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Travis Stout
Works at Undead Labs
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Travis Stout

General Discussion  - 
In my idle moments I've been thinking about ways to simplify Beyond the Wall. Not that it needs simplifying, per se, but as an exercise in making the game run off of a single mechanic: the Ability Check. The idea is to get rid of the "roll high for attacks and saves, roll low for everything else" dichotomy and generally reduce the number of numbers you need on a character sheet. Here's what I've got so far:

- Skills remain unchanged (obviously).
- Saving throws become simple ability checks, using the ability deemed most fitting by the GM (usually Dex, Con, or Wis). (Alternately, use the classic or simplified saving throw tables, but invert them by subtracting the value on the table from 20 and rolling under that value to succeed.)
- Monsters don't have ability scores; rather than going through every monster and generating six ability scores (which you could do, but I'm very very lazy), monsters roll under 10 + HD for things they're good at and under 5 + HD for things they're not so great at. An ogre, for example, rolls under 14 for anything related to being big, strong, and scary, but under 9 for things like solving a riddle or recognizing a trick for what it is.
- Ability modifiers need some work to make sure they're all useful. I confess I don't have a full solution to this problem yet, but some thoughts:
Str adds to damage
Dex adds to armor
Con adds to HP
Int can still apply to languages
Wis I honestly have no ideas for
Cha I similarly have no ideas for, mainly because I've never felt that having hirelings and henchmen is particularly in-genre for Beyond the Wall.

Combat is where things get tricky. Right now I'm thinking of stealing a page from Pendragon and making combat an opposed roll: the PC's Strength or Dexterity vs. the monster's 10 (or 5) + HD, with armor value + Dex mod applied as a penalty to the opponent's roll, and bonuses from things like magic weapons or spells applying to the Ability Check/. Whoever succeeds by the largest margin hits. (Making it opposed and by margin helps to keep high-HD foes from just automatically hitting every turn.) I need to crunch some probabilities on this, but a few random spot checks seem to suggest the math will work, roughly.

Now, this does a couple of things: for one, it flattens the progression curve a lot by making a 1st-level character roughly as capable of landing a blow as a high-level one. The main resource higher-level characters bring to fights is increased survivability in terms of more HP: a 1st-level warrior risks getting pasted by one or two blows from a giant, while a 5th-level one can survive a few more bad rolls in that fight.

Honestly, I'm totally fine with this effect, as I feel it's pretty in keeping with the source material: big scary monsters are big and scary no matter how much experience you have, and without a clever plan or a magic sword, you're probably not going to come out of a knock-down brawl with a dragon. However, it's probably a good idea to use the advancement scheme presented in Further Afield in this model: +1 to two abilities at levels 3 and 7, and an additional Trait or Skill at levels 5 and 9.

So that's where I'm at right now: I haven't had a chance to test this extensively, but I figured I'd throw it out to the community and see what people think.
Mike Hill's profile photoTravis Stout's profile photo
...Man, I'm dumb, the solution has been staring me right in the face. Monsters already have an attack bonus. Their "number" should be 11 + attack bonus for fighting and "average" skills, +/- 5 for areas of exceptional strength (an ogre smashing through your defensive palisade, a doppelganger convincing you it's your brother) or weakness (a dragon resisting flattery, an ogre coming up with a complex plan). That keeps monster attack values exactly the same, and gives a good baseline for general competence.

PCs, meanwhile, get a slight boost in attack power by relying on raw attributes rather than BAB and STR bonus: A level 1, STR 15 warrior with Weapon Specialization hits an unarmored opponent on a 7 or better in the base system (70% chance to hit), whereas in the roll-under system she hits on a 16 or less (80% chance).

I think as long as you're using playbooks the classes' general tiers of combat ability will still hold, though: A spot check, for example, shows that the highest STR a Witch's Prentice can start with is 16, and it requires hitting one specific option on every table. A Would-Be Knight can get that or better with a lot less effort. And HP and armor options will, of course, remain a big deal in combat.
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Travis Stout

Discussion  - 
Something just occurred to me as I reread the Action descriptions in the Quickstart: As it stands, almost every Action is a verb. Which is cool, it makes it easy to grok what they're about and helps encourage mechanical statements that flow more readily in conversation (e.g. "I Prowl past the guard" vs. "I use Stealth to sneak past the guard.")

The one exception right now is Mayhem. Which is a great term, don't get me wrong, but as the one noun in a list of verbs it sticks out to me. Now, maybe I've just been watching a little too much Archer lately, but might I humbly suggest, in lieu of "Mayhem," the Action be called "Rampage?"
Travis Stout's profile photoJohn Harper's profile photoNathan Roberts's profile photoStefan Grambart's profile photo
If you're going to change it to a verb, I agree that "wreck" is very clear.
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Travis Stout

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Jess Hartley's profile photoTravis Stout's profile photo
If it's any consolation, I prefer the sweetbreads.
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Travis Stout

Rules Arguments  - 
The Darkest Cosmos whispers, and my soul is moved to expound upon fuliginous secrets.

The Levining
Perma-death is not the only thing Immortals fear when they duel their kindred in rain-slicked alleys and shadown rooftops. The taking of another Immortal's head is an act fraught with power, at once holy communion and darkest blasphemy. To the victor go the spoils, it is said, and among Immortals the spoils are known as the Levining. In a storm of lightning, explosions, and shrieking, phantasmal mists, the victor absorbs a part of the vanquished Immortal's essence and, if the dark lore of House Corvus is to be believed, a part of their soul.

When an Immortal perma-kills another Immortal, she has the chance to steal some of her victim's power. At the moment of decapitation, the victor rolls her Grandeur Rank, while the vanquished rolls a dicepool equal to the difference between the duelists' Grandeur Ranks. It doesn't matter whether the vanquished's Grandeur Rank is larger or smaller; weakling Immortals who manage to slay their betters find it an experience not unlike trying to dam a river with a bedsheet: the great flow simply overwhelms the effort to arrest it and flows on, heedless. Similarly, mighty ancients who pick off newly-born Immortals find the experience akin to pouring a thimbulful of brandy into a vast ocean of older, more refined brandy. Only between equals does the ancient Lex Duello find its truest expression. Also, because Immortals are dark, brooding souls with rich emotional ties, this only works with someone you truly love or truly hate. Otherwise, no juice.

But if you do, you can guzzle their Levining down like pop.

Critical hit: Gain a Mark in a Trait the vanquished had more Marks in than you.
Normal hit: Gain a Mark in a Skill the vanquished had more Marks in than you.
Weak hit/tie: Gain one of the vanquished's Edges.
Big failure: A Black Levining occurs!

As part of the Levining, the victor learns all of the vanquished's Trait and Skill ratings and Edges. If the victor outranks the Vanquished in every applicable Trait or Skill, she instead steals an Edge. If the vanquished has no Edges the victor lacks, she loses one Grandeur Rank for wasting everybody's time.

The Black Levining
Spoken of in fearful whispers among Immortals, the Black Levining is when something goes catastrophically, supernaturally wrong with the Levining. When a Black Levining occurs, roll on the following table to determine the effect:

1 - Secret Holy Ground: The site of the duel was consecrated once, and Holy Ground is forever. Lose 3 Grandeur Ranks for dishonoring the Lex Duello.
2 - Humiliating Levining: Good news: You get the results of a weak hit/tie on the Levining. Bad news: You poop your pants or otherwise humiliate yourself. Lose 1 Grandeur Rank.
3 - Reverse Levining: Lose one Mark in a Trait or Skill the vanquished had fewer Marks in than you. If the vanquished totally outclasses you, you got lucky.
4 - Reincarnation: The vanquished's soul escapes and is immediately reborn. Fate will ensure that the reincarnation not only hates you, but will become a supernatural being capable of standing against you. Roll 2d10: that's how many years it will be before your reincarnated foe returns to vex you. (Improbably low numbers indicate magical aging spells, alternate dimensions, or similar fuckery.)
5 - De-Throned: Replace your Throne of Comfort with the vanquished's.
6 - Total Protonic Reversal: Your personality completely inverts: villains become heroes, heroes become villains, and so forth. Rewrite your Inner Deal to reflect this change. If you're good now, replace your Kickass Wardrobe with "Kickass Wardrobe in White." If you've gone evil, replace it with "Leather Pants and Eyeliner."
7 - Harvey: A shard of the vanquished's personality takes up residence in your mind. Only you can see or hear it, and it can't really interact with the world, but it sure is annoying. Any time you'd roll an unopposed action, the SM resists with the vanquished's relevant dice pool instead of a difficulty, if it's higher.
8 - Insolatis Dies Veneris: You're still you, but holy shit, you look just like the guy you killed! Good luck convincing anybody you're really you.
9 - Possession!: The vanquished soul overwhelms yours and your identity is wholly replaced. Keep your Traits but replace your Saga and Skills with those of your vanquished foe. You're him now. Have fun.
10 - Exploding Dice: Something in the scene explodes. Spoiler alert: It's you. Good thing you're Immortal.

Other Supernaturals
Immortals aren't the only ones who can steal power from their kind. Other supernaturals have ways of doing the same. In all cases, you have to perma-kill the victim first, and roll as described above. The SM should use good roleplaying to rename and adjust the Black Levining table as appropriate.

Oh, and one final note: While you're under no obligation to keep it in your pants, in this case you do have to keep it in the family. Only supernaturals of like kind can steal each others' power.

Vampires: A vampire must drink every last drop of blood in her victim's body, in a foul practice their undead kind term "Daimonerie."

Werebeasts: Werebeasts have to crack open the vanquished's ribs, then tear out and eat her still-beating heart. (Yeah, it's still beating even though she's been perma-killed. That's how hardcore werebeasts are.) Werebeasts call this process heart-eating, because they're really not fancy. It's said that this is why there are no wereherbivores of consequence in the Darkest Cosmos.

Technomages: They scoop out the vanquished's brain, put it in a jar, then download it into their cyberjacks. Technomages call this "Juicing," "Squeegeeing," or "Brain-O."

Ghosts: Ghosts have to inhale the plasmic, misty vapor the vanquished dissolves into on perma-death. They call this the Atramentous Breath if they're being fancy, "doing the dead" or "huffing Casper" if not.

Fey-Touched: The Fae-Touched are special little snowflakes, because they have to lay the groundwork for Recursive Bullshit (as they call it) before perma-killing their victim. The Feytouched first have to trick their victim into agreeing to a binding contract the terms of which are impossible to fulfill: to drown someone in air, maybe, or write a pop song that doesn't blow. Once the contract is agreed to, the faeTouched can then perma-kill the victim and steal her power.
Ryan Macklin's profile photoTravis Stout's profile photo
Well, with Car Wizards out now, it's clearly time to update the Levining rules to include them.

Car Wizards: To take a Car Wizard's Levining, you have to totally trash his Awesome Ride (Or whatever Kickass Ride he's driving at the moment) in a race for pink slips. Then you kill him. Then you set fire to the gas tank and send him, his ride, and the pink slip to Valhalla. Huffing chrome spraypaint beforehand gives you a free Boost.
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Travis Stout

Discussion  - 
Apologies if this has already been asked and I just didn't see it, but does Stress "wrap around" if you end up taking Trauma before you've marked off all the Stress to avoid an Effect?

e.g. Frost is sitting at 6 Stress and flubs a resist roll to avoid being shanked (1-3 result, 4 Stress to avoid). Two Stress is enough to push him over to his first Trauma and clear his Stress track, but does he have to soak the remaining two Stress on his "new" Stress track, or does ticking Trauma absorb all Stress from the current hit?
Adam Minnie's profile photoIvan Vaghi's profile photoJason Eley's profile photoJohn Harper's profile photo
Yep, what Jason said. It doesn't wrap around.
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Travis Stout

Discussion  - 
So I've been working on a thing lately. Behold Dungeon World Dark Sun!

Classes doc is the Dark-Sun-ized versions of the core DW classes. Mostly it's new blurbs, racial/alignment moves, and bonds, but there are also some new moves and stuff swapped around between classes (e.g. the bard gets the thief's poison-related moves, while the thief gets... something I haven't decided yet).

Gladiator doc is a new class. Big thanks to the folks over on the Something Awful Traditional Games forum for constructive feedback, suggestions, and sanity checks.

Misc. Stuff is currently just a junk doc, a place to put ideas that come to me so I don't forget them.
Robert Adducci's profile photoTravis Stout's profile photoChristopher Grau's profile photo
The only thing I'd do to make a traditional d&d gladiator would be change races and gear. 
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The Gimp in the Machine
Basic Information
  • Undead Labs
    Writer, 2011 - present
  • Obsidian Entertainment
    Designer, 2005 - 2011