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Great advice; it will keep you on your toes!

Traveller idea: Instead of the jump drive rating indicating the number of hexes jumped, it determines how long it takes to jump one hex. So a Jump-1 drive takes 24hours, Jump-2 20hrs, Jump-3 16hrs, Jump-4 12hrs, Jump-5 8hrs and Jump-6 4hrs. Other than being subject to increasing mis-jump DMs, a ship can jump as far as it wants. The jump would still be the same as before, relative to time. Thus, a Jump-1 ship would take 24 hrs to cross one hex, while a Jump-6 drive would cross six hexes in the same amount of time. The above times are open to modification, of course.

I have always thought it weird that a single hex jump and a six hex jump would take the same week in jump space. If it takes the same amount of time to jump one hex as it does six, then jump space is virtually inconceivable(!) As described by the rules, a Jump-1 drive is no "faster" than a Jump-6 drive, although the same time in transit for both does imply that there are different speeds in jump space. Plus, a week is just too long and six hexes is too short.  :)

Poke holes, tear my idea to pieces. Do your worst!

What's the sweet spot when it comes to number of ability scores?  GURPS has three, White Wolf games have nine, and I am sure I am forgetting some game that has even more.  I tend to think of them in terms of what they describe: Physical, Mental, and Meta.

Physical scores quantify the body, like Strength, Co-ordination or Stamina.  Mental scores are the mind, Intelligence, Psyche, Intuition.  Meta scores are a combination or something that doesn't fit elsewhere; Personality, Luck, Education.

Within those broad categories, what do you think is the minimum and/or maximum number of attributes needed for a character to be mechanically robust?

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Weigh in on the debate on what our new Risk 2210 AD: Oceans Pacific Expansion Board should look like and how it should work by visiting:

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The GIMP has some quasi-vector facilities, built using paths and strokes along those paths.  The end result is still a bitmapped image, but it the lines are very clean.

I will put some doors and other features on this map tomorrow; here is the raw version for now.  Stock it, modify it and put in some wandering encounters!

(CC BY-NC-SA of course!)

I read up on game theory now and again.  Not that Forge garbage, the mathematical discipline.  I keep thinking that RPGs could be greatly improved by applying some of the concepts.  For example, instead of just collecting as many combat bonuses as possible, what if the bonuses were split, evenly or not, between attack and defence?  There would be a total of +6, for instance, but at the beginning of the round you would have to distribute a certain amount to your own attack, and the rest to your defence.  Doesn't that seem like a more interesting choice as far as game play goes?  Magic weapons provide the same static bonus, but it can be likewise distributed.

Some games have those attributes split already, but they are usually treated as separate entities.  Points are dumped into Dodge at one point, and perhaps later on, other points are dumped into Handgun.  Even there, it would seem like a more interesting choice to decide on a turn-by-turn basis if you want to duck out from the wall and take a careful shot, exposing yourself in the process, or stay mostly behind cover and take whatever opportunity shot you can.

Of course, those are examples of the Prisoner's Dilemma, the most famous of game theory exercises.  I don't think every aspect of every rule should be grounded in game theory, but there is room for improvement along those lines.  I've run across more than a few rules in more than a few games that felt a lot more like guesswork than design.  Not that it ruined any of them, of course, but I have to wonder if the rules that cause the most controversy are of that type.  Rather than including a rule from tradition or because it "looks right", see if there is something in game theory that can firm it up or make it a more interesting choice that might lead to some emergent complexity at the table.

What is a 'dungeon'?

I was reading a discussion on theRPGsite about what makes a dungeon, and there are varying opinions, but to me it all boils down to one thing.  It's a restrictive environment:  movement is restricted, vision is restricted, supplies are restricted, and options are limited in every way possible.  The dungeon walls are the very epitome of the restrictions inherent in any set of rules; games are won by creatively applying or circumventing these rules, and that is exactly what a dungeon provides.

In that regard, a dungeon crawl is the exact opposite of a hex crawl, although the two may be found in the same adventure.  The last half of Castle Amber is a hex crawl, while the first half is emblematic of a dungeon.  The players can't even leave the general area!  Against the Giants is very much a mixture of the two.  In literary terms, HP Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness very much sets the gold standard for hex/dungeon crawl mixtures.  Hex crawls emphasize freedom of movement, the ability to go anywhere on the map and do anything the players want.  In terrain that isn't completely a barren wasteland, there is opportunity to re-supply by hunting and gathering water at streams or rivers, even when they may act as barriers otherwise.  And often, a hex or two will contain a settlement of some kind to stave off deprivation.  Random wilderness encounters may be with a caravan or group of pilgrims with supplies to trade.

Dungeons typically offer none of that.  Running low on torches can be every bit as dangerous as running low on food, and the denizens are always prepared to ambush and finish off the weak or unwary.  Traps abound in the form of snares or deadfalls set recently to harry the incautious, or centuries old crushing walls and enchanted pools that visit all manner of calamity on those who don't heed the rumours, or gather them in the first place.  The very environment reduces tactical decisions to 'forward' or 'backward', and woe betide any who carelessly toss fireballs around in the dank corridors.  All these things add to the oppressive atmosphere of the dungeon, making each decision critical, each step as likely as not the penultimate, and the whole structure a enemy not to be defeated, but managed to the extent possible in order to survive.

Of course, this is how rules work in any game.  The rook does not simply capture any and all pieces along its line of movement at a whim.  A random assortment of five cards is not a straight flush because it would advantageous to the player.  These rules comprise the 'walls' of the 'rules dungeon' every game is predicated upon.  However, I maintain it is these 'walls' that make games fun.  Only in the simplest beginner's game of chess is the king ever actually captured; the game is won by creatively applying the potential moves of the pieces to trap the king.  The rules state how to capture a piece, but those rules rarely apply to the winning move, even though capturing the king is a condition of winning.  A hand of poker is won less often on what a player actually holds, but on what they can make the other players believe they hold.  Which sequence of cards is greater than another is central to the rules of poker, but again, these are rarely the conditions upon which a player wins the hand.

Games are won by creatively interacting with the rules, and dungeons are no  different.  Upon a cursory examination, rooms appear lethal cul-de-sacs, but they can also be decoys or 'kill-boxes' for the imaginative player.  Corridors are the funnel leading a team to the meat grinder for the unprepared, but for the successful party, they are chokepoints for decimating the opposition.  Every trap, every obstacle, every hazard is a boon for the clever party.  Just as the knight's movement seems useless in chess until an experienced player puts your king in checkmate using just the knight's and a pawn, gameplay is enhanced by restrictions that force the player to consider all possible results and permutations of a particular move or application of rules.

I would not trade the shortest unsuccessful trip into a dungeon for all the crowning achievements obtained during world spanning, courtly intrigue sessions in the world.

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After all the support for getting rid of 'dead levels' in recent games, looks like their paradigm of constant rewards is quite misguided.  An argument could be made that smaller pools of improvement points in skill based games is a similar concept, and would enhance game play rather than detract from it.

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A devastating loss to our community. Quinton Hoover, known for his work on Magic: the Gathering as well as other fantasy publications, has passed away suddenly at the age of 49. The man was incredibly talented, amazingly generous, and warm-hearted to a fault.  I don't think he had a G+ presence, so stop over to his Facebook profile and post some kind thoughts.
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