Freitag, Juli 11, 2014

Rules! Explain yourselves!

The text of the Basic Fantasy rules supplements I published a few weeks ago contains the rules, and few examples, without any so-called fluff text. They can be used with any background setting playable with a rules system like Basic Fantasy. I use them for a Morgansfort derivate setting with our group (who are rpg beginners about turning into advanced players.)
Since they are still in a playtest version I read the rules supplements thoroughly every few weeks. I add examples, and revise some of the rules where I can optimize them.

When I started writing about my design decisions, and some possible interpretations of the rules I put both right next to the rules. But then I read the complete text, and decided to release only the rules: concise, and with a few examples.
I'll write about design decisions, and rules interpretations on this blog, instead.

When I read, or design rules I understand the rules as constituting the game world. If the rules stated that wizards cannot wear armor, nor wield any other weapon but staves, and short knives then they cannot. The why is irrelevant at this point. Now, if a player wants to play a wizard wearing armour, and wielding a long blade in a game, then a different set of rules must be used. And a different set of rules leads to a different game world. Even, if the armour wearing, long blade-wielding wizard were an exception to all the other robe-clad, staff-dragging wizards of the game world.
What the rules do not state does not exist. However, there is more to the game world than just the rules:
  1. The rules system constitutes the game world.
  2. At times the words of the players (especially the game master's words) override the rules, and so create new aspects of the game world that had not been possible before.
  3. The players interpret how the game world is described, and bring its characters, monsters, and landscapes to life in their imagination.
All so, both the rules, and the words of the players constitute the game world. And both are interpreted by the players in their imagination. I have the suspicion that there are actually different layers of the game world: one that is constituted by rules, one that is interwoven with it and formed by the players' words, and then there is the imagination of the players, which may be quite different from what rules, and words state.
The imagined game world will have impact on decisions, and the words of the players, too.

My take on hit points

From my Basic Fantasy supplements &Pain, and the Tiny Hit Point Companion:

'There are two types of standard hit points: A creature's hit points generated by its hit dice, and hit points of damage scored against a creature (e.g. by rolling 1d6 after a successful attack in combat.) Hit point loss has no consequence until the current hit point total drops to 0, in which case the creature is dead.'

Following the core rules of Basic Fantasy the only difference between a live, and a dead creature is that the latter one has zero hit points. There may be creatures with 1 hp, and others with 24 hp; neither is more alive than the other regardless of the creature's hit point total. A creature with 1hp left of its 12 hp total is as much alive as any other.
Hit point loss has no consequence. No modifiers, no simulation of wounds, or pain.
This is the first layer of the game world constituted by the rules. Then there are the words of the players, and their imagination - which my include wounds, and pain.

Consider this example: Klyth, a cleric gets ambushed, is hit by an arrow, and loses 2 hit points of her 6 hp total. Let's say the GM described a weird feeling Klyth had in her right shoulder, and when the player had the character quickly glance at it, Klyth saw the arrow.
However, since there are no rules for hit location, and arrows stuck in body parts, this aspect of the game world is created by the words of the players, and is quite readily accepted and incorporated into their imagined game world.
The player imagining the arrow in Klyth's shoulder, and recording the hit point loss now reacts: Klyth is surprised, and cannot see her attacker, so the player decides she'd run for cover, draw a weapon and observe the area.
The arrow is still stuck in leather armor, and shoulder. The pain may be described, but there is no consequence within the core rules. And unless the game master makes a ruling, and sets a penalty on attack rolls, Klyth can move about just as happy, and carefree as if she had no arrow stuck in her shoulder; because: hit point loss has no consequence.

The player may imagine her to be somewhat in pain, and decide she cannot move her right arm, and so must fight with her left; this again are the player's words creating the game world.

Another player could decide that Klyth will use her right arm for fighting, dash into the direction she thinks her attacker might hide, and challenge him to a fight.

For the &Pain supplement I decided to include a concept of pain: Hit point loss has no consequence, but PAIN does! Every creature has a pain status. A pain status (ps) of zero means, that the creature has no pain. A pain status of 4 means that the creature suffers, for example, a penalty of 4 on attack rolls.

If a creature suffers damage the player (or GM for NPCs, and monsters) decides wether the damage is deducted from the creature's hit points (drawing it nearer to death), or wether the damage is transferred to the pain status (pain can lead to death, as well.)
So, the player may decide, that the arrow caused damage to Klyth's hit points without consequence, and explain that it pierced through the armor, but didn't cause harm. Or she could transfer the damage to pain with a resulting pain status of 2, and no hit point loss.
Of course, it is preferable to take damage to the hit points, first. But if Klyth is hit again by an arrow and suffers 4 hit points of damage, she will have to take the pain (or at least transfer 1 point of damage to pain) in order to stay alive: after the first hit her hp total dropped to 4. Of the 4 points of damage she received by the second arrow, she deducts 3 from her hit points, and transfers 1 to pain with a resulting pain status of 1. She needs at least 1 hp to stay alive. Now she is a -1 for most actions.

What's in it

The 4-page &Pain supplement includes rules for a creature's pain status, the effective pain status, temporary pain, saving throws vs. pain, three different pain thresholds (incapacitation, unconsciousness, death) for all creatures, alternative pain thresholds based on a creature's hit dice, the effects of pain on attack rolls, ability rolls, skill rolls, initiative, movement, healing, regeneration, morale, and more.

This concept changes the game system, and thereby the game world it constitutes. It changes the players imagination, their decisions, and their words. I do like what it does.

On a side note:
The author of the Beyond the Pale Gate wrote in his article Moderation and Randomization: The bottom line is, RPGs are, at their core, playing make-believe. The rules for rolls and randomizations keep us from devolving into the arguments we had as children. "I shot you!" "uh-UH, I shot you first! I already called it!"

Now, there is more to this than just a call for rules, or rulings, but I'll leave this for another post.

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