4E Towards a Story Now 4e
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    Towards a Story Now 4e

    I've hacked away and fiddled and whatnot. Over the last few years various discussions have taken place. A set of rules has evolved, which owes a fair amount to 4e, so I thought I would discussion this topic here, since there doesn't seem to really BE a 'game design' forum as such at EnWorld (oddly I would say).

    I'm just going to put out here a bunch of what I've written, and then the reasons, strengths, weaknesses, idiocies, errors, and better ideas can follow. This is not in any real sense a polished game, but it should be workable and I hope understandable. I don't assume it will ever be an actual published game, but it should be a useful starting point for discussion of 'D&D-like' Story Focused games, which I think are pretty much a non-existent category currently...
    Introduction

    Heroes of Myth & Legend -hereafter referred to as HoML- is a fantasy role-playing game of legendary heroes and mythical monsters. The players will take on the roles of heroic adventurers, player characters, while the Game Master (GM) will act as their guide through the worlds of myth and legend, creating the non-player characters (NPCs, monsters, or creatures) and playing their roles.

    Playing the Game

    The focus in HoML is on the story of the characters. This means there should be drama. A tale, with conflict, character, plot, and all the elements which make up a good story. As the characters are heroes (and eventually legends and myths) they are larger than life. The story is about them, it isn't about using dice to simulate a game world. The story should always come to the characters. Wherever they go and whatever they do, drama and action are the rule of the day! Whenever a character makes a choice, it should lead to conflict, or set the stage for new battles to come.

    The job of the Game Master is to frame scenes, that is draw a picture of the situation which the PCs find themselves in. The scene should contain conflict, which means that some need or value of one or more of the PCs should be placed at odds with something in situation, some sort of antagonist. This could be a monster, a law, an idea or concept, a natural force, fate, or another of the characterĺs own needs or values. Out of this situation the players will decide to have their character act in some way, attempting to get or keep what they need, or defend what they value. In order to succeed in this task the PCs will have to succeed in carrying out some sort of tasks. The set of tasks required to achieve their immediate goals are called a challenge.

    Thus the game is organized into challenges, scenes or situations in which conflict is resolved, and interludes between those scenes in which the characters engage with the world to create new conflicts. The GM should set these scenes; this is his role in the game, to orchestrate. Each challenge should give the players choices, do they risk it all, or do they play it safe? Do they defeat their enemies or are they beaten? Whenever the characters do fail, their failure should also set the stage for more conflict! The story always goes on.

    When an interlude occurs the characters may gather their strength, carry out research, acquire new abilities through training, and carry out other aspects of their lives as appropriate and desired. These can be imagined like the training montages, cut scenes, and other connecting scenes familiar from other types of story telling. An interlude will usually end when further conflict arises, transitioning back to a new challenge.

    (so much for basic prefatory material)
    Comments?
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    Love the Name Immensely

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garthanos View Post
    Love the Name Immensely
    Thx

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    May I suggest reading through the friction first thread first if you haven't already?

  5. #5
    I'm hoping to restart my 4e game soon and pull a lot from Fiction First into it. So I'd be interested in this. My own games I've fiddled around the edges keeping the player facing stuff as vanilla as possible to avoid a headache for me.

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    I have been wondering what HoML stood for!

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    @MichaelSomething Yeah, I have looked at what @LostSoul did. We have slightly different approaches, but I guess a similar agenda. I have gone a lot further in terms of 'hacking'. There is also a '4e Clone' that is brewing in the D20 forums of rpg.net. I think it is virtually finished now. Its a bit different in concept (full numerical compatibility with 4e but just providing a sort of 'core platform' which you could use to build fully realized games on). HoML is a game, draws a lot of inspiration from 4e, and is close enough rules-wise to be considered a 'd20 variant' (I would publish it using the OGL for instance as most of the terminology and such is drawn from D&D canon).

    Anyway: Some additional text. Let me know if these chunks are too big or too small, I can go either way with it.

    Legendary Heroes: Rules for Character Generation and Advancement
    Introduction

    Legendary Heroes provides the core rules used by players in HoML to create player characters and the definitions of their powers and other abilities. It also explains some of the core mechanical concepts which players will use when they play HoML.
    Challenges

    A game of HoML consists of a series of challenges. Each challenge can be thought of as a scene or scenario in which the PCs are involved in some form of conflict, which the challenge resolves (at least for the moment). The outcomes of challenges shape the progress of the PCs story; their successes and failures will help define the ultimate paths they take and their fates. In play challenges form the basic building blocks of the game.
    Challenge and Interlude

    In addition to challenges there may also be interludes. These are points at which scenes may be set, characters introduced, and facts established, but where no actual conflict occurs. If a challenge is not ongoing and the game is progressing, then an interlude, or even a series of interludes, is in progress.
    The difference between a challenge and an interlude is that, because interludes don't resolve conflict, they don't involve checks. That is, outside of challenge situations, checks are not used. If a player wishes his character to perform some action during an interlude, then the player and the GM will decide between them what the result is. This will depend on the nature of the action and the attributes of the character. For example if a player decides his character will shop for new clothing he can simply describe the sort of thing he wants, and he and the GM can come up with a price and time expenditure which are appropriate. Perhaps a character with Diplomacy and Streetwise skills, shopping in a large city, will easily come up with whatever he wants, and pay the most reasonable prices. A curmudgeonly wizard with few social graces and little idea of how to shop might find he has only a few choices at higher prices. In general however these sorts of non-conflict scenes can simply be described in as much or little detail as the players wish and then they go on to other things.
    During a challenge the core mechanic, as described below, is used to resolve some sort of conflict situation. Risk is always involved in conflict, the characters are staking something, their lives, their fortunes, or their concerns on the outcome. This is where checks are used. World and Play contains the rules for several types of challenges. They all have in common that the various players describe their actions, checks are made to establish success or failure, and the GM describes the results of those actions. A series of checks by the players, along with the actions they choose to take, will determine the outcome. If the players fail, then the characters will suffer the consequences.

    Challenge Mechanics

    While the full challenge mechanics are presented later the basic structure is that the players are presented with a situation and decide how to act. Then one of the players describes his character's actions and the GM decides what sort of check is required to succeed, assuming the action is appropriate. A check is then made, generating success or failure. The situation then changes based on the character's actions and another player may suggest an action in response to the new situation. Once the party achieves a number of successes determined by the GM, or three failures, then the challenge ends. Combat is also considered a challenge situation, but follows a more detailed set of action sequence rules.
    Actions Outside Challenges

    As discussed above, sometimes characters take actions outside of challenges. Usually these are simply resolved by dialog, as interludes. However, there are sometimes cases where a character may use a power, such as a ritual, to further some end, that is to make progress in an adventure. There are two choices, either integrate the action into a scene which becomes a challenge or simply assume that the character achieves a result of 10 on whatever check is specified. The GM could also allow other results, if they seem appropriate, such as a higher check result.
    For example, Malthus the Mad, a mighty wizard, decides to cast a scrying ritual, Far Vision, against his adversary Jacobus Maligant in order to determine what Jacobus (an NPC) is up to. The GM could simply assume that Malthus has a moderate level of success and describe to him what he sees. He could instead create a challenge, Malthus enters into conflict with Jacobus. The evil mage detects his rival's attempt to scry upon him and unleashes a counter-spell! The two mentally grapple for a few moments as Jacobus tries to inflict mental damage on Malthus, and Malthus attempts to both evade his grasp and gather information. This could be resolved as a General Challenge with check results determining who succeeds. Perhaps Malthus will end up with a serious affliction, or he may end up with valuable information! Techniques for devising these types of scenarios are provided in World and Play. The choice of which technique to use depends on whether or not there's genuine conflict here. If the rivalry is just 'color' or isn't something Malthus' player really wants to pursue as a significant plot element that he will risk any real stakes on, then it can simply be passed off as an interlude, one that perhaps serves to introduce some new plot element.


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  8. #8
    I've been re-reading Maelstrom Storytelling. I've got three versions of the rules: the original volume; the revision in the Dacartha Prime supplement; and the paired-back Story Bones version. (That last one can be downloaded for free from DriveThruRPG.)

    As well as challenges (which it calls "rolled scenes") and interludes (which it calls "open scenes"), it allows for checks made in the course of an interlude to determine how something turns out. (Eg do the PCs notice the XYZ.)

    I don't know if that is fully desirable, or is a backsliding away from robust scene-framing; but I sometimes find that the absence of checks in a MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic Transition scene can make them a bit tricky to adjudicate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbdulAlhazred View Post
    There is also a '4e Clone' that is brewing in the D20 forums of rpg.net. I think it is virtually finished now. Its a bit different in concept (full numerical compatibility with 4e but just providing a sort of 'core platform' which you could use to build fully realized games on).
    I may have to finally go back there....
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    I've been re-reading Maelstrom Storytelling. I've got three versions of the rules: the original volume; the revision in the Dacartha Prime supplement; and the paired-back Story Bones version. (That last one can be downloaded for free from DriveThruRPG.)

    As well as challenges (which it calls "rolled scenes") and interludes (which it calls "open scenes"), it allows for checks made in the course of an interlude to determine how something turns out. (Eg do the PCs notice the XYZ.)

    I don't know if that is fully desirable, or is a backsliding away from robust scene-framing; but I sometimes find that the absence of checks in a MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic Transition scene can make them a bit tricky to adjudicate.
    This is an interesting point of discussion for sure. I started out a few years ago writing HoML as just a sort of 'Fixed up 4e', but the more I customized things, the more I moved into a much more Story Now sort of a mindset and approach. So there are actually still a LOT of traces of the sort of informal "make a check to figure it out" sort of design which has existed in D&D since the invention of the NWP way way back in Oriental Adventures. In fact it is necessary to recast virtually all the various elements (except stuff that is strictly used in combat) in a way such to avoid this.

    So the question is whether that is the best approach. I think that maintaining the discipline of the General Challenge (basically an SC) as THE mechanism of resolution does have merit. I reread @LostSoul's "Fiction First" hack and concluded that we're basically doing the same thing. He has a different set of techniques for forcing the story-driven approach, but the goal is almost the same, given we're shooting for different tones in our games.

    That is to say, when you have to use a challenge to resolve all conflict, then you move to the conflict AUTOMATICALLY. That's because conflict is the only way to play! Now, you could still move to trivial conflicts that only address GM concerns, which wouldn't really be Story Now as I understand it, but nothing is perfect. At least this way you do have conflicts and they're likely to have some heft to them by the time you burn through a dozen die rolls.

    Of course, the game might play very differently in other people's hands....
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