Friday, September 30, 2016

Gods of the Fall - Paths of Divinity

That is some gnarly doggie breath...

I mentioned previously that I am going to abandon the idea of XP for advancement entirely when I finally start a Gods of the Fall campaign. This is a personal choice with the intent to help smooth out some of the potential for power variation.

Another thought I've had about dealing with power variations is with regard to the rate at which divine shifts are awarded. This has two potential impacts to play. Firstly you you can reward power shifts singly to allow players to see how their "purchases" impact play individually. If you are already awarding advancements instead of experience this fits well as a player may gain a shift when they achieve Tier 2, but the GM can then wait to award the other two Tier 2 shifts after major story milestones related to their dominion and their labors.

Secondly a GM could directly alter the progression of characters toward full godhood, potentially awarding fewer shifts at Tier 2 and greater numbers at higher tiers. or smoothing out the gain of shifts over the full campaign scope.  Some ideas on this include:
  • Struggling Toward Apotheosis
    • The characters advance slowly in divine power, amassing divinity through trial and strife and only truly gaining their full birthright at the end of their journey. 
    • Award 1 shift at tiers 2, 3, & 4, and 2 shifts each at tiers 5 and 6.
  • Gradual Godhood
    • The characters accumulation of their divine power is evenly spread out as they complete their labors.
    • Award 1 shift at tiers 2, 4, & 6, and 2 shifts each at tiers 3 & 5.
  • Godhood Attained
    • Once the characters embrace their destiny and their role in things they gain the power of gods in short order. Divine power is front loaded with the completion of early labors, for the restoration of Elanehtar, the people's' faith, and Soulrest are tasks only a true god could complete. 
    • Award 3 shifts at tier 2, 2 shifts at tier 3, and 1 shift at tier 4.
All of these assume 7 shifts over the course of tiers 2 through 6, but a GM could decide to award more shifts, or fewer shifts, and adjust the cadence accordingly.

Awarding more shifts will probably accelerate the end of your campaign, or require you to consider increasing the maximum level of difficulty from 15 to 20. I asked both Monte and Bruce about this at GenCon this year and both seemed to think that once you start past level 15 difficulty the game will get a little weird, mechanically speaking, so maybe try that at your own risk.

Awarding fewer shifts allows you to play more of a demi-god type game, a la Hercules trying to earn his way to Olympus. A GM could use this to play a game where the gods are not dead and the players are their half mortal children fighting the evils of the world to gain godhood. Alternately it could mean a campaign at a more mortal level with the apotheosis of the characters being the ultimate endgame with true godhood being achieved only at the end of the campaign.

These kinds of alterations can also be applied outside of Gods of the Fall to other games where you are using Power Shifts. Superhero games where the characters' power increases over time. Space Opera type games where the PCs take on greater and greater scope of power.

How would you use this? 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #92 - Hacking the Cypher System - Power Shifts (part 2)

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Back in July I had posted some thoughts on Power Shifts from the CSR. I even proposed a few new categories. Well, as often does I was busy sleeping when I woke up with a heck of an idea: Why not use specific power shifts as a way to build a different type of racial bonus? Instead of adding an extra descriptor, or building custom types, a GM could grant one or more specific shifts for a specific character type. Even a single shift is pretty significant, and for games that otherwise don't use them it would give a way for certain aspects of character to stand out.

  • In a fantasy genre game give Elves a Dexterity shift, Dwarves a Resilience shift, Orcs a Strength shift, and Humans a shift in either the Cypher Bearer or Effort shifts (found here). 
  • In a horror genre game where player can be monsters give each monster type a shift (maybe 2) that fit their core capabilities. Werewolves might gain a shift in Single Attack (tooth and claw), while Vampires may gain a Social shift (for alluring vampires) or Strength (for monstrous vampires)
  • In a Science fiction genre game you could give different shifts to different aliens, or if the game is humanocentric to different occupations/lifestyles. A Cyborg would likely gain Strength or Resilience, a character with Genemods might gain Dexterity or Intelligence, and normal folks might get the Cypher Bearer (I suspect that you'd see a lot more normal humans if a game where they could carry +3 more cyphers!).
If you prefer, these shifts could even be paired to a skill or pool boost or even a full descriptor depending on your own personal taste. I think that even a single shift could add the flavor and mechanical distinction that some players crave while doing so in a way the feels new and different. Elves with a racial dexterity shift are still graceful and quick but aren't pinned into being bow and longsword using fighter mages. Dwarves with a resilience shift are still tough, but need not be pigeonholed as brawny miners. 

There's a lot of room here and one shift in a game that doesn't otherwise use them won't break anything in the long run, but has real potential to grant a unique racial feel. 

What do you think? Would you consider using power shifts in place of a racial descriptor?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Story Seed - Fateful Descent

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I tested the rope. The line held secure around the the rocky outcropping. I swallowed hard as I leaned over the chasm and looked down. I could see the bottom. That was a big plus. But the tumbles of rock and stone seemed tenuous and ready to collapse at any moment. I could feel the line of my fate pulling me toward that place; downward into this chasm there was something I needed to do, or see, or gain. Maybe all of those things.

I tested the rope again, delaying the action I feared with a reassuring check of the gear that would, for my descent, hold my life in its grasp. Again it held. Again I looked down and swallowed hard. Trepidation was the sole feeling throughout my body. Anxiety that just because my fate lie below there was no such reassurance that in time my fate would once more lie above. Perhaps I was not to achieve godhood in this life.

I took a deep breath. I fell. The gloves twisted around my hands as I gripped the rope and began my descent. I considered if this task was brave, foolhardy, or something else. I settled on necessary. I needed to find what was within the tear in the earth. I could no longer ignore the need, and the need overrode my anxiety, my fear, my sense of self preservation.

At last my feet touched ground. I felt around, and it seemed I was on the bottom. I opened my eyes, ashamed at my fear, and looked around. The chasm fell away unevenly deeper into the earth but the light from above illuminated the way and I could see at the far end a structure hewn of stone. I knew I needed to go there, and with the descent behind me I set forth immediately.

In moments I was there, at the feet of broken stone stairs. A great stone arch rose up beyond with columns and pillars that reached upward into the darkness shrouded ceiling of this cavernous portion of the chasm. There was no door, just a darkened portal. Slowly I ascended the stairs. The stone felt sure under my feet, and the light seemed to illuminate the structure entirely, except for the opening, and what lay beyond.

I stood within the arch, the light behind me, the darkness before me. Deeper and deeper I knew I still  needed to go. My fear was gone, the anxiety subsided. I knew my goal lay before me, and I knew I would live to reach it, if not what lay beyond.  I stepped forward, unsure but no longer timid.

Sunday, September 25, 2016