What Damage Means

What Damage Means: An Idea From Kamui That Can Be Applied To Any Game

We’re all familiar with unexpected PC death. You would have had enough HP to survive the monster’s tail swipe, but then it criticaled, knocking you into a spike pit trap and breaking all but one of the seventeen acid flasks you were carrying. So there you sit, watching your carefully crafted alchemist drown-burning in a pool of failure and stab wounds. You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, but c’mon, that prophecy was just saying that you were the one to save the kingdom from inevitable doom! Where’s the heroics here? How will I avenge my family/hometown/pet turtle now?

Some will say that it’s the DM’s job to prevent this sort of thing from happening, but that only serves to diminish the excitement by removing the danger of death. However, is it really the danger of death that gives the adventure that edge?

Let’s use the video game Prey for a brief example. In Prey, whenever you would be killed, you are transported to a spirit realm where you hunt spirits and regain your strength to return to the land of the living. You are literally unable to be killed. This differs from the arcade game style “lives” system where when you die, you lose a life and begin at the start of the level. The reason it’s different is that “lives” present a sense of failure by reducing the amount of remaining chances you have to succeed, unlike Prey, which presents no penalty for failure at all.

So that’s mainly what HP and its ilk do for your character: present a way for you to determine if you fail or succeed during combat, at least in a personal level. Death is the penalty for failure. However, why don’t we try keeping a failure state without it implying death?

Heroic Perseverance and Flaws

Characters are meant to grow over time, hence leveling systems and storyline development. However, in most stories, heroes fail at some point, or at least suffer huge setbacks. It’s how most traditional stories work: the Three-Act structure. Act 1 sets the stage, Act 2 puts the hero in a seemingly unwinnable situation, Act 3 sees the hero win (usually).

So here’s a basic proposition. Instead of death, why not have your character fall unconscious temporarily and also suffer some sort of permanent mental or physical disadvantage when their HP becomes zero? This allows your character to keep living, but forces them to live with the consequences of their failure. This also prompts some character growth, not in terms of levels and powers, but in roleplaying terms.

My poor alchemist above could have potentially escaped this situation, but not without problems. Perhaps he now has a significant fear of acid, and needs to change class. Perhaps the acid took his eyesight. Maybe he also gains a vengeful hatred of those tail-swiping monsters, and vows to destroy each one he comes across. Maybe he is saved by some sort of deity, and now must obey the deity’s commands or lose the new gift of life he was granted.

It also lends curiosity to NPCs and PCs with these disadvantages, since now most people will wonder how those flaws were acquired, giving a touch of flavor to your characters. Also, recurring villains are now much more plausible, since you can give them the same power of tenacity that the PCs have. After all, ever since the PCs melted his face with holy light, his vengeance may be the only thing keeping him alive. Just make sure he stays dead when the time is right, and make sure the wounds the PCs inflict on your villain are significant and memorable.

Death Isn’t All Bad

Sometimes, though, PCs need to die. Whether by heroic sacrifice, plot convenience, or sheer stupidity, death needs to happen to continue making the story work. Either give the player the option of choosing death or flaws, thereby putting his PC’s life in his hands instead of yours, or simply let the players know that when you say that someone dies for good, they die for good. Being transparent with your players on their character’s death is the best option, as they now can choose what they want that to mean, and often times their idea for a death that makes sense to their story can be more dramatic and insightful when done on their own terms.

Finally, death is like an arcade game’s “game over” screen. It provides closure. It’s an end state. At the very least, it is a cue to make a new adventure with fresh characters. After all, who knows what will happen next time? Just make sure to avoid those acid flasks.

Categories: Uncategorized

Skill Trees

Here’s an example of a Skill Tree I’m working on for the Blades skill, just to show you that I do actually work on my game. The formatting will be terrible, so bear with it. All techniques within the tree have been developed yesterday, so there’s been absolutely no balancing, testing, or even editing.

Blades Skill Tree

==Tier 1 Techs==

Name: Feint
Tier: Blades 1
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI
Effect: Instead of inflicting damage, your target loses AP equal to your roll’s margin of success.

Name: Draw Cut
Tier: Blades 1
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI
Effect: You may simultaneously draw your weapon and attack.

Name: Backstab
Tier: Blades 1
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI
Effect: If you are flanking your target, damage increases by 1 stage for this attack only.

==Tier 2 Techs==

Name: Engarde
Tier: Blades 2
Type: Passive Support
Effect: When using your Blades skill to defend, you may move 1 hex away from the attacker after the

attack is made.

Name: Essence Slash
Tier: Blades 2
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI
Effect: This attack costs +1 AP and adds a Progression Effect.
Progression: Increase damage by 1 stage.

Name: Puncture
Tier: Blades 2
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI-1
Effect: Adds a Progression Effect.
Progression: Inflicts an additional Light wound.

==Tier 3 Techs==

Name: Stinger Lunge
Tier: Blades 3
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI
Effect: Move forward 1 hex and attack simultaneously.

Name: Helmsplitter
Tier: Blades 3
Type: Active Attack
Stat: STR-2
Effect: Increase damage by 1 stage.
Progression: Finisher.

Name: Nerve Cut
Tier: Blades 3
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI-3
Effect: In addition to the normal damage, target is forced to either drop a weapon or fall prone.

==Tier 4 Techs==

Name: Parry-Riposte
Tier: Blades 4
Type: Reactive Defense
Stat: AGI
Trigger: When you are attacked.
Effect: If the defense is successful, make a basic attack. This follow-up attack uses no AP.

Name: Tsubame Gaeshi
Tier: Blades 4
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI-3
Effect: If the attack is successful, make an additional basic attack. This follow-up attack uses no AP.

Name: Throatslitter
Tier: Blades 4
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI
Effect: If target is prone, paralyzed, asleep, or otherwise unable to defend, increase damage by 2

stages and ignore armor.
Progression: Finisher.

==Tier 5 Techs==

Name: At Weapon’s Point
Tier: Blades 5
Type: Reactive Attack
Stat: AGI
Trigger: When the target attempts to move out of your weapon’s range.
Effect: If the attack succeeds, the target’s move is unsuccessful.

Name: Spiraling Slash
Tier: Blades 5
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI
Effect: Adds a Progression Effect.
Progression: All other Effects in the Progression are increased by 1.

Name: Insane Bloodletting
Tier: Blades 5
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI-2
Effect: This attack costs -1 AP.

==Tier 6 Techs==

Name: Effortless Parry
Tier: Blades 6
Type: Reactive Defense
Stat: AGI+3
Trigger: When you are attacked.
Effect: Attack is canceled. This defense costs -1 AP.

Name: Spellbreaker
Tier: Blades 6
Type: Reactive Defense
Stat: AGI-4
Trigger: When you are attacked by a projectile spell.
Effect: If the defense is successful, the spell is canceled and your next attack will inflict the

canceled spell’s effects in addition to the attack’s other effects.

Name: Assassin’s Blade
Tier: Blades 6
Type: Passive Support
Effect: When you attack an unaware target, damage is increased by 1 stage.

==Tier 7 Techs==

Name: Pierce Through
Tier: Blades 7
Type: Active Attack
Stat: AGI
Effect: If this attack is successful, you may also inflict the attack’s damage on a target behind the

first.

Name: Impending Ruin
Tier: Blades 7
Type: Active Attack
Stat: STR
Effect: Target’s position changes to Aerial. Adds a Progression Effect.
Progression: If any target in the Finisher is Aerial, the Finisher costs -3 AP.

Obviously, the tree is incomplete, since there will be 10 levels of Techs for each skill. However, I hope you have an idea of what I’m trying to achieve here.

Combat playtests are still upcoming, provided I can get more Skill Trees to an acceptable level in time. That is literally the only thing hindering progress right now.

Also, expect updates now every Tuesday or Wednesday. Next week, I’ll be on vacation, but the week after I’ll be back at it. I just figure if I’m going to update this thing, I should make it regular. Keeps me on track, too.

Until next time.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Kamui combat playtests upcoming

Hey everyone. The site’s been dormant, but I have not. I’m going to be running some combat playtests soon, and while I’m intending on running them solo, if anyone would like to participate in any fashion, please feel free to let me know. The reason they’re not full playtests is because I don’t have many techniques created in detail that aren’t combat related. One step at a time, right?

What I’m looking for when conducting these tests are:
1. How quickly do characters go down?
2. How much of a difference do high skill/attribute levels make?
3. How well do techniques mesh in combat?
4. Will 20 Action Points suffice for a round of attacks, movements, and defenses?
5. How fast does combat feel?
6. Is the new skill check mechanic superior to the old one?
7. Is armor overpowered when layered? (Example: I have a current character who layers a Psi-Static Aura over a Line Shield over a Yuacite-Weave Plate Carrier with Lodestone inserts.)

Anything else will be posted in the updates later next week.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Aggravated Beer Damage

Aggravated Beer Damage is now available for beta review. Check it out above by the “About” page. The “Aggravated Beer Damage” page is to the right of it, and the download link is there. And here, for good measure. Please read and review!

-Kyle

 

EDIT: The game is now updated. Everything is in place except the Monsters’ Special Abilities and some Tactics’ Special Effects. Thanks for taking a look, and enjoy! Here’s the new link: Aggravated Beer Damage

Categories: Uncategorized

Kamui revision overview

It’s been a good deal of time since the last update, and I have not been dormant. Kamui went through a significant overhaul, and I am pleased with the results. Here’s a brief overview of what Kamui is now.

 

The Goal
Kamui is now a game meant to be played as a TV show or anime. The framework is that while you play your character as though it were a standard RPG, you as a player can alter the way the story moves along by spending Kamui to get narrative control of a scene or make your own scenes. Every session is an Episode, with each story arc comprising a Season. During the Episode, there are Opening Scenes where the premise of the Episode is laid out, then Main Scenes take place during the Episode, which is where the bulk of play occurs. Finally, Closing Scenes set the tone for the next Episode. It all ultimately takes place in a strange area between Actor Stance and Director Stance.

 

Conflict Resolution

Since I wanted to remove the emphasis on combat that so many RPGs have, I decided to have two different styles of conflict resolution: Simple and Dramatic. Simple resolution is pretty basic. You roll a skill check or something else that is equally appropriate, and the outcome determines what happens. Dramatic resolution is much like tactical combat in any game, with a prolonged encounter spanning many decisions, skill checks, and outcomes. Both resolution types may apply to any scene in the game, regardless of what the content is. So, if we were playing a game with emphasis on political maneuvering and social battles of will, we could use Dramatic resolution for those things, with great “battles” being waged on diplomatic and social fields. We could then say that combat isn’t really our thing, so Simple resolution would do just fine there, because we don’t want to place a great deal of emphasis on it unless it really calls for it. So, actual fighting is resolved in a matter of seconds.

 

Stats

The nine Stats have been pared down to six. They are now:

Strength (STR): Your character’s physical intensity. It governs physical damage and any physically forceful application of a skill.

Agility (AGI): Your character’s physical alacrity. It governs accuracy with most weapons and any physically dextrous application of a skill.

Endurance (END): Your character’s physical capacity. It governs how many physical wounds you may take and resistances to status effects.

Intelligence (INT): Your character’s mental intensity. It governs mental/social damage and any deep thinking applications of skills.

Reflex (REF): Your character’s mental alacrity. It governs initiatives, accuracy with some mental weapons, and any quick thinking skills.

Willpower (WIL): Your character’s mental capacity. It governs how many mental/social wounds you may take and resistances to status effects.

 

Derived Values

The old values like HP, BP, MP, SP, MHP, and such are all gone. The new ones are now:

Physical Wounds: This will be covered in a later post.

Mental Wounds: Also covered later.

Flux: The imbalance of local reality. Operates on a scale from -10 to 10, starting at 0. Whenever you cast spells, they change your local reality by destabilizing it or overstabilizing it. This has various effects on magic and other abilities when they enter or leave your local reality.

Insanity: The strain on your mind inflicted by psionic ability use. As Insanity rises, further psionic uses stand a chance to be twisted greatly.

Essence: The amount of Ki energy you have collected from the earth. This is a standard point pool.

Note that with Flux and Insanity, you can use Magic or Psionics as much as you like. Just be prepared to deal with the consequences.

 

Skills and Techniques

These have changed very little, and to go into detailed lists here would take hours, so suffice it to say that Skills are much like skills in any other game, and Techniques are like perks in a big tree of perks that you can purchase once you hit a certain level of skill that make your skill use better or different. Example: I have a Small Arms skill of 8 (which is pretty high, skills range from 1-10). I can learn the Tier 8 Small Arms Technique “Trickshot”, which allows me to fire my weapon at someone around a corner or wall. (Trickshot allows you to ignore Line of Sight when used.) Note that every Skill has a Technique tree, even ones like Architecture and Vehicle Piloting.

 

Races

There are still eleven unique races to play, all with their own abilities. They are:

Koghura: Humans who can use Aura Manifestation.

Soliri: Humans who are tainted with Blood Magic.

Drakes: Lilim created by powerful reality source code from Draconic DNA. They can Auto-Evolve and use Breath Weapons.

Ferals: Lilim who are controlled by the pulse-voice of the world, allowing them to use Primal Calls.

Sylpheed: Lilim who are made entirely of coherent source code. They can use Aetherforming.

Nephilim: Lilim who are glitches in the code of the universe. They use Reality Glitches.

Incubi: Lilim who are cast out from other planes of existence. They use Planar Invocations.

Seiltanzers: Biogens who were designed for combat. They use Genetic Spikes.

Reivanzeit: Biogens who can alter the local flow of space-time. They use Timeshifting.

Vexelbolges: Biogens who nobody knows exist. They use both Grey Magic and Polymorphing.

Modcores: AIs who occupy many different machines. They use Mobility Forms and AI Routines.

 

This is part 1.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Categories: Kamui

Storytelling, Kamui-style

One of the main problems I’ve been having with Kamui is the playstyle of the game. It’s not fundamentally different from, say, Shadowrun or D&D. The major complexities are in combat, and non-combat things are generally handled via skill checks and slow-paced dialoguing. While this isn’t necessarily bad, I’ve wanted something that sets Kamui apart from the main competition aside from the mechanics that govern character creation. I think I’ve finally hit on something, although the exact execution of it still eludes me.

There was a post on the Forge Forums that said:

“Imagine a session with all of the tactics and intricacy of a typical D&D combat, but instead of determining that a monster is dead, you determine who now runs the Thieves guild. At this pace, 10 sessions is A LOT of “story.” A whole lot more than you get by painstakingly jumping over every possible hurdle, hour by hour, to feel like you “earned” it.”

A game that treats non-combat activities with the tactics and intricacy of combat. This sort of thing excites me, and I think unconsciously I was building Kamui to be like that, but I didn’t have the framework set out to accomplish that. Now, I already have non-combat skills set up to be just as complex and important as combat skills. Particularly, each skill, regardless of whether it is a ‘combat’ skill or not, has a Technique tree that allows specialization and advanced abilities in the skill. This was done with the intent that if someone wanted to be an architect, they could make it happen with the same amount of play importance and depth as someone who was a sniper or mage, and potentially even make it combat-relevant.

So, why not run important developments in the story, combat or not, like a combat scene?

Think about it. Say there’s a meeting between various officials in a country to decide whether to take their country to war or not. The players are in the meeting, and they are trying to convince the others there that they should not go to war. It’s a very tense scene, and one that has been built up to in the plot for some time.

Most games would resolve this through dialogue (which is good) and singular skill checks interspersed throughout (which is, sometimes, pretty boring). Some other games would have more than that, like D&D4e’s Skill Challenges, in which the characters would need so many successes in a series of skill checks to win, and multiple skills have use in the challenge. That’s good, but also not really “tactical” in nature, since the DM is still arbitrating what those skill checks actually mean.

Now, picture playing this as a combat scene. On my initiative (my character’s turn to speak), I use a Technique from my Command skill that attempts to intimidate an official into agreement. So I have launched my “attack”, and now he defends using his Command skill or some other relevant ability. His Command is very high, and he resists the attack, inflicting no damage to his metaphorical HP. (I would actually be using SP or MP in this situation as HP, and when it is depleted they no longer have influence in the debate.) My ally, being a sneaky bastard, uses his Seduction skill to “get behind” the same official and try to expose a weakness. Since we are effectively “flanking” or “sneak attacking” him, he suffers a penalty to resist this “attack”, as it catches him off guard. Flustered at having to handle multiple opponents at once, he loses his cool and lets loose a tirade of unbecoming remarks. (The ally’s attack hit him hard for a large amount of “damage”.) Seeing that his faux pas has caused considerable embarrassment, he withdraws from the debate. (He is “dead”.)

This continues until a decision is reached. Now, how cool would that be to have character abilities and traits and skills and techniques that all added to your ability to debate? Say our official had a trait called Level-Headed, which made him immune to “flanking attacks” in social combat. What would have happened then? Would he have kept his cool and shrugged off the attacks long enough to issue his own scathing dialogue?

Think about all of the possible applications of this. Anything could be “combat”, provided that the scene in question is tense enough. Obviously, you wouldn’t go into social combat for a casual conversation between friends or even witty bantering between enemies on the battlefield. That’s what singular skill checks and the like are for. Scenes that are important enough to require complex tactical maneuvering would be ones that are plot-important, tense, or even just awesome to see done in that manner. What if my architect character was embroiled in a battle between other architects to determine the outcome of a city’s rebuiliding process? While that wouldn’t be totally interesting for everyone in a standard game, it has so many applications here for everyone in the party! If we had an architect, a thief, and a soldier in the party, who’s to say the thief and soldier can’t be part of an architectural battle? Maybe they could steal floor plans, sabotage equipment, rough up the opposition’s workers, or anything else that could contribute.

The passage of time is also fluid here. This architectural battle could span a year of game time, with a combat round equaling a month. Now the players are on a deadline, adding importance to the maneuvers they take in the battle!

Like I said, I’m not sure how exactly this will happen mechanically. However, I think it’s an interesting enough concept to pursue. Let me know what you think!

-Kyle

Categories: Kamui

insomaticfashion is underway!

Welcome to isf’s devblog! This blog is about detailing the process of making a tabletop game or two, as well as getting the word out about our games. There are two games being made right now.

The first is Kamui, a game about adventuring in a factionalized, futuristic fantasy world that threatens to literally eat itself alive. It has a powerful combat system designed to emulate the over-the-top action seen in games like Devil May Cry and movies like Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Combined with this is a detailed skill system that treats every skill as a class or profession, with every skill providing trees of abilities and special techniques. The name of the game, Kamui, refers to the mysterious and miraculous energies that allow players the power to change the game as they see fit.

The second is Destiny Quest Adventure Saga: Record of Heroes, a game where players are “Gods of Destiny” who must gather heroes under their banner, then subject them to trials and battles in the hopes they survive long enough to get stronger. Even if they don’t, just grab more heroes from the pool and hope that the new batch of poor sods make the cut. The game is quick enough to play in an hour or less.

Please keep an eye out for new content, and thanks for reading!

-Kyle VP

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