Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #140 - Hacking the Cypher System - Re-rolls Royce

So it's time to talk about re-rolls. The most common (I am guessing) use of Experience Points in Cypher System games. I have a secret, a dark one: Sometimes I really hate re-rolls.

Failure is interesting, or it can be. It's not always interesting, which is why re-rolls are a good thing, but sometimes failure is interesting, and when a re-roll does away with that it's a little sad. Likewise re-rolls can rob a GM of intrusions. Players like this because they don't always see GM Intrusions as good things. GMs don't always mind, but sometimes a great idea slips away due to a re-roll (or gets implemented as a paid Intrusion).

So I've started toying with the idea of changing not the re-rolls (they do more good than evil in my opinion), but the underlying XP. At GenCon I got to try it out for the first time. I used beads instead of XP Cards. There were black beads, white beads, and glow in the dark beads. They were skull shaped, and I used them in my After the Bomb homage game. I had a small black bag that I carried the XP Skulls in and had players blind draw from. Unlike regular XP the different beads had slightly different effects.
  • The skull white beads worked just like normal XP, they were there to provide a baseline.
  • The black skulls were "burnt" XP, you could use them normally, but regardless of the final roll the GM (me) got to invoke GM Intrusion, these were a kind of risk/reward item. 
  • The glow in the dark skulls were "radioactive" XP, and they were awesome. These XP re-rolled the dice just like normal, but regardless of the total the player got a Major Effect as though they had rolled a Natural 20. These helped balance the black skulls.
Mechanically the players had just as many XP for re-rolls as they would in a normal game, but when spending for re-rolls there were options based one what kind of XP the players had in hand. We only got to play for a short while, and I haven't yet tried it again (gaming has been spotty since the summer), but I really liked how it worked, and the players seemed to as well. It's the same, but just a little different and offers both risk and reward to players. 

As GM you can even play around with how many beads of each you include. Maybe you do 6 white, 2 black, and 2 glow. Or maybe you do 3/3/3 in equal ratio. You could even do something like 6 white, 1 black, 3 glow or whatever distribution you wanted. Go heavy on Major Effects, or heavy on GM Intrusions. You can even change the distribution between game sessions to help inform the play of the next session. The sky's the limit, and the options are yours to use or not.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sourge of the Soulless

I didn't have a Nuts & Bolts ready for this week. My writing continues to come in fits and starts and often with great difficulty. But I do have this. It's the elevator pitch for a setting. A different take on something like the World of Darkness. I dunno if I'll ever have the chance to expand on it (or if I even want to, sometimes ideas like this are best when kept simple and unembellished). Either way, I present it today in lieu of a N&B so that there's at least something this week....

Image Source:


It's all about souls.

When mankind was birthed into the world there were a finite supply of souls allocated to humankind. When a man, woman, or child died its soul was freed to return to heaven, elysium, or wherever you would believe souls to reside between lives. When a child was born a soul descended from that realm to live in the world of flesh once more.

But humankind's population exploded.

The number of souls dwelling in the beyond dwindled and the time a soul had to rejuvenate itself shortened. These tired souls were more belligerent, more callous, and less in touch with nature.

In time mankind's numbers exceeded the souls available.
That's when everything changed.

Children were born with the souls of animals.
The changing ones.

Children were born with souls from the spirit realms.
The magi.

Children were born with souls stolen from the realms of faerie.
The fey-touched.

And others ... others were brought back from death's door. Brought back to life after their soul had departed.
The soulless ones.

A scourge to the living. Enemies to all.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #139 - Hacking the Cypher System - Damage Tracks (Again)

The damage spiral from the Hordes miniatures game.

Two weeks ago I posted about an alternate damage track for games where insanity and mental degeneration was needed. It also works well for games of social intrigue where you are trying to unnerve your opponents and force them into actions that are advantageous to you. Since then I've been thinking that with just one more alternate damage track for Speed you could transform Cypher's heath system pretty radically. Yes, it would mean more bookkeeping, and yes it's a bit more complicated, but consider the advantage of characters having more than just a single way to be taken out of action, and having more thematic effects from various types of stress and harm.

The Core rules for Impaired, Debilitated, and Dead work very well for Might, with the character becoming Impaired after half their Might is gone, Debilitated when they hit zero points, and Dead if they suffer any additional damage. As always a GM can have creatures who have special attacks (poison, necromancy, etc.) that can bypass the pool points and deal damage direct to their Might damage track. Coupled with the Mental Damage Track from two weeks back (click here) we're 2/3 of the way done!

Speed pool is all that remains and a speed damage track is actually pretty easy. The following kick in when a character's speed pool reaches 1/2 its normal value and then when they reach zero. Alternately special attacks like stun weapons, sleeping gas, painkillers, and the like may move the character directly down the damage track.

  • Fatigued - The character is starting to tire. The character finds that actions take a little more of their reserves to execute.
    • Gathering one's energy is difficult. A fatigued character must spend 1 additional point when using any special ability take has a cost. 
  • Exhausted - The character's reserves are spent, they may be in otherwise good physical health (e.g. no Might damage) but their exhaustion shows in shaking muscles and general exhaustion.
    • Exhaustion robs the character of much needed mobility. They are treated as having an Inability in all tasks related to movement including Speed Defense, running, swimming, jumping, etc. In addition all movement rates are halved. 
  • Unconscious - Insensate. Asleep. Knocked-out. 
    • The character is out and unable to perceive their surroundings, defend themselves, and the like. They'll wake after a duration equal to their next available recovery roll, and may well not know where they are. 
Taken in conjunction with the previously proposed mental damage tracks players will be encouraged to build more well rounded characters. It also allows the GM a wider variety of options for disabling characters without killing them or ruling directly from GM Intrusion to render them unconscious or otherwise at the mercy of enemies or situations.