Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Some questions about the combat system

Gregory had some interesting questions about the combat system and how to deal with danger. You can see the original G+ post here.

How do you deal with damage regarding to the fiction?
For example, in one of my previous adventure (the second session actually), my characters were facing a huge Roc bird. So during one of the assaults, one of them ended up being pounded to the ground by the monster beating up his shield. In terms of pure mechanical damage, I think he got only like 1 health point less (so he was still in positive at the time), so hence my question : do you think that in this case particularly, we can assume that even if the damages weren’t enough he could receive the Unstable condition nonetheless to respect the fiction? The Roc was really massive and I described how he could rip apart sheeps and cows like butter so hitting very hard somebody even with a shield at his arm would be enough to save his life for sure but maybe not enough to let him get away with just a fleshwound? I was thinking of giving him the condition but only temporarily as his arm will get numb for having blocked such powerful blows, meaning it will be gone either after the fight or as soon as natural healing will begin.
I ask this because quite recently I came across an article for DW entitled injuries are not just hit points gone (or something like that) describing the kind of situation as above. So I know COJ is not DW but was wondering if any of you had to deal with the same kind of situation??

You can see the full discussion on the original thread; but here is the core of my answer. First of all, an explanation about why sometimes a little bit of numbers is useful at better understanding each other. Yes, we’re telling a story and descriptions are important, but then we need a score or something to make sure we’re on the same page:

While I am not a big fan of hit points myself (and you can see it in the game - there is damage and armor, but hit points are actually modifiers for moves, thus a different outcome can be expected from the same numbers), I do believe that there must be a numerical representation that tells you and the player how bad is this thing that just happened.
Role playing is a conversation: there’s space for disagreement, confusion, misunderstanding.
As a GM, I can tell you you’re down while the Roc pounds your shield. In your mental space, you’re some fu***ng bastard who will just cut the neck of the bird with a single swing of the sword. In my mental image, as GM, you’re in awful situation.
My description can take it only so far; yes, after a while we might attune and get on the same level. This is why numbers help (don’t solve, but help). At least, in my opinion.

And then getting a bit into details about which moves to use in combat – and specifically, not just Engage in Battle, but also Face Danger and Face Death:

Now, there is a lot to say about harm (consider also this - maybe we can discuss it in another post: when you suffer harm, you roll + Health; when you start getting 7-9s and especially 6- things get messy… here is where I hit “hard” as the GM with the fiction)…
But let’s try to keep it short and open to a discussion:
- I personally would not inflict Unstable until the player gets to Health -1, but…
- the Roc sounds scary; did they roll some Face Danger?
- the Roc sounds like a huge monster? did they roll Face Death instead of Face Danger?
- what was (if you recall) the result of the Suffer Harm move for the character?
Situations like “scary descriptions meet 1 single (lame) damage point” are very rare when other moves get involved and not just Engage in Battle.

You will notice that you should get plenty of material for your harm/fight staging and descriptions from moves like Face Danger/Death, Inflict/Suffer harm…
Face Death is a great tool, as GM, when you describe a situation which is extremely dangerous and where it looks to you like it’s very, very unlikely that someone would walk away unharmed. In mechanical terms, Face Death is a bitch of a move - there is no easy way out, it’s not like Face Danger.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

About putting characters at disadvantage

The two characters are trying to escape from a Roc and both are riding on the same horse:

But now they weren’t out of harm’s way yet, they had to outrun the Roc and another time the battle brothers saved themselves thanks of the horsemanship of the veteran (who got another 10+ on his Face Danger+edge test).
NOTA : I’ve got a question here : I think I should have given him maybe a -1 to Azim face danger test as they were riding double. How do you deal with this kind of drawback in general? I believe that in DW you could do that but I’m not entirely sure.

I wouldn’t give a penalty for riding in two by default: the fact that both were in danger is enough.
If you think they’re at disadvantage, give a -1 to their Advantage Die.

The above is what I wrote on the G+ comment, but I think I can add something more: you don’t give -1 or -2 to the rolls for difficult actions. What you do, is to give maybe a -1 to the Advantage Die if the characters are somehow at disadvantage, and you make GM moves.
A move is not “take -1 to riding both of you on the horse”.
A move is instead for example to announce some peril: the Roc attacks the two of them and they need to Face Danger to hold steady on the horse and get away.

Do you see the potential for something very interesting if they get separated?
In case of a failure in the roll, have one of them fall from the horse.

You see no interesting potential in the story for giving them troubles while they ride together?
Let them go, don’t ask for the roll.

Also, remember that you have the Face Death move (but I will discuss that in a separate post).

Questions about Equipment and about poison

Some questions and answers with Gregory, from his last adventure with City of Judas.

The first question was about equipment, with characters looking for a map and for gifts to present to the elders of the village they were traveling to…
Gregory added a nice touch by asking that the gift roll would be made at the end, when actually showing up at the presence of the elders.

NOTA : I, at first, thought they should have gotten a map but then thought that those items were rare and mostly very expensive at the time so I decided that, as rookies still, the IF wouldn’t invest so much in them…for now at least.
I called for a Equipment move and Azim scored a 7-9, so he could find a map but had to pay some extra gold for it (-1 equipment).

As for Grégoire, he had the very good idea to buy some presents for the Bersaba’s authorities, so both of them spend the rest of the first day around the numerous bazaars and souks of Jerusalem. They even witnessed to a christian flagellant procession towards the Mount of Olives.
NOTA : concerning the Grégoire’s request, I didn’t want to have him check his equipment move now as I thought it would be more funny/interesting to have it roll when he’ll give it to the village’s elder. I thought that maybe he could have choosen poorly the gift and maybe anger the Elder if he rolled 6- for example.

I think the call to roll Equipment at the end of the trip might be interesting, but you need to remember that the score might change.
Now, if you roll it from the start, the player knows if they have enough (i.e. spending two holds for a significant purchase), if the present is nothing special (on a 7-9) or perhaps just totally wrong on a 6-… so the player knows, the character doesn’t, so they’ll present their gifts also on a 6-.

If you and the players would like to roll only at the end of the mission, write down the score of Equipment, reduce it of 1 (for the usage), then roll at the end - or even write a little custom move for it!

Then there was a question about poison:

So…the map was really usefull to them as Azim’s player described how it’s got many places indicated to rest during the hottest part of the day and to find good shelter for the more than chilly nights (probably a map maide by an old pilgrim) but one day as Azim was looking at it at mid-day, he didn’t notice the scorpion crawling under the map and before he realized it stung him.
NOTA : the scorpion was the consequence of his 7-9 face danger test, it was a soft move at first as Azim spotted the crawly but failed at another Face Danger+Edge check. So I turned it into a hard move and had him loose 2 or 3 health (I don’t really remember how much it was).
BTW, how do you guyz rule the effects of poison? Do you give it a straight number of damage like I did? I thought that maybe one could give as well the Unstable condition even if Health is superior to 0? What do you think?

When I got to the scorpion under the map I was like WTF! but I think the scene of the characters having to stop for Azim to recover was very good, so that was a great call.

For poison you can use the move from the reptiles on page 129: 1 harm ap and marking Unstable, indeed.
But that’s not written in stone: it’s just a handy tool. The option of inflicting a bit more harm, forcing a day of rest, instead of Unstable is totally fine.

The questions above emerged while Gregory was playing this adventure of COJ (you can read the actual play here on the blog)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

About the Perception move

Some questions from Gregory - see the original G+ thread here .

As somehow new to the Apocalypse World system in general, I just would like to have your different views here about how you deal with the Perception move.

For instance, during and investigative mission I asked my PC to have a Perception check because they were watching over their client. One of the PCs got like 3 holds/questions and started to ask me things like : what’s hidden here, what might be the escape route, and so forth. Only matter was that I didn’t plan anything really dangerous at this point so I had to play along because I didn’t want to rob the player of one of his hold. What do you think?

During such a kind of watchful mission, would you maybe have your PCs to roll for Perception only once and assume this check will cover, say a day of watch or maybe like a special event only?

One, very useful answer from Richard Sardinas:

You can always tell the player that they can keep those holds for the future. Well not too far into the future, but maybe the scene, where they can ask other questions as the RP develops. I’ve seen GMs that sometimes merge Read a Sitch and Read a Person if the player rolls high enough, and there’s not enough relevant information for either moves.

A lengthy answer from myself:

A perception move is somehow broader than read a situation or read a person, in the sense that it can be triggered also by the GM (”When you observe and ponder, when you need to decide your course in battle, when there’s something to notice).
If as a GM you call for it, the idea is to let the person with the highest Stat roll for the group so that they can be prepared for what’s coming.

Now, for the example that you mentioned: if there is no danger, I tell that to the players. The thing is: if they’re rolling perception in a dangerous situation, then the answers are usually obvious.
But if there is no immediate danger? Well, that can be a good thing for the characters, if they can use this time, safely, to setup something or pursue something in relative safety.
Why where they watching over the client? was he someone that they needed to protect?

It is fine to use a single roll to cover a longer period of time: if you prep says that the afternoon will be quiet and someone will try to kidnap the client at night, then you can say that they spot no one until after dark…
Or you can say something that will put them on alert: for example that there is no immediate threat but they notice a couple of fake beggars checking out the surroundings reasonably in preparation for some later attack…
In general, as you said, tune accordingly to the situation, and be honest with the players. Sometimes if there is no danger, there’s no danger.

The only thing, of course, if you give them a relative safe time/safe zone, then you should stick to it. Make it clear to them when the situation changes and another roll would be needed to ensure everything remains safe.

And continues after a reply from Gregory:

If they work together - they keep watch together on a small location - yes, I’d say ask the one with highest Brains to roll and the others to help.
It’s one roll: they should not be frustrated… there would be plenty of rolls for everybody as a follow-up from the Perception. I.e. if they gather info on the threat(s), then every character would have a role in dealing with it.
Say that they ace the roll, a 10+: this doesn’t mean that you cannot show an incoming threat. It means they’re aware of it and ready to act before the enemy gets to them. For example they will have the time to organize a defense, to setup a trap or an ambush, to escort the client out from a backdoor and try to run away safely… or they might try to kill the spies sent by the enemy (this will give up their intentions to the enemy, but the enemy will receive no info about the client) etc.

I wouldn’t ask “on what or who their watch will be focused”: the game is not much about making the perfect choice as ‘players’ (a player is only vaguely aware of what the GM thinks - remember the scene of the bribe in front of the gate?). The game is about what happens to the characters.
This is their job: they know what to look for… If they stick together, the one with the highest Brains rolls and the others chip in to help if needed.

Let’s say the one rolling gets a 7-9, and one steps in to help. He gets a 7-9 too, so he brings the Perception roll up to 10+ (it goes up one step, not just + 1), but he’s now exposed.
How did it go in fiction? Let’s say the sorcerer is on the watch, he notices something, the other player wants to help, he steps out of the gate to check it out and thump, a dart hits the wall an inch from his nose. The spies have seen him and have decided to try an attack on their own…

They want to act independently? Ok, so deal with the first one on the watch. He gets a 10+ and they use the safety at their disposal to setup some defense. They don’t? Ok, so tell them that they’re just wasting time, are they sure they don’t want to try to prepare something in advance?
Then move to the next turn of the watch, who’s on the watch now? … since we’re not going to sit all night rolling Perception, then give them signs of the approaching danger. A good Perception roll will just allow them to spot them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Some questions&answers about the Raider

See the original thread on G+ if you want some context for these questions.

Does the Raider PC make a move for his gang in battle AND another one for himself using the regular moves? […]

When the Raider takes advantage of his own gang, and acts as a leader within its ranks, than it usually makes sense that the Raider will roll the move for the Gang and consider the single character as part of the gang action.
In other words: roll just once for example for Engage in Battle, and the Raider is acting within the ranks of the gang. See also pages 123 and 124 (especially 124 the section CHARACTERS’ GANG VS. NPCS’ GANG).

the Player asked me what are his stats relevant in combat […]

The Raider’s stats become relevant in the case he wants to act indipendently.
Now, the advantage to act indipendently is clear: roll with the Raider’s Steel (which might be a higher stat), attack the enemies from two fronts, or even do something else entirely (”while my gang keeps the enemy busy, I help the noble we’re escorting to get back on his horse and run away…”).

If we stick to battle, I usually treat things like this: for everything there’s a price.
If the Raider stays with the gang, they roll together to Engage in Battle, but the Raider is of course always in position to give orders, to get help from his companions, to direct the gang tactics. And the Raider is not outnumbered because he’s part of the gang.
If the Raider moves ‘out of the ranks’, then it depends: does he engage the same enemy? OK, but he’s outnumbered; he’s not part of the gang anymore, just a single guy fighting among a bunch of enemies and friends…
Does he want to give orders when things are getting hard for the gang? OK, but how does he do it if he stepped aside and picked targets with his bow, instead?

in our group there were a raider and a veteran and they were fighting a small gang

That sounds bad for the poor gang of NPCs :-)

is the other character considered to be part of the gang? and if so how about his own moves

He is considered part of the gang only if he ‘gives up’ acting indipendently and stays within ranks.

If the Veteran wants to move out of the ranks and do something else (attack the enemy gang from the flank, pick them from afar with a crossbow, steal something while the enemy gang is busy with the Raider’s gang…), then he’s not in the gang anymore (and does not enjoy the protection of numbers…)

If not part of the gang or doesn’t want to be part of it, does he have to fight the gang using the Face Death move as if he were alone?

Oh, yes, absolutely. Unless he takes the Last Stand move, and then he has an option to fight a gang on equal ground.

Now, the above are important principles, but a bit of flexibility might be in order, in certain cases.
Take in consideration how many characters do you have, and how’s the situation on the battlefield, and the fiction you guys enjoy the most. What is this fight about?

If you need to overcome the enemy by brute force, then I’d stick more to the tactical side, if your Players enjoy that.

But if the fight is about getting some other NPC safely out of trouble, for example, than for sure the focus is more on threats directed to the NPC.
For example: Raider+Gang engage together the enemy, while the Veteran and the NPC run away.
On a 7-9 of the Raider, instead of hitting the gang, I let the NPC gang take the blow but say that a couple of them sneak past the Raider’s gang and are about to chase the Veteran. Raider, what do you do?

If you’d like to comment on G+ click here.