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Peril - wherein RangerWickett reinvents the wheel

When Pathfinder 2nd edition was teased, I liked some of the mechanics, but ultimately my group didn't go for it. As I am an eternal tinkerer, I spent a few months brainstorming, and have now retooled what I liked and grabbed mechanics from other games. I've named this new ruleset Peril.

For a long time I've wanted a game that would create combats that felt more dramatic, rather than mechanical. Actual duels don't consist of you attacking while I stand still, then me attacking while you stand still; we're each trying to actively defend while setting up an opportunity to land a solid strike. However, every time I've played an RPG before that tried to model that sort of back and forth, the game played very slowly, especially when you have four PCs and several enemy creatures in the same combat.

I think I've cracked that nut. The trick is to imperil your opponent.

(Caveat: It is very much in pre-alpha state.)



There are six rule elements that distinguish Peril.

1. Action Economy. Two actions per turn, but (usually) no more than one for attacking.
2. Success Tiers. Rolls can critically succeed, succeed, fail, and critically fail.
3. Defense. Four defenses - Fortitude, Maneuver, Reflex, Will. Armor provides DR.
4. Saves. Characters get two or three saves, once-per-combat abilities that downgrade an attack against you one step (crit>success>miss>mishap), and then provide a temporary bonus to help turn the tide.
5. Poises. Six actions that telegraphy a threat. They might let you use a reaction or improve an attack on your next turn.
6. Criticals. Critical hits inflict temporary negative conditions.

For example, you might make a Basic Attack with your sword, then use the poise Commit. Commit has you choose a target and a weapon, and on your next turn, if you attack that target with that weapon, your attack is upgraded one step (mishap>miss>success>crit). Alternately, you might use the poise Defend, which gives you the ability to make opportunity attacks. Or you could Grapple them.

If you Commit, your opponent has to gauge the extra risk. They might think they can take you out, and so stay and fight. They might run away to safety. They might try to disarm or grapple you so you can't use that weapon. They might yell for their allies to gang up on you, or to grapple you so you can't reach them.

This is not the way 4E did it, where attackers have different offensive encounter powers and so have to switch up. Instead, the different defensive and reactive powers force people to reassess the value of different tactics. And some of the better tactics require a turn to set up.

Similarly, most monsters have attacks that create a sense of peril. A green dragon's breath weapon doesn't just slam you with damage, but gradually burns your eyes and blinds you if you don't take countermeasures. A troll that grabs you can rip your arm off next turn. Wolves will take the Defend action so if you attack one member of the pack, the rest can make opportunity attacks.

Then there are the saves, which turn a hit into a miss and then grant you some temporary advantage. For example, the barbarian You Made Me Angry save defends against Fortitude or Will attacks, then lets the barbarian begin their rage right away, or improves their rage if it's already active. The fighter Parry-Riposte save defends against a Maneuver or Reflex attack, then lets you move 5 feet and make an attack back.

Using a save is intended to feel dramatic, to be that moment in an action scene where the hero outwits the villain, dodges a deadly attack, and gets the upper hand. They're quick to resolve, but capture the feeling of actively defending that is so often missing from table top RPGs.

I've attached the first draft, which has stats for four PCs and four monsters - an alchemist, barbarian, fighter, and kineticist, and a green wyrmling, hydra, troll, and wolf. I reiterate, this is very much pre-alpha, and I'm sure some of the ideas I had won't work as well in practice as they seem in my head.

Matrix Sorcica and zztong, this is the system I mentioned over in the PF2 Actual Play Experience thread. If you or anyone else have any feedback, I'd appreciate it.
 

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Wightbred

Explorer
(Deleted post after misunderstanding. Retyped the key points below.)

Interesting revision, more interesting to me than regular PF2. Plus this is a hell of a lot of work you have done!

I’ve also been making some changes inspired by PF2, including allowing multiple actions in AiME and my own games. But have been limiting by penalty to AC for second and third rather than -5 / -10, Poises or by weapon. My second most popular house rule, and lots of fun for players. Have you considered having actions dictate your Poises instead of making them take actions? Eg: Multiple attacks is effectively Commit, Raise Shield is Defend, etc.

I am also allowing return attacks on a fumble instead of just trips etc. These two rules together really shake up the my turn, your turn, my turn dynamic.

Like the Princess Bride idea. Good luck!
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Sorry - I thought I was helping. Deleted comment. Good luck with the game.
No, my apologies, I didn't mean to say your comment was pointless. I mean that having three actions is far from pointless despite the appearances of -5 and -10. My "this is not the thread" comment was meant at people going "so if it's so meaningful why don't you explain it then", not you.

I am sorry I made you delete your comment @Wightbred
 

ruemere

Explorer
Hmm. Interesting, still too complicated.

First, too many little and unimportant details. Propulsion? It's a bow, a ranged weapon. Great? It's just a replacement for two-handed. And so on.

Second, mix of different styles in made up terms. Technical "propulsion" vs. comical "you just made me angry". It is jarring.

Third, you're using a lot of Paizo's property in the document (images, statblock styles, etc). I know the document is not intended to become commercial, but still.

My recommendation here would be to use Apocalypse World moves with White Hack groups. For example:
Martial group, Make a great swing (requires one-handed or two-handed melee weapon)

Boudica, A Martial, A Barbarian, A Monarch, A Charioteer, A General

Each group grants a few moves:
A group specific Knowledge Check, Martial group battlefield actions that go beyond simple Attack, etc.

A few moves could require a few groups, like Martial Barbarian RAGE.

The number of groups would be limited by level, and some moves would have level requirements, like Support Cleric RESURRECTION.

And so on. The goal would be to both limit the number of little fiddly bits, and also to decrease the number of choices to be made by players. Also to make the choices tied to character builds, as opposed to items.
 

zztong

Explorer
@Matrix Sorcica and @zztong here's the wickedtt thread.
You rang? Oh, read the first post. Got it.

Okay, I've skimmed it. (Available time only permits so much.) You're building a system to simulate a duel. That will let you go into lots of detail and more complexity because you'll have a small number of combatants and your base premise that the combatants move relative to each other to gain an advantage rings true to life.

Actually, I think the most mobile combat is a 2 on 1 situation in an open setting. The 1 will attempt to maneuver such that the 2 are in each other's way.

A friend of mine really liked a game where a duel was handled via a card game. He wanted to simulate fencing and that system gave a nice move and counter-move feel. I wish I could remember its name.

I am legitimately interested to know how your system works out for you, mostly because I have friends who like duels.

Alas, my own games/adventures are not in simulating duels. I generally run plots where combat features many combatants. (Think 20 on 20, 40 on 10, or something on a scale of 20 to 100 combatants.) Fights on a larger scale aren't necessarily characterized by great individual mobility, and it becomes more important to interleave the attacks, so preferably no more than one attack per combatant with an option for limited movement. The drama is more at the level of who lives and dies, or who holds out against the odds.

Part of the frustration with PF2 was it was getting farther from that and closer to supporting duels. And, if you're really focused on duels, then PF2 combat probably doesn't have enough detail/features since it appears to be focused on fights with 5-10 combatants.
 

ruemere

Explorer
Hmm. Interesting, still too complicated.

[...]

My recommendation here would be to use Apocalypse World moves with White Hack groups. For example:
Martial group, Make a great swing (requires one-handed or two-handed melee weapon)

Boudica, A Martial, A Barbarian, A Monarch, A Charioteer, A General

[...]
I believe I need to expand on my take a bit.

I'm a fan of minimalistic design. I like when there are details and exceptions, but my firm rule is that they are to be reigned in. Limited to several choices, with glut and +1 bonuses removed. With special abilities using precise, single-sentence, descriptions.

To me, 13th Age and Blades in the Dark represent important milestone achievements in design. 13th Age statblock contains only relevant bits with universal interaction mechanics covering the rest. Blades in the Dark provides a legible, easy and diabolically minimalistic PC character sheet with all mechanical exceptions grouped in a simple format.
There are flaws, faults, inadequacies and missteps here and there, but once I read both systems, once I put them to use, I realized how many incredibly unimportant details are in PF2.

And then I read White Hack. A fully realized system with potentially high level of complexity (certainly higher than your typical OSR core) on 66 pages of paper (less if you drop setting and scenario bits).

The way I see it PF2 attempts (and gloriously fails) to provide a complete system for everything. 670 pages. Ugh. So many conditions (vs. 7 effects of 13th Age). So many items (since when Conan needed so many freaking little trinkets?). And tags. Tags galore... it's as if a code developer had a field day with refactoring a complex app.

The three games up there prove that such grand designs are not really necessary. To create complexity all you need is Cartesian product of perpendicular concepts, not a thousand incrementally different variants.

So:
Boudica <NAME>, Level 7, A Martial <GROUP>, A Barbarian <GROUP>, A Monarch <GROUP>, A Charioteer <GROUP>, A General <GROUP>

Each <GROUP> grants level gated Moves.
Groups are not equal, I would assume that Barbarian Group and Martial Group are special, they bring class defining abilities. Monarch, Charioteer and General are probably just profession and social status designates that can be leveraged for universal Knowledge and Action moves.

Each Group grants Group relevant Knowledge check move ("I am a Monarch, I should know the members of that royal family")
Each Group grants Group relevant Action check move ("I am a General, I order them to do this")

The Martial Group provides a set of Moves that go beyond simple Attack, Defend and Disengage. A character picks from the pool up to the limit of the Level. A Power Attack, A Feint, An Ultimate All-Out Combo. Etc.

The Barbarian would be all about improved HP. The knowledges and checks - see above.

And there would be also special class Moves:
Martial Barbarian RAGE

From here, one would need to sift through PF2 and pick class defining items, while ignoring the rest, and making sure that the number of choices at any time is low enough to allow players to enjoy the game without consulting a book on yet another trivia item.

There. This is my take on both PF2 and your document - if it is not clear, I applaud the idea, regardless of how many little bits you keep :)
 

Jaeger

Adventurer
...
There are flaws, faults, inadequacies and missteps here and there, but once I read both systems, once I put them to use, I realized how many incredibly unimportant details are in PF2.
...

The way I see it PF2 attempts (and gloriously fails) to provide a complete system for everything. 670 pages. Ugh. So many conditions (vs. 7 effects of 13th Age). So many items (since when Conan needed so many freaking little trinkets?). And tags. Tags galore... it's as if a code developer had a field day with refactoring a complex app.

The three games up there prove that such grand designs are not really necessary. ...
While games like PF2, Gurps, Hero; certainly have their followers - I also believe with my own caveats, that the above by Ruemere is a basic truth that is slowly making its way through the hobby.

There is just no need for all the fiddly stacking +1 - 3 etc mechanics, when the feel they are trying to give during combat can be done with a simpler more straightforward system.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
The way I see it PF2 attempts (and gloriously fails) to provide a complete system for everything. 670 pages. Ugh.
Its one page shorter than D&D 5E. The only difference dis 5E split the same content into two books.
 

ruemere

Explorer
Its one page shorter than D&D 5E. The only difference dis 5E split the same content into two books.
5E is a different beast, haven't read it (aside from some skimming). I consider it to be a step backwards for different reasons (mostly to do with pandering to lowest common denominator) - it's not bad, it's just a repackaged nostalgia with a few modern parts retrofitted plus excellent graphic design.

Back to PF2. I expected a modern design supporting classic D&D3 concepts (AD&D is about cheating grim probabilities, D&D3 loves its wobbly heroic balance). Instead we have a Eclipse (Eclipse as in that Java IDE) version of D&D4 with a huge bow toward control freaks (so many little bits) and software devs (no, humans don't flip books pages the way you click hyperlinks). I stopped paying attention at some point during playtest when I also realized that some legendary skill users are still worse off than 2nd level spellcasters.

What does modern design mean to me?
Simple base game model that takes 10 minutes to explain, and less than 3 minutes to resolve character's round, with GM's accounting taking at most a sheet of paper to run an encounter, and a character page fitting one, yes, one page (applies to spellcasters, too).

Mechanical character growth is important. No empty levels, no +1 to seldom used stats, no tracking of every little bit of equipment (say FU to +1 longswords, wands of numerous charges and 10% xp gains... yes, I know the last one does not apply to PF2, but it is sample of certain type of approach).

There are no must have roles, classes or utilities. I cringe at the memory of casting cures for minutes, seeing yet another sleep or invisibility. I love how recoveries in 13th Age made characters self-sufficient (having a healer helps, but it is not necessary - at the same time you don't get to heal forever).

The system supports diverse character concepts, not just reskinning.

There is an SRD. And/Or at least the game owners embrace the idea of their fans contributing or taking the game further.

There are sane limitations and guidelines on what and how people do things. There are also ways to bypass them. It's bloody difficult to keep short this one, so I will go with few examples. Concise skill list with names that don't require definitions, subsystems, and do not overlap. Hercules is not 18/00 strength person. If the game allows for teleports and resurrects, it also regulates their use so that SH&T can be trivially circumvented, and assassins still can kill kings.

At the same time, don't track encumbrance for coins, split game into modes that add burden to track, but do not introduce new things.

--

Ahem. Apologies for the rant. Also, I know it's an ideal, but IMHO, worth aspiring to.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
There is just no need for all the fiddly stacking +1 - 3 etc mechanics, when the feel they are trying to give during combat can be done with a simpler more straightforward system.
A brilliantly beautiful example of this is Gloomhaven, the board game.

It accomplishes much of the feel of combat, and how a Rogue differs from a Barbarian, say. And it does so with fiendishly simple and elegant mechanics that play fast, yet controlled.
 

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