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Making better humans

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Bodies Exhibition Opens In LondonOK, maybe not making better ones, but making them in better ways. As mentioned somewhere in a previous post, one thing that really got cemented in my head after the first play test was that I wanted as much of the game as is possible to work in the same way as everything else. Originally this wasn’t going to be the plan for when it came to how humans would work compared to the Automata. I wanted the Automata to be bigger, better and alien compared to the human inhabitants of the game world.

Instead I have realised that I have a different way of showing how opposed and opposite the two forces are; basically by using art and prose. The rules shouldn’t be relied upon to do this job, not when I have other tools available to me. What this means in game terms is that humans will have not only hit points like Automata, but also a Malfunction score. To show how they are different, they just have fewer.

This is how they are different in so many ways, just fewer numbers going into how many Attribute points they have, as well as skill points. Whilst they technically can’t purchase Upgrades – just imagine the mess when they’re fitted – they will have bonuses depending on who they are. As an example, the Luddites will be a bit bigger and tougher, so will be able to take an extra point of damage before they take a malfunction point, much as if they had some Armour Upgrades.

They also suffer some penalties for taking Malfunction points, much in the way of the Automaton, but because they have so few, the penalties begin sooner. Basically when they take a Malfunction point they suffer a minus two to all checks until they get the necessary medical attention. This will work in the exact same way as repairing an Automaton, including time needed to perform the check. If they take a second Malfunction point, they are considered out of the combat until they receive some pretty intensive medical care, or until they die. They lose one hit point a minute due to bleeding, and pass beyond saving once they take enough to reach a third Malfunction point.

If they take three Malfunction points at any time – without any specification that the damage dealt is non lethal – then they die from their wounds pretty much instantly. As mentioned above, when a human takes two Malfunction points they drop out of combat. They will be unconscious and as such at the mercy of any hostile individual. If a character has another in this position at their mercy, they may take a combat action to deliver a coup de grace. This requires no skill check or damage roll, and is considered enough to kill the enemy.

I see no reason why this could not also be applied to a severely damaged Automaton too, but will have to try it out before I commit to the idea. Speaking of which, I should be able to rock another play test this evening, so I’ll get to try out a few new ideas that came from the last play test, and I’ll report back with any other new tweeks that become necessary.

Thank you to everyone out there taking the time to read this blog, and if you are liking the way it’s shaping up, feel free to check out the game in its current form. If you get the chance, I’d love to see what characters you create and maybe even from you if you’ve tried out any of the rules. Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Explosives.

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One thing that was very obvious in its absence during the combat play test was the ability to lob explosives around at enemy combatants. To be fair, this was mainly because one of the characters was created as a demolitions expert and didn’t bring much else to the table, combat wise. I still need some stats for said explosives, but since I bow have a much better idea of how they work, I think I should be have them don pretty soon. In case you’ve been following the progress so far, and wondering why it’s crawling along at a snail’s pace, it’s because the few weeks have been crazy over here at Shortymonster Industries, and a lot of stuff has had to be put on the back burner. Hopefully things will start going back to normal soon, which will be a relief to very understanding chaps over at 6D6 Fireball who have to put up with doing bugger all for a month now.

For now though, here’s a copy of what I have on explosives. With a link to the full document here.

Explosives. Although explosive items have many uses outside of combat, the fact that they are every effective in dealing with the hardened cases of Automata means they saw an awful lot of use during the war, and are still used today. The most common use in combat is the grenade, and in terms of damage they work just like other weapons.

Although they are an area effect weapon, you still need to work which location on a combatant has taken the brunt of the damage; an arm thrown up to protect the face, or a leg exposed as they turn away from the flash. Any character within the area of effect takes this damage, so be careful where you throw your grenades.

Differing explosives and grenade types also have extra effects, but unless otherwise stated, consider explosives used in combat to be frag grenades, or something modified to act in same way. Incendiary grenades will also do fire damage, whilst flash-bangs will Stun for at least a round. Because they have an area of effect, they are still capable of inflicting harm if the skill check fails.

To determine where the explosive lands, use the highest die result and compare it to the following chart. A result of one is not listed and would mean that the throw was so far out as to be totally ineffective. A result of ten allows you choose your own location.

2

3

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9

5

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7

6

The lowest scoring die is used to determine how far from the target the throw was. Simply halve the result – rounding up – and this is the number of squares in the indicated direction that the projectile has gone off target. This can mean that a throw has exceeded the range of the thrower, so it might not be all bad luck. Wherever the projectile lands is the centre of its area effect, and damage is then worked out from the same dice roll used for the original skill check.

If the GM is running combat without using a squared battle mat, just remember that each inch square is roughly equivalent to five meters, and you should be able to work out everything else from there.

Outside of combat, grenades will probably be used less, with the characters preferring dynamite or shaped charges to bring down buildings, set booby traps, or just strap to an Automaton that’s not being cooperative. In these cases, a Demolitions skill check would be required to correctly shape and place the explosive charge. Damage is then worked out by adding both dice rolled for the skill check together, and then applied based on how successful the skill check was. A critical fail would mean detonation with the character at the centre of the area of effect taking damage to a vital area – such as the head – for double damage. A regular fail could mean either a mistimed fuse or bad shaping resulting in reduced damage, and as long as it doesn’t harm the character making the roll, the GM should use their best judgement.

Post play test changes.

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As you are no doubt aware, I was lucky enough to try out a few rounds of combat last week down at the weekly gaming society meeting. If you missed the news, check out the last post for details, but basically it went down pretty well. There were a few suggestions and changes though, so I’ve started working on those. To save you trawling through the 29 pages I have so far, I’ll sum them up below, but if you’re interested to see how the document is coming along, clicking this link should take you straight to it.

Initiative. I have added an optional step here for Automata, to highlight how different they are, and how much quicker they process sensory information. Basically they can choose to make a Notice check to gain some extra info about their enemies. A critical success gives away some fundamental weakness, but a Critical failure costs them an entire round of activity.

Special Attacks. One thing that came up was how nice it was that pretty much everything worked in the same way. In combat this is big deal as I don’t want to get bogged down with complicated rules. So any special attack – so far covering stun and fire damage – works just like normal, with one additional effect.

Point blank ranged attacks. This one was pretty straight forward, but just means that shooting someone at point blank is checked against the opponent’s Parry/Dodge rather than a base difficulty for range.

Thrown weapons. Just added as I forget to put them in originally, and pretty straight forward. Might need some more work as I think that the target number for this kind of attack should be against a Parry/Dodge score rather than the range difficulty. During the play test it was also noticed that I had no rules for explosives, so expect a section covering this to pop up soon.

I have also been working on some actual setting information that you can find right at the bottom of the document, at the moment covering some human factions that are active in the post war world.  Still a long way to go until that section is complete, but it has got me thinking about a reputation type mechanic that I might want to use. As you can see, still along way to go, but I hope you’re liking what you see so far.

Combat play test.

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I managed to get a small group together last night to try out a the combat basics for the system. For the most part I was massively pleased with how it went down, but I know that there’s still a lot of work to do.

The basic mechanics worked fine, with everyone able to follow them and quickly grasp how each skill check would work. A few things that I was worried about are worth addressing though. Firstly I wanted combat to feel deadly for all combatants. The weapons should do enough damage that you would not want to be hit by any of them, even if they’re in the hands of a pitiful Human. This came across quite well, especially as one of the Automata in the fight was up to eight malfunction points by the end of half a dozen combat rounds. Others were a bit luckier and didn’t get a couple of critical hits landed on them, but no one escaped without at least a hit that added a malfunction point.

This was more of tonal thing I wanted to achieve and I have to say that everyone was on board with it. I also wanted combat to be quick. I dislike combat in RPGs where each action involves multiple dice rolls between each character. The biggest compliment I got was how well combat flowed and didn’t get bogged down, but still gave the players plenty of chances to be tactical about how they used the weapons at their disposal and the Upgrades they had taken. There was a long discussion about how the Upgrades system could be changed with how Malfunction points are applied. It was one of those moments which was great as a games designer, but looking back on it, the idea that was knocked around was a little too open to abuse without too much thought. So for now, I’ll be sticking with the system already in place until I can think of a way to bring in the new idea in a way that’s balanced and not broken.

The biggest thing that I’ve taken from the play test is how much I want pretty all skill checks and dice rolls to work in the same way so that knowing the basic system is enough for pretty much everything. The system as stands is definitely simple and easy to pick up though.

After running a PVP combat between two groups of two Automata, I had an extra player rock up to the table so I thought I’d try something out. Without telling her anything about the system, I asked the players who had helped me out so far to tell her the rules. She picked everything up quickly and had no problem with making the correct rolls and applying the correct modifiers with no help from me. The only help she needed in fact was to do with automatic weapons which no one had used up until then. This did highlight that I needed to do a bit more work to make this flow easier. It was the only clunky bit of ranged combat, and I think I can do better.

So, all in all I’m calling this first attempt at playing the system a success, and I will hopefully be doing it again after I put a few revisions in based on things that the players wanted to do that I hadn’t thought to create rules for. Finally, I would like to go on record and say that the best people to play test games with are people who have made their own games. So huge thank you to Fifty, and if you want to take a look at the kick ass game that he’s been working on as and when it gets released, you should check out the Facebook page for it.

A re-roll mechanic

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This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like the idea of them for the simple reason that it gives the players one chance to avoid a pointless death due to a bad roll. It might not work, but at least they had an extra chance. A lot of the games I like have such a mechanic; Savage Worlds has Bennies that have multiple uses – including a re-roll – which limits how often they can be used during a game. This is something important, as being able to re-roll as and when one chooses is obviously a bad idea.

In Unhallowed Metropolis you have a set number of re-rolls, depending on just how corrupted you are, with the option – once per session – for an extra re-roll, but at the cost of falling further into corruption. This idea appeals more than handing out tokens, and the Malfunction mechanic is a great way of showing how close the Automaton is to final destruction. With that thought in mind, everything else came together pretty easily. All the rules so far can be found behind this link, but below is everything you need to know about Over clocking.

Over clocking

Since there is always a chance for something to go wrong, the Automata are programmed to respond quickly, sometimes allowing for an improved result. This is called Over clocking, and in game terms allows a player to re-roll a skill check that has failed, even if it critically failed. It is only skill checks that may be re-rolled in this manner, and each check may only be re-rolled once as a result of Over clocking.

In simple terms, the Automaton’s processor anticipates that a mistake is about to happen, and massively speeds up all of its on board systems to try and reduce or negate the upcoming calamity. This is not without risk as it pushes the Automaton’s systems past safe operating levels. Doing this instantly adds one point to your character’s Malfunction score. There is no limit to how often this may be done during a game session, but as mentioned above it can only be done once per skill check. Raising the Malfunction score of an Automaton should only be done when absolutely necessary though, as the higher the score, the more likely it is that a critical roll will be a failure, and the closer they come to shut down. As mentioned elsewhere, for every Malfunction level above four, the Automaton suffers a cumulative minus one penalty to all skill checks.

Filling in some character sheets.

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After spending a couple of hours going through the process not so long ago – and having an extra sent courtesy of friendly internet chap – I decided to use the character sheet that I made last week. I have already spotted a couple of upgrades that I need to make on the sheet so that things have a proper place, but I’m overall quite happy with how this process is going.

After changing a few bits of character creation after some feedback from the test I did, I have needed to update and modify and a few bits from the characters that my mates made. This has actually turned out pretty good though and I’ve ended up with a set of characters that are a bit closer to what I had in mind than I had after they were first made. If you want to take a shot and let me know how it went, then everything you need to know is through this link.

The rules are still very much a work in progress, and probably will be for quite some time. If you’re having trouble making sense of what I’m putting out, please take the time to let me know what it is specifically that you’re struggling with. Every bit of feedback means I’ve got a better chance of making a game that people will want to play, and that’s the whole point of this exercise. Be warned though, I will engage with you about feedback, and thoroughly look forward to a brisk and lively debate. I won’t automatically change things because someone might not like it, but I am always open to having my mind changed, just don’t be afraid to try and change it by arguing with me.

Character sheet.

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A few people have asked, so here we have it. It is the definition of a basic character sheet, as I have done the entire thing in OpenOffice, so please be gentle with me. I have a few leads with some people who will hopefully be able to do a much better job than this, but for now it does everything that it needs to do.

There will be a reverse side to the sheet, with plenty of space for weapons and other equipment, but since I’m still working on the weapons for a combat play test, I figured it would be best waiting until I had everything sorted.

If anyone is interested in taking a shot at character creation with the shiny(ish) sheet, then the following link will take you where you need to go for all of the rules covering character creation.

EDIT: Tidied the sheet up a bit, added a couple of bits I had forgotten, and managed to sneak some weapon bits on the bottom. I think the final product may still go over to two sheets though, as I have some thoughts on reputation that might need to be put on a character sheet.

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