RPG Brainstorming Blog
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Death Curse
I was thinking about the old Children of the Worm Call of Cthulhu game I ran. Here's a spell that I would probably include if I ran it again.

Death Curse (1 POW, 1+ MP, 1d6 San, takes 1 hour plus the casting time of the spells to be released)
This enchantment binds up a death curse in the core of the caster's physical being. The "curse" doesn't actually have to be harmful; the actual effect is that there's a spell waiting to be cast as soon as you die. The MP cost of the spell must be paid when the enchantment is created, but any POW cost can be paid when you die. If you die without sufficient POW to pull off the spell, of course, it will fail and your efforts will have been wasted.

The curse can be targetted in several different ways. The traditional one is to target whoever killed you. It could also target a random person nearby. Another (particularly popular when the curse is an area-of-effect spell) is to target yourself, so that your body is hit by the spell. The last is to target whoever you specify with your dying breath... but if you weren't conscious when you died, the spell will be wasted.

The spell is only released by the caster's actual death. There is a brief glow that burns its way out through their ribcage, then the spell goes off. Depending on the nature of the magic released, the mage's body may or may not be recognizable afterwards. A death curse may consist of multiple spells as well, but you have to pay the total cost for them all or they all fail. It's possible to have multiple death curses prepared as well, but the only real advantage to this is being able to specify different ways in which the curses are targetted. Because the curse is bound up in the core of the caster's being, it cannot be dispelled so long as they live.

Mages tend to be extremely secretive about the nature of their death curse and it's considered very rude to ask someone about it. If you know how it will be targetted, it's much easier to defeat it or arrange for some minion to take the fall.

It's a cute spell and its primary effect is to make killing wizards more dangerous. It would be more appropriate for a political game, where the mages tend to solve their problems by direct interaction, not combat, since it seriously discourages magical duels. Who wants to fight someone when their death might release a 15+ POW enchantment all at once?
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Amber Nobilis - Part V
A few more thoughts occured to me today.

Friday, April 02, 2004
Amber Nobilis - Part IV
Yeah, Endurance should almost certainly add +2 or allow you to spend 2 points at once. That way, expending tokens can change a barely-losing fight to a barely-winning one. In Nobilis, Miracle Points cost 1/3 as much as a stat but are restricted to only benefiting that stat.

I'd still need some better rules for handling injuries (reducing your Maximum Endurance rating) and probably some better guidelines for magic items. Oh, and a spell-crafting system... something pretty simple. I wonder if spell-casting should suck up Endurance? Only if I double the number of Endurance points you get...

How about "Once you've cast as many points of spells as your current Endurance, you lose 1 Endurance token." That way, someone with a high Endurance could throw a lot of magic around. Dunno. It could also be Psyche based.

Spells will probably be classified through some sort of Everway like power-creation system.

Basically, you'll rate the power as 0 (not particularly), 1 (yes) or 2 (yes, extremely so) in several categories:I could probably even add some Amber-specific questions like "Does it call upon a primal power? Primal powers tend to win out in conflicts with more mundane powers."

Hm. This is a nice system and might merit changing the point cost system to allow more points to spread around.

In Nobilis, every stat point costs 3 character points, letting the minimum cost of a magical power be as low as 1 point.

Let's see... Using Versatile, Powerful, Frequent and Primal as my values...

Basic Pattern (3): Versatile, Frequent and Primal. Not that powerful, really, because Shadow-travel just isn't regarded as a major power in Amber. It would cost more in a setting where most PCs couldn't do it.

Basic Logrus (4): Versatile, Frequent, Powerful and Primal. Logrus lets you do most of the things that Pattern does, but can also be used for Telekinesis.

Basic Shapeshifting (2): Versatile, Frequent. Lets you change the basics of your form, but not your mass. You also get a primal form, but may not know what it is or be able to control it.

Advanced Pattern (5): Versatile, Frequent, Powerful, Very Primal. Allows you to not only protect yourself from magical assault, it can nullify the powers of others and change shadows in dramatic ways like altering the flow of time.

Advanced Logrus (6): Versatile, Frequent, Very Powerful, Very Primal. As regular Logrus, but you can also unleash Primal Chaos when necessary.

Advanced Shapeshifting (4): Very Versatile, Frequent, Powerful. Lets you change your mass to a certain degree and can actually assume forms like a ball of fire or other magical forms.

Basic Sorcery (2): Versatile, Frequent. Allows you to craft powerful effects, but only after substantial preparation, which keeps the cost down. If you've used up all of your prepared spells, it's useless. Teleporting to a specific shadow is very draining and costs as much Endurance to cast as it cost to create the spell.

Advanced Sorcery (3): Versatile, Frequent, Primal. Your spells can now include the primal trait, which makes them more difficult to dispel and allows them to affect primal things that are immune to regular sorcery.

Shadowalk (1): Frequent. You can travel in shadow via force of will, but you can't make small adjustments like Pattern can.

At this level, I could see stats costing 2 points per level. That way, you can basically swap 1 stat point for Shapeshifting and Shapeshifting remains cheaper than powers like Pattern and Logrus. Endurance could cost 1 per level, then allow you to spend up to 2 points on a single action.

To create spells, you use the power system above to design them, then spend that many points of Endurance to craft them. It's time consuming (1 hr per point) and draining. Once they're made, you can keep your Psyche in spells prepared at once... keeping more than that ready at once reduces your Maximum Endurance. Basically, spells decay rapidly unless tended to, especially if you cross shadows with them... it's a simple way to prevent PCs from building up a library of hundreds of pre-prepared spells.

Forgot Trump...

Trump Creation (2): Frequent, Powerful. It's not considered a primal ability here, so powers like Pattern and Logrus can beat it if there's some sort of contest. Advanced primal powers can actually spy on or interfere with it. It's not versatile, because really, all you can do is draw Trumps of people or places. You'll probably have to blow Endurance to do it rapidly... yeah, in the books Random once whips out a Trump in a few minutes instead of the hours or days that are implied elsewhere, but I'd probably call that Advanced Trump Creation and charge an extra point or two.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Amber Nobilis - Part III
Artifacts are major gizmos like Ghostwheel or Greyswandir. They tend to be linked to you in a literary if not literal fashion, and the GM should never alter them in a major or permanent way without your permission.

Major Weapon: whenever you are fighting with it, you don't have to spend an Endurance to cut the difference in half. It will sometimes grant you a +1 or +2 Warfare bonus, but generally only under specific circumstances... for example, Greyswandir might grant +1 versus chaos demons, due to having the Pattern in its blade.

Item Ally: this gizmo stays with you at all times and will fight on your behalf if desired. Its stats should be about 50% of the points that PCs in the game get.

Early Warning: this gizmo senses danger and watches out for you at all times. It can awaken you instantly if need be and its magical senses are extremely difficult to bypass. +4 Psyche for determining how hard you are to ambush.

Plot Device: this gizmo is plugged into the fundamental aspects of reality and can often produce effects that astound even Amberites. Ghost Wheel is a good example... it thinks, talks and can open portals at will throughout most of the multiverse, searching through shadows with computer-like precision until it finds one that matches the desired parameters. Gizmos of this type are very prone to becoming self-aware, breaking down temporarily when you need them most, or otherwise failing you.

Silver Arm: this gizmo replaces one of your arms and it's even better than the original. It can fight when you're paralyzed, act on its own, and otherwise is basically an Item Ally that's permanently attached to you.
Amber Nobilis - Part II
Every point spent on a Motive gives you 2 motive tokens... these can be spent like Endurance tokens, but only when your motive applies. For example, if Corwin put 2 points into "Hatred of Eric", he'd get 4 motive tokens that could only be spent when doing stuff that hurt or humiliated Eric.

Weaknesses are major mental foibles that leave your character vulnerable at times. They generally cost -1 points. If you try to go against them, they reduce your Strength, Warfare and Psyche by 1 and you have to spend twice as many tokens as normal to affect any contests. The duration of this is pretty much indefinite... it lasts until you do something to get back into line with your weakness or buy it off.

Example weaknesses:
Amber Nobilis
Reading about the new edition of Amber that's coming out made me think about trying to combine these two systems again. Nobilis is a diceless resource-allocation system that has more of a set system and requires less GM interpretation than Amber does.

Let me brainstorm...

We'll have the traditional stats of Strength, Warfare, and Psyche. There could well be room for another one called Intrigue or something similar, that covers your ability to lie, cover your tracks and recruit spies, but let's leave that off for now.

Endurance undergoes a major change, though... It's no longer a normal stat like the others. Instead, your Endurance rating is how many Endurance tokens your character gets when they're fully healed and well-rested.

In any contest of Strength, Warfare or Psyche, you can expend an Endurance token to increase your effective rank by +1 for a reasonable time period (generally one fight, one task, etc.). If you lose a contest, you can expend a token to reduce the amount that you lost by to 1/2 of what it normally would be. This is important:

Tie: it's a stalemate. Unless someone expends Endurance or comes up with a new strategy, this can continue indefinitely.

Losing by 1: you're losing, but just barely. You can still pull off a minor victory, such as seriously wounding your opponent, but you'll lose in the end. You are good enough to break away and escape if you choose... you just can't beat them directly.

Losing by 2: you're losing, but not decisively. You may be able to pull off a moral victory of some sort by wounding your foe or making them work for it, but you'll lose (and quite rapidly at that).

Losing by 3: decisively defeated. The best you can manage is to delay the inevitable briefly. If you don't have a well-prepared escape method right at hand, you won't even be able to break and run for it successfully.

Losing by 4+: totally outclassed; your foe defeats you as rapidly and totally as they care to. If they choose to, they can make your defeat slow and humiliating or stunningly swift.

Serious injuries (caused by being defeated) can reduce your Maximum Endurance until you heal. If your Endurance is reduced to negative the amount it started at, you'll die. Otherwise, you'll just be crippled.

The stat scale is something like:All of the stats cost the same amount initially. Thus, the central advantage of Endurance is being able to boost any of your other stats by +1 once per point, instead of having to spend 3 points to increase them all. And, of course, it helps you to survive injuries.

Most powers cost only 1 point. The powers are:

Pattern (1), Advanced Pattern (2), Logrus (1), Advanced Logrus (2), Shapeshifting (1), Advanced Shapeshifting (2), Sorcery (1), Advanced Sorcery (2). There are also Major Artifact (1) and Construct/Conjure Artifact (2).

Construct Artifact allows you to design artifacts and build your own. You can spend time and Endurance to create artifacts. This is time consuming and exhausting, but you can do it. If you maintain more than 1 at once, though, things get dangerous. Powerful items/places have a tendency to cause trouble when neglected, such as manifesting sentience ("Why did you make me, father?"), getting stolen, breaking down, or being manipulated by other schemers. Basically, any artifact you make after the first one will lose the "genre protection" that keeps the GM from messing with it. The more you make, well... the more likely you are to see problems.

Conjure Artifact is a weirder power. This enables you to "borrow" an artifact that doesn't exist (or doesn't exist yet) temporarily, like Benedict's arm. It can only be done in a very fragile shadow (on the periphery, where the shadows go mad) or a primary realm of some sort. It's fast, though... you can often acquire the item in a just an hour. How much Endurance you spend will determine the maximum duration that the thing sticks around; after that, it will vanish again, even if a ghost has to cut it off of you.

Endurance might have to grant a +2 to your stat or else be cheaper than the others. Not sure yet. The victory levels may also need adjustment. I think a really exceptional human should be able to beat a normal human decisively.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
The Window
I was thinking this morning about a slightly different die system, one based more on The Window. The basic idea in that system (probably the first game I ever saw that used dice for stats) was to roll as low as possible... thus, a d4 was a fabulously good stat, while a d30 was abyssmally pathetic.

I could see using a scale like this, from bad to good:

3d12 (take worst), 2d12 (take worst), d12, d10, d8, d6, d4, 2d4 (take best), 3d4 (take best), etc.

A natural 1 would be a critical success. A roll of 2-4 would be a success.
Friday, February 13, 2004
More Cinematics
Another cute bit for wild-and-crazy cinematic fight scenes is something I got from Waiwode on RPG.net.

You can't use the really bad-ass maneuvers when combat first starts. You have to work up to them. So the system has to encourage you to spend some time "powering up" and it should be possible to power up while doing lower-powered actions, it's just not as fast as if you're just standing there.

Basically, this way you can't start the fight with your super-cool finishing move just because it does the most damage. You have to save it for further in.

A possible addition- succeeding in a consciousness check powers you up a few steps for free. This way, getting beaten up boosts your power, too. That fits a lot of cinematic action movies, where the hero gets their butt kicked for awhile, then suddenly turns the tables on their foe despite being seriously wounded.
Sunday, February 08, 2004
Rune Magic
Hm. Found an interesting homebrew called Legends of Glory. Spawned a few thoughts about Nuclear Beasts but also Age of Powers and magic in general.

The rune-magic system described was pretty general, and basically worked by combining runes (all of which had minor effects on their own) together to make more difficult spells. A fireball was basically a Fire rune (to make flame and do damage), a Burst rune (to make it area of effect) and a Gust rune (to make it fly away from you before blowing up).

Each rune had its own difficulty rating and these would all be summed up in order to determine the difficulty of the spell.

In my game, I could easily assign a few dice to each rune, meaning that if you combined Fire (d6), Burst (d10) and Gust (d8) together, you'd roll d10,d8,d6 for the difficulty. That would be a bit more powerful than in his game; after all, if you can beat a 10, you can cast it no matter how many extra d8 runes get added.

Dunno. Might be worth thinking about, though... I've toyed with the idea of a very freeform, "combine at will" magic system for a long time, but have never come up with one that I really liked.

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