Labyrinths and Outlands

So lately I've been beset by the urge to talk about my game more and more, and while I am not in a place to release any sort of formal material, I do think it would be a good idea to speak on it still, if only just to get a more diverse set of eyes on what I've been working on for the greater part of this year.

So this topic will essentially be a repository of my aptly named word vomits where I can just get all out of my system. And without further ado:
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What is Labyrinths and Outlands? The Nat40 System

LNO, as one might guess, is to be a TTRPG that follows in the same general vein of Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and countless others, but also taking inspiration from a great dearth of video games and other media. A cynic might call it a heartbreaker, and it certainly is accurate to say that LNO is precisely the kind of game that I personally would want to play, but ultimately its the culmination of a great many years of playing and thinking about how games should be.

To pitch the game in a nutshell, it is intended to be a sandbox forward game that focuses on exploration, crafting, and high octane war-gaming that provides for smooth, fast paced combat that can scale from the 1v1 Duel to massive battles with hundreds of thousands of combatants with minimal changes necessary to the gameplay.

Technically speaking, at this point the project is around 12 years old, as I had the original creative sparks for what would blossom into LNO back in 2011 when I thought about how I might have done Skyrim better, but the actual bulk of the work has been done in the last 6 months or so in the wake of the OGL debacle with Wizards of the Coast. I had intended on starting LNO at some point prior to this, but I was unsure of whether or not I was going to base it around a hack of d20 Modern or if I was going to try for a bespoke system. The OGL debacle made that decision easy, and within about a day once it became clear that what WOTC was trying to do was, in fact, what they were trying to do, I got to work.
What resulted out of that essential honeymoon period of game design is a system that I call Nat40. At its core is a three-tiered resolution system. For Combat, 2d20 is used for resolution. For Skill resolution, 2d10, and attributes 1d10.

The Skill and Attribute system takes a great deal of inspiration from the Runequest lineage that included The Elder Scrolls video games, and it will be very familiar to players of those games. Each Attribute has a baseline value that is determined by a 5d6 Roll DTL.

With 28 Skills spread across 7 different Attributes, leveling is achieved by, well, leveling your skills through usage. At this time, you gain skill points (up to a maximum of 30) whenever your roll your 2d10 and roll either doubles, a Nat 2, or a Nat 20. When you take your Level Up, you have the option to rearrange your newly earned skill points to other skills, so it benefits you to not be hesitant to use a relevant skill to try and resolve something (re: Skill Challenges), even if its not one you need for your character. Once you arrange your skill points, they become permanent.

Every 10 skill points in any skill will level your character (giving you Class levels), and for each Attribute, the cumulative total of your skill points in that Attribute determine your Attributes final value. If for whatever reason a Skill cannot cover a needed resolution, you can opt to make a Talent Check (1d10) against one of your Attributes. Whatever you roll, you take that number and divide your Attribute by it to determine your Talent Rating, rounded down (which is then compared to the Talent DC of whatever it is). For instance, if your Strength is at 120, and you roll a 7, your resulting Talent Rating will be 17. Obviously, rolling lower is ideal, where elsewhere rolling higher is ideal. (This is something I've been unsure of as its a bit, inelegant, but I have not really found a better way forward as of yet)

Unlike in DND and many other TTRPGs, Attributes in LNO are strictly passive. They have no specific modifiers that they provide, and the Talent Check is the only means to use your Attributes to directly resolve something in-game. Attribute modifiers are instead consolidated into the Energy System, which not only provides for a universal resource system for characters, but also provides 3 Modifiers to work with, similar in structure to the Fort/Will/Reflex of DCC and others.

Composure is the first of these Energies, and is the effective equivalent of Hit Points in other systems. Composure is derived from the combination of your character's Endurance and Willpower attributes, which correlates to the fiction of Composure representing the characters physical and mental ability to defend themselves. (more on this with Combat)

Mana is the second, and as one might guess is for the use of Magic. It is derived from the combination of either Intelligence or Wisdom, and your character's Willpower.

Stamina is the last, and is again self-explanitory. It is derived from the combination of either Strength or Dexterity, and the character's Endurance.

If the character has had all of the related attributes for one of these Energies maxed (which is a minimum of 120), the character receives a 1.5x bonus to their totals for that Energy. This encourages having a diverse skill set, and the spread of the skills throughout the attributes (particularly for Endurance and Willpower) is set such that the skills pursued are mostly still going to be thematic to such characters, bridging the gap between the optimizer and the roleplayer as to what would be preferable to pursue.

For each of these energies, a modifier is derived from each and these modifiers serve a number of purposes. Their primary purpose is for saving throws, and I have begun to utilize a relatively unique nomenclature for this. For example, an Ogre that uses their “Wreckless Overrun” ability might induce a +10 Stamina save. What this indicates is that in order to resist this ability, you have to make a saving throw that is equal to the Ogre's Stamina Modifier + 10, and you would simply roll 2d10 and add your own Stamina modifier to attempt the resist. This same idea carries through for all saving throws, and any your character induces would likewise be based on your Energy Modifier plus whatever +X the ability grants you.

Their secondary purpose is for the streamlined tracking of your Energies themselves, specifically your Mana and Stamina. For these two Energies, your modifier represents your standard drain rate for any action or ability you use. IE, if your Mana Modifier is +6, then any basic spell you cast costs 6 Mana every time. Some of these abilities will come with modifiers with this, asking you to double, or even halve, or some other multiplication or division. The idea is that tracking these will be easy, as you can simply make tick marks to notate how much Energy you have consumed, and you can, ahead of time, divide your Modifier into your Energy to determine the maximum Ticks you can make.

Composure does not work this way, though not without trying. We playtested it that way but not only would it require some weird and rather esoteric ways of doing things like weapons and armor, but it ultimately just didn't feel very great.

The Energy Modifiers also stand in for what Attribute modifiers would provide in other systems, giving additional boosts to Skill Checks, Combat checks, and other systems such as Crafting.

The Combat System, from which the Nat40 Name is derived, is as mentioned 2d20 based. However, it is more accurate to say it is a 2x1d20 system. Combat is based on an Act/React structure, and at the beginning of a combat round, all characters roll 2d20, and they can assign one of these die to either their Act or React, or alternatively they can opt to double down and put the cumulative total into just one, precluding the ability to use the other for that round. The resulting value, after modifiers are added, represent your Act and React Ratings, which are then used to determine the effectiveness of nearly everything you do during the combat round. Combat itself is typically initiated with an initiative roll, and like your typical DND game goes in simple turn order.

Your Act, as one might guess, takes place on your character's turn and covers your character's offensive Actions during that turn. This will mostly be attacks, but also includes one Skill Action (taken separately from your Attacks), which is rolled separately using 2d10.

Your React, in comparison, takes place primarily in reaction to an attack, either against yourself or an ally, during which you'd use various Defensive abilities, for which there is a wide variety of options ranging from your basic blocks and parries, but also to various Defensive Spell variants (IE, opting to use your held Fireball to defend yourself instead of attack something) and different class abilities.

However, your Reaction is also your principle currency for a number of different class abilities that can have some widespread affects on the course of the battle. For example, the Barbarian's Yawp! ability is one that uses up the character's reaction, trading defense for the ability to yell so loudly at a mage that their spells peter out and go poof, and at higher levels, yell so loudly and forcibly that puny town guards have their armor and weapons torn to shreds by the sheer power of your voice. These kinds of abilities are not always restricted, and can be used at any time, including during your Act, if you wish.

During either instance, you have free use of your Movement, which unlike many other games is actually rolled for rather than fixed. Your movement keys off of your 2d20 roll + your Stamina and Athletics Modifiers. However, using up all of your movement does preclude you from being able to defend your allies form attacks if your Defensive ability requires you to be within a certain range of the attack, so it is wise to allow yourself some movement to stay mobile throughout the round.

As noted, your Act/React ratings determines the effectiveness of the actions you take during them. If you roll a Nat20 and assign that die to your Act, then all of your subsequent attacks will be made as if you rolled a Nat20 for every single one (and thus giving you a Critical Hit on each). Likewise for defense, with a Nat20 providing you the ability to “Critically Defend”, allowing you to double your Armor Rating. Thus, the value of rolling a Nat40 is pretty substantive, as it gives you a great deal of power on the battlefield.

However, Attacking and Defending isn't quite as simple as that. Firstly, in order to inflict full damage, any attack must still exceed the needed “Accuracy Class” (AC), which is a combination of the target's Armor Rating (AR) and their React Rating, if they reacted in defense. If your attack does not exceed this value, and they have not reacted defensively, you will only inflict half of whatever damage value you roll. If they have reacted defensively, your damage will be further penalized by the targets Armor Rating, which when added together with their React rating can provide substantive damage reduction. Naturally, this system works the same way for yourself when you are attacked. If you can, it is wise to defend yourself, as that is the best way to mitigate, if not eliminate, any incoming damage.

Additional to your Act and React Ratings, you also have available to you a Passive React Rating, which forms the core of the Stealth mechanics for LNO. This rating is the cumulative addition of your Perception, Athletics, and Composure modifiers, and can reach a maximum of +45. Your Passive React rating serves the primary purpose of determining how well your character is able to react to things such as sneak attacks, traps, and other dangerous things that you need to deal with.

Whenever a perceived trap or creature attempts an attack against you, and Combat has not already begun by rolling initiative, they will roll 1d20 to determine their Act rating for the attack, and if this value exceeds your Passive React Rating, then they will gain the benefits of a Surprise Round against you, which grants them the ability to use their full Act as they see fit, and they may choose to roll and utilize a React if they wish.

If the attack does not exceed your passive React, then you receive the ability to take a full Reaction, rolling 1d20 and adding your Passive React Rating to it for effectiveness.

As strong as this can be, however, this changes when a creature (or an undiscovered trap) is using stealth to avoid detection. Stealth checks themselves are principally rolled against the environment (IE, you have a harder time being stealthy on a sun-lit road than you do in a bush in the dark), which then trigger perception checks if failed. But, if a creature (or trap) is successfully hidden when attempting the attack, they will receive a bonus to their Act rating equal to their Stealth Check – the Stealth DC, up to a maximum of +10. Any excess Stealth beyond +10, instead converts to a lowered Critical Hit chance, again at a 1:1 rate.


Now, this big long diatribe is just the core of the system. The relatively basic bits and bobs that, even without all of the actual content I have written since, is quite fun and most importantly feels really fun to play. Combat itself while it can be a bit weird to grok at first, especially coming from other TTRPGs, but it has consistently proven to be quite fast paced and intuitive once you do, as the ebb and flow of attacking and defending seeks to mimic, as much as a TTRPG can, the cinematic feel of fighting, but without abandoning the more crunch tactical considerations that are more traditional to DND, and it seems to accomplish this pretty well.

Indeed, part of the philosophy here has been to find that same middle ground between the cinematic and the pure crunch. The use of an Act Rating for instance to cover all attacks made during a turn, is actually a measure taken to provide a middle ground between the usual (rolling for each attack over and over) and the usual alternative of just rolling for Damage and skipping the additional roll. Likewise this is why there is both an AC and Damage Reduction, as while cumulatively doing both is a bit more “complex” (as loaded as I find that word) than just doing one or the other, I've found that this just feels more right, if that makes sense, but is still relatively simple to use.

But, it also has benefits in that it keeps attentions up during combat even if it takes a while to work through a round. The opportunity to use your React is potent, and when combined with classes that enable a more offensive use of your React (Like the mentioned Barbarian ability Yawp!), there's a lot of chances for characters to work together to really dominate the battlefield.

And the best part, in regards to combat, is that it does scale. The same basic structure works whether its a duel or a massive LOTR style army vs army battle, which funnily enough wasn't actually intended. I didn't set out to make this a more deliberate wargame, but it has lent itself to that, so I'm going to be leaning into it (and I'm quite excited by my Siege mechanics, to speak vaguely :D)

While I haven't spoken much of the Skill system, which is the really meaty part of the game, thats mostly because I'm still working through developing each skill. Much unlike DND and its ilk, I am doing my damnedest to avoid the simplistic binary Skills of yesteryear, and I'm developing a great deal of different features, mechanics, etc that can be activated through Skill usage. The best example of what that will look like is in the Crafting Mechanics, for which I developed a core mechanic to cover the various Crafting skills called 7 Dice, which I have actually detailed in another topic elsewhere on the forum, but I'll leave that description up to another post later on.

Skills in LNO, being the sole source of progression, obviously have to be a lot more than the things we see in DND, and this incidentally provides the perfect reason to emphasize Exploration as a core part of the game, as the best way to use your skills more and get those Skill Points, is to just get out into the world and do stuff, and that was the next biggest thing that I focused on early on, so that will have to be another post to cover as well.


Guide of Modos
Now, this big long diatribe is just the core of the system. The relatively basic bits and bobs that, even without all of the actual content I have written since, is quite fun and most importantly feels really fun to play.
Hmm. That's an awful long post for the "basic bits and bobs." Maybe try putting the most basic bits and bobs in your first post - a little appetizer, if you will.

My game was partially Skyrim-inspired too. I'd put something like this up front for its bits and bobs:

Lately I've been beset by the urge to talk about my game more and more, let me know if this interests you:

It's a Skyrim-inspired take on the basics of RPGs with an important change: rolls don't determine success or failure because as we all know, it's pretty hard to fail in Skyrim. Instead, you get Pros, Cons, and sometimes Ties, and you work out your outcomes by storytelling with your GM.

Your hero (or "dragonborn," if you like) can use any weapon, cast any spell (with enough talent), and max-out any skill. Your three attributes are Phyiscal (Health), Metaphysical (Magicka), and Mental (Stamina), and these determine how much damage you can handle. In Skyrim, death means you retry from an earlier time. In this game, you retry from where you took too much damage, or start designing your new hero.

Combat is almost real-time: you can block when your opponent attacks, and you can cast first-level spells whenever you get a chance. Tactics matter, and allies are invaluable. However, if you meet a dragon, you'll also need a good bit of luck!

In the following posts, I'll elaborate on specific game-features. Let me know if you'd like more detail on something or have any questions. Thanks for reading about Modos RPG!

Class Design and the Barbarian

So classes in LNO take on a bit of a different structure than I have seen done elsewhere. With the Skill system being as substantive as it will be, I actually wanted to avoid merely having skills be the character abilities; I wanted to do not only that, but also have class specific abilities. The reason being that its just more interesting that way, but also because its what I always found that games like Morrowind or Oblivion were missing.

Essentially, each class has 4 Ability Chains, plus a Subclass that simply acts as a 5th chain, and the 5 have a hierarchal structure to them. Each chain has 6 levels, with the Primary ability chain having 7. Naturally, this pegs max level at 30, though this may change (more on that below), and every single level has something new and consequential for the class.

The Primary and Secondary ability chains (PrimSecs) constitute the "core" of the class; the Primary Ability defines the overall theme and direction for the class, providing the class its principle mechanics. The Secondary meanwhile most often provides the core Combat abilities for the class, defining how the class fights. Primsecs will be fixed in the class, and will always be present.

The Tertiary and Quaternary (Tertquats) meanwhile are less important, and the intent is for there to be options for players to choose from as to what ability chains they go for here. All will still be designed to be thematic to the class (no generic or cross/class ones), but having any particular pair will not be important to the classes core functions, only to whatever build or play style the player prefers.

The Subclass meanwhile, while structured the same way as the other Ability Chains, is much more consequential, near as much as the Primary chain is, and will further hone in the specific niche and playstyle for the character.

Something I am still testing out, though, is the potential for some number of classless levels. With the Skill System being what it will be, itd technically be possible to play the game entirely classless (though levels wouldn't mean much without them), and the thought occurred to make the early game, say up to level 5, based on this.

Doing so has the benefit of allowing for class requirements, which in turn helps emphasize the choice of class as being more consequential to the actions of the players in the game itself, rather than just an out-of-game decision imposed on the character.

As such if taken, class levels shift up by some number, and requirements have to be tailored to what can be reasonably cobbled together with the 50 or so skill points you'd earn. This is going to take some extensive playtesting that I haven't had the chance to set up as of yet, but if it were to be the standard, there would be the option to skip it and start with a class instead, which is the current default, and rather than class requirements you'd instead get either some number of skill points to spend or you'd just roll for bonuses to some selection of skills.

But anyway, thats the class system in a large nutshell, so let me talk about the first class I designed for this system, my take on the Barbarian.

My philosophy with class design, though I cannot really remember why I went this route, was to try to design from the same sort of perspective that Gygax or Arneson may have had, meaning without the long established assumptions of RPGs. Reinventing, to put it plainly.

But I also, eventually, came to find a great deal of value in communicating a story, a sort of monomythic quality through the various ability chains. To gain a level wouldn't just represent an arbitrary increase in power or prowess, but would also be the next chapter.

And the Barbarian was no exception for sure.

The Barbarians Primary ability chain is aptly named "Outlander" and it provides a smattering of different exploration bonuses (specifically to Wilderness Exploration), but its core benefit is to build up to the classical Barbarian Horde.

At first this manifests, around Level 5 or so, as the ability to easily dissuade hostile Barbarians from attacking the party, and to instead turn their attention on something else. This is framed, flavorfully, as a representation of the player Barbarians as yet unknown name in the eponymous Outlands. But as the player levels, this grows to allowing the player to call upon a Party of Barbarians as a wild card in battle; they will help the player win a fight, but they won't obey their command if they aren't aggreable to their orders, and will disburse once all the enemies are dead or theres otherwise nothing else to fight.

Now, what does Party mean in this context. Essentially, its an offshoot of my Horde mechanics, the thing that makes my combat system work even at bonkers scales. Hordes aren't all that different from your usual Troops or Minion type mechanics, where some number of entities are consolidated into and abstracted into more manageable "stat blocks" (though theres a lot more to them that, but that gets into my Warfare mechanics) and Parties are simply a smaller sub-unit of those mechanics, meant to represent, well, a Party sized force. Anywhere from 6-50 entities, rather than the hundreds to hundreds of thousands that Hordes have. This sub unit I felt was an important bridge to have between single entity blocks and Horee blocks as it makes it easier to depict more types of encounters, but its also proven incredibly useful for just varying up the kinds of enemies one can face.

But anyways, once the player reaches level 30, their capstone is the final level of Outlander, which lets them summon, once per month, a horde of up to 5000 Barbarians to fight at the player's command, who will stay with the player until dismissed or destroyed.

The Secondary ability is aptly named Smash!. In the spirit of keeping the class as simple as possible (relative to the rest of the game), Smash! Is pretty straightforward. You gain Smash dice, which essentially are just plain bonuses to your damage, and as you level they grow, eventually reaching 2d12 per attack.

However, as part of this ability chain you also gain access to a special reaction named Slam!. What this does is let you spend your reaction to make a Wrestling check, to which you can add your React rating, to immediately grapple your target, and throw them a number of feet up to half your Strength; if at any point along the path they collide with an object or some other entity, they will take immediate damage equal to whatever distance you had left, and will have to make a saving throw to not be knocked prone in the same instance. Ie, your Strength is 100, so you can grapple the Ogre and throw them up to 50ft, and lets say they collide with a wall about 25ft away. They'll be hit for 25 damage, and if they fail their resulting save, they're on the ground.

With further levels, Slam lets you use your full Strength score, and as a capstone alongside the final punch up to 2d12 for your Smash Dice, all grappling limits for Wrestling checks are removed as well; so by level 30, you effectively can suplex that dragon, and more than that, throw them really hard at a wall.

For the initial two Tertquats for the Barbarian, I opted to maintain the relative simplicity, both in flavor and in mechanics.

The first is Yawp!. Yawp! is another reaction ability, and one that helps push the Barbarian into an anti-magic direction, with the basic reaction essentially being that you shout so loudly at a mage that their spells get interrupted. As you level, this moves on to the spells themselves being affected, either puttering out in mid-air or, at the highest levels, detonating at a point of the Barbarians choosing.

However, Yawp! can at higher levels also serve as an important defensive reaction even against other martial type enemies, with Yawp! Also inducing saving throws to resist being stunned and, as a capstone, resisting having all of your non-magical weapons and armor be completely obliterated by the sound of the Barbarians voice.

And the final core chain is simply called Fortitude, and as you'd guess, involves the steady growth of the Barbarian's bulk, with resistance gains, strength and endurance bumps, and a smattering of other benefits, all making the Barbarian a substantive powerhouse, and all without all that much overhead for the player.

Now, the subclasses are where things get really spicy.

Conspicuously absent has obviously been the Rage mechanic so omnipresent with Barbarians in RPGs. Why I opted to not wrap the class around this is rather simple: barbarians and beserkers are two different things, and as the base class itself is designed to be more emulative of your Conan-type barbarians (both literally and in spirit), the latter concept is better suited to subclass.

Hence, Beastheart. With each successive level themed around a particular beast (Frenzy of the Badger, Roar of the Dragon, Prowess of the Centaur, etc), Beastheart not only returns the idea of frenzy or rage to the class, but also emphasizes a playstyle of hitting fast, hard, and with a great deal of destruction. Utilizing exploding dice style mechanics to enable AOE attacks, Beastheart is at home for those that just want to tear things up and be really really hard to kill.

The next option is named Honorbound. As one might guess, this is for Conan fans and is built to augment the Outlander ability chain, further developing the Barbarian hordes the class eventually commands (and allowing full command of these allied Barbarians from early on), granting them access to the resistances you build up using Fortitude, but while also building up a mount for the character to use, overall emphasizing the idea of the Honorbound as a barbarian king sort of character.

The next option is called Wardbreaker. This takes the anti-magic direction of Yawp! and goes full tilt into it. Not only do Smash! and Yawp! get significantly boosted, especially against mages, but you also gain significant magical capabilities of your own, so to speak. Rather than just shout down spells, you learn to deflect them, and eventually, catch and redirect them at your enemies.

And the final subclass is named Guardian. This is effectively Captain America if he was a Viking. A big emphasis on the use of a shield for offense and defense (including the the ability to throw them like boomerangs), but also in just being a sheer tank through their unique shieldwall contribution, which lets them augment a shieldwall with their resistances, and, at higher levels, make the wall virtually impossible to dislodge.

And while I didn't really speak on them, part of the design of all these ability chains has been to integrate as much non-combat oriented boosts, ribbons, and explicit abilities as possible. Both because such things are often thematically appropriate anyway, but also because its important to avoid the pitfalls of forgetting to give martial type characters something to do other than kill stuff.

The Warrior

The Warrior in LNO is rather special for me, as its where I feel I came into my own as far as defining the "style" my games classes were going to take, with the Warriors various ability chains being that near perfect first go at depicting a story through levels. Every ability chain, and subclass, for the Warrior not only carries some really well integrated flavor at every step, representing in general the growth from semi-competant welp to a truly legendary warrior, but does so in a way that meshes dang near perfectly with the actual mechanical benefits. At least, in my opinion it does :D

So, to get into it, the core concept of the Warrior revolves around a system I call Battle Combinations, which is not too dissimilar from your typical Maneuvers of DND, but goes quite a bit farther. The Warrior as they level gains access to varying levels of Techniques, unique attacks that have 5 escalating effects. These effects activate in correspondence with the number of attacks the player makes in succession on their turn, up to 4 as a maximum, and the 5th effect gets activated as a rider only if the player opts to make all 4 of their attacks using the same Technique. So say your first attack is with the Leg Strike technique. If the attack is not defended against, it will induce the Level 1 effect, a -5 Movement penalty against the target. And then the player can repeat, either on the same target or different ones, with each attack escalating the effects, in this case inducing a progressively larger movement penalty. If the player uses all 4 of their attacks in a row, whether on one target or multiple, whichever target is successfully hit by the 4th attack will also be affected by the Level 5 effect, which induces a +15 Stamina Saving throw to resist being soft paralyzed; effectively stuck in place because your legs got stunned.

At these same later levels, you'll also have the ability to use different techniques in any order, chaining them into unique combinations, and you'll be able to get the 5th level effect even without having to spam the same technique.

This is the core idea behind the Warriors fighting style, but it isn't actually the Primary chain. That is instead a chain I call Master of Arms, and it, as you might guess, is focused on weapons.

But before I can dig into how that fits, I need to go into a diatribe about how weapons themselves work, which is greatly dependent on the nature of LNOs crafting mechanics.

To keep it brief on that system, its like point buy hybridized with down the line. For any given item type, you roll a standard set of 7 RPG dice and you get from this 7 base values for your item. Going down (or up, depending on whats being made or gathered) the line, you essentially buy each value you want, using your Energy modifiers + your relevant Skill modifier as a budget. Once you define each value, the total spent converts to a DC value against which you make a skill check to confirm, and degrees of success determines the final result.

So, for weapons, this variant of the above 7Dice system is flavored and structured around a somewhat abbreviated process for forging swords.

You'd start with the desired weapon design (1d4; mace, long sword, dagger, etc), and then you move on to Core material shaping (1d6, consumes desired core metal, which comes with its own property list). Both of these can have the values refunded to a minimum of 1, allowing you to spend the extra points elsewhere.

The next step, 1d8, is the first optional and thus fully refundable option for Striking surface shaping; if desired additional metal (same or different type) can be added for additional properties, otherwise you can skip and use the points elsewhere.

The next, 1d10, is for hardening and is only refundable to a value of 1; you incorporate a quenching material (water, different oils, etc) which again can add different properties depending on what you have.

The next, 1d%, is for tempering. Another thats not skippable, but is also the most expensive to raise as you have to spend in multiples of 10. Essentially, depending on what you desire, you can gain a variety of different bonuses on the weapon, such as a +5 to damage/-3 to hit, or even a +1 to hit/+3 to Critical Hit Range. Theres a few different ones, essentially what you go for depends on what you need and can afford within your budget.

The final two dice, fully refundable, cover your Wood and Leather work, respectively, giving you your hilt and scabbard which yet again can confer more properties to the weapon.

What each of the different components add are mostly minor in the scheme of things, with the weapon design being the most consequential of the bunch, but obviously there is a butt load of space to customize.

Now, all that said, what Warriors MOA ability does is, essentially, build on the different damage types that are enabled by weapons. These proved to be quite similar to feats like Crusher or Piercer in 5e, but they're more directly tied into the various weapon types rather than just the damage types, and by later levels it broadens out to emphasize a crit fishing heavy playstyle, with a naturally reduced critical hit range (which stacks with any such bonuses your weapon already has) and an emphasis on the use of Sword type weapons, who all share the unique property of being able to deal any of the three damage types at will. This all culminates in the final ability of the chain named Scabbard of Legends, which gives the Warrior the chance to make a "legendary swing", which maximizes the damage for their attacks for a turn.

The Warriors first tertquat is named Siege Tactics. As mentioned, LNO has morphed into being a more deliberate wargame, and the Warrior does not shy away from it.

The ability chains primary focus, aside from confering a smattering of bonuses that have to do with sieges, is on the construction and use of siege engines. But, not just the big fancy ones, but smaller ones as well. This confers onto the Warrior their own Pavise, a miniature catapult (capable of launching a wayward Rogue quite a ways away ;) ), a "Batter Ram" (literally a hand held battering ram), and a collapsible ladder. While all are immensely useful in battle, they are meant to give the Warrior a substantive presence in exploration, their tools giving them a lot of different ways to get around and interact with the environment.

Their final chain, aptly named Soldiery, introduces some very useful support abilities, letting them not just restore Composure and Stamina to themselves and their comrades, but also boosting many of their parties capabilities. Not too spicy, but very useful.

Now, the subclasses are rather deceptively simple, with these being the Knight, the Arquera, the Siege Master, and the Commander.

The Knight, as one would guess, is basically the ultimate chivalric Knight. Its principle addition to the class is Defensive Techniques; reaction moves that tie into the Battle Combo system and make the Knight a very potent, if slightly less damaging, defensive powerhouse. But also the Knight carries with it the first instance of the option to swap their attributes around for the purpose of calculating their Energies. In this instance, the Knight can use their Charisma in place of either their Strength or Dexterity to calculate their Stamina. This, along some unique social bonuses, naturally emphasizes the Knights more courtly themes.

But alongside both of these is its true niche in being an extremely strong mount forward combatant. Similarly to the Drakewarden of 5e, the Knight comes to befriend a line (you can breed them) of war horses (or some other animal) and they grow with you, and you gain some powerful abilities on and off the mount, such as the ability to use the Lance's special property (crit hit dropped to 10 and damage x4, it mounted and hit a target after spending your full movement (min of 20ft)) without a mount. This all culminates in their capstone, Charge of the Ebonguard, which not only further increases the damage of such lance charges, but also confers the same benefits to any horde the player happens to lead, leading to absolutely devastating cavalry charges that can actually split enemy hordes in half, if the collective horde has the movement to completely push through their target, greatly debuffing them and making them easy fodder to clean up.

The Arquera, interestingly enough, provided me a happy accident in helping to define some of the lore for the games default setting, as its name (feminine version of the Spanish word for Archer) lead me to flavor certain societies to be more Iberian. But, that was a result of me wanting an enticing name for an Archer class, of which the Arquera presents another "ultimate" version of.

Where the other subclasses are very catered towars either leading or being a part of a larger group, the Arquera is much more of a lone wolf, with its abilities heavily emphasizing its one vs many playstyle. With abilities that enhance their fletching, vision, ranged-to-melee transitions, and a number of others, the Arquera is basically Legolas the Class. The class culminates in its capstone, The Sinking of the Aman Bad, which gives the class an ability to even act as their own artillery, doing devastating damage not just to targets, but also to the environment and anything immediate behind them, the Arqueras arrows so powerful they pierce flesh, wood, and even metal like they were nothing.

The next subclass Ive got for the initial 4 is named the Siege Master. As you can imagine, this takes Siege Tactics and develops it further, integrating the use of Siege weapons (both the big ones and the miniature ones you can carry) with the Battle Combo system, and providing greatly enhanced versions of all of these, providing for a potent and terrifying ranged/brawler sort of playstyle, all culminating in the capstone names Rending of the Valley, which incorporates exploding dice style AOE mechanics to your ranged siege engines, and turns them effectively into the medieval equivalent of guided missiles, dealing not just 4x damage against any environmental object, but up to 10x damage against unenchanted and/or depowered castle walls. Break the enchantments on a castle, and a level 30 Siege Master can blow a hole into it like its a rickety shack.

The final subclass is the Commander, my take on the elusive Warlord style class, insofar as a Warlord can look in my system anyway.

Aside from the obvious smattering of basic buffs and boons the Commander can contribute to their party, their playstyle emphasizes Intelligence, and so naturally, the Commander has the option to slot in Intelligence in place of their Strength or Dexterity to calculate their Stamina. Their principle ability is Battle Orders, which by simply being present enables the Commander to boost the Iniative of their party by +1 (+2 if they can nab a Surprise round), but also confers to them the ability to freely (ie, without using up their skill action) to use Perception or Investigation to find different monster and environmental complications (ie, special abilities unique to both monsters and the environment) and activate them, turning them against the Commanders foes. Find yourself in a run in with Goblin ambushers? Turn their cruddy traps against them.

But their most critical ability, which comes online halfway through the chain, is in Strategist, which nor only gives the Commander the ability to exert direct control over the Initiative order, spending their own Initiative to increase that of his allies, but also allows the Commander to induce their allies to be better than usual, with each class gaining unique abilities that use the Commanders Mana and Stamina in lieu of their own. For example, the Barbarian gains the Barbaric Overrun ability, which costs the Commander 50 Stamina, and allows the Barbarian to essentially barrel into a group of enemies (or even better, a horde) dealing a full Act worth of the Barbarians attacks. So, if we keep in mind the Barbarian gets the same access to weapons, and already had their Smash! dice boosting their damage to some pretty nutso heights, the ability is very useful indeed. The Commander's abilities all culminate in their capstone, And They Cried Death, which not only doubles the benefits of their Battle Orders, but emphasizes to the greatest extent the Commanders place as the essential "leader", with any Surprise round the party is able to induce automatically granting anyone who could Act during the Surprise round, including the Commander, an additional Act and React that they can use at any time during the battle. But, this does come at the rather steep cost of both 100 Mana and 100 Stamina, so the Commander by this point in the game fundamentally must be well rounded, as otherwise you miss out on these rather devastatingly powerful benefits. (Which, admittedly, might be a bit overtuned even for what Im going for, but thats okay for now)

Naturally, the Warrior is deliberately meant to be a rather complex class to play, and that complexity comes with the benefits of being starkly powerful in and out of combat.

The Rogue

The last of the three "main" Martials (others include the Paladin, Ranger, Monk, and Beastmaster, who I think are more relevant to their respective groups), my take on the Rogue is another reinvention of sorts.

To put it in a nutshell, my Rogue does not assume an overt stealth focus. Instead, the Rogue follows what I personally imagine in fantasy when I hear the name, which tends towards more of an Errol Flynn meets Cary Elwes. Swashbuckling scoundrel for sure, but not necessarily an overt criminal. It also simply follows the logic that while your thieves or asssassin types might fight similarly to a Rogue, a Rogue does not always fight like them. Hence, in the subclasses, the Assassin and Ravager return these themes to the class, while the Duelist and Seadog build on the Rogues new core abilities.

So with that said, introducing the Rogues Primary ability chain, Roguish Cunning. This is, essentially, an adaptation of DCCs Mighty Deed mechanic, except adapted for my combat system.

As such, you begin with 1d4 as your Cunning Die, and as you level this eventually grows not just in die size, but also in number to two dice, with each corresponding to your Act and React (and like your 2d20 roll you can choose which die goes to which). When you roll your 2d20 at the beginning of a combat round, you also roll your Cunning Dice, and you add the values of your assigned CD's to your Act and React ratings.

Like in Mighty Deed, if your Cunning Dice roll at least a 4, then you get the option to make either a Cunning Act or a Cunning React, or both if you rolled at least two fours. With these you can describe any sort of maneuver or action that plays into your attacks or defense, with the only limit being that regardless of what you describe, they can only inflict (or negate) as much damage as what you rolled on your Cunning Dice. So, if you rolled a 10 on your first die and a 12 on your second, and you assign these to Act and React respectively, your Deeds can thus only inflict the 10 damage, and negate up to 12 damage, and you deeds can be freely repeated for each attack or defense that you're able to make.

However, it you assign both dies to Act or React, you get the added value for that Deed, though this does not allow you to get a deed if you didn't at least roll a 4 on either die.

Overall, this adaptation is explicitly meant to not only provide a resource that the rest of the class can key off of for various benefits, but also helps emphasize the difference in playstyle relative to the straightforward and simplistic Barbarian and the methodical and complex Warrior, with creativity being the driving factor for how the Rogue plays.

To that end, the Rogues secondary ability is named Roguish Grace. This ability chain is all about driving the Rogue towards a "speed tank" sort of playstyle. The opening ability, Swift Foot, allows your Cunning Dice values to be added to your Movement, and as you grow, your abilities give you greater climbing and reactive movement; you no longer must make checks in combat to climb (but you can if you want it to not cost Movement), you get to spend your movement even after defending yourself.

This all eventually culminates in the capstone, Like Water, which lets you burn Movement to reduce incoming damage.

The first tertquat for the Rogue, is Roguish Gambit. While the core design of the Rogue isn't intended to push a stealthy stealy stabby sort of playstyle, the overlap between that and the more swasbuckling type of thing is valid, and so Gambit bridges that gap. Themed principally around IRL Magician tropes, abilities like Cardist, Misdirect, or Clever Lift all contribute to a rather tricky sort of playstyle that meshes well with the fast moving improvisation of the Core abilities.

Misdirect for instance directly improves the process of feinting in combat, whether you improvise it with your Cunning Act or use the basic feint attack, guaranteeing that you'll always burn your opponents reaction. But it also gives you the ability, out of combat, to make a Cunning Act (if the die rolls 4 or higher) to distract a mark, with the final value of the die imposing a direct penalty on the mark's Perception.

Clever Lift meanwhile lets you pickpocket your foes in battle, provided you can successfully Hide from them (either by basic action or with a Cunning Act), and if you opt to take a weapon or some other damaging implement, like an arrow or a dart, you can immediately redirect it into an extra attack. Tricky Ricochet builds on that concept, letting you turn Disarms against your targer in the same way.

Gambit all culminates in the capstone, Like a Mirror, which lets you redirect the enchantments of your pickpocketed or disarmed items at your leisure. Pickpocket a nifty dagger of fire and stab the guy with it, but then his friend gets hit with the fire enchantment. The idea here being that, after so long "pretending" to be a magician you actually learned a little bit.

The final ability chain for the Rogue is named Roguish Induce. This entire chain is built to integrate with my Debate system, which is a social conflict resolution system thats, basically, a verbose version of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock.

That system Im still working on, but to give an idea of how it works and why it is what it is, its essentially my attempt at creating a social mechanic that meshes well with natural conversation, but also delivers a more mechanical approach. More or less a bridge between my personal preference of having no meaningful social mechanics at all and having an overtly mechanical process.

How a Debate is resolved is by one side draining the other of their Charisma, which is measured in divisions. As the debate begins, the four Charisma skills (Insight, Persuasion, Intimidation, Deception) are used by the participants to try and counter each other's arguments, with each skill corresponding to the participants chosen approach. Each failed check divides that participants Charisma in half, and when their Charisma can no longer be wholly divided, the Debate ends with the final skill used dictating how the Debate was won and, if it was an NPC that lost, how they might react. (They still retain autonomy, as skills aren't mind control, but the influence will be noticeable)

Insight, in addition to giving you insight on what an NPC is susceptible to, also gives you and the NPC the ability to sub in different skills and even raw attribute Talent checks to try and win the debate, with the idea being that charisma alone cannot always win over a person or otherwise influence them; sometimes it requires a more practical argument and through Insight, a participants other skills allow them to make such arguments, such as a skilled Smith convincing a merchant to stop overcharging for cruddy daggers, and indeed, some may very well need to be convinced this way, and no amount of raw charisma will circumvent it. This capability is what provides the Lizard/Spock to the Rock/Paper/Scissors of Persuasion/Intimidation/Deception. An Insight substution can only be successfully countered by a higher roll of the same skill, or by a critical success (nat20) in P/I/D.

While I think it provides an interesting way to systematize a social conflict, the overall point is that one could let the mechanics slide into the background very easily, as they shouldn't encroach on the natural flow of the conversation.

And so, for the Rogue, Induce hooks into this Debate system and gives the Rogue a lot of different tools to influence debates and swing them in the Rogues favor.

Now, for the subclasses this where I also found I hit a stride, and I had a lot of fun playtesting them in fact.

The first is the simply named Duelist. This was deeply inspired by Alexandre Dumas novels, and the core idea of the subclass is to deliver the ultimate swashbuckler. Starting with High Society, you not only gain the ability to sub in your Charisma for Str/Dex for your Stamina, but also learn to turn affluent dress into the effective equivalent of armor, with flashy, high quality clothing providing you armor and, to emphasize this flavor of Rogue as more of a Face type, the ability for your clothes to add additional penalties to a Marks Perception.

This then moves on to Vengeful and Bitter Resolve, which give you greater control over your Acts and Reacts, letting you React offensively, making unique counter attacks that key off of your React Rating, and even allowing you to freely decide to Act or React twice, giving up the ability to do the other for the round.

Meanwhile, Second Blade and the Duelist capstone, Swordmaster, deliver on their namesakes, further developing the Duelists capability to React offensively, and solidifying a dedication to the Sword, providing some serious competition to the Warrior for best swordsman in the game.

The second subclass is a particularly fun one. The Seadog is the classical pirate, and was very heavily inspired by Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. As that inspiration implies, the Seadog is a significant vertical skirmisher, combining attacks from heights and throwing weapons into an even faster moving hit-and-run machine. But not to be outdone, the Seadog even begins to fight with a savagery not unlike a Beasthearts Frenzy; with lower and lower Composure, the Seadog hits harder, runs faster, and fights for longer. Stupendously fun class.

As mentioned, the next two classes return the more overt stealth focus to the class.

The Assassin, as you can guess, is pretty straightforward and I like to think it captures precisely what you'd want out of such a class, if what you wanted was Skyrim style sneaky stabby bow stuff lol. Between devastating stealth driven critical hits and a greatly enhanced ability to stay hidden even in the most difficult of circumstances, the Assassin is very capable of delivering on its namesake, albeit its limitations keep it reserved as it doesn't do well when surrounded and forced out of stealth.

The Ravager is the essential Thief class, and actually does a lot to reach back into the more classical Thief of DND. Focused on placement in battle (rather than being super fast or merely hidden), the Ravagers Backstab attacks serve as a unique variant of stealth attacks that only require the Ravager be in shadows or immediately behind their target, and delivers your Rogue level as a substantive damage bonus. Springcoil meanwhile gives the Ravager some important maneuverability, not only being able to scale those classic sheer walls, but also being able to leapfrog an enemy, letting the Ravager get in easy Backstabs.

However, in addition to pushing the Thief ideas, I also wanted to emphasize the Ravager as a dungeoneer, and to this end the Ravager gains a unique immunity to lower and eventually mid level Curses, letting them take cursed objects and turn them against the Ravagers enemies if they wish, and these abilities all come together in their later ability Object Desire, and the Ravager's capstone, Behold, Labyrinthine, which allow the Ravager to not only deliver devastating Backstabs with cursed objects, but also let them begin to try and resist even the most powerful curses with the aid of their Cunning Dice, making the Ravager a most useful ally to have when delving into the dankest dungeons.

Overall the Rogue was quite a lot of fun to design and playtest, and while some of it does feel overtuned, it'll take a greater context to really decide, as while its very strong relative to its other Martial brothers, it could well turn out they need buffs more than the Rogue nerfs. But we shall see. After all, part of the design intent is for individual characters to be potentially powerful enough to go toe to toe with entire armies by themselves, so in that context if anything the Rogue is undertuned, which is arguably where it ought to be in the scheme of things.

For posterity, requoting my thoughts on my initial goes at designing my magic system in another topic:

Lately I've been in the weeds designing my games magic system from the ground up.

Whats been interesting so far is just how far Ive been able to push my perspective that combat magic can be as high octane and jacked up as one wants, so long as utility magic is reasonably limited.

How I approached that came from two directions, lore and mechanical. Lorewise, magic is inherently dangerous; it fundamentally isn't capable of doing anything without destroying something. This basic tenet gives the fiction justification for splitting magic up into two different Skills (sort of paralleling the difference between say, Light Armor and Heavy Armor, but not quite) which govern how magic is accessed and utilized.

The first, Arcana, is considered to be the raw manipulation of The Mana. The user simply draws upon their internal stores of it to make something happen. Its through this skill that the improvisation of magical effects is attempted, which mechanically includes nearly all utility uses one might want.

The second, however, I have named Runewrite, the structured application of the Mana for a specific effect. Runewrite is what governs the explicitly codified Spells most are familiar with from other games, and is the skill that guides the creation of such spells, as all characters who use them will be intended to create their own. Unlike Arcana, which isn't going to terribly useful for a Combat (outside of my in-progress draft of my Sorcerer, that is), Runewrite is all about combat, and through it you can push spells to incredibly high highs, and can indeed access some of the few explicit utility spells that will exist in the game (behind a high skill gate and a higher crafting gate).

But what really keeps these balanced in my games context, aside from being split up so that no character is automatically good at both, is something Im integrating from DCC: Corruption.

As noted, magic in this system has to destroy something. So, for users of Arcana, while they can generally reliably succeed at casting any basic little spell effect they want once they get a few skill points in (but will still need to "get gud" to fire off really critical effects), it will often come at the cost of taking on a Corruption; sometimes these will be innocuous, other times debilitating, and sometimes even near deadly. Trying to spam your way out of situations is not ideal, and even those who max out their skill with Arcana will still be quite vulnerable.

All of which, finally gave me a solid enough basis to get after designing the classes themselves, the first of which in the Sorcerer is almost finished for its initial draft. Its core mechanic is also a adaptation from DCC in a magical version of the Mighty Deed, which I've called the Mark of Arcana. The basic idea is that the Sorcerer is designed as a mostly simple to play magical brawler, making improvised spell attacks utilizing Arcana Dice to drive damage and to enable you to make a Mark of Arcana, letting you, as with the Mighty Deed, do more or less whatever you want, with the only limitation being, like my Rogues Cunning Act, also a Mighty Deed adaptation, that whatever effects you induce cannot cause any direct damage in excess of your Arcana dice. If you rolled, say, 25 total, then thats as much damage as you'll do with however many Casts (like Attacks for Martials, but for mages) that you have, and that anything that isn't strictly a combat effect (offensive or defensive) will induce an automatic Corruption. So you could absolutely use your Mark to unlock a door in the heat of combat, just hope you have to deal with tentacle arms instead of a heart attack. (I just made these up lol)

But, in addition to this, the Sorcerer also gets Master of the Elements, an ability chain that gives them a variety of unique riders for all 10 of the different Elemental spells. For instance, the chain opens with Crackling Fire, which gives you a typical Chain Lightning effect, but also gives you the ability to rain Embers with your fire spells. These Embers emit at random from your fire magic and you can will them to be placed anywhere on the battlefield. When any entity enters the Embers tile, it explodes dealing 1d6 damage.

And the Sorcerer has more than this, but I want to keep going with that Ember effect so I can get to the point of this ye olde essay, as one of the subclasses, Fire Caller, is built around greatly expanding on it.

Fire Caller starts off by making the Embers more frequent and twice as powerful. Firing off fire magic at this point will start to litter the battlefield with them. As the Fire Caller progresses, the Embers become even more powerful, and it eventually culminates in the capstone Immolator, which among other things induces the Embers to, rather than simply peter out as they do normally, instead automatically explode at the end of the round. Fire Callers at this level are basically literring the battlefield with potentially a dozen or more mini nuclear bombs. Great fodder for the Martials and other Casters that can fling mobs to certain points on the battlefield. An Orc might get its head bashed in by a Barbarian, weakening it, only for that Barbarian to then use their Slam! reaction to throw them into the middle of some embers. Big booms, heckin good time.

Now I explained all that to support the original point, that combat magic can be as nuts as you want without issue. In this context, that same Barbarian can easily keep up with the damage the Sorcerer is putting out (they're actually mechanically symmetrical in that regard, funnily enough) and if that Barbarian happened to be a Beastheart Barbarian, they'd actually be outpacing the Sorcerer.

And meanwhile, both classes have a slew of things they can do for utility not only within their ability chains but also across the variety of skills both would be pursuing to level up, with virtually no overlap.

With magic set up the way it is, and the skill system a foundational part of the game, and yes, deliberately designed classes, theres a balance that lets everybody feel like they're going hogwild when mechanically they're right in the grooves they ought to be in.

Thats why, in regards to this topic, my view is and ever will be to just nerf the crap out of utility magic. Too many of these spells in DND only exist as "turn off these mechanics buttons", and even with reasonable failure rates, just their explicit existence is going to cause framing issues in regards to whats possible and what tools players actually have.

Edit: and a small explanation of a recent update I made to my Energy system to really nail down what I was going for

Ive been designing my own RPG and how I approached HP (I call it Composure or CP) is that what you actually have is 3 "Energy Modifiers", which OP as you're familiar with DCC are basically like your reflex/will/wis saves, but quite a bit different.

Essentially, Energy Modifiers combine saves, ability modifiers, and CP/Mana/Stamina all into the same streamlined mechanic, and as you fight and expend these, your capabilities drop with them, as your mods all play into your abilities.

If you're low on Composure, you won't have great luck getting that goblin to fail to save against your Shove, as an example. If you cast a spell that induces a save, the save will be adding some number to your Mana mod, so if its low, it'll be easier to resist. And so on.

But for CP specifically, I've also explicitly relegated it as being non-lethal to drop to zero; instead when you drop to zero you lose the ability to React defensively (its an Act/React system, so you have to actively defend yourself, you can't rely on enemies missing), meaning any hits you take will start inducing Wounds, which is how you'll actually be killed if you take a bad one or just too many. Similar in ways to death saves and exhaustion from 5e, but better, I like to think.

Among the myriad things this system does to make combat fast paced and intuitive, it does clear up pretty much every issue Ive ever had with HP as a concept without really straying from its simplicity as a mechanic.
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DEBATE: Social Combat in LNO

This one is special, because I feel comfortable sharing an actual procedure. And this may come off sounding strange compared to how I usually carry myself, but thats because I'm on 4 hours sleep and absolutely delirious.

So, I'm one of those types that really really hates social mechanics, but even so, I felt compelled by some mechanism in the universe to challenge myself to create a Social mechanic that would suit my delicate, snow-like sensibilities. I needed something that I could run and not have it really get in the way of roleplaying; it needed to be seamless, and work with the flow of a conversation in such a way that the Dice feel natural to be there, guiding the roleplay.

To accomplish that, I came up with a system I uncreatively call Debates, a system of social combat specifically designed to resolve social disputes, like Haggling, Bribing, Rousing the Peasants, or other such things, that simply can't be resolved in the course of a 10 second conversation.

In a nutshell, it's just Liar's Dice combined with Rock/Paper/Scissors.

What I find very interesting about this system is that I can't actually remember what exactly made it occur to me to use Liar's Dice, as originally it was just all RPS, but in obscured hindsight, Liar's Dice is just an inspired choice. Liar's Dice by its nature is already a conversation-as-game that incorporates dice rolling, and once I figured out how to bring the RPS framework into Liar's Dice, I realized how player skills, your Persuasions and Intimidates, can be integrated into the system in a way that, if not exactly intuitive, just makes a heck of a lot of sense.

So that's spiel; what does this system look like?

First off, I want to note two things. First, in order to support this system, I have come to develop a 4th Energy to go along with Composure, Mana, and Stamina as discussed earlier; this energy is called Acuity. Not only will Acuity be integral to your participation in a Debate, but it will also actually serve as your Passive Awareness (and yes, Perception is still around as a totally separate thing, just trust me bro), and will also be governing a bunch of things, like various Skill actions one can take in Combat using the skills that fall under it, like your Persuasions and Intimidates.

Secondly, to be clear, for Debates you will have 4 Primary skills that will be relevant. Those are Persuasion, Intimidation, Deception, and Insight They all, aside from Insight which has a bit more than usual, do more or less what you'd expect them to in normal circumstances.

So anyway, thats all the hullabaloo, this is the procedure:


The Debate system is a codified social conflict resolution framework that provides the means for players to formalize an intense social conflict, and resolve it in a dynamic, back and forth game of what is effectively a talky Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock combined with Liar's Dice.


1. Opening a Debate: A debate is opened when any given participant first makes an Argument, defined as a Persuasive, Deceptive, or Intimidating statement intended to convince another entity towards some course of action

2. Determining Social Initiative: The iniative order is determined automatically as participants engage in the Debate; whomever speaks first takes 1st spot, 2nd takes the 2nd spot. All other participants will participate, starting from 3rd spot, by order of their current Acuity Score.

3. Opening Arguments: The initial Arguments made as Initiative is determined are simply roleplayed; no skills are rolled as this is the moment when participants must decide if they will commit to engaging in a Debate, and as such no arguments made here are binding.

4. Debating: To begin a round of Debate, each Participant rolls 2d10, keeping the result hidden from themselves and other participants, and may either declare which skill of Persuasion, Deception, Intimidation, or Insight they wish to use, or may simply roleplay the argument, with the type of skill used assumed by what is said. Each player makes their Argument in turn, and when all participants have spoken, each participant may view their own dice.

5. Counter-Arguing: Each player in turn decides if they wish to make a Counter-Argument, which follow the same declaration rules as the Argument. If they do, they can choose to counter their opponent(s) arguments with another Skill, betting that whatever value they rolled will beat their opponents. Each player in turn may offer their own Counter-Arguments until at least one player refuses to do so. For each Counter-Argument given, the potential loss of Acuity for the player increases by +1.

6. Resolving the Debate: Upon the end of Counter-Arguments, the dice are revealed. Whomever has the highest total wins the debate, and the amount of Acuity they lose corresponds to their choices during the Debate, and whether or not the skill's used counter the opponent's chosen skill. For example, if a player makes a Persuasion attempt, this can be Counter-Argued with a Deception attempt, or opposing player can decide to use Intimidation or Insight instead, betting that the other player will attempt another skill to counter them in turn. In this example, the second player chooses Intimidation, and the first player declines to Counter Argue, when the dice are revealed, the 1st player rolled 15, and the second 10. As the first player used Persuasion, which beats their opponents final use of Intimidation, the second player will lose 1 Acuity for losing that round of Debate, 1 Acuity for losing the Counter Argument, and 1 Acuity for failing to properly counter their opponents Argument.

7. The procedure repeats until at least one participant has lost all off their Acuity. While all participants, Player and NPC, will retain their own agency in the aftermath of a Debate, meaning the desired outcome is never guaranteed, engaging in a Debate will open doors to different ways of achieving the desired outcome for Players, but these paths will come with consequences. If, for instance, one fails to Barter for a lower price on a Sword, in the aftermath of a Debate the Smith may inadvertently reveal ways to steal the sword or offer to make a fair trade by favor or quest. What options exist for these will depend on the NPC's personality and their disposition towards you.

Special Rules

Insight: Insight, in addition to being its own argumentative tool in a Debate, can also be used to invoke one of the Player's non-Charisma skills, using it and any modifiers it has in the Debate. Which skill would be appropriate will depend on the NPC and what their personality is, but an amenable target has a high chance of being convinced by such Arguments, but be wary, as those that aren't, or worse yet those who have no respect for the skills you attempt to flaunt will not take the offense lightly. Using a non-Charisma skill in a Debate will induce double Acuity loss in your opponent if you win the Round of debate you used it in, but you will take double Acuity loss if you lose. This usage of Insight can only be countered by a better roll in the same Skill. For instance, if you use Smithing to convince the Smith to give you a lower price on the sword, they will be amenable, but if their own Smithing roll exceeds yours, you will lose that round of debate.

Disposition: Depending on the NPC's personality, some approaches will offend them, and you will take Acuity loss as well, even if you win the Debate. Such NPC's will react accordingly to Arguments they take offense to (which may or may not be dependent on both the content of the argument, and the skill used to make it), and when they do so, you will immediately take the loss of 1 Acuity.


And thats it. By my estimation, its quite an elegant system, and it does precisely what it sets out to do in being seamless with roleplay, assuming players are familiar with the procedure anyway, which isn't something I can really avoid by any mechanism I've ever seen. I also realize I don't go into Dispositions and what all that means and how it'll be determined, but that has more to do with NPC design that I don't really care to get into for this. Generally speaking in the system, if you suspect someone would be amenable to being convinced by a particular skill, it'll either be very obvious or discoverable, if the players choose to do Research on whom they're looking to convince of something.

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