your character gets. Which, because the way actual movement works, more actions = faster speed since a 2-yard hex takes one Combat Action to move through.

Since you can have 8 CA in a half-second impulse, that means you can move 32m/s. Despite what it says about Max Speed, it really doesn't have an effect on anything, since none of the movement rules ever mention them.

"she", actually. Also, in basic PCCS you can't get more than 6 actions per impulse, for a running speed of "only" 22 meters per second. That is to say, 80 kmh. Running. At these speeds you can expect to run across a lake and not sink from the sheer force of your feet pushing up from the water. A rather peculiar feature for a game that claims to model extreme realism...



Chapter 2: Basic Game: Movement and Combat

PCCS is played with "Phases" of two seconds each, divided into four half-second "Impulses". The game is played on a hexagonal map where each hex measures two yards across. PCCS uses US Customary Units, despite being written by a NASA engineer who really should know better. I guess he knew how to target his audience of hardcore American gun aficionados who were also into squad-level tabletop wargaming depicting the post-WWII period.

You have a bunch of Combat Actions (CA) and these are used to do stuff. Most things the game is interested in modelling, like shooting guns and moving, have CA values listed. If no value is listed, you multiply the number of seconds it would take the average person by 2. Since people skilled in Gun Combat are faster than the average non-combatant, this means that soldiers read the newspaper and cook gourmet meals faster on average. Nations with conscription, consequently, have much more efficient workers in their industries, which is why the Soviet Union outproduced the US during the Cold War.

Sometimes you can do two things at once, like run and aim at the same time. If you chose to do two things at once, you can double-spend your CA on both actions. Fair enough, but the game should perhaps give some actual guidelines for which actions can be done simultaneously and which can't. The only example given is that you can't aim at two different targets at once, but it'd have been nice to know whether I can throw a grenade at a target while also aiming at it, and if I can triple-spend my CA to also move while doing this.

PCCS uses a system of declare-simultaneously-resolve-afterwards, which is a) realistic, and b) a bookkeeping hassle. It does help here that most characters only have one or two actions per Impulse, so there's little to keep track of, at least. Then, just to make things difficult, players are allowed to change their minds about what actions they took in response to what other people do. The examples given are quite reasonable: "I choose to Aim but my opponent decided to Walk behind a wall, so I change my Aim action to a Fire action to shoot him before he disappears behind the wall" and "I'm being shot at so I decided to go Prone", but there are no limitations on what you can change your mind about, and no rules for handling what happens when people keep changing their minds.

PCCS keeps track of your character's field-of-view. There are no rules that prevent metagaming around this in the wargame, but if you were using this for an RPG, it does provide an opportunity for proper fog-of-war. One pretty cool thing PCCS does is to incorporate tunnel-vision; if you're aiming down the sights of your gun, your field-of-view is halved, so walking around with your gun raised to your eyes like a true SpecOps SWAT Badass Operator lowers your tactical awareness. You can also spend CA to turn your head to look around you in a 360-degree field-of-view to spot enemies.

Rather annoyingly, the rules are unclear on whether looking around ruins your aim bonus or just freezes it.

Shooting stuff: the reason we're all here:

"There is no such thing as excessive violence." - Gill the Treacherous

To shoot something, you have to aim at it. To aim at something, you can either spend 2 CA to raise your gun and look through the sights, or just fire from the hip. Each and every single gun has its own small table (*ding!* x a whole lot) of Aim Time Modifiers; the more CA you spend on aiming, the more accurate your shots will be. Mechanically it means there's a fine granularity between quick-and-inaccurate fire and slow-and-accurate fire, and that different guns give you different capabilities. Heavier guns have higher initial penalties, but aim faster. The longer the distance between the front and rear sights, the longer time you can spend aiming to rack up higher Aim Time Modifiers. (I actually reverse-engineered the relationship between a gun's weight and its Aim Time Modifiers. Without going into a lot of detail, the aim time modifier a at a number of CA of aim t is given by a = x*log(t)+y, where x=b*log(w)+m and y=c*log(w)+p, for the gun's weight w and some constants b, c, m and p.)

Then when you've aimed you add the Aim Time Modifier to your SAL, and cross-index your ATM+SAL and the range to the target in the Odds of Hitting Table (*ding!*) to get a target number between 0 and 99. Then you roll 1d100-1 and try to roll less than or equal to the target number.

This part of the game is actually quite clever. When you fire a gun in real life and in PCCS, your shots will follow a Guassian distribution. It's most likely that your bullets will go straight forward, but it's also fairly likely they'll deviate a little to the either side of "straight forward", and slightly less likely that they'll deviate even more to either side, etc. The probability of hitting your target is the probability that you shot will fall within some distance from of the centre of your aim. The Odds of Hitting Table is basically this Guassian probability distribution made into a table. It actually conforms quite nicely to the probability distribution for hitting of US Army soldiers. Which I know because there are tables of to-hit probabilities at different ranges and skills for US Army soldiers in the US Army Rifle Marksmanship field manual. Which I have studied extensively and compared to PCCS values...

...I really like gun prawn, OK?

Oh, yeah, 1d100-1. PCCS uses the d% convension where double zeros on the dice are read as, simply, "0" rather than "100", giving the dice a range of 0-99. What the game constantly forgets is that this means that, for a target number of X, you have a X+1% chance of succeeding; the game will gleefully tell you that "your target number is 86, so you have an 86% chance to succeed". It's rather amusing how the game employs advanced statistical models in painstaking detail, and then manages to screw up how their own dice system works.

There are also a bunch of other things that can modify how accurate your shots are. There are three different Stances you can be in; Standing, Kneeling and Prone, which give different bonuses to shooting. To find these bonuses, you have to refer to a table (*ding!) that strangely enough contains four different Stances. The difference between firing from the hip and firing with your gun raised are described as two additional Stances, which is pretty drat confusing since your firing Stance can be combined with any of the other Stances; Prone Hip Fire is a thing, as is Kneeling Aimed Fire. As you can see, clear communication was not one of PCCS' strong points. This probably did not help its reputation as incomprehensibly complex.

The last set of modifiers used in the basic game is the size of the target you're shooting at, which depends on its Stance and whether its exposed or just peeking around cover.

And then comes fully automatic fire. Fully automatic fire is awesome. First, you get +1 to hit. Then you shoot normally. Then, based on how far away your target is, you can hit it with several bullets. Which is to say that automatic fire is both more accurate and more deadly than normal fire. Is there ever a reason to not use automatic fire? Not really. You run out of bullets faster, but in the meantime you're a lean, mean, killing machine. Fully Automatic Fire in the PCCS basic game basically works like the US Army thought it would during the Vietnam War, so you're encouraged to get an autofire-capable M16 and lay down a hail of deadly bullets in the general direction of everyone who looks at you wrong.

At short ranges, you can even hit multiple people at once with a single burst. If they're clustered tight enough together, it's possible to hit more people than you fired bullets. Don't ask me how that works.

"Don't thing of it as being outnumbered, thing of it as having a very wide shot selection." - Generalissimo Puerco, President for Life

Getting shot: the reason we're not here:
PCCS Basic Game uses 23 hit locations, ranging from the general "hand" to the more specific "Upper Arm - Bone". When you get shot you roll 1d100-1 to determine when, and then start looking stuff up in tables. First you have to compare the gun's PENetration with the Protection Factor (PF) of your armour in Table 3B (*ding!*). If the PEN of the gun is higher than your PF, the bullet actually penetrates. If the PEN is much higher than the PF, you might actually hit well enough to do some damage. Penetration is divided into four categories. Simply penetrating has a 10% chance of doing Low Velocity Damage, and a 90% chance of glancing off the armour. The second category of penetration has a 40% chance of doing Low Velocity Damage, and a 60% chance of glancing off the armour. With the fourth category, we have an actual 70% chance of dealing Over Penetration Damage, and a 30% chance of dealing Low Velocity Damage.

Table 3B doesn't say what happens if you have less than 2 PF as your armour. This would have been useful to know, since pistols have 2 PF and hence can't penetrate anything actually on the table. The rules also fail to mention whether to round up or down. Given that the backbone of the US Army, the M16, does not have PEN actually on the table, this can get rather awkward rather quick.

If we get hit with Low Velocity Damage, we're pretty lucky. Hits to the Forehead, Eye - Nose region and Heart will kill us very dead in less than three minutes. Hits everywhere else will take at least four hours to kill us, which means we'll probably have time to get to a hospital (which reduces our chances of dying drastically). If we get hit with Over Penetrating Damage, we have to cross-index (*ding!*) the weapon's Damage Class (DC) and the hit location to determine how much damage we take. The tables for Low Velocity Damage and DC 2 or less are identical and also right next to each other. A bit superfluous, that...

The actual amount of damage we take from being shot is modified by our HLT. The Physical Damage (PD) of a wound is PD = 10/HLT*damage. I like to imagine that everyone has HLT 13, so you have to divide by a prime number every time you someone gets shot. Quick, what's 210 divided by 13?

When we've determined the amount of damage we actually take, we can roll to see if we get knocked unconscious. We compare the sum of all damage we've taken so far with our Knockout Value. If our damage total is over 10% of our KV, we might get knocked unconscious. If our damage total is several times higher than our KV, it's very likely that we'll get knocked unconscious. The average soldier has a KV of about 20. The maximum possible KV is 180. Rather simply, the average soldier has a 11% chance of being knocked unconscious by anything that isn't a low-velocity glance. The most badass soldier we can imagine will have a 10% chance of getting knocked unconscious by everything that isn't a low-velocity arm or leg hit. Over Penetrating Damage is even worse; the average soldier has a 99% chance of being knocked unconscious by the average pistol round unless it glances or hits an arm.



"Who says Russian roulette isn't an acceptable way to rally a broken man?" - Lieutenant Axly

Death!
The more damage we've taken, the faster we die and the longer we take to heal. Table 8A (*ding!*) helpfully tells us how small our chances of survival are. We look up the amount of damage we've taken, and that tells us a) how long until we have to roll to see if we survive, and b) what we have to roll under. This ranges from 79 hours with a 95% chance of survival (5 damage), to 11 hours with a 13% chance of survival (200 damage), to 5 minutes and a 1% chance of survival (800 damage), to 4 minutes and a 0% chance of survival (900 damage). The low probabilities are a bit hard to roll under (especially the 0% chances), so if we can get someone to apply first aid to our dying character, the time interval and survival chance will go up. Going to an Aid Station will further increase our chances, as will going to a Field Hospital or the Trauma Centre of a modern hospital. When your time is up, you roll the dice. If you fail, you die. If you succeed, you survive.

This means that when your five minutes of furious bleeding are up, you have a 1% chance of never being able to die from that wound. Presumably the bleeding just stops or something.

Table 8A goes all the way to 100,000 damage, though one might wonder why. At 100k damage, you have a 0% chance of survival after 2 seconds. First Aid can extend this to a whole twelve seconds. How your fellow soldiers are supposed to drag you to an Aid Station in less than 12 seconds is simply not explained, not is it explained how you're supposed to get from an Aid Station to a Field Hospital in less than two minutes, or what kind of helicopter service can get you from a Field Hospital to a Trauma Centre in less than ten minutes. At less than 20k damage, you could reason that a SWAT team making an insertion would have an Aid Station ready at their van, and an ambulance ready to bring wounded to the nearest Trauma Centre at the ready, but anything greater than 20k damage really falls in the category of "certain death".

Overall, I actually quite like the design idea behind this part of the system. Instead of hit points, you have a survival chance and bleed-out-time based on how badly damaged you are, and healing/survival comes down to administering first aid and rushing you to a hospital before you die from your wounds. It's a great idea, but is somewhat marred by a) coming packed in a parcel with all the other sub-par parts of PCCS, and b) just how mercilessly deadly PCCS is. Having someone get shot in the leg and having to desperately rush them to a hospital in the back of a beat-up sedan while a guy who failed medical school tries to administer first aid is great drama. Having someone bleed out and die from a chest wound before you've even got the bandage out of your pocket perhaps less so.

Table Count: 13 (+8)
80's Action Film Dialogue Count: 10 (+5)

----

The firearms handling and wound handling are the two things I really like about PCCS; at their core, they're both decent and highly realistic systems for dealing with in-fight and terminal ballistics. The problem is that PCCS consistently chooses the worst possible way to represent damage. Damage really should be measured on a log scale rather than a linear scale, since that would get rid of all the multiplication. The to-hit chances for firearms are realistic and really just require one master table and a few tables of modifiers (not exactly unusual in RPGs), but are marred by the fact they're stapled to the Stygian weirdness that is PCCS character generation. One of my homebrew projects at the time is actually a system that uses the ballistics-systems from PCCS, cleans them up, and attaches them to what will hopefully be a slightly more sensible chargen system.

...I've also written a PCCS retroclone that converts damage to a log-scale and explains the rules a little better. Because I love gun prawn. >_>

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

FMguru posted:

No, the worst are the ones that make the plot all about you and also give you points (hunted, enemy, intermittently possessed, etc.). Or maybe the ones that give you points but make you a burden to the party (I played a campaign with someone who was afraid of the dark and fainted at the sight of blood. A dungeon exploring & fighting campaign. That was some fun). Or the ones that give you points for stuff you were gonna be anyway (bloodthirsty, overconfident, etc.).

Trading flaws for points at chargen is generally horrible in every RPG that does it, because it pretty much always comes down to "get points for having to do what I was going to do anyway", "get points for not doing stuff I wasn't going to do anyway", "get points for having a plot hook attached to me", and "nobody picks this flaw because it's too severe". And, occasionally, "get points for screwing over everyone". Unless your GM is merciless (and most GMs aren't, because players get whiny when their characters die to random events), most Flaws that put you at extra risk aren't going to ever harm you. If you take a highly lethal allergy to fish, very few GMs are going to make you occasionally ingest that fish and say "Save vs. death". Besides, most players are adverse to taking flaws that actually penalise them.

A much better method is the one invented by Rebecca Borgstrom for Weapon of the Gods (which is also used in the new World of Darkness books), where you pick a flaw at chargen, and every time that flaw becomes relevant during the game, you get extra XP. If you're wheelchair-bound, you don't get any XP when you spend the entire session researching stuff in a library, but you do get extra XP when the bad guys take you out of a fight by tipping your wheelchair over.

Edit: theironjef has a much more comprehensive list

Young Freud posted:

I've done this a lot, since those training manuals give you a better idea of the capabilities of modern warfighters, especially if you're trying to replicate that in game. A lot of the qualification tests are designed to be percentage-based so it's easy to find what level of skill that a TRPG character should be. It's why Twilight 2000 kinda dimmed in my eyes because there's no way a character can actually replicate the same hit ratio needed in game.

Most GURPS characters in GURPS Special Ops would pass out from exhaustion if they tried to actually attempt qualifying for Green Beret training, because of how the Hiking rules in GURPS (don't) work.

Young Freud posted:

The other thing is that you can easily replicate the same Gaussian curve without complicated math, tables, and such by using opposed dice rolls. The percentages of success scale logarithmically depending the difference in modifiers. For instance, I'm trying to build a game off the OpenD6 system, and if you add a single die between two even die pools, the chance for success is doubled. 4D6 vs. 3D6 has a 75% chance of success, 5D6 vs. 3D6 has something like 88% chance, and 6D6 has an almost 95% chance of success. But you can use single dice or different dice and gets something similar.

Hmm. Interesting. The only problem with this is that dice-pool-systems where you add the values of the dice are objectively among the slowest dice-roll systems in common use; it simply takes time to add all the numbers up, no matter how small they are or easy the mental arithmetic is. I'll keep it in mind though - it might be a good way to trick lookup-table-adverse players into playing PCCS. :v:


Young Freud posted:

That's nothing. LEG licensed a game based off of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Yes, the Francis Ford Coppola movie where I don't think there was any guns and if there were, they're not very effective.

Look, sometimes you just want to know exactly how much damage Dracula takes if you fire at him with a helicopter minigun. :v:


Young Freud posted:

Oh, yeah. I created a Phoenix Command framework for MapTools at some point, but largely abandoned it. I took some effort because of the way MapTools reads tables, which forced me to create tables references inside tables to get the cross-referencing down. But yeah, the framework plays almost like a tactical turn-based game. You could chose a shooter, have them select a target within range, and click on them and instantly get results on how they've been wounded, if they made their knockout roll, what their physical damage was and automatically set their state to dead if they failed their Recovery Rolls. I even managed to rig it so that explosives can be spawned on the field, locate objects within range and it's line of sight, and automatically trigger a damage test them.

Very interesting. I keep tinkering with an Excel sheet that does the damage-calculations for me (helped massively by turning the damage tables into a log scale, which means I can reduce the entire Advanced Damage Tables supplement into a single table), but I've considered putting it into some online tabletop thingy for faster and more convenient resolution. The absolute main advantage, as I see it, is that grenade and bullet scatter, as well as autofire, shotguns and grenade shrapnel, can be handled quickly. When you hit someone at close range with a grenade, PCCS just assumes you'll either roll separate hit locations for each of the 260 pieces of shrapnel that hit, or that you'll roll once and have them all go in the same location. And when you hit someone with autofire, the game just assumes they're hit by an average number of bullets - it saves you a few rolls, thankfully, but it's mechanically weird that you'll never get a lucky hit with your three-round burst.

The latter problem has a piss-easy solution though, which allowed me to replace the PCCS autofire to-hit table with a more accurate one based on a Poisson-distribution. Which I did because I loves me some hardcore firearms simulation... >_>

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

I considered doing a review of World of Darkness: Gypsies, but for once in my life I should actually complete a project before starting another one...



Chapter 3: Advanced Rules

The Advanced Rules aren't actually all that advanced. All the tedious complexity of PCCS got introduced in Chapter 2, and the Advanced Rules mostly cover adding detail to the system. Sometimes, the so-called "Advanced Rules" are actually simpler than the Basic Game's rules, and more intuitive.

Stuff the Advanced Rules add:
  • A separate Range modifier to accuracy, found in a table (*ding!*), used to determine the chance to hit in another table (*ding!*)
  • Modifiers to your accuracy based on the Visibility, found in a table (*ding!*)
  • Modifiers to your accuracy based on the speed at which the target is moving, found by cross-indexing the range to the target and its speed in a table (*ding!*).
  • Modifiers to your accuracy based on the speed at which you are moving, using the same table as above, but with special exceptions.
  • Rules for ducking when under fire (these are not, as you might expect, "calculate your falling speed based on the local gravity to determine your vertical movement rate", but I wouldn't have been surprised if they were...)

Getting Shot, Part 2: Getting Shot Harder
There's also a more detailed system for hit locations (now there are 39 of them!). In the Basic Game, you did that terrible, over-complicated look-up process to determine your "Penetration Line". In the Advanced Game, you instead simply subtract the Protection Factor from the PEN(etration) of the gun to determine how deep the bullet penetrates. Conceptually, that's a lot easier for me to wrap my head around than the "Penetration Line" concept used in the Basic Game.

Of course, the Protection Factor is modified by a rolling 1d10 on a table (*ding!*) to determine the increase in effective PF from the bullet glancing off armour. It's the exact same amount of work as in the basic game, but conceptually clearer. But PCCS can't make sense for long, so no matter what you roll for glancing, the effective PF is always higher than the actual PF of the armour. Have a ballistic vest with PF 6? Even if the bullet doesn't glance, the effective PF will never just be 6; it'll be greater by a lot. This is extremely counter-intuitive, and certainly doesn't make PCCS any lighter on the brain.

For the record, I'm reviewing bitching about PCCS 3rd Edition; in PCCS 2nd ed., the glancing table actually makes sense. Why they changed it I can't say (~maybe they liked it better that way~).

The Basic Game's damage table fit on a single page; the Advanced Rules use a damage table that spans two entire pages and goes into unnecessary detail. You might have noticed that the Basic Game damage table eventually stops assigning damage and just says "Dead" - not so in the Advanced Game! There the table instead simply starts going into the low millions for damage - you might recall from Part 2 that anything above 20k is already certain death...

"Don't think of it as losing a leg. Think of it as eliminating the chance of tripping over your own two feet." - Dr. Oscar Sneiderbunk

But I digress...
Actually, there's probably a story behind that one. See, Barry Nakazono who wrote PCCS had earlier released a Fantasy RPG Heartbreaker (Sword's Path: Glory) and a modern firearms rules system called Small Arms Spectrum. While SPG would get condensed into the Phoenix Command Hand To Hand Combat System, SAS was actually less detailed than PCCS and more tedious. About half the time you look up things in tables in PCCS were done in SAS through mental arithmetic. In any case, one of the things there were rules for in SAS was how technological advance improved First Aid, which acted as a divisor to damage, getting quite significant at higher Tech Levels. In the 2030's and later, First Aid reduced damage to 17% of the original value. Damage in PCCS is proportional to the square of damage in SAS, so if you use the First Aid rules from SAS, you'd reduce the damage to about 2% - which brings 1000k damage down to 20k and into the survivable range. So somewhere in the process, it probably made sense to keep listing damage all the way to the low millions.

Still though, in Phoenix Command as a stand-alone game, it makes no sense whatsoever.

The Advanced Rules also include Shock, which is a form of "virtual" damage that is only used to determine whether you fall unconscious or not. It's not added to your damage total... but you still need to add it to your damage total when rolling to see if you fall unconscious. After multiplying through with 10/HLT.

Fully Automatic Weapons Baby!
There are now extra special rules for shooting people with automatic fire. First, you have to roll to see if you kept your gun aimed correctly height-wise. This uses it's own to-hit numbers found in a table as well as special modifiers for accuracy based on size only in the height dimension (i.e. height). The rules here are somewhat confusing; autofire is used against area targets, but your chance to hit is based on the height Accuracy Level Modifier of the target. Which means that if you aim at an elephant, it's easy to hit the mouse next to it, but if you aim the mouse, the chance is very high you'll miss the elephant... In any case, if you managed to hit the correct height, you then look at the width of your arc of fire and the rate of fire of your weapon, and refer to... *drumroll*

...another table (*ding!*) to determine what the chance is that every target in the zone you fired into gets hit. If the average chance is less than 100%, you have to roll once for every target (imagine firing at tightly clustered squad of a dozen enemy soldiers, and then rolling twelve times to see if you hit any of them - knowing that for each hit, you have to roll for hit location, glancing, and knockout). If the average chance is greater than 100%, you hit with the average number of bullets. Always. Anything but the strict average is streng verboten.

And you can still hit with more bullets than you fired.

Amusingly, the Size Modifier table has normal, height, and width modifiers, but the width modifiers are not used with the autofire rules, so it's just as easy to hit a telephone pole as it is to hit a barn door.

One thing I do quite like is that, because autofire is splint into height and width, the rules include the tendency of automatic weapons to "climb" when fired in long bursts. Each time you fire an automatic burst, you get a penalty to your height to-hit roll, so the longer you keep firing, the more difficult it is to keep the weapon aimed at the correct height.

Shotguns
Shotguns are mechanically pretty similar to normal guns with a few elements of the autofire rules. You resolve the shot normally to determine if you shot in the right direction, and then shotguns have their own little special set of numbers to determine whether you you hit anyone inside their cone of fire with the pellets or not. At short range, you always hit with lots of pellets, while at long range the pellets are far apart so a person might avoid getting hit. It still has that problem where you always hit with the strict average number of pellets, and can hit people with more people than you fired.

The shotgun rules do take width into account, so you have to refer to a table (*ding!*) to determine how the target width modifiers the pellet hit chance.

There are also rules for automatic shotguns, which are a fine logical extension of the autofire and shotgun rules. This, of course, makes them tedious as gently caress, because you have to first roll for elevation , then for each hit per target, then again for each target inside the cone of fire on each target you actually hit, then glancing rolls for each pellet that hit, then hit locations for each pellet, then knockout for each person who got shot. Fire an automatic shotgun at a dozen or so closely grouped people, and this can quickly become some well over 50 rolls for a single attack...

"Oops." - Ex-Officer Axly

Grenades - "Roll 2000 times on tables 6A and 6D and take the sum, before referring to tables 8A and 8B"

Remember when I said automatic shotguns were tedious? Try grenades. They're pretty much exactly like shotguns, but instead of firing at most 12 pellets per shot, an direct hit with a hand grenade can have up to two thousand pieces of shrapnel you have to determine hit location and glancing for. Even indirect hits can inflict several dozens hits on each target, requiring you to roll for many several hundred of pieces of shrapnel individually. (The game suggests rolling for location once and then assuming they all hit the same place, which is simple but somewhat bizarre...) And since grenades are indirect fire weapons, if you miss with a grenade, you have to use a table (*ding!*) to determine by how much you missed so you can determine where the grenade landed.

There are automatic shotguns in the game, but there are no rules for determining where missing grenades land. It's also kind of pointless to use automatic grenade launchers for autofire, because their ROF is always 1, which isn't even listed on the autofire table.

Table Count: 23 (+9)
80's Action Film Dialogue Count: 18 (+8)

All in all, the Advanced Rules have a lot of good ideas handled badly. The shotgun rules are quite smart, and the autofire rules are neat, but they're heavily let down by how badly they handle large numbers. Most RPGs can handle normal, expected situations quite well, so what determines whether a RPG fails tends to be how it handles possible but unexpected situations. For Phoenix Command, the flaws of the system become clear when shotguns and autofire (or, heavens forbid, shotgun autofire) is used on thighly grouped targets. Suddenly, people are hit by more bullets than were fired, and the game screeches to a halt as players have to resolve several dozen dice rolls and determine damage from several dozen wounds at once. And the fact that some rules are simply missing doesn't actually make things any simpler. If the system had been streamlined, with clearer rules, it would probably have less of a reputation as an "over-complicated unplayable disaster caught up its own rear end in details", and more of a reputation as a "very complicated and heavily detailed game for people into rules-heavy RPGs and minutiae".

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

kaynorr posted:

I can't speak to Phoenix Command, but I'm pretty sure both Champions and GURPS tried to become more universal versions of their antecedent genres (supers for Champions, D&D for GURPS) and hit convergent evolution.

Phoenix Command was created as a response to the perceived unrealistic RPGs of its era; PCCS (and its predecessors, Sword's Path: Glory and Small Arms Spectrum) were designed in order to avoid the major game-abstractions of D&D and its ilk. PCCS in particular was also 90% tabletop miniature wargame with some vague notes for how you could use it for roleplaying. You have to buy the Advanced Rules supplement just to get rules for handling actions that aren't fighting, for example. SPG, the Aliens RPG, and Living Steel, which are explicitly roleplaying games, have systems for handling non-combat things.

As an example of the motivation, from SPG:

Why is an arrow to the back more deadly to a young vigorous but inexperienced warrior than an aging veteran? Can a fully armored man make a 90° turn at full speed, and stop on a dime? Is it possible to mix armor? And why doesn't anyone die from concussion days after the fight is over? Patchwork systems were often installed to get around these sorts of problems, whether "Critical Hit" systems or "Strike from Behind" rules. These helped, but there were still inconsistencies. A cut artery that would be immediately fatal to one man might be little more than an inconvenience to another. For some reason "experience" causes one's blood to clot more quickly. Systems with "Hit Points" that remained constant have been introduced with some success and accuracy, but there is still that magic moment of "0 Hit Points" when the character falls over and dies, often bruised to an early and sudden death.

PCCS similarly has a blurb inviting you to put a .45 ACP pistol to your character's forehead in your favourite RPG system and pulling the trigger until your character falls unconscious, then waiting some weeks for the wound to heal by itself.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Halloween Jack posted:

Well the thing is, Metal Gear Solid is a deliberate mockery of a spy game. It calls itself "tactical espionage action" and the bosses include a guy who controls bees and a grenade-lobbing fat man on rollerskates. Kojima knows exactly what he's doing.

Each of the early Metal Gear Solid games go for slightly different tones. MGS1 is very much an 80's/90's action thriller in tone; you play a legendary badass ex-special forces guy called in to do the mission only he can do, to stop nuclear terrorists from using the latest high-tech superweapon, by infiltrating and shooting special forces terrorists. There's a geeky scientist and a sexy love interest, and lots of pathos around fighting your bother who hates you because you killed your father. The supernatural elements are largely an aspect of magical realism, and genre-appropriate, since they're a Magical Naive American and a Russian psychic.

MGS2 is a self-critical story with much of the same genre-elements (it has to be, since it tries to emulate MGS1); you, (not-so-legendary rookie) badass special forces guy Raiden is called in to do the mission only you can do, to stop anti-eco-terrorists from destroying New York, by infiltrating and shooting rogue Russian special forces terrorists. Along the way you team up with a stranded Navy SEAL and you have to deal with your relationship with your girlfriend. Then things get metafictional and weird, because Kojima wanted to make a post-modern video game. As for the supernatural elements and weird characters, they're much of what MGS1 had taken to a more extreme level; a vampire, a woman with supernatural luck, and a fat man on roller skates. While one could say that Kojima included these as self-parody, I'm more inclined to say that Kojima just don't think that a vampire is out-of-genre for an action thriller with low-key supernatural elements, nor that a mad bomber on roller skates is "silly".

MGS3 is self-parody and a loving pastiche of Bond films; the MGS "formula" is transported to the 1960's, the espionage angle is featured more heavily, and Snake and Eva's relationship is structured after the more action-y of the Bond girls, complete with ridiculous fanservice outfits and pre-credits sex. Since the formula has been transported to the 1960's, all the revolutionary high-tech weapons are suddenly things that would be high-tech in the 1960's, so everyone are in awe at Mi-24 Hinds and the Object 297's. The tone is far more goofy (see for example Para-Medic's report with Snake over food and B-movies). MGS3 is a loving parody and pastiche, but it's not really a "mockery"; everything is done in good sport and for fun.

Kojima knows exactly what he's doing in each of these games, but with the exception of MGS2's post-modern critical self-analysis of the nature of sequels and video game violence, it's never really been about mocking or laughing at its audience.

If you want to run MGS-style espionage, I'd recomment playing a super-competent character in a game where everyone aren't quite as competent as you. If you run it in GURPS, mooks have NPC-type Special Forces templates, while player characters have PC-type Special Forces templates and a ton of points and Advantages to represent how they're the best of the best. The guards may have Guns (Rifle)-13, but Solid Snake has Guns (Pistol)-18, Stealth-22, Hard To Kill 3, and Extra Attack. (Note: I have no idea what happens if you put four NPC-Green Berets with FAMAS rifles and a super-Special Ops character in an elevator and run combat. It may end horribly for Snake.)

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

FMguru posted:

I really like the nested no-win options that Wick's players are presented with. He wants to challenge you, to push you to edge of what you and your character can do - but if you respond to that challenge by trying to up your game and going back to the rulebooks and trying to get an advantage, well now you're a filthy "min-maxxer" and "rules lawyer" and rules lawyer and he has carte blanche to openly gently caress you over because, hey, munchkin. Or, as noted above, if you respond to Wick's taking every kind of character hook as a weapon to be used against you by creating a featureless mysterious loner character, well, he has ways of dealing with "roll-player not ROLE-player" types like you. And on and on. So the only way to succeed in his games is to take his crap and take it and take it and take it until he gets tired (or he senses a full table revolt is in the offing) and lets you win and hooray look at all the adversity you passed through, that's what makes a real hero who has EARNED it!

He reminds me of some of the people who produce or defend exploitation movies or comics or whatever, where the female character is luridly abused and kidnapped and raped and terrorized until the final few minutes where she turns the tables and exacts bloody vengeance on her tormentors, and then pointing to that last scene as proof that the movie was actually about the triumph of a Strong Female Character and is really a feminist piece of work.

What it reminds me of is the behavioural pattern of a bully. Anything you can do to try to solve a "problem" is ultimately wrong, because the bully just presented the "problem" as a way to lord over you through emotional abuse. That's not to say that John Wick is a bully though. He just happens to act in a very bully-like manner, and then brags to everyone about how he acted in a bully-like manner, complete with counting his victories in people he's psychologically bullied into having a miserable time.

A far better example of what Wick seems to want to accomplish was done by (I think) Ken Hite; he proposed a game where the GM sat down with the players and roleplayed out a psychotherapy session where the PC's latest actions were questioned as if they were the actions of a delusional murderer. Not "why do you think you are a vampire?", but "why was it acceptable for you to kill three guys because one of them didn't defer to your vampire authority?". Notably, Hite's proposal was one step removed from the game you actually played; it was explicitly framed a different game entirely from the one where you played murderous vampires, and there were no consequences to the player characters in the vampire-game.

All it did was to present the character's actions in a real-world context, to give the players a perspective of whom they were actually playing. Much like Violence: The Role-Playing Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed rubs your nose in the idolation of violent, psychotic criminals gamers often engage in as escapism. Unlike Wick's examples, however, there's also the knowledge that at the end of the day, you're free to go back to playing a murderous, psychotic vampire criminal and that's OK, as long as you can tell reality and fiction apart.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Young Freud posted:

I like merit/flaw systems, but I do think that flaws really need to have a statistical drawback to actually earn points for character generation. I've been working on a heartbreaker myself and I've been thinking about separating statistical flaws from storytelling/character flaws, which cost nothing during generation, but, borrowing a bit from Fate aspects, would allow the character to earn points when invoking those flaws, motivations or needs they can use to "power" other abilities, either gameplay or narrative-wise.

In the new World of Darkness (1st ed.), the optional Flaws systems works in the way that you have Flaws, they cost nothing, and they earn you XP when they significantly disadvantage you during the game. So if you're wheelchair-bound, and you spend the entire session running research plots in the library, you're considered to be playing on an equal line with the other player characters. But when the bad guys take you out before combat starts by toppling your wheelchair, you get tasty XP in return for your disadvantage.

It has the advantage of not advantaging players who get their "100% deadly allergy to this extremely rare fish", "addiction: common substance available at every corner store", or "psychological disorder: acting like a Player Character" Flaws.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Plague of Hats posted:

I also like that flaw system better than the usual, but I don't like unbalanced XP progression in the first place, especially when it contributes to what I see as bad incentives. I don't really want to play with someone who's going to not play a character in a wheelchair, the character they presumably want to play, just because they won't get special extra numbers for doing so.

You do get special extra numbers for playing a character in a wheelchair (unless your ST never puts you in a situation where being wheelchair-bound is a disadvantage, in which case sitting in a wheelchair is just flavour). That said, you're right on the topic of unbalanced XP progression; if unbalanced XP is bad, then whether you get the XP up front or when the Flaw comes into play both lead to players with Flaws ending up with more XP than their Flawless companions. (Unless the lack of Flaws lets them earn more XP through other means.)

But then, I'm increasingly arriving at the conclusion that awarding XP to players individually is a bad model in the first place, because the only reason to let it exist is to rewards players disproportionately. If what you want the system to allow is mechanical character growth, awarding XP to each character in even amounts as the entire party accomplishes tasks works just as well.

A friend noted that a problem with the nWoD model is also that it assumes that only the person with the Flaw is disadvantaged from it - but being, say, paraplegic is a flaw to the entire group when you have to carry the paraplegic to escape from a group of psycho killers. So it might be that to avoid unbalanced XP progression while allowing Flaws, you actually want the Flaw to add XP to the group's XP-pool whenever it comes up. (Or do the FATE model, where Aspects used against you don't give XP-bonuses at all, but instead let you make someone's broken leg disadvantage them more often when you fight them.)

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Plague of Hats posted:

I think you agree with me, but I think I might've worded myself poorly if you said this. My point there was that I :raise: at people who won't play characters with Flaws (or, really, certain kinds of flaws) because they won't get points for it. Like, "I really want to play Oracle from DC Comics, but if I don't get extra points for being in a wheelchair what's the point?" Which sounds straw-manny, at least to me, but holy poo poo you cannot underestimate this hobby's Bad Opinions.

At the risk of shoving a foot down my mouth, I can understand the thought behind it; you desire to play a character, but it's clearly not optimal to play that character in the system, since you're giving yourself a disadvantage[1] at no benefit while other people get to play characters with no disadvantages in the first place. Which, when you want to have fun and accomplish stuff, puts you in a disadvantageous position, for much the same reason that disparate XP rates make some players more competent than others (and competence - the ability to overcome adversity in the game - and fun are often closely related). It ties a lot into the paranoid, maximizing attitude of gamers where you people always try to mete out every single advantage they can from a system to avoid being ever put in a disadvantageous position. Being paraplegic without points in return is pretty undesirable from that perspective, just as not spending all your character-generation points would be. If you approach role-playing games as (at least in part) games where you're supposed to overcome adversity, disadvantaging yourself is pretty counter-productive. And since RPGs are group activities, your self-imposed handicap will also disadvantage the other players.

Of course, when it comes to Oracle and being paraplegic, there's an underlying cultural issue too; I've been told by people who actually read superhero comics that the backlash against Oracle the character precisely because she was paraplegic was pretty ugly and full of ugly attitudes about paraplegic people. Perhaps doubly so because physical disabilities are often singled out here; playing mute, taciturn, one-eyed, rude, overly violent, or prejudiced characters is something I believe a lot of the people who won't play paraplegics would do without point-rewards. But the moment it's a physical disability, it's suddenly too crippling.

[1] Not that it's much of a game-wise disadvantage if you're not likely to end up in situations where you need to move a lot in the first place, as is usually the case with bot-herders, astral projectors, and being everyone else's CODEC support. In that case, the "disadvantage" you've imposed on yourself is pretty theoretical, much in the same way that "I am paraplegic and I also have an exo-skeleton that helps me walk just as good as anyone else" isn't much of a disadvantage.

theironjef posted:

My second problem is with flaws that are actually merits. These are generally ones that are just spotlight purchases. Like "cursed fate" or "archnemesis" where what you're really getting free points for is a guarantee that the GM will have to dedicate special time down the line to deal with your character. Your GM, not being Wick, isn't like to kill you because you took Cursed Fate or Terrible Luck or something, so what you're getting free points for is both extra spotlight AND a flaw that your GM can't lever into without being a dick. It's win win for the common powergamer. The L5R edition we read had a great example of that with the Unlucky trait, where your GM was supposed to have you reroll one success a day. If it's an extremely important success, then your GM is going to feel like a dick. If it's a minor unimportant success, then the flaw is pointless. That's bad design.

It's what I've come to realise is a paradigm-problem, or if pop-cultural Kuhn sounds too pretentious, about "assumptions of play". If you play a strict mechanical game where an Enemy-flaw means that you have an adversary who will do everything within their power and stop at nothing to ruin your poo poo, preferably through killing you, and Enemy is a definite flaw. It means that, every once in a while, you're going to face someone with the resources to kill you who will try to do so, and run the chance of succeeding. This means that your character will statistically die/not accomplish their goals more often, and that's clearly worth points. Killing your character in a fight with their Enemy is in games like these something everyone agrees is not the Referee being a dick, but simply the way the dice fell and you accepted the risk when you took the Enemy flaw. As long as everyone are on board with it, that can be great fun.

However, a lot of people don't play like this. Even games where you can take Enemy flaws are not always made to encourage this kind of game. The Enemy doesn't actually run a significant chance of killing/disadvantaging you, and as you say they're instead just a spotlight shone on your character - clearly not a disadvantage. The problem with Enemy as a flaw arises when the system models it as one thing (a significantly increased chance of bad stuff happening to you) and rewards you accordingly (more points to survive adversity with), while the players use it as another thing (you have this NPC that you get to best from time to time) yet reward it all the same (more points to survive adversity with).

When a game-designer or Referee tries to shoehorn mechanics based on one assumption into a game run on different assumptions, things will fall apart. It would probably be better if games were written to be more up-front about how they're meant to be played. It would also be better if designers were aware of what the mechanics they put in their games encourage and support.

theironjef posted:

There have been good merit/flaw systems, I think there's even been one in our reviews at some point, though I can't remember which (BESM?). They are just a fairly delicate bit of RPG design that seems extra easy to gently caress up.

RPGs are pretty complicated to begin with, and it's pretty sad that so many (would-be) designers seem to regard them as simple and offer mechanical interactions little thought. There's a somewhat unfortunate hobby of rote-copying mechanics from one system into another, without really knowing whether it's a good idea or not. This means that you get ideas that are bad in the first place copied into later systems, and also good ideas from one system copied into different systems where they end up bad ideas.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Evil Mastermind posted:

And now Kevin Crawford (of Sine Nomine publishing) is pulling a "how dare people ATTACK HIS LIVELYHOOD?" on G+.

By analogue, it would also be attacking an author's livelyhood if a publisher refused to publish a (bad) e-book. A publisher does not have an obligation to let anyone use their storefront, and if Desborough desperately needs the money, the route of independent publishing is always open to him. It's not like he's unknown either, so he doesn't need a publisher to boost publicity among his target audience.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

I've been holding off on doing this update because I've been distracted by schoolwork and making a Phoenix Command retroclone.



Chapter 4: Game Tips and Playing Aids

This is a short chapter covering practicalities outside of the game itself, such as a rundown of features new in 3rd edition PCCS, tournament rules, and two sample scenarios. There's not too much I can say about this. I haven't had a chance to play Phoenix Command in real life, nor do I really want to. The concept and attention to detail intrigues me, but the presentation horrifies me.

Game Tips: Making tar play like syrup

The rulebook suggests delegating work such that each player handles their own character, an experienced player sits with the hit location table and rolls for effect, and the Referee refereeing the rules. It's not really objectionable in any way. If all you have is one copy of the rulebook things go faster if you don't need to shuffle it around between players, and asking players to keep track of their own character's wounds and rolling their own Save vs. KO has to the best of my knowledge been standard since Gygax invited some friends over to try his new game.

But, let's not forget that "keeping track of damage" includes multiplying through by 10/HLT every time you're hit. If you don't have a pocket calculator (this chapter doesn't suggest getting one), this means doing long division every time characters have a HLT that isn't 10. A friend of mine suggested the Referee moratorium that the only HLT values allowed should be 5 and 10.

Other suggestions is that you make a ranging stick marked with the target range modifiers, which is a pretty cool idea if you're playing on terrain-map or even on a hexmap. It does save you having to look up the range modifiers every time you shoot at something, and if you're from a miniatures wargaming background, you'd probably be used to pulling out a measuring tape every time you minis shot at the other guy's minis. PCCS is primarily a miniature wargame, so this is not unprecedented.

Lastly, it's also suggested that markers are used to keep track of visibility, since PCCS is pretty strict on what you can and can't see. Given the premise that you keep track of facing angles and visibility, this is not unreasonable either. It's not like a lot of games don't have field-of-view rules anyway, they just tend to be hard to enforce when the entire scene exists in the collective mind's eye of the players and GM, and everyone has their own ideas of exactly where they are looking. When you're playing on a tabletop with miniatures, these kind of rules become a lot more enforceable, since you know where everyone are and which direction they're facing.

Sample Scenarios: I have no idea how these play

The Bridge at Oppenheim
PCCS was first published i the 86, when Reagan had made the Cold War more pressing again by trying to measure his dick against a rather disinterested Gorbachev. One of the sample games in PCCS is of course a Cold-War-Gone-Hot scenario, where Russia has invaded West Germany. The third edition was published in 1989, which means the Warsaw Pact invasion of West Germany was either already somewhat dated, or very soon would be dated. In '86, it would probably have looked a lot more realistic, due to the near-disaster that was ABLE ARCHER. The game says it's day five of the Russian invasion of Germany, and the players are members of a "NATO squad" (who are armed only with US weapons) who've been tasked with holding a bridge near the town of Oppenheim. All in all, it's a very conventional, down-to-earth scenario about WWIII.

It's mainly an excuse to teach new players how the game works. Inexperienced Russian troops with AKM's with lovely ammo are moving through a chokepoint into an ambush set up by inexperienced US troops armed with M16's and machine guns. The players can win by either incapacitating 14 Russians on the first phase of combat, or by surviving for 60 phases. A quick look at some of the tables tell me that when shot, a Russian has a 78% chance of being knocked unconscious. There's a map provided of the location, thankfully, but the map doesn't have a scale, which is bloody annoying. Making a few estimates as to the scale of the map, it appears almost impossible for the US soldiers to miss at all, meaning it's quite possible the game will be over after that first round of eight players firing six rounds each at 14 targets; as you may recall from earlier this means that each player rolls to hit... then once for each enemy soldier to hit again... then hit locations are determined for every soldier that got hit... then all soldiers that got hit have to roll to avoid KO. A phase allows four autofire attacks, so you can repeat all this rolling four times.

Things are complicated somewhat by the terrain, but it's still a scenario where you'll have to roll a lot when the bullets start flying. Perhaps good for teaching people the mechanics, but it might also horrify them on the mechanics. If you don't kill all the Russians in the first turn, the game goes on for another 59 phases. This represents a total of 2 minutes of in-game time, and might very well take the rest of the evening to resolve... It's also a very dangerous scenario for the players; they're dug in in sandbag positions that expose only their heads to risk, but my estimate for ranges informs me that a Russian that does survive to return fire will run a very high risk of hitting a player character - which will almost certainly do some very nasty things to that US soldier's face.

As written, the scenario is also unplayable; none of the soldiers have a HLT stat, which means you can't figure out how much damage they take. As mentioned, the map has no scale, so it's unclear how far away things are from each other. The map is not very interesting, and uses an abstract map-notation that doesn't really spur the imagination, and at times is unclear.

Police Raid
It's the 80's. The other scenario is a SWAT raid on a drug ring. I estimate this one to be a bit more friendly to the players. There are 10 skilled PCs going up against six less skilled criminals. The player characters wear body armour and can pick between an assault rifle, a shotgun, and an SMG as their weapon, while the criminals are armed with either assault riles or mere pistols. There are a number of scenario rules here describing how the criminals sometimes have to run and fetch their weapons, and how some of the drug-technicians will try to flee the building or surrender. There are rules for checking whether an enemy is armed or unarmed, and rules for arresting suspects. Annoyingly, there are rules for telling armed suspects to drop their weapons... but if a suspect is carrying a weapon, they will fight instead of surrendering. That's either some high-level police procedure simulationism going on, or it's utterly pointless to tell a suspect to drop their weapon, since that just lets them get the drop on you.

If it's simulationism, you can also play the cowboy cop who endangers civilians by firing wildly through the walls to hit suspects at random. There are rules for this.

All in all, it actually looks fun to play; with overwhelming firepower focusing on surviving the harsh reality of PCCS becomes easier, and with only six enemies some of whom might not even try to fight back it'll be a lot shorter than slogging through The Bridge at Oppenheim. There's more variety in weapons available and in enemies. The map provided has a scale, though it's still not very interesting as it includes only the most relevant information; where are walls, doors, windows, and obstacles to movement.

Oh, and it's not playable, because there's still no HLT values provided, and it says to randomly distribute the enemies by dice roll, but the map doesn't tell which rolls lead to which locations. So hey, I'd kind of want to play it but literally cannot, because vital information is missing.

Table Count: 26 (+3)
80's Action Film Dialogue Count: 25 (+7)


The sample scenarios are on the surface of it somewhat dull, although they are playing right into that 80's sense of macho escapism. It could only be more 80's if instead of playing normal US soldiers you played Special Forces. However, the scenarios are let down quite a lot by the fact that they're unplayable. Leading Edge Games seems to never have done quality control on their products beyond proofreading. It's unacceptable, but I find it hard to be harsh here; it feels like one of those fantasy heartbreakers you see, only run under a completely different mindset and with ten times the amount of effort.

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 13:40 on Dec 14, 2014

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Kai Tave posted:

I think a certain degree of poeticism is fine and even better at conveying intent than something dry and utilitarian. Spirit of the Century, one of the first not-completely-obscure Fate games actually discussed this, mentioning that "Strong," for example, is a perfectly functional aspect but does little to inspire the imagination on either end of the GM screen, while "Bull In a China Shop," though more florid, speaks more to the character and how they're strong (reckless, destructive, clumsy) and provides a better springboard for creative invocations and compels.

"Bull In a China Shop" doesn't say that you're strong though; it just says that you're clumsy, possibly in an aggressive or reckless manner. You could probably convince your table that your "Bull in a China Shop"-Aspect describes your strength, but it's a pretty misleading name.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Doresh posted:

Not really sure either why some writers seem to fill their RPGs with insane ideological garbage. Guess they really want to stand out.

Bieeardo posted:

Probably the same reason why it likes to sneak into some people's novels. If you're particularly amateurish and short anyone to proof or edit, it's easy to extrapolate interpolate masturbulate from your own poorly formed opinions and fantasies because no one is questioning how you got Y from X.

To be fair, any piece of writing involving something political or historical will necessarily present a political bias in one way or another. If I were to write a moderate-position RPG where the anarchist communes all failed, and the libertarian tax-havens all sank and turned into Somalia, I'd be taking the political position that anarchism and libertarianism are bogus. Which, if you're a libertarian or anarchist, would be a position in extreme opposition. On the more moderate, when we talk of ideological garbage with a political bent, I could crack open the GURPS Basic Set and find the rule that says that torture actually works, and works better if you're brutal about it - and, if someone will lend me their copy, I can in turn crack open Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity and point to the rule that says that torture tends to produce false confessions. Eclipse Phase' superhappyfuntime collectivist anarchism, and HSD's utopian libertarianism just fall outside the norm. Instead of saying they have a "conservative bent" or a "liberal approach", we say they're filled with "ideological garbage", ignoring that the moderate position, too, is just ideological.

That said, I have never seen a libertarian utopia in fiction that wasn't full of plot holes, obvious oversights, and every problem brushed over with "that just doesn't happen". In fact, I haven't seen a libertarian utopia period. :V

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

PurpleXVI posted:

Also, since it's an Eclipse Phase ripoff, it needs some obligatory horror elements. Now, where Eclipse Phase relied on the potential annihilation of humanity at the hands(or pseudopods, possibly) of a rampant, techno-organic virus with powers that broke the laws of physics itself, HSD one-ups them by going for something way more scary. Something way more sinister. Something way more... fowl. Sorry, I meant foul. No, wait, I meant fowl because their SCARY THING is owls. loving owls. Apparently when trying to make owldudes, they hosed something up and the only one that grew to maturity loving murdered everyone in sight, scrawled something sinister on the wall and then snuck away. And of course that meant everyone gave up on making owl guys ever again.

It's, like, they're the Lost from Eclipse Phase. Only owls. And also, instead of being caused by a megacorp trying to cut profits on the child care on an understaffed project run by an arrogant scientist who doesn't understand parenting using untested technology that was also TITAN-infected two years before the setting started, it happened 300 years ago for ~reasons~ and nobody has tried to do it again-but-better.

PurpleXVI posted:

We got more horrors in store for you, though, now I give you... FIAT CURRENCY!

quote:

Currency had been a point of some fluctuation and concern ever since Earth’s fall, but a more or less stable form of measure simply referred to as “credits” had been adopted and maintained for the better part of a century. Basing a currency on nothing wasn’t a new idea, but it was always a dangerous one. By now, rampant inflation and a lack of a stabilizing force was making the Credit dangerously unstable. Add to that the proliferation of micro transactions throughout the system that attached miniscule fees to everything from walking in front of buildings to opening doors, and Vector society was looking at financial ruin in short order.

They still seem to not be catching on that a corporate-run world is usually described as a dystopia for a reason. There seems to be just enough self-awareness, at times, to accept that corporations might do awful things, but they never actually seem to wake up. Also this next bit, I'm... I'm pretty sure it's retarded, because there's no way it isn't, but I'd love it if someone could pick apart just how terribly retarded it is, because I don't even know where to start.

quote:

The solution was a deceptively simple program developed by a 17 year old ferret on a bet, and subsequently cycled through the web until it appeared under the nose of MarsCo execs, who hailed it as the monetary equivalent to a miracle. It took the form of a stand-alone system of micro-investments that bought and sold in tiny amounts, constantly. A miniature stock broker that could plot long-term growth goals in a much smaller scale, making them profitable in the short term. By linking this system to the micro-transaction section of one’s bank account, it could offset the constant drain caused by everyday living. Issuing one of these programs to every Vector at birth ensured it had a lifetime to grow, making its comparatively small profit margin substantially larger, while at the same time fueling exchange. The constant and consistent exchange lent stability to the value of the Credit, which was in turn linked to the number of people using the system. In effect, the program turned the population of the Sol system into a physical base for the value of currency, one that would (barring an extinction event) continue to grow at a steady, predictable rate. The program was dubbed “the Ledger,” and became the closest post-humanity Sol had ever come to social security. Everyone got one, and it stayed and grew with them throughout their life.

Reading that gives me a headache, and the only things I can really think are:
a) If the megacorps don't like the inflation, why do they keep printing money? That's what the fear about fiat currencies is all about; being backed by nothing, there's nothing stopping you from printing more. (Hell, not that anything stops you from printing money in a currency backed by gold, except your honest word. You just run into problems the moment people start making more withdrawals than you can back up. Likewise, the only thing stopping fiat currencies from being printed into runaway inflation is the honest word of the people doing the printing.)
b) All those investments based on projected growth rates sound like a recipe for a stock market crash.

PurpleXVI posted:

The book clearly has informed us that a few thousand individuals is not enough to continue a species, because a few thousand humans survived the war and they died out(unless the humans just plain chose not to breed and elected to die out as penance for their sins), hence the first generation, second generation, and refugee generations of Vectors have all died out or almost so(remember, only the third generation can actually interbreed despite being different types of animals). This means we've got 10000(even if we assume the third generation can gently caress everyone and knock them up, even outside their own generation, that's, what, twenty-thousand, max? Fifty-thousand if we're super generous with refugees?) individuals who have somehow managed to gently caress their way up to three billion individuals in 400 years. And a society which, on a relatively virgin planet, has managed to boom its loving infrastructure and agriculture absurdly enough to sustain them all. Captains of industry, totally believable science.

The growth rate itself is not outside human norms; to go to 3 billion from a starting population of 20,000-50,000 corresponds to a yearly growth rate of ca. 2.7-3%, which is not unprecedented in human populations. Taking mean age of childbearing among preganancy-fetishiststhe Vectors to be 25, this gives a population mean fertility rate of 3.98 - i.e. each woman has four children on average. This is perfectly within human bounds, and can be found in countries like Sudan or Ghana. I recommend looking at this chart to get an idea of what this means for Mars economically.

Whether this is feasible when you also have to terraform the planet and build all the industry from the ground up is another question, hand-wavedhandily solved by magic nanofactories.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Alien Rope Burn posted:

It's really not all that unique, just less subtle. Steve Jackson Games has always had a libertarian slant, for example, but it usually doesn't outright poison the work. Games like Eclipse Phase and Freemarket are similarly so, but once again, it doesn't poison the work. It's honestly okay to be ideological to an extent as long as you're not just writing ridiculous "my opinion wins because no reasons" nonsense.

Eh he he he he he... Autonomist Alliance and anarchism.

Halloween Jack posted:

Also, wasn't Albedo a property that had some Phoenix Command stuff done for it?

Leading Edge Games mostly made games based on movie titles, in addition to their in-house games like Phoenix Command and Living Steel. To my knowledge, they made two games for Aliens (a boardgame with an expansion, and an RPG), board game tie-ins for Terminator 2 and Army of Darkness, and RPGs for Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Lawnmower Man. Their own intellectual properties were Rhand, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thing I know very little about, and Living Steel, another post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting that ran on the same system as Phoenix Command. (The Aliens RPG ran on an even simpler system, and I've been told Bram Stoker's Dracula was even simpler than that again.)

Phoenix Command, Small Arms: Spectrum, and Sword's Path: Glory were really just systems of rules with no setting attached. PCCS and SAS were made for miniature wargaming, or for use as modular additions to other roleplaying games; run Call of Cthulhu with Phoenix Command's combat, for example. SPG was pretty much only for use with other RPG systems, in case you're the kind of person who really enjoys your character dying from a brain aneurysm two days after being hit on the head with a club in a combat you won. Leading Edge Games had promised a setting-book for SPG, but when SPG flopped it failed to materialize (just as the Middle East scenario supplement for PCCS, the Air-to-Ground supplement for PCCS, the Archery supplement for SPG, the Magic supplement for SPG, the Economics supplement for SPG...)

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Humbug Scoolbus posted:

Rhand was the planet sourcebook for Living Steel.

Rhand: Morningstar Missions was published in 1985 and was a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure game set on the world of Rhand, with a focus on melee combat. Living Steel was published in 1987, and is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure game set on the planet Rhand with a focus on gun combat, power armour, and trying to rebuild civilization. A sourcebook was later released for Living Steel named Rhand: 2349, which as you say details the planet Rhand. I guess it's less "two distinct IPs" and more like Shadowrun and Earthdawn being supposedly the same setting.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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PurpleXVI posted:

quote:

But as was the case with many human endeavors, work and labor problems didn’t arrive out of nowhere. They trickled in from earlier problems of classism and mentalities of people-as-property

...but the classism and mentalities of people-as-property is the inevitable result of the proletariat not controlling the means of production and the bourgeois being parasites on their labour! :ussr:

PurpleXVI posted:

I am literally at a loss for words. The book is now mocking itself. If anyone actually believes this poo poo is vaguely plausible, they need to be admitted to a mental institution immediately. Without a system of checks and balances, without a legal system to prevent abuse of employees, corporations are somehow more responsible, not less. And the great, wide mass of furrydom is somehow a bunch of omniscient, self-sufficient consumers that cannot be manipulated by propaganda and disinformation, or bullied by monopolies or private corporate armies. No, instead, brave citizen militias totally take care of any mean corps so only the good ones remain! No business would ever act short-sightedly! No consumer would ever act illogically!

Well, if the corporations were held accountable for their actions, then naturally they would have to be responsible. Of course, we already try to hold governments accountable for their actions, with a very mixed success rate. The idea seems to be that if you remove the government, then the corporations are no longer protected from accountability by a corrupt government (which is true - if there's no government it can't protect anyone, much like if there are no laws you can't break them), and will then be held accountable by the free market (uuuh...).

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 20:17 on Jan 12, 2015

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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grassy gnoll posted:

You can use "hc" instead of "hic" if you're a vulgate speaker reader, because nobody's invented orthography yet and the papists have been busy ruining the language for the rest of us. I'm just pretty sure "dracones" is the invention of some mapmaker who wanted to skip out early.

None of which touches on naming your transhumanist speculative-fiction RPG after a medieval scribe's version of "I don't know, just make some poo poo up."

"HC SVNT DRACONES" is the way the phrase is written on the Hunt-Lenox Globe (where it has been theorized to refer to Komodo dragons), which popularized the phrase. The meaning of the phrase is alternately claimed to be "didn't go here, make poo poo up" or "here be dangerous things". HSD probably refers to the second one, playing on how the Solar System is a dangerous place full of unknown mysteries, like the Hydra and the owls.

Or possibly because you can play a dragon. Who knows.

HSD kinda makes me want to review Nova Praxis. It's another Eclipse Phase ripoff, but instead of anarcho-capitalism it preaches the gold standard, and in place of furries it has incredible levels of pretentiousness. And actual plagiarism from GURPS Ultra Tech.

It's kind of funny how there are not one but two Eclipse Phase ripoffs, each with their own, glaring problems. EP has some issues, but seeing others try to ape it it stands out like a shining beacon of good writing. It, at least, had the decency to wait three sourcebooks before it opened the floodgates on its radical politics and utopian proselytizing. :V

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Young Freud posted:

The big surprise out of this? No Vulpines. Where's an furry thing without foxes?

Actually, this is a really funny thing... About a year back I was looking for scientific articles about the correlation between being a furry and bestiality because it had come up in a discussion about whether-and-if-so-for-what-reasons furries were annoying, and I wanted harder numbers than various people's hearsay. (For the record, my search was not conclusive.) I came across this survey, which sheds some interesting light on the fursonas of furries. In particular, the most popular animals are "hybrid", "wolf", "fox", "dog", and "big cat", and "dragon", in descending order. The most popular hybrids are "Dog/Wolf", "Fox/Wolf", "Dragon/Wolf", "Cat/Fox", "Tiger/Wolf", "Dog/Fox"... you get the picture. Most furries seem not overly concerned with exactly what kind of animal they are; 71.4% of all wolves and 68.3% of all foxes have no species specified.

Looking at this survey, (which should not be taken as definitive, etc.), it's odd that:
  • Reptiles are playable, but rodents are not. Reptiles rank 13th, while rodents rank 10th; more people want to be ratmen and mousegirls than want to be snakemen and alligator-ladies.
  • As above, but with rabbits (rank 11)
  • Minks, martens, and stoats (unplayable mustilidae) are more popular than badgers (playable mustilidae)
  • Crocodiles, chameleons, and Komodo dragons (unplayable reptiles) are more popular than iguanas (playable reptiles)
  • Ravens are the most popular bird-persona, yet not playable. The second-most popular bird-persona is owls, which are unplayable by fiat.
  • Despite what you might believe, eagles and hawks are not that popular. Penguins are more popular than eagles, and bluejays, parrots, ducks, and falcons are more popular than hawks.
  • Snow leopards are more popular than cheetahs, but not playable. Cougars are not very popular at all actually, being less popular than panthers, lynxes, and leopards (also not playable)
  • Otters are way more popular than ferrets. The Mustilidae stereotype should clearly be about them being kind of lazy people who like water, not wackiness.

Purple XVI also totally forgot to tell us just how ridiculous the bonuses you get to different proficiencies are for the various species. Most of them are just ridiculously stereotypical, like Intimidate for "scary" predators and Deception for sneaky foxes, but sometimes they have only the weakest connection to any sensible reality. (Though to be "fair", Eclipse Phase was poo poo about this too in the Player's Guide.)
  • Gecko -> Medicine
  • Iguana -> Coercion
  • Weasel -> Operate¨
  • Skunk -> Express
  • Tiger -> Inspire

Also, the most hilarious thing: one species of bird-people is "bird", distinct from hawks, eagles, and crows. So you can play bird-hawk, bird-crow, bird-hawk. or bird-bird.

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 01:00 on Jan 17, 2015

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Libertad! posted:

Sorry, can't hear you over the sound of fans :gizz:ing.

Which in turn can probably explain a lot of fetish wear in sci-fi and fantasy games.

They're usually not very subtle about it either:



Though reading what art directors say, and the general attitude a lot of people have towards working with freelance artists, apparently sometimes it has less to do with what the fans want and more to do with the artists not following directions and just drawing with one hand and expecting money in return.

Granted, once you have an entire in-game species of bunny-girls, it's probably intentional from the top down.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Cythereal posted:

In oWoD? Canonically nope, zero supernatural victims of or involvement with the Holocaust. The Shoah book was something very different, and the only time oWoD ever talked about it beyond to say "Nope, we aren't touching that with a ten-foot pole."

World of Darkness: Gypsies talks about how the Roma part of the holocaust was perpetrated because Hitler and the SS had learned about the secret of their magical blood, and wanted to experiment upon and exterminate them.

More tastefully, The Shoah: Charnel Houses Of Europe implied that both the Gangrel and Ravnos, the "traditional protectors of the Roma", were callous dicks perfectly happy with not giving a gently caress about the holocaust of the Romani, which is why so many Romani died despite how earlier books claimed they were speshul and protected by two vampire clans, a werewolf tribe, and one kind of Changeling.

I really should do a writeup of WoD: Gypsies for this thread, but a) I'm not finished with Phoenix Command, and b) it's incredibly draining to read something that offensive.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Siivola posted:

Come to think of it, many games spend basically zero time talking about how this or that enemy behaves in combat, beyond vague generalizations like "ettins pick on the weak" or "kobolds are cowards". An adventure module might lay out some guidelines, but people who prefer to make their own or roll random encounters are kind of on their own. A lot of games drop a pile of guns and bombs and voulge-guisarmes on the players and the special abilities to go with them, but I haven't really seen a whole lot of support for the GM to make really interesting tactical scenarios around those tools. Most of the stuff is just boilerplate "oh just put in some environmental gimmicks like lava or something" when you could spend pages and pages on how different monsters' abilites combo in interesting ways, how to design good battlemaps and all that sort of miniatures gamey crap. I think someone made variant monster moves for Dungeon World that followed the pattern "when X, do Y". Those were pretty cool, and I'd love to see that sort of design space explored more in games that want to include that tactical combat element.

Some of the Phoenix Command-based games had notes like "Enemy Type X will spend Y actions aiming per shot" and "when Z of their number have been incapacitated, they retreat". In games like GURPS, a lot of the hints that are valuable for players are also valuable for equivalent enemies. Tactical Shooting, as an example, spends a lot of time describing how to properly enter a room for close-quarters battle, or how to retreat properly. This is just as applicable to the enemy attacking or retreating as the players. It also had some vague notes on which maneuvers unskilled enemies were unlikely to make.

That said, how to handle playing the enemy as a referee, outside of the logistics of keeping track of them, is something that very few RPGs provide support for. Even scaling combat encounters is usually not supported by the rulebooks.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Kai Tave posted:

poo poo, I'm getting my terrible licensed RPG publishers mixed up.

Aliens as a Phoenix Command game almost, almost makes sense though.

One of Leading Edge Games' first major successes was the Aliens boardgame, where you play the retreat from the xenomorph-infested reactor at the beginning of the film using a cut-down version of Phoenix Command. Supposedly a quite fun - if extremely hard - game. The Aliens RPG is a game about playing soldiers or mercenaries who go out to colonies and fight aliens. Aside from the PCCS-derived combat system, it's a very bare-bones system that pretty much epitomizes 80's RPG design.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Babe Magnet posted:

lmao at the Omi Video Transfer

I'm reminded of a French comic strip I read once, where the author speculated about the 80/90's equivalent of steampunk (only with less "Imperialism and being rich is awesome!"), where the main character is shown to have downloaded the latest episode of Game of Thrones, via modem, from a videotex-based Netflix, onto a VHS tape he then puts into his VHS player.

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 15:40 on Apr 7, 2015

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Evil Mastermind posted:

Just to put those computers into further perspective: in 1990, 1 GB of storage would have cost around $10k.

I slightly curious as to why it seems that "nobody" who wrote about fictional future computers seemed to have heard of, or considered, just applying Moore's Law. Was is just that unknown back then?

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 16:01 on Apr 7, 2015

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Halloween Jack posted:

By the by, if you like the Madness Meters, Stolze translated them into ORE in the free Nemesis RPG (direct link to pdf). From there you can translate it into other dice pool systems if you like; people have done it for nWoD.

The Madness Meters are great. They're the best parts of WoD Morality and CoC Sanity combined into one system that's easy to build onto. It's also very possible to convert it to non-dice pool systems; the Madness rating is whatever goes for difficulty in your system, and you roll whatever you use to defend against mental thingies. (Small note: Nemesis has only four Madness Meters, rather than UA's five, and there's small differences. You can fill up your gauges with failed notches in Nemesis, while it tops out at five in UA, for example.)

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Kavak posted:

I want to hire someone to smack White Wolf's writers every time they try to put the word "menstrual" into a book.

The best way to signal trans inclusion in Vampire was obviously through letting undead trans women menstruate magical blood. How dare you try to stop them. Are you some kind of transphobe? :V

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Xelkelvos posted:

Illuminatus - Permanently gain 9-Again for a specific Politics specialty
The Stare - Same, but for Intimidation
The Naked City - 9-again on a Streetwise specialty.
Razzle Dazzle - 9-again on a Persuasion specialty.
Animal Magnetism - Same, but for Animal Ken.
Mercury's Blessing - Gain the Multilingual merit based on a language a target knows

9-again increases the number of expected successes by about 4%. Adding a single dice will usually add 33.3%. 9-agains also don't affect the probability of failing at all. These Charms are basically worthless.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Count Chocula posted:

This is pretty weird if you actually know any anarchists, or at least the holier-than-thou ones who inhabit every punk scene and vegan restaurant. Some of these guys would fail a Self check if they ate honey.

I'm guessing they're taking "anarchist" to mean "disregard for the implicit rules of society" rather than "believing that society without government is both possible and desirable" - the former being a stereotype of the latter.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Halloween Jack posted:

There are plenty of objectives in games that aren't going to be spoiled if the party takes an extra half-day. And a dungeon-focused campaign, where it doesn't matter if the party spent a month underground as long as they're well-supplied, is not some bizarre caricature. For a long time it was the way to play D&D.

D&D 1st edition was heavily based on time constraints. It was assumed that you would keep track of time passing, because the passage of time meant supplies running out and the chance of encountering wandering monsters (which were a pure threat to the party, worth little XP and no treasure). But a rest up in an astral hotel spell specifically fucks it all up. I've certainly run Shadowrun games where the mission would be hosed in 8 hours, but not so much in D&D.

Plus, I mean, God forbid somebody want to run a dungeoncrawl in Dungeons and Dragons and not have the rules crap out on them.

In terns of goal-focused design that accomplishes what it set out to do, early edition D&D is one of the best examples there are. Early edition D&D isn't necessarily what I want out of a role-playing game, but few games are as tightly designed.

It's a game about entering dungeons and stealing treasure. Stealing treasure gives you XP, which lets you level up so you can fight tougher things that guard more valuable treasure. Everything about the game is a treasure-looting-optimization problem. For example, encumbrance is one of the most integral components of loot-optimization. The more treasure you steal, the slower you move. The slower you move, the more time you spent travelling back and forth between the dungeon and a nearby city. This means more random encounters, which increases the risk of your character dying. You can also wear heavy armour, which decreases the risk from fighting monsters - but also means you can't carry as much treasure and have to fight more monsters which can end up killing you. You can hire people to kill and steal treasure for you - this lets you kill more monsters and carry more treasure, but on the other hand they have to be paid.

Every Attribute in the game is a treasure-stealing Attribute. Strength lets you fight better and carry more treasure. Dexterity, Intelligence, or Wisdom lets Fighters, Magic-Users, and Clerics fight better, so they have more time to steal treasure before they have to get back to a safe city. Constitution lets you survive longer so you can steal more treasure. Charisma lets you hire more people to kill and steal treasure for you.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

With all the text you're writing here, is there actually anything non-mechanical from the books you're not conveying?

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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Mors Rattus posted:

The biggest problem for fan projects is no editorial oversight and no quality control.

Occasionally this has also been a problem for White Wolf material.

There's a difference, in fan projects, between closed projects made by a small group of fans, and open community products made by fans. The former are largely indistinguishable from small press publications (that happen to use/borrow/steal someone else's setting and/or rules) in principle, especially with easy online publishing like DriveThruRPG. The latter are committee design projects. Moreover, they're design-by-committee where decisions are not made based on quality, or even popularity, but persistence. You can force basically anything through by wearing people down. Princess: the Hopeful basically had a schism over tone[1] and mechanics[2], which ended when one side got more and more tired of arguing[3]

[1] Things like "Should the Queen of Mirrors be an enigma who wears masks that reflect the different personalities she takes on to achiever her plans, or should she be a nerdy and lonely girl with low self esteem that you can make your waifubefriend?"
[2] "The Queens have 20 dice in basically all pools" vs. "The Queens are plot devices and don't need numbers. Insurmountable dice pools just means you can't ever challenge them."
[3] Not helped by the guy who threatened to kill himself if the rest didn't make the game fit his visions.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

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It was mentioned earlier that Varg Vikernes' MYFAROG is both hard to get and that nobody here really wants to give their money to a white supremacist on the off-chance that they could laugh at his game design. But fear not, a review finally exists: http://www.metalsucks.net/2015/08/21/advanced-discrimination-dragons-critical-look-varg-vikernes-myfarog-rpg/ so you can see for yourselves just what MYFAROG is like.

It's written entirely in Papyrus.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

The "Þ" is called a "thorn" and is pronounced like "th". It used to be part of English, but was eventually dropped. Typographers often lacked thorns in their kits, leading them to often substitute it with a "y"; this lead to many signs that would otherwise read "the" or "þe", reading "ye". For example, as in "Ye Olde Tavern", which is simply "The Old Tavern" with a "Y" replacing the "Th".

In Papyrus it looks ridiculous though, and only Icelanders and the biggest linguistic nerds use the thorn these days.

Edit: For extra hilarity, "pule" means "to gently caress" in Norwegian. So it's "Welcome to gently caress, population: growing fast!"

LatwPIAT fucked around with this message at 22:20 on Aug 21, 2015

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

gradenko_2000 posted:

And I get that no writer is ever going to really disparage their own work inside their own book, but it really sounded obnoxious to me how in both the GM section and in the introductory section Cook just goes on and on about how this system is such a better way of doing things, primarily because the target number is supposed to be based on the task itself, irrespective of the "power level" of the characters. That is, if they're trying to cross a particularly deadly bridge, you assign a certain difficulty to it, and that's supposed to be the target number of that task forever. Whereas in any other game you might "adjust the difficulty" if the players try it again 2 levels later, the players instead are going to have a better set of Skills, Assets, Pools and Edges to deal with it, so that maybe where they could only lower the bridge's difficulty from 4 to 2 before, they can reduce it from 4 to 1 now. Or they reduce it to 0 and succeed automatically!

I don't really agree with this approach though because by implication it means Monte Cook is still designing a simulationist game at heart. Of course you're supposed to adjust the difficulty of certain tasks - because you only want to focus on the things that are exciting or produce tension! If the party is making their way through an abandoned installation with a bunch of closed doors, you don't need to make them roll against opening every single door up until you get to the one that they need to open to escape the Big Bad in a hurry.

I'm rather the opposite; I like simulation in my games (the caveat to which is that I generally like the kind of simulation where the referee says "but since you have basically all the time in the world, there's no way you won't be able to open this door without consequences, so we don't need to roll"), and this is so incredibly obnoxious because... all games do this. Well, maybe not all of them, but truly, what game these days doesn't make it easier to cross the same bridge after you've levelled up your Cross Bride skill? In early editions of D&D, each class would have Cross Bridge percentage that increased with level. In 3rd edition D&D and onwards each bridge would have a static Bridge-Crossing DC, and putting ranks into Cross Bridge would increase your chance of beating it. In every edition of GURPS a bridge would be represented by a set penalty to your Cross Bridge skill; put more points into it, and the probability of successfully crossing becomes higher. Call of Cthulhu? The higher your Use Bridge skill, the more likely you are to succeed. FATE? The Bridge has a rating on the Success Ladder you need to beat; the more Attributes/Skills/Aspects/Stunts/whatever you have in bridge-crossing, the easier that gets. Either World of Darkness? Bridges have a static Difficulty rating, and the more points you have in Pretentious Bridge Crossing, the greater your chance of success is.

The most rules-light non-simulationist games there are? The Referee says "well, last time you were dirt-farmers trying to cross a difficulty bridge, but now you're legendary heroes, so there's no point in rolling."

Seriously, what horrible abomination of a game has Cook played, where putting points into your Cross Bridge skill makes all the bridges in the world proportionally more difficult to cross?

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Traveller posted:

<war rape background>

Honestly, the adverse reaction people sometimes have to any implication of rape in CthulhuTech feels a bit like an over-reaction. The issue shouldn't be that it's mentioned, but rather that it's treated so lightly and used almost exclusively for edgy shock value. Acknowledging that, sometimes, people do horrible things in times of war - especially wars of genocide - should not really be a mark against CthulhuTech.

Instead, we can hold against it that it describes all amlati children of war rape as "damaged goods".

PurpleXVI posted:

I kind of want to do a review of CTech 2, but I'm worried that their attempts at sanitizing it some will just take it from "hilariously bad" to "boringly bad."

Having looked at it, it's a generic not-very-good system. It's also almost exclusively mechanics in the preview, so there's not much opportunity for truly idiotic worldbuilding to be presented. Still, though, it betrays a bias towards contemporary US ideas of wealth. The flaw Broke 1 says that "You’re lower class and own a small residence, an old vehicle, and have little disposable income." which is a very US-centric idea of what it means to be broke; owning a car is considered pretty well of in large parts of Europe, which is not exactly a poor region on the whole. And in the densely packed arcologies of CTech, poverty should instead be measured in Oyster Cards and bicycles.

A quick summary of system weirdness that I noticed:

Character creation is done through a mix of package purchases and point-buy. Packages can increase Skills by +1. If you have multiple packages adding to the same skill, you add the bonuses. If you buy a skill with point-buy, the cost is quadratic. The net result seems to be that some builds are more point-efficient than others.

The Nazzadi get a bonus to stealth. I wonder if that's still justified with "they have black skin".

There's a pretty long skill list. 45 skills, 10 of which are field skills with freeform fields. The game still mocks you for taking Hobby 5 or Trivia 5.

It has an Advantages/Disadvantages system, with the usual problems:
  • Ally: you have an ally who has no actual mechanical effect, so Referee Fiat all the way!
  • Associate: a different kind of Ally
  • Either Hand: it's surprising how often "you can use weapons in either hand without the off-hand penalty" (and off-hand penalties) occur in games with no codified system for disabling a hand...
  • Prudent: the Referee rolls to see if they should tell you what you're about to do is really dumb.
  • Amnesia
  • Bigot: roll to avoid uttering racist comments
  • Chronic Pain: -1d to all tests for 1d5 in-game hours if you fail a test. Make sure that every game begins with 12 in-game hours of research at the local library, with Use Library rolls only every 4 hours! :D
  • Code: you have a lovely personal code. Have points for it.
  • Damaged: your character is "damaged goods", which is their disrespectful way of saying "suffers PTSD and/or trust issues".
  • Duty: you get points for playing the loving game
  • Greed: only has suggestions for how the Referee might want to actually make you roleplay it
  • High Strung: like Chronic Pain, only fluffed to be mental. Otherwise mechanically identical.
  • Ineptitude: you get points for being totally crap at a Skill. Remember that painfully long skill list? Pick something useless from it like "Artist" or whatever, and it's basically free points. You can take it multiple times, even!
  • Misfit: people treat you differently. No mechanical effect.
  • Nemesis: You get points for hogging the spotlight
  • Rival: Like Nemesis, but your rival doesn't even want to kill you
  • Shadow Walker: interesting bad things happen to your character more often than usual. No mechanical effect.
  • Skeleton: You have skeletons in the closet. I recommend taking the Level 3 version of this, which'll have you arrested or killed if anyone finds out; i.e. it instantly derails or ends the game for your character, so you can browbeat your referee into never making it have actual consequences.
  • True Blue: You're bad at lying. You get -3 to all Deception checks. Gives you the same amount of points at Ineptitude: Deception
  • Vow: make up some rule for your character, and if you break the rule, -3 to all skills for two weeks. Vows include marriage and vegetarianism.

"There are those things about people that aren’t easily explained, those things that are unusual but that also define a person. In CthulhuTech, those things are classified as Talents." - one talent is "Double Tap", which lets you double tap. This is apparently unusual and character-defining. Double-tapping a pistol.

There are White Wolf-style Stereotypes.

It still uses Poker Dice.

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LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

Halloween Jack posted:

I've decided that the cardinal sin most games commit is simply being derivative and boring. The hobby is full of cargo cult design. There are tons of D&D ripoffs, and ripoffs for pretty much any really successful game published pre-2000, but I think CthulhuTech fits a certain model of game design that is all over the place, but remains nameless when it's not being conflated with White Wolf's games.

The 90s and 00s produced many games that follow this basic model: Characters have Attributes and Skills, usually rated 1-5 or 1-6. There's a dice-based resolution system that combines an Attribute and a Skill for a total which is somehow compared to a difficulty number. The resolution mechanics can be wildly different between games, but they all tend to work with an Attribute/Skill divide and a low numerical cap. (Often it seems like the designers just wanted to have a unique resolution mechanic to make their game stand out, without playtesting or even thinking very hard about how the probabilities worked out. One of the few merits of these systems is that it's fairly easy to convert between them.) Bolted onto this uninspired but functional system, there's often poorly-considered Advantages/Disadvantages rules, a magic system, and a combat subsystem. If the designer isn't a lazy dolt, there might actually be a subsystem for other genre-appropriate things like car chases.

Most people will call this the White Wolf model, but West End arguably did it earlier, and a lot of the games I'm talking about are far afield from the World of Darkness as far as subject matter is concerned. You can lump Unisystem and LUG's ICON system into this model as well. Even today, they still come out, both as free games, self-published games, and high production value releases like CthulhuTech.

These games aren't necessarily bad, either. I like some D6 and Unisystem games,. But they tend to come bundled with a lot of unexamined assumptions, just like D&D heartbreakers. And just like fantasy heartbreakers, it seems the designers often did not even consider the possibility of doing things differently.

Skill bloat, thematic element of your character being a member of this super-secret badass group, and metaplot, is also something I associate with this - a kind of concentrated 90's game design. Though I think the system-elements have survived far longer, probably because a lot of people like the elegance of limited range of numbers for skills and attributes - which is a preference that is entirely fair to have.

Plague of Hats posted:

For the most part, no, but it looks like if you cap out your stats and wheedle enough bonuses from Ads and gear, you might make it happen. Or, if you roll poorly against a vastly weaker foe and they also roll pure poo poo, since then it's about what you both rolled instead of the absolute numbers of normal tasks.

A Success happens when you roll equal to or more than 13. A Critical Success happens when you roll equal to or more than 22. A Critical Failure happens when all your dice show 1. If the test it opposed, the rules are unclear. Though they probably mean that the Difficulty is equal to what your opponent rolled, strictly speaking the Difficulty is still 13 - but if you roll more than your opponent you win anyway.

So let's see if we can get 22 on a dice roll where all the dice show 1. Since the outcome of a roll is [Skill]d[Poker Dice]+Attribute, and all 1's is a combination of equal numbers, we want Skill+Attribute to equal 22 or greater. Can we do this?

Attributes have a maximum of 10, or 11 for Strength and Agility. Skills have a maximum rating of 5. Then we can add a Specialization for +1. Some rules indicate that we can actually have three identical Specializations for +3. Then we can get the Advantage Geek, Muse, or Jock to add another +1 to Science, Artist, or Athletics. Sultry Voice for +2 to Presence skills. Alluring gives +2 to Presence skills. Keen [Sense] adds to [sense]-based Perception and Intuition tests. Rapport can add +1 to social stuff. Some Talents also add dice to skills: +1 to Intellect for alien stuff, +2 to social skills, +1 to notice things trying to hide, +1 to seduction, +1 to Intimidation, +1 to any social test, +1 to non-Scientific/Technical Intellect skills.

Oh, and Tagers can add ridiculous levels of Attributes to characters, especially when shifted. The most powerful ones are +3/+5 Strength, +3/+3 Percention, and +2/+3 Agility or Tenacity.

We can try for Presence+Seduction with some relevant specialization, Sultry Voice, Alluring Rapport, and Sexual Magnet; 10+5+1+2+2+1+1 gets us to 22 dice. Hence, a min-maxed pornomancer can have the 12 dice necessary to Critically Fail and Critical Succeed at a skill roll at the same time.

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