Saturday, July 2, 2011

Zonal issues--potential fix

So far all of this zone stuff has been first blush; can it pass the smell test? It certainly has issues, but I'm trying to see if it has strength enough to warrant continuing to work on it. One of the first issues that people identified was that the ability to move anywhere feels a bit wonky. I concur, but I don't want to sacrifice the premise that most movement is merely declared. Allowing movement to be declared by the player (a) empowers the player, (b) speeds up game play by allowing the player to make decisions without having to ask what each square does (the mother-may-I? phenomenon), and (c) instills more mystery into the game. The player declares, the GM resolves (admittedly, and discussed before, the player should still have some idea what his character is in for; complete ambiguity is no better than mother-may-I?).

Here is my first stab at a fix. This article will introduce the fix and the next will discuss how it satisfies the design goals below.

The design goals:
  1. Quick to adjudicate. Most of the time, it has to be seamless. It should only slow down play when someone is doing something worth slowing down play for.
  2. Scale across levels. The solution has to easily scale throughout play. If it lets high level characters (or characters who overly focus on movement) move ridiculous distances, then it really isn't a great solution.
  3. Represent a wide range of scenarios and styles of play. The solution has to be adaptable enough that it works for most people and lets GMs customize it to their style of play. This adaptability and customizability must be achievable without introducing additional rules, such that different combats in the same session of play could be run differently.
The basic concept:

  • Moving between zones requires a check.
    • The DC is equal to the highest DC of any zone entered +2 for each additional zone entered in that move.
    • If you fail the check, you suffer the penalty of all zones you moved through.
    • If you fail the check by 5 or more, you are immobilized in addition to the other penalties acquired from moving through zones. (Recall that the check isn't made until you arrive in your destination zone).
      • The idea here is that you can’t move again until the conditions are removed.
      • Under this model the slow condition would reduce your move to 1 (also have to roll) and provide a penalty to move checks.
      • There may need to be a penalty for failing by 10 or more that doesn't let you complete the move as intended, otherwise someone can still move outrageously far (albeit with a lot of penalties).
  • Each zone has a penalty that relates to its trait.
    • This penalty is only incurred if the movement check is failed.
    • The penalty is not something that halts movement and is usually a condition or damage. For instance, a “rough” zone might impart the off-balance condition and a zone filled with razor grass might deal 5 damage.
    • Stuntways, by default, are "worth slowing down play for" and so are still handled separately. Stuntways can halt movement (i.e. you fall in the pit) but this is acceptable because it is exceptional movement that the player decided to take on.
  • Each character has a movement score based on race and modified by class powers. For instance, elves and humans may have movement 4 and dwarves have movement 3.
    • If you move a number of zones equal to or less than your movement score, you can take-10 on your movement check (i.e. use your passive move).
    • If you move a number of zones greater than your movement score, you cannot use your passive move (i.e. you must roll).
“The party arrives on the far right side of the map, having emerged from an arduous trek through the jungle. The volcano erupted two days prior and a steady stream of lava still snakes across the clearing as it inches into the gorge below. Across the clearing, a rickety bridge spans the gorge and gives way to the ruins on the opposite side. Even from this distance the Shard of Storms seems to shimmer with chaotic light like so many bolts trapped within. In front of the rickety bridge is a squat statute of stone holding a massive mallet and within the trees the familiar clicking chatter seems to rise that so many times before has preceded the flood of skeletal pygmy warriors.”

Clearing (DC 0)

Fallen tree (Forest terrain, DC 4)
Notes—Stuntway requires DC 15 strength or fall into gorge. Exiting the zone or any round you begin in the zone requires a DC 12 dexterity or fall into gorge. Any turn in which three or more characters begin in the zone causes it to break. DC 12 dexterity or fall into gorge. On success, enter any adjacent zone.

Gorge (Pit terrain, DC n/a)
Bane—Gorge is 100 feet deep

Jungle (Forest terrain, DC 2)
Bane—5 ongoing poison (save ends)

Rickety bridge (DC 4)
Bane—Distracted, Frightened
Notes—While occupying the zone you can attack the bridge, causing it to fall. DC 15 strength or fall into gorge. You gain a +2 bonus to the check if you cut the bridge.

Ridiculous lava flow (DC 5)
Bane—10 fire and 5 ongoing fire (save ends); starting your turn in the zone deals 5 fire.
Notes—Small stones and outcroppings allow the zone to be occupied without standing in the lava.

Ruined dais (Stone terrain, DC 2)
Boon—Contains the Shard of Storms
Bane—Picking up the Shard of Storms causes lightning to immediately strike the zone (+7, 3d10). The following round the lightning strikes the Ruined Dais and the Ruins.
Notes—The wielder of the Shard of Storms can destroy any pygmy skeletons in his or her zone as a free action.

Ruins (Stone terrain, DC 2)
Notes—Passive perception 14; characters starting or ending their round in the zone notice destroyed carvings depicting lightning bolts striking the ruined dais.

1 comment:

  1. I've realised that you've recreated the check for traps/go for it movement system!

    You could add traps as a hidden higher level agility check, meaning that someone fast enough can jump pits, hold their breath through poison gas etc. The traps still trigger behind you, they just didn't get you!

    Assuming that you're already measuring zones by base movement speed, why don't you just stop someone moving further than twice their movement? And then you could adjust the relationship between movement points and zones according to the time frame for actions (is it combat? if not then go flexy-time and measure move actions vs food penalties, or set up some system where days travel adds to the dc) and the general scale of things (are the zone sizes on this map twice the size of example zones x y and z? then halve movement).

    I imagine that if you start using this in actual games, you'll find that ranges and stuff will start to imply an average interesting zone size for combat/close manuveuring, and one of the things I love about a "powers of 2" approach to scale is that it still gives you a large amount of creative leway, generally only coming in when it's obvious.