Monday, July 27, 2015

Calidar & Game Mechanics

In a campaign world designed without a set of rules from a specific role-playing game, there lies a challenge in describing creatures, spells, and game effects so that everyone can understand and easily express them in their chosen system. Today’s article should give a clear idea of the direction I am taking with CC1 "Beyond the Skies." Some of Calidar’s generic system shown below is abstracted, leaving referees at liberty to interpret my intent in ways that best suit their purposes. The remainder is generally expressed as percentile ranges that can be easily switched back to the chosen game’s desired values. A score expressed here as 50% clearly indicates a mid-range value, so it becomes easy to understand what the actual score should be on a 1-20 basis in the intended game. 100% indicates the top end of a range, and 1% its lowest value. Here are definitions and suggestions on how to handle basis game mechanics.

Die Rolls: A variety of dice commonly used in hobby gaming are often referred to in this book. For example: a d6 is a common six-sided die, 3d20 refers to three 20-sided polyhedral dice, a d% is a (percentile) roll of two d10s, one expressing single digits and the other showing tens. Other dice include d4, d8, and d12.

Career Paths: These refer to the heroes’ prevailing occupations, such as being wizards, priors, rogues, or warriors of various types. The assumption is that heroes progress along these career paths, gaining specialized proficiencies and becoming more powerful as they advance. Use the closest analogy in the chosen game system.

Life Force:LF” refers to the extent of a hero’s career advancement or to the relative vitality of a monster. This rating impacts directly odds of heroes and monsters performing successful attacks. It should be assumed in this book that attack abilities and the amount of inflicted damage are consistent with a creature’s Life Force. A numeral is added to express how far along their career paths heroes have progressed, or how tough monsters are. This number is a percentage of the maximum range used to measure a character’s career or a monster’s vitality, rounded down, depending on the chosen game system. For example: for a warrior whose career is measured in increments ranging from 1 to 36, an “LF3” means 3% of 36, or just about “1” (that is: [36/100] x 3 = 1). Under the same conditions, an “LF1” monster could be a small pest, while a mighty dragon might be better described as “LF70.”

Life Points:LP” are a byproduct of Life Force, which determine the ability of a creature or of an object to sustain damage, based on the referee’s chosen game system. Death’s Door refers to a creature’s lowest amount of Life Points before being irreversibly destroyed. A creature at Death Door is assumed to be either disabled or unconscious

Spell Potency:SP” refers to a spell’s complexity. Most fantasy role-playing games rank spells according to a spellcaster’s career advancement. SP is expressed in 10% increments (10%, 20%, 30%, etc.) of all spell ranks available in the chosen game system. Adjust as desired for convenience.

Armor Rating:AR” expresses how difficult it is to strike a creature. This can be the result of natural defenses, magic, armor worn, agility, or a combination thereof. Analogy is the rule of thumb for classical monsters or specific armor worn by heroes. If needed (for entirely new monsters), a numeral can be added, expressing how potent one’s armor rating is, as a percentage of the chosen system’s practical range, rounded to the closest unit. For example: in a game system whose unmodified armor ratings range from 10 to –10 (21 increments), an “AR5” yields a 1, worth a 9 in the chosen system ([21/100] x 5 = 1.05; 10 –1 = 9). An “AR80” yields 16.8, worth –7 in the chosen system ([21/100] x 80 = 17; 10 –17 = –7). The lowest AR value ought to be the one for a basically unarmored target in the chosen game system. The highest AR value should be the toughest rating listed for armor or monsters (not counting bonuses). In this book, “AR0” means unarmored.

Damage: Analogy is mostly used in this book to describe the sort of damage a weapon inflicts (“D”). For example, the type of weapon used is mentioned specifically. Inflicted damage remains in accord with the chosen game’s weapon statistics. As mentioned earlier, damage should be consistent with the level of challenge a monster’s Life Force infers. In some cases, especially with large monsters, another approach may be needed. Damage can be expressed as Low (as a dagger), Medium (as a sword), or High (as a two-handed sword) and then multiplied as needed. A “+” rating can be added, increasing rolled damage by a flat value (such as the minimum damage such weapon may inflict, times the “+” rating). So a “D—H3+2” damage rating should be seen as a fairly serious attack: three times Heavy damage +2. “Attack score, roll to hit, damage score, etc.” are well known terms to all fantasy role-players worth their salt.

A critical hit is an attack whose unmodified roll scored the best number on the die (this may or may not translate into the chosen game system, but this term is referred to in this book; a secondary roll may be required to confirm a critical hit—referees will rule as appropriate). A critical miss is an attack whose unmodified roll scored the worst number on the die.

Ability Scores: These ratings help define heroes and non-player characters. In general, they refer to one’s physical strength (Str), body agility (Agt), manual dexterity (Dex), stamina (Sta), intellect (Int), wisdom (Wis), personality (Per), etc. Body agility (Agt) may affect Armor Rating. Dexterity (Dex) is related to hand-eye coordination, therefore to the ability to cast projectiles and or to perform close-up work such as picking locks. A numeral is added, ranging from 1-100, 1 being lowest. This rating can be used as a percentage of the chosen game’s normal range for Ability Scores (of mortal creatures). For example, an Agt score of 50 would be dead average. Certain game feats may require a die roll under an ability score as a way to determine success or failure (an Ability Check). A critical failure is a check whose unmodified roll scored the worst number on the die, as appropriate to the chosen game system.

Skills: Heroes and non-player characters may have specific knowledge. A die roll may be needed to determine whether a skill is used properly while under adverse conditions. These are called Skill Checks.

Defense Rolls: Certain types of attacks allow a victim a chance to avoid or reduce their effects. This usually involves rolling a die against a specific score, depending on the chosen game system. Monsters’s defense rolls are generally those of warrior heroes (W) with equal Life Force, but some may defend as mages (M) or Rogues (R), as appropriate to the chosen game system.

Morale Checks: Some game systems may call for an ability check or a roll under a set Moral Rating (“MR”) to determine whether a foe decides to flee. If needed in this book, MR is expressed in increments of 10% of the chosen game’s total allowable rating.

Bonuses and Penalties: Bonuses and penalties are listed as +/– modifiers. They are intended to alter equipment ratings or game checks to reflect the ease or difficulty of a situation. The impact of modifiers varies with the range of related values. On a 1-20 scale, a +1 modifier refers to one increment (+5% of the range). On a greater scale, a +1 modifier may instead result in a 10 point increment (such as a +10% modifier on a percentile score). On a small scale, 1-10 or less (such as armor and damage rating), the smallest increment available should be more appropriate. Use your best judgment, keeping in mind game balance, flexibility, and the context for which these modifiers are intended. Feel free to use values that are customary for the chosen game systems. This conversion process applies to all tables listed in this book.

Time and Movement: Time is counted in blocks of 10 seconds or 10 minutes. Durations measured in seconds are intended for combat encounters—therefore, seconds listed in this book may convert into different durations with the chosen game system, as appropriate to the context. Movement (“MV”) is expressed in feet, by increments of 10 minutes (a slow dungeoneering pace) and of 10 seconds (usually when fighting), such as 30’(90’) respectively. Likewise, movement in feet may translate into yards depending on whether the action takes place in or outdoors. It is assumed that heroes and monsters have at least one action each during encounters, which is another way time may be measured in this book. Using the metric system, 10 feet equal approximately 3 meters, 10 yards equal approximately 10 meters.

Philosophy: Click Here for the article illustrating this topic.

Siege Weaponry & Ship Damage: Within the context of Calidar, game mechanics would not be complete without a word about skyships. Values from the chosen game system can be used directly. Another simple approach is available here to help give some perspective for different types of skyships.
  • Structural Rating (SR): This number indicates how much damage a skyship can withstand before its enchantments fail catastrophically. At about 70% SR loss, a skyship becomes hard to maneuver and, if not in the Great Vault, starts loosing altitude. A ship the size of the Star Phoenix has 120 SR, that is approximately 1 SR per 5 feet of length (rounded up to the next tens). Subtract 20% for a clipper-style vessel (such as Alorean skyships). Add 20% for a skyship designed primarily for war rather than speed (such as Draconic vessels). Double the rating instead for a dwarven ironclad.
  • Armor Rating (AR): Lightweight or fragile vessels, such as rafts, river boats, canoes, longships could do with an AR10 or less. A typical wooden, multi-decked skyship, such as the Star Phoenix possesses an AR25. A dwarven ironclad could reach AR40. Magic can easily modify these ratings. If either the attacking vessel or its target is moving, up the target +15AR. If both are moving, add +30AR to the target. If winds are gusting, increase the target’s AR +5 to +20. Game referees are welcome to tweak these ratings for best results.
  • Combat Damage: Damage from individual weapons or siege machines (catapults, ballistae, trebuchets, etc.) applies directly to a skyship’s SR. As a general reference, a lightweight scorpion inflicts M+4 damage, H+6 for a ballista, M+8 for a light catapult, H+10 for a heavy catapult, and M2+12 for a trebuchet.

Final Comment: Though a generic campaign setting requires a bit of up-front work to adapt it to an existing role-playing game, there is a silver lining—two of them, in fact. First, the setting remains usable with different systems, and we all know that publishers will replace their core mechanics on a regular basis or go out of business, don’t we? The plethora of game systems currently in the hobby is nothing short of mind-boggling, and ultimately divisive. Second, by simply altering the ranges used to convert game statistics, judicious referees can tailor their games up or down to better fit their players’ expectations. Say for example that your monsters’ Life Force typically runs on a scale of 1 to 36. Your basic “LF4” orc is therefore worth an equivalent value of “1” in your game system. Now, increase this range from 36 to 50, and that ordinary orc shows instead a relative value of “2.” By the same token, everything else in the game, including non-player characters, becomes tougher as well, all in a consistent manner except heroes who now face a greater challenge. Adventurers are a bit weak for an adventure? No problem now. You can adjust the other way just as easily. Role-playing games offering this sort of feature are, I would think, rather unusual.  Feel free to comment--feedback and suggestions are always welcome.  Thanks!

EDIT: the stats conversion PDF is now available as a free download.  Click Here!