Character progression in games II: Appreciable, Qualitative and Distinctive – the DAQ criteria

In part 1 I discussed some things I do and don’t like about character progression in games.

From the observations in part 1, I’ve made a simple criteria to examine character progression, specifically, the mechanical abilities and features that characters get (I’ll be calling them all features because its a reasonably generic term).

The DAQ criteria

  • Is it appreciable?
    • When the features comes into play in the moment, at the table, do we appreciate it?
    • Can we point to something happening in the game and say ‘that is happening because of this feature’?
    • Do the other players at the table notice the impact of the feature?
    • For instance: if a character has a +2 bonus from proficiency, a +3 bonus from dexterity and a +2 from a feature, then all of those sources contribute to a success, so its hard to credit any of them in particular. However if the feature gave a +10 and the margin of success meant that they could only have succeeded due to the +10, then it is appreciable.
  • Is it qualitative?
    • Does the feature have a tangible effect on things in the world or is it only a numerical impact?
    • A feature can have quantitative effect and a qualitative effect, they are not mutually exclusive.
    • Just because a feature can be roleplayed doesn’t mean its qualitative. Whilst you can turn things which are just numbers into character moments but we want to know if the feature itself is just numbers.
    • For instance: if a character has a +1 sword that has +3 against goblins then it is quantitative. It’s just numbers. But if the character had a +1 sword has +3 against goblins, and which glowed bright white and whispered shouted hateful messages in elven whenever it was drawn near goblins, then that is qualitative.
  • Is it distinctive?
    • Is the feature something that everyone can do or is there limited access?
    • Can only this class do this thing? Can only this subclass do this thing?
    • If others can do this thing, how common is it?
    • For instance: if a character can cast a spell to let them fly, and another character can shapeshift into a falcon, the the flight spell is somewhat distinctive, whilst the shapeshifting is more distinctive. This is because whilst they both have ways to fly, only one of them can also shapeshift. The distinctive quality is on more of a sliding scale than the others and is more affected by having a larger pool of options.

Another way of thinking of these qualities:

  • Appreciable: does it make me think ‘thank goodness I have that feature’
  • Qualitative: does it make things happen in the world that de-genericises play?
  • Distinctive: is it something that helps define my character and creates opportunities to move the spotlight to them?

I’m going to apply these criteria to fighting classes from a few games to see how they fare. I’m looking at fighters because they should be harder to hit these criteria with than, say, wizards or clerics.

I’ll look at Fighters in 5e D&D , Old School Essentials and GLOG, scoring each feature out of 3.

(I’ve used Appreciable, Qualitative and Distinct as the ordering throughout but DAQ is more pronounceable than AQD so I’m calling it the DAQ criteria.)

Not the sort of Fighter I’m talking about

The Fighter in 5e

I won’t explain each feature because that would take too long but you can check out their wording here.

Feature and scoreAppreciable?Qualitative?Distinctive?
Fighting Style 0/3Most of this is just +1 or +2 bonuses. The most appreciable is great weapon fighting but its not very good statistically.Again it’s mostly just numbers.These features are shared with the paladin and ranger.
Second Wind 1/3Yes – I declare that I use it and I get to heal 1d10+level hit points.No, again its just numbers.While Second Wind is unique, healing is pretty ubiquitous so its not really distinct.
Action Surge 2.5/3It is very appreciable, but in my experience it is mostly used to just do another attack.+1 action this turn is a quantity increase, but because you use that action to do something in the world, it is qualitative.Everyone has actions. Actions can also be gained through the haste spell so its partially distinct
Extra Attack 2/3Yes, though as time goes on it becomes less appreciated and more something you just do.As above, it is a quantity that gives you something tangible, though that thing is generally just ‘I swing my sword again’.Other martial classes have extra attacks.
Ability Score Improvements 0/3It is appreciated just after levelling up but after a session or so it just becomes part of the overall modifier and is not appreciable.Quantitative. You could trade it for a feat but that’s optional and beyond the scope of this assessment.Everyone gets this
Indomitable 1/3Rerolling saving throws is very appreciableEntirely quantitativeThere are lots of ways to gain a reroll or reroll-like effect
Hit Points 1/3Yes – I often hear ‘that would’ve killed me if I had as few hit points as the wizard’ or some variation on that themeAgain, entirely quantitative.Everyone has hit points and the barbarian’s hit points are larger. The ranger has as many hit points as the fighter too.
Weapon and Armour Proficiencies 0/3Because access to weapons and armour is so widespread in 5e, having access to all types is hard to appreciate.This is quantitative because it’s saying: anyone can use the weapon but only you can get a +2 bonusOther characters can get access to the weapon/armour proficiencies, some more easily than others.
Equipment 1.5/3Yes it is well appreciated at 1st level. This tails off as the party gets money and everyone gets the best equipment they can use.This is qualitative but because the type of weapon you are using so rarely matters in 5e (past its damage dice and whether it is ranged) its a weak qualityAnyone can buy this equipment and many others start with it too

We’ll look also at the Champion and Battle Master subclasses. The Eldritch Knight has spells and so I’ll be ignoring it because as I said earlier, magic is much easier to hit these criteria with.

Studebaker Champion 1951. As far as I’m aware, it’s not a 5e subclass.

Champion

Improved Critical is very appreciable – the player will appreciate it every time they roll a 19. It’s a quantitative improvement for sure – though rolling extra dice is tangible for the players it is not tangible in the world. It is pretty distinctive – as far as I know it is the only rules-as-written way to crit on a 19 in 5e. Score 2/3

Remarkable Athlete reads

Starting at 7th level, you can add half your Proficiency Bonus (round up) to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution check you make that doesn’t already use your Proficiency Bonus.

In addition, when you make a running long jump, the distance you can cover increases by a number of feet equal to your Strength modifier.

This is not appreciable because it gets added into your tally of modifiers, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a GM use the written rules for jumpable distance (although I’m sure it happens at other tables). The first half is not qualitative. The second part does give is a quantity but that quantity is saying ‘you can jump further than other people’ which is tangible. It is not distinctive because the Bard has a similar, but strictly better, feature called Jack of All Trades. Score 0.5/3

Additional Fighting Style is a re-run of Fighting Style 0/3

Superior Critical is also a re-run of Improved Critical 2/3

Survivor gets you some hit points back as long as you are in the lower half of your hit points. This might be appreciable in a fight, but not that much. It is entirely qualitative. Though it is a distinct method of healing, as I said earlier, healing is pretty common in 5e. Half points for distinctive and appreciable gives a score of 1/3

The Battle of Auray: What a confusing mess.

Battle Master

Battle Master is not on the link from earlier so here’s one just for it’s features.

Combat Superiority is great. You pick some ‘maneuvers’ and can expend ‘superiority dice’ to use those maneuvers, buffing their result.

Example maneuvers: Disarming Strike (chance to disarm an opponent and bonus damage); Menacing Attack (chance to frighten an opponent and bonus damage; and Commander’s Strike (forgo an attack to allow an ally to make an attack).

Many of these features are also appreciable – we all notice when Jimmy gives up his attack to let Timmy make one, or that Billy’s fighter just shouted that ogre into temporary submission.

Frightening opponents, disarming them and allowing others to move are all qualitative. Though some of the features are just quantitative buffs, there are enough choices to give this a pass.

The list of maneuvers has 16 entries, many of which allow you to do things which there is no other mechanical way to do in 5e, or things which you cannot do without casting a spell, so this is distinctive.

Score 3/3

Student of War gives the Battle master proficiency with one type of artisan’s tools of their choice. Whilst that sounds like a flat bonus, it’s probably going to make the player buy and use those tools when they otherwise wouldn’t, and so is potentially appreciable, if the player remembers where they got their proficiency from. It is quantitative and indistinct though. 1/3

Know Your Enemy is a nearly-great feature. Essentially, spending 1 minute in a non-combat interaction or observation with another creatures grants some knowledge of its statistics. This is appreciable only if the party is going to act on the information, which is not very likely as it is all stuff that a reasonably experienced player could guess at. Maybe they couldn’t guess the exact number, but they could guess if a stat will be relatively high or low. It is quantitative which is a big shame – if it gave you knowledge about the creature’s mood or motivation then it would be so much more tangible. It’s a pretty distinct feature. Score is 1.5/3 but with a few tweaks it could easily be 3/3

Improved Combat Superiority just changes your superiority dice from d8s up the dice ladder to d12s. Marginally appreciable (because an numbers added to a check from an additional dice are more noticeable than say a flat +2 bonus which gets folded into the modifier), quantitative and not distinct. 0.5/3

Relentless also interacts with superiority dice, giving you one if you have none at the start of a fight. Appreciable when it is used but not qualitative or distinct. (the dice are distinct but replenishing things is not). I expect it would push the player to use up their dice knowing they get one back which I suppose increases its appreciability (is that a word) 0.5/3

5e fighter summary

Battle Master is better than the Champion using these criteria. Most of the features are not very interesting. I should note that the Fighter gets a lot more ability score improvements than other classes, which (using optional rules) can be turned into feats. This does allow for a fighters to get some very distinct, appreciable and qualitative features and therefore to increase the distinction between any two fighters, but it does so by accessing features from a communal pool. IE the fighter gets more interesting by accessing features that are not part of their core design. Doesn’t that say something about the core design by itself?

University of Bologna has been in continuous operation since 1088 and is therefore an old school

The Fighter in Old School Essentials

The system reference document for Old School Essentials (OSE) can be found online here. It’s an excellent tool, I generally have several tabs open while running my weekly game. As OSE is a re-rendering of the 1981 D&D rules there is less of an emphasis on class features which are gained while levelling up, and far less push-a-button style features.

Feature and ScoreAppreciable?Qualitative?Distinctive?
Hit Dice 1d8 1/3Even more appreciable than in 5e since being reduced to 0hp kills you instantly and bonus hit points from constitution are much less generous.Entirely quantitativeThe Dwarf class also gets 1d8 for its Hit Dice.
Weapon and Armour 2/3More appreciable than in 5e again (the fighter can use any weapons and armour) because some of the other classes are so limited in their access – the magic user can only use daggers. Treasure is also more often magic weapons which the Fighter can always make use of.Unlike in 5e where a proficiency gives you +2 at 1st level, in OSE it allows you to use the weapon. Being able to pick up and use a fallen enemy’s bow (when others cannot) is qualitative.This is shared with the Elf class.
Languages 1/3Fighters know the bare minimum of languages so its pretty impossible to appreciate this.Knowing or not knowing a language is about as qualitative as it comes.The Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User and Thief all have the same language options.

These next two features need more unpacking than the table can provide.

Stronghold: Any time a fighter wishes (and has sufficient money), they can build a castle or stronghold and control the surrounding lands.

This feature requires the context of other classes: all the non-Fighters have a specific feature explaining what level they have to be to build a base and the nature of that base . For instance a Thief can establish a Thief-Den at level 9.

For the kind of game I run I would assume that the fighter has to still contend with issues such as the supply of materials and access to specialist workers, especially in more remote locations. There is also the political concern of neighbouring factions and rulers.

So this is appreciable because being able to make a castle when others cannot, which might serve as the base of operations for the party, is going to be appreciated. It is also definitely qualitative (a castle is not a quantity, right?). It’s not very distinct because everyone can make a base and both Halflings and Dwarfs can make a Stronghold. Score 2/3

After Reaching 9th Level: A fighter may be granted a title such as Baron or Baroness. The land under the fighter’s control is then known as a Barony.

So right out of the block this is qualitative. Lets just get that out of the way.

At 9th level (or 11th, around that mark anyway) is when most classes can make their stronghold, but since the Fighter can already do that, instead they can become a Baron(ess). This is basically saying that the fighter is not just a warrior who has a keep but a noble, a recognised member of the feudal hierarchy. Skerples has a great post about what this means in a medieval society. Anyone who has played Crusader Kings or watched Game of Thrones will know the potential for gameplay to come from this. So it is definitely appreciable, as long as the NPCs in the game react appropriately to the character’s rank (including other nobles holding them to certain expectations).

It is distinct too, no other class gets to become a member of the nobility through a class feature.

Score 3/3

Attack modifiers (THACO) and saving throws: The fighter also gets very good attack modifiers and saving throws as they level up. This is not distinct or qualitative. It is more appreciable than the modifiers that a 5e fighter gets just because there are so few ways to get modifiers. Still 0/3 though.

OSE fighter summary

There is so little in the class but once you ignore the features which are common to all classes (attack modifiers, saving throws, languages and hit dice) everything that remains meets the DAQ criteria really well.

From Davy and the Goblin. That image would make for a great overworld encounter.

The Fighter in GLOG

Goblin Laws of Gaming (GLOG) is a ruleset made by Arnold K and can be found here (wizard rules are here). We’re looking at the Fighter on page 6 of the Goblin Guts pdf, which is the class list. Often GLOG is played using the Rat-On-A-Stick hack (or hacks of that hack) where HP is limited to 20hp at max level, and I will be taking this into account, especially when considering how appreciable abilities are.

Feature and ScoreAppreciable?Qualitative?Distinct?
Parry 2/3Yes – potentially mitigating 2d12 hp in an fight is really big and might keep you alive.Both parts of this ability are quantitative but the sundering of your shield is also quantitative so half marks for this.The knight also has this feature, so it’s somewhat distinct with 10 classes. Half marks again
Notches 3/3If you choose the right upgrades then they will be appreciable. +1 damage is generally not appreciable, crit on a 19-20 is.Some of the potential upgrades to your weapon are qualitative – like with the battle master’s maneuvers I’ll assume those are the options which will be chosen.No other class has this feature
+1 Attack 2.5/3You will appreciate getting a second attack in when HP values stay low as your level progresses.Like the 5e fighter’s extra attack, this is qualitative. A tangible thing is happening, not just a number change.The Really Good Dog class also gets +1 attack features so this is at half marks.
Impress 3/3You should appreciate the chance to smooth social tensions by winning a fight.A +4 bonus is quantitative, but what’s really happening is that you’re getting a second chance at a first impression, which is qualitative.Yes nobody else can do this.
Tricky 2/3When you get a free chance to trip, shove or disarm someone then you will really feel it, however I think this ability might go forgotten due to its unusual trigger conditionsThe second part of the feature is qualitative but the first part is just a +2 bonus. Half marks again.The Acrobat can also do this so half marks again. Bit of a running theme here.
Cleave 2.5/3Extra attacks in such a low-health and low-power game is highly appreciable, much more so than in a game with massive HP values for monsters like 5e.Another way to get extra attacks, which are qualitative.Whilst other classes get extra attacks, none get them this way. Half marks.

GLOG Fighters also get +1HP per level which is not distinctive, qualitative or appreciable. That extra hit point might keep you alive but you probably won’t appreciate that you are alive because of this feature. 0/3

Starting equipment for GLOG fighters is very good, though narrowly focused on combat. Having a bow or chainmail will probably be appreciated in the same way that the OSE fighter’s weapon access was. Other classes have some of the same equipment so its partially distinct. Having a thing is qualitative so that makes it 3/3

GLOG fighter summary

Some really good features here. In fact I think the ratio of really-good-idea/total-rules is part of the reason behind GLOG’s success.

I posted some GLOG classes previously on this blog: The Dragon Wyrmling; Elf Wanderer; and three fighters: the Slayer, Captain and Ranger. They are overall more powerful than the core GLOG classes so they would need to be tuned down to avoid overshadowing them.

I might do a post in the future assessing my own classes using the DAQ criteria.

Some overalls

Overall summary

The GLOG and OSE fighters perform very well in the DAQ criteria, far better than the 5e fighters. In general, a more niche game will perform better on these criteria as abilities will probably be more distinct and qualitative. It might be a good project to scalp the most DAQy features from the 5e battle master and make a glog class, though someone has probably already done that.

I am well aware that the DAQ criteria is just one measure of quality when assessing character abilites in games. Features which score poorly such as hit points and proficiencies may really drive the flavour of the class without being unique press-me buttons which this criteria is looking for.

This criteria wouldn’t work for some systems I’ve played such as Chaosium’s Call of Cthulu, Star Trek Adventures or The Burning Wheel. That’s fine. Character progress in those systems is handled differently, and your character is more often differentiated by you skill lists or areas of expertise.

There is no Joesky Tax with this essay since I’ve already given you something useable.

When designing a feature ask yourself:

  • Is it distinctive?
  • Is it appreciable?
  • Is it qualitative?

But don’t forget that the design doesn’t need to be those things to be good.

It’s a tool.

Don’t use a hammer to saw some wood.

Combat system for Legamon

Recap

I’ll assume you haven’t read my other posts on Legamon prior to this, so here is the recap:

  • Legamon (or just mons) are legally distinct monsters that accompany the characters on adventures
  • Mons have 6 types: Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Verdant and Metal. Some mons may be of more than one type.
  • Some types against stronger or weaker against others, for example Water is strong against fire. This is shown in the type chart below.
  • All mons have abilities relating to their type. For example, Flameingo (an iridescent fire-type pink flamingo) knows the ability Flame Hop, a fire type ability.
  • Abilities have tags which tell help inform all the players about what the ability is good at. Flame Hop has the tags: Fire-type; melee; and moving. Other than the type, there are no hard and fast rules about what the tags do. They exist to inform our understanding of the ability and to make it clear to everyone playing what the ability is good at and what it is bad at.
  • There are also typeless abilities. While every mon has access to a limited pool of abilities with types, there is an infinite pool of typeless abilities that can be used. The only restrictions are what is reasonable in world, so for example a slug-themed mon could not use a typeless ability called ‘kick’.
ScratchBiteKickPunch
ChopGoreBashSlam
BargeSmackClobberClaw
BumpCrashBangWallop
Aggressive abilities

SidestepRollJumpDash
LeapDipTake CoverDrop
DuckCrouchDiveGo Prone
Defensive abilities
  • You roll an ability dice when you are doing an ability to determine its success. Higher is better.
  • Abilities which have a type roll a d6 for their ability dice. Abilities which are typeless roll a d4 for their ability dice.

Modifying the ability dice

If you have advantageous circumstances (from height, a downed opponent, a sneak attack etc.) then roll your ability dice twice and take the higher value.

If you have disadvantageous circumstances (opponent in cover, predictable actions, you are grappled, your ability name doesn’t quite fit what you are trying to do etc.) then roll your ability dice twice and take the lower value.

If you have an advantageous type matchup (eg fire vs verdant) then instead step the dice up (d2->d4->d6->d8->d10).

If you have a disadvantageous type matchup then instead step the dice down (d10->d8->d6->d4->d2).

Example worst case scenario: Flameingo is using the ability Flame Hop on Rocktopus, an Earth-Water hybrid. Flameingo is lying on the ground and Rocktopus is towering over it. Flameingo will roll 1d2 (the d6 has been stepped down twice as fire has a bad matchup against both water and earth) twice and take the lower number (because it has disadvantageous circumstances).

Example best case scenario: Flameingo is using Flame Hop to drop down from above on an unsuspecting Bookerfly, a Verdant-Air hybrid. Flameingo will roll 1d10 (the d6 has been stepped up twice as fire has a good matchup against air and verdant) twice and take the higher number (due to advantageous circumstances).

Spending energy

When a mon uses an ability which has a type, they must spend one energy to do so. The median starting energy for a mon is 3.

When a mon spends an energy they will roll an ability dice to determine the success of their ability.

  • If the dice rolls in the upper half of potential values, the energy remains spent.
  • If the dice rolls in the lower half of potential values, the energy is regained

So on a d4 roll, a 1 or 2 regain the spent energy, whereas on a d8 roll a 1, 2, 3 or 4 will regain the spent energy.

Combat Rules for one-on-one fights

Combat is made up of rounds. Each round, participants roll 1d6 + speed to determine who goes first that round.

The median speed values for a mon is 3. Whoever rolls higher has their turn first.

On your turn you can move and do an ability. (Instead of an ability you could also use an item or interact with something in the environment.)

If you are going first and you want to do something that does not affect the opposing character, then it will resolve. The gamemaster may ask for a roll to see how successful it is.

If you are going first but you want to do something (for instance an attack) that will affect the opposing character, then the target can choose to either: let it happen and then take their turn after; or forgo their turn and resist the action.

If you are going second and you did not resist the opponents ability, that means you can take your turn now. If you want to do an action that interacts with your opponent, they won’t be able to resist you as they already acted.

Attacking and your opponent does not/cannot resist

Roll your ability dice, the result is subtracted from the opponents Grit.

Grit is a statistic that represents a mons staying power. The median starting grit for a mon is 10. When a mon’s grit reaches 0 or lower they are out of the fight.

Attacking and your opponents resists

Attacker and defender both roll ability dices. The defender’s result is subtracted from the attackers result and the result is subtracted from the defender’s grit. This cannot heal the defender.

The defender is not able to damage the attacker by rolling higher. If they wanted to damage the attacker they should not have resisted, and instead taken the damage and then attacked back.

Using an ability to prevent

Attacker rolls their ability dice. They may spend the resulting value to prevent their opponent from moving or using an ability. 1 point of the value can be spent to prevent the opponent from moving for 1 turn. 3 points can be spent to prevent the opponent from doing an ability for one turn.

Example scenario: Vineapple rolls a 4 when using Vine Lash to wrap their target, Camelamp. Vineapple could either: prevent Camelamp’s next action and next movement; or prevent Camelamp’s next 4 movements.

At the start of any round after the first round in which a mon is prevented from doing something, there is a chance they can passively overcome the prevention. To do so they must roll 4 or higher on a typeless ability roll (this roll does not consume their ability for that round). Each additional round steps the dice up.

Number of turns prevented1st turn2nd turn3rd turn4th turn5th turn6th turn onwards
Passive typeless dice rolledno dice rolledd4d6d8d10d12
Roll a 4 or higher to end the prevention

The target can use an ability to defend and subtract from the attacker’s roll in the same way as with damaging abilities.

Using an ability to end a prevention early

If you are being prevented then you can use your ability to try to end the prevention early. Roll your ability dice, if you roll a 4 or higher then the prevention ends straight away (this may allow you to spend your ability to end a prevention on your movement, which you can then use).

If you are prevented from using an ability then you cannot try to use your ability to end your prevention on using an ability.

Using an ability to do anything else and other rules

The gamemaster makes a call based on the rules above, their reasoned understanding of of the world and the principles below:

  • The logic of the world and the scenario is more important than following the rules.
  • The rules only exist to facilitate informed decision making for players and so the gamemaster has guidance to prevent them from making it up on the spot. Making stuff up on the spot is fine, but its harder to do it well for combat, and with combat a poor decision will sting harder.
  • What one character does using an ability should not be negated by a movement from an opposing character.
  • 0 grit means one cannot carry on fighting, it does not necessarily mean death or fainting. Maybe they are physically exhausted, or mentally drained, or emotionally overwrought. It might mean they flee or collapse or the mon’s human partner offers to parlay or surrender.
  • Give disadvantage if a mon uses the same ability in the same way more than once in a row, or any time after the second time. This is predictable for their opponent which is where the disadvantage comes from.
Camelamp (knows the ability Shining Hump) by becca_3d

Incomplete rules

The average Mon has 10 grit, 3 energy and 3 speed. Mon advancement/evolution will be covered in a different post. I’d also like to post about how to bond mons (bond not catch, it feels a bit oppressive to go around catching monsters).

If I was making up a new mon and wanted to decrease/increase its energy or speed (for instance, Camelamp above should probably have more than 3 energy as camels store energy) then I would modify the grit of the mon up or down by 2 or 3 hp to make it feel more balanced. The other lever for balance is how many situations you can think of that a mons’ ability would be useful in.

The rules for combat could easily be abstracted out to other contests. Grit represents staying power not physical durability so there doesn’t even need to be a terminology change.

The rules would probably also work for battles with multiple participants but I haven’t tried that out.

Design notes

If you go first then your opponent might trade attacks, but yours will hit first. Otherwise they might try to negate your attack, but then they can’t do damage.

Going second means that if you let your opponent hit you, you get guaranteed damage/prevention on them.

Energy and grit should probably reset at a town, village or some other resting spot – they’re a resource to manage through several encounters/events.

There is a gloggy kernel in this game (the regaining of spent mana and the low hp levels relative to attack values). The gloggy kernel has an fkr coating, with world/genre emulation coming as a top priority over the rules. When I ran a playtest I had less written rules than above, but it seems to me that if I’m making something to publish online I should provide a reasonable level of guidance.

Thanks to Becca, Andy and Morat for playtesting.

Move system for legamon part 2

Part 1 here.

The title says moves but I’ll be calling them abilities since that makes it less confusing when talking about movement.

Typed abilities

The types are Water, Verdant, Fire, Earth, Air, Metal.

All ‘mons know at least one typed ability.

  • Vineapple (a Verdant-type pineapple with vines coming out of its head) knows Vine Lash
  • Mistrunk (a cute Water-type elephant) knows Water Spray
  • Camelamp (a baby one-humped Fire-type camel) knows Shining Hump

As they advance, level-up and evolve, their abilities will gain new tags granting them increased versatility

Using these abilities requires one energy to be spent. When the energy is spent roll a d6.

On a 1, 2 or a 3 the energy is refunded.

On a 4, 5 or a 6 the energy is spent.

The GM will determine the success of the ability based on the result, with 6 being the best result and 1 being the worst. The result could determine:

  • How long an effect lasts for
  • How powerful an effect is
  • How difficult it is for others to counteract
  • Whether the attempted action is even possible
  • How quickly the action is completed

The GM should not allow characters to repeatedly try the same action until it succeeds. This is a waste of time. If time is a factor in an action that is definitely doable, then have the result determine how quickly the action is completed.

Abilities can be used in combat or out of combat.
The above statement might makes it seem like combat is the focus of this game but far from it, it just wanted to be explicit.

Energy will replenish at the same time as Grit (the health system I’ve not blogged about yet). Essentially it replenishes at some time or place of rest.

Why waste time make lot art when few art do trick

Typeless abilities

‘Mons can also do typeless abilities.

You could think of everything else they are doing as a typeless ability but that seems a bit silly. It’s more that we use the ability structure only when we need mechanical support to adjudicate our roleplay.

Really they’re only relevant in combat.

Actually no, there are loads of places they will be relevant, for instance if the ‘mons were in a cooking contest or a game of beach volleyball. However, the game needs combat rules first.

So below is a non-exhaustive list of example typeless abilities. The only restriction on what typeless abilities a ‘mon can do is what the GM and players think is reasonable.

ScratchBiteKickPunch
ChopGoreBashSlam
BargeSmackClobberClaw
BumpCrashBangWallop

Oh and they could be defensive too

SidestepRollJumpDash
LeapCrouchTake CoverDodge
DuckDipDiveDodge

Typeless abilities are not as powerful as typed abilities so they never get type advantage. They also roll a d4 not a d6, which will matter when it comes to combat. Finally, they lack the versatility and potential to affect the scope of the battle in the same way as typed abilities.

At this point my refusal to put a space in the middle is more obstinate stubbornness than anything else

But I mean you still didn’t tell me what am I meant to do with this

Okay the combat system is coming next.

Followed by the beach volleyball system and the cooking system.

Glog class: Elf Wanderer

I wrote this glog classes some months ago for a game I didn’t end up running. I probably borrowed some of the abilities from somewhere else but I can’t find them now (inbox me if you recognise something so I can stick a link to it here and give credit where it’s due).

Elf Wanderer

You are one of the few among the Elves (and their Half-Elf kin) who is not resigned to seclusion, and believe that somewhere out in the world must be a cure for The Great Sorrow (the curse upon all elves that they may bear no more elven children). You wander the lands, searching for the power to restore your people. You are very worldly and knowledgeable but have limited martial training.

A: Weather Folklore
Elven Memories
B: Magelore
Flora
C: Elven Memories+
Ancient Epic

D: Elven Memories++
Seen it Before

Weather Folklore: You have +2 on rolls to predict tomorrow’s weather

Elven Memories: Choose an Elven Memory (listed at end)

Magelore: After examining magic or a magical effect, you know a place where you could learn more about the magic.

Flora: You have +2 to rolls to find useful flora

Elven Memories+: Choose an additional Elven Memory

Ancient Epic: You tell a well practiced story which has stood the test of time, enthralling smallfolk for 1d6 hours and wiser folk for 1d6 x 10 minutes.

Elven Memories+ +: Choose two additional Elven Memories

Seen it Before: You have +2 to all saves relating to fear.

Elven Memories

  • Monsters from long ago: You recall an ancient folk tale of your youth. Once per day when faced with a strange monster, roll 1d4 to see what you remember from this dramatization. When your information is put into action, roll luck to see how accurate the information in the dramatization was.
    1. A weakness of a monster
    2. The food chain of the monster
    3. The temperament (choleric, melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic) of the monster
    4. Roll twice
  • Items of old: You recall an ancient folk tale of your youth. Once per day when faced with an ancient artifact, roll 1d4 to see what you remember from this dramatization. When your information is put into action, roll luck to see how accurate the information in the dramatization was.
    1. The age of the artifact
    2. The makers of the artifact
    3. The primary use of the artifact
    4. Roll twice
  • Ancient Tongues: You have +2 to rolls relating to understanding dead languages
  • Obscure Tongues: You have +2 to rolls relating to understanding obscure languages
  • Just around the corner: You can remember a place of shelter from the last time you were in this area. Roll luck to see if the shelter is occupied.
  • An old companion: When you arrive at a large settlement, you can seek out an old companion. Roll 1d6 when you arrive at their last known location.
    1. Your old companion has moved on, but locals can tell you where to and why.
    2. Your old companion is here but is bitter or insulted by something you did in the past which hurt them greatly.
    3. Your old companion is here and has not forgotten the debt you owe them.
    4. Your old companion is here but is in deep trouble and needs help.
    5. Your old companion is here and you can pick up your past comradery within a heartbeat
    6. Your old companion is here, stronger than ever, but preparing for a quest they are hopelessly outmatched against.

Notes

This class has almost no combat power, but should make it up through their out-of-combat knowledge. I was originally intending to also have this pair with an Elven Guardian class which would be an Elf fighter focused on defensive abilities and mastery of nature, however it stepped too much on my Ranger and Fighter classes. It would be quite easy to add in new Elven Memories to edit the scope of the class.

Move system for Legamon

There’s been a lot of chatter in recent months about Legallydistinctémon, a lot of which is collated here. A lot of that stuff is glog-y, though there are some excellent random generators in there.

This is more in the FKR vein of games, though I will be assuming you have two things sorted already. I’ll probably write posts for each of them at some point

  1. A core resolution system. I will use the words advantage/disadvantage to show when a character should have an improved or lessened chance of something, though I’m not necessarily talking about the ‘roll two take the best/worst’ definition. It could be a modifier or whatever.
  2. Some sort of battling system. It could be rules light or glog-y or what have you.
  3. Some sort of levelling/evolving/advancement system

Popplio used bubble

In the pokemon anime popplio uses bubble to attack other monsters but also to envelop pikachu so it can search underwater and it makes a massive bubble to stop the fall of some pokemon from a team rocket gondola.

That got me thinking about how a well enough written legamon move could be used in a wide number of situations outside of combat, or even in lots of different ways in combat. They might only need one or two moves overall.

Vineapple used Vine Lash

Vineapple is a plant-based monster which looks like a pineapple but with vines coming out of the top.

Okay I know that’s dumb but stay with me.

Vineapple has one ability, Vine Lash. Like all abilities, Vine Lash has some obvious qualities – as you will infer, the vines at the top of Vineapple lash out at a target. As it’s a plant-based ability, we’ll give it the Verdant tag. As I can’t really visualise it working well in melee, we’ll give it the ranged tag.

Vine Lash: Verdant, Ranged

^That’s the whole ability. Done.

Explicitly, Vine Lash has limited capabilities

  • It can be used to make Verdant ranged attacks

Implicitly, Vine Lash can do many things

  • Swinging from tree-to-tree
  • Tripping opponents (though it might have disadvantage/no chance against opponents who can fly, who are fiery or who slither like a snake. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, follow the fiction – rule whatever makes sense)
  • attacking with vines at close range (though this might be at disadvantage)
  • grappling opponents (though it might have disadvantage against particularly strong opponents or those who are fiery)

There are some uses of vine lash that are good ideas, but a bit of a stretch, for instance, whirling the vines around quickly enough that Vineapple makes a defensive/protective shield.

Enter the rest of the tag system.

Tags for abilities

So you might want a monster to do something with its ability that is ‘a bit of a stretch’. When the monster levels up/evolves/advances or when it is dietetically appropriate, for instance when you’ve been training a Vineapple to whirl its vines around, choose an ability and add a new tag to it.

Tags can be words or phrases. They cannot be rules-lawyered, that goes against the spirit of this sort of game, a game run on consensus and player trust in the GM’s model of the reality of the fiction.

Some examples:

  • Whirling Vines: Vineapple can now cycle vines in front of itself to try to shield against ranged attacks. I’d also say that it can attack in melee without disadvantage now, though it also tires itself out when it does so as whirling the vines takes a lot of energy
  • Sleight-of-Hand: Vineapple is now precise enough with its vines (the word ‘lash’ before implied some imprecision) that without disadvantage it can pickpockets, flip switches, grab small items etc.
  • Razor Sharp: Vineapple’s vines are razor sharp so they can cut through things now.
  • Cracking Lash: The vines now crack as they lash out, the noise can be distracting or draw attention
  • Metal Vines: Vineapple has evolved into Zincanut, a metallic coconut who has metal vines above its head. The tag metal should be added and the tag verdant removed.
  • Wicker Weaving: Vineapple can weave its vines back and forth to make a wicker item, then dis-attach them. It takes a while for the vines to come back to full strength
  • Powerful Lash: Vineapple’s vines are powerful enough that strong monster could be grappled now, and weaker ones with advantage. Any other logical extensions of the vines being more powerful would also occur. Maybe it does more damage in your battle system
  • Hover Vines: Vineapple’s can hover through the air by spinning its vines above its head. I might allow this tag to occur by itself, or I might say it needs one or both of the Powerful Lash and Whirling Vines tags already.

So the new ability might be written thus on the character sheet

Vine Lash: Verdant, Ranged, Whirling Vines, Razor Sharp

or following a different route

Vine Lash: Metal, Ranged, Powerful lash, Hover Vines

That’s all we need to write ‘cos that’s all we need to record, the rest is in our heads.

Vineapple, courtesy of Becca_3D

The risk of that is when an alternate move use becomes a Magic Key that Solves All Problems Ever

On the glog discord Spwack said ‘ The risk of that is when an alternate move use becomes a Magic Key that Solves All Problems Ever’.

I absolutely agree.

Looking at you, Minor Illusion.

It’s a classic problem of having an optimum solution to every problem. Having dynamic goals in the game (not just fighting in a blank arena (or just fighting for that matter)) goes a long way to solving this. Another long way is gone (?) if we all agree to disavow a magic key if ever we find one. As I said before, the game should be run on consensus.

But what kind of ways could an ability be modified?

  • increased power
  • increased precision or nimbleness
  • decreased precision for an area of effect
  • modifiying light/vision levels
  • changing sound levels quieter or louder
  • change in speed
  • applying conditions/statuses grapple/paralysis/sleep/fear etc.
  • flight or other increased mobility (swimming/moving through earth/lava)
  • increased size or scale
  • healing
  • protection
  • reflection
  • penetration/sharpness
  • constructing items/objects/consumables
  • human actions (such as the weaving)
  • changes in type (verdant to metal etc.)
  • etc. I mean its your game jeez

But I can’t think of any abilities for this legamon

vine lashshell shrinkflame tailsilk string
poison shankwing flapgnawpeck
zap tailcurl upunfurlconstrict
spore spraydigsingecho
swipegrowlchoplift
wrapmagnetismrock rollrock yeet
seasonabsorbdirtifyclean
ethereal formpinchshock furchatter
coordinatemystic punchfire kickegg roll
entanglenurturehopglitter
glimmerspincopymesmerize
lava divecrushstampedecute look
enter cyberspaceinvisibilityshimmerdevour

What next?

I think I’ll probably make my own monster types and do a post about ‘catching’ monsters and evolving them.

I mean what am I meant to do with this

Idk use it or something

How to use Pokémon cards and tabletop slither.io

I saw a group of four or five 8-year-olds playing with Pokémon cards recently. The kid who owned them poured a bag of a hundred or so onto the table and they picked six cards each. The kids took it in turns playing cards onto the table (regardless of the evolutionary stage of the card) and then attacking other player’s cards (completely ignoring the mana costs for doing so).

Obviously they had a vague idea how the game was played, but were making up most of it

I let them get on with it.

At one point somebody had played a poison Pokémon, maybe a Nidoran? We’ll assume it was this exact card:

Source: Bulbapedia but I guess its copyright Nintendo?

The kid played the card and attacked with it.

What should have happened: Assuming the card had sufficient energy cards attached (a poison and one other energy card of any type), it would have done 20 damage (before applying weaknesses and resistances). Additionally there would be a 50% chance the target would be poisoned, meaning it would take an extra 10 damage each turn until it feints.

What happened:

‘I attack that one with my sting, it does 20 so its dead’

‘Nooo that’s not how it works, because he is poisoned it means every time he is attacked he takes an extra 20’

No flipping coins, no initial 20 damage, no weaknesses and resistances.

Was it balanced? No

Were they having fun? Yep

Tabletop slither.io

I also saw a group of six-year-olds the other day playing with multilink cubes

These things. From wikimedia

They scattered the cubes out across the surface as unconnected singles. They then each chose a cube and began hoovering around the table, and whenever they connected to other cubes they added them on.

At one point one kid accidentally knocked the front of their snake into another kids and then had to dismantle it into its constituent pieces and start over.

So they were playing slither.io. But they could choose how quick or slow to move their snakes with only “hey, that’s too fast” as a mediation tool.

Was it balanced? No.

Were they having fun? Yep

Playground Among Us

I would’ve thought that a social deduction game with randomly assigned traitors would be about as immune to adaptation for the playground as any game could be but boy oh boy, was I wrong.

It was a group of ten-year-olds this time.

Yes, your assumption is correct, I work in education.

On the playground they gathered and closed their eyes. One person secretly chose a couple of others to be the imposters.

Then they all went around doing ‘jobs’ on the ‘ship’ until someone ‘died’.

But it was a playground without pipes and tunnels and vents, where they should’ve all been able to see each other and keep track of who might be the imposter.

As canny as ten-year-olds can be, they can also be oblivious.

Inevitably one of three things happened

  1. The imposters were found out after the first two murders
  2. The imposters positioned themselves near a group and fake-shanked them all before they could call a meeting
  3. Some non-imposters got bored, decided that they had been imposters all along, then piled in on option 2.

It was the least successful of these games. Its rules made the least sense and were adhered to the least.

And yet they keep on playing it.

Is it balanced? Dream on.

Are they having fun? Yes

Here’s a reward for reading the above ramble

Glog spell: Misremember

Range: Touch

Target: Person

Duration: [dice] hours

The person will misremember a rule, law, instruction or regulation from within a body of rules, laws, instructions or regulations. You can add, revoke or rewrite up to [sum] sentences.

Three Glog fighter classes: Slayer, Captain & Ranger

I wrote these glog classes some months ago for a game I didn’t end up running. I probably borrowed some of the abilities from somewhere else but I can’t find them now (inbox me if you recognise something so I can stick a link to it here and give credit where it’s due).

Slayer

You are a dedicated warrior, focusing on the killing of your enemies to the exclusion of the development of wider abilities.

A: Focus
Attack Surge
B: Called Attack
Named Weapon
C: Feud
Focus+
D: Double Attack

Focus: You have an extra chance to crit when attacking (crit on 19 or 20)

Attack Surge: When you defeat an enemy, or crit, you may make an additional attack

Called attack: You can choose a particular spot on your target to strike at when attacking. You get a -2 modifier (-4 if it is the head) to your attack roll but if you hit the attack will inflict an additional debilitating effect appropriate for the location.

Named Weapon: Name your weapon, when you kill a new type of enemy with it you can increase its damage or attack bonus by 1 up to a maximum of +3 each.

Feud: You gain advantage when attacking individuals you have previously fought against in deadly combat

Focus+: You have another extra chance to crit when attacking (crit on 18, 19 or 20)

Double attack: You can attack twice when you make an attack or an additional attack. This includes all sources of attacks.

Captain

You are a trained warrior and leader, skilled in personal combat and the inspiration of your allies, at the sacrifice of your own fighting potential.

A: Guardian
Coordinate
B: Captain’s Speech
Battle Master
C: Sacrifice
Bring it down
D: Coordinate+
Focus

Guardian: You may sunder your shield to reduce incoming damage to yourself or an adjacent ally by 1d12.

Coordinate: When you defeat an enemy in combat, you may direct an ally to make an additional attack or combat maneuver.

Captain’s Speech: You may give a five minute speech to your allies before beginning a difficult endeavour, increasing their potency during the initial segment of the endeavour (+2 bonus to the first roll made by each character during the endeavour).

Battle Master: Your combat maneuvers, or combat maneuvers that you direct allies to make through your abilities, have a greater likelihood of success (+2 bonus to the roll).

Sacrifice: You may declare that you are sacrificing yourself for your allies, massively increasing your fighting potential (advantage to all attack and damage rolls), for as long as all your allies disengage and flee.

Bring It Down: You can mark a target by directing allies to focus on it, your allies will be more effective against this target (+2 bonus to their roll). This ability resets when spells reset.

Coordinate+: When you attack or make a combat maneuver, you can additionally direct an ally to make an attack or combat maneuver. [This functions like attacking twice when you attack, except your second attack goes to an ally]

Focus: You have an extra chance to crit when attacking (crit on 19 or 20).

Ranger

You have wilderness expertise and some fighting skill.

A: Silent Walk
Practiced Eye
B: Shelter
Tracking
C: Forager
Animal Whisperer
D: Silent Walk+
Opportunist

Silent Walk: You can move silently when outdoors in a natural environment, except when moving over/through really loud surfaces like gravel.

Practiced Eye: If you miss with an attack, your next attack against that target has advantage.

Shelter: You can always quickly (1d6 x 10 minutes) find or make shelter in the wilderness.

Tracking: This ability buffs the wandering monster/random encounter rolls [highly dependent on the other subsystems you are using. Suggestions: rerolling a dice on the reaction roll; rerolling a dice on the wandering monster table; rerolling spoors/tracks etc.]

Forager: You have a +2 bonus on rolls relating to foraging.

Animal Whisperer: Non-sapient wild animals have a more trusting view of you, as long as you do nothing to counter this view. You can easily infer what they want and what they don’t want.

Silent Walk+: You can move silently even on loud surfaces when outdoors in a natural environment.

Opportunist: Your hits are always crits if you have a situational advantage (elevated position, surprise,…) [I am almost certain I stole this ability from somewhere].

Notes

These three classes are quite strong compared to the original fighter over on goblinpunch, but I think they’re pretty in-line with each other, and with my Dragon Wyrmling class, which is a pseudo-fighter itself. The Slayer has the potential to get really dangerous at 4th level, but has no defensive or utility abilities so is pretty one note and quite vulnerable. I’d be certain to telegraph this to a player considering playing as a Slayer.

The Captain is almost entirely inspired by things that Aragon does in the LOTR movies. The Ranger forgoes the common ‘animal familiar’ trope, I’d prefer a pet focused class for that idea. Maybe a Falconer or Kennel Master or Knight. In fact I guess it could be a single Pet Master class with three subclasses: flying pet; mount; and dangerous beast. I do like the Critter Master class by Type1Ninja, but that’s more focused on manipulating a swarm.

None of the classes posted above have skills or starting equipment as those are more table-specific, but if you want guidance I would use the fighter’s setup from Goblin Guts for the Fighter and Slayer, and use the Ranger setup from the same for the Ranger.

Glog class: Dragon Wyrmling

I wrote this glog class some months ago for a game I didn’t end up running. I might have stolen some of the abilities from somewhere else but I can’t find it now (inbox me if you recognise something so I can stick a link to it here and give credit where it’s due).

At the time I was writing I had an advancement idea similar to GLΔG but less diegetic: that characters would level-up upon completing certain conditions instead of when they hit xp requirements. This is the ‘advance when’ statement on the classes.

A note on chromatic/metallic dragons

I was going to run this game for players with a variety of experience with d&d. Some of the players  would know the difference between chromatic and metallic dragons (and have further expectations about how a white dragon might act vs how a blue dragon might act. However others wouldn’t even be aware that the colour of the dragon would mean anything in particular.

A zombie is useful because everyone knows how it is going to act. A chubby, grey-skinned, knee-high fellow with a tall purple hat and a wide grin is useful because nobody knows what it is and how it will react.

Coloured dragons straddle this awkward spot where there is a high variance of expectations amongst players and their characters. Some people know exactly what to expect from each colour and others just know ‘dragon=dangerous and greedy’.

To get around this (the campaign was to be set on an island renowned for its many dragons) I decided that the dragons would be non-chromatic and non-metallic.

Cue Astral Dragon, Magma Dragon, Rainbow Dragon, Lightning Dragon, Ice Dragon and Flower Dragon.

Gimme the actual class so I can cannibalise it for parts

You are a baby dragon also known as a Wyrmling. Advance when you eat magical or monstrous prey larger than yourself.

A: Baby Dragon Biology
Dragonspeech
Draconic Flavour

B: Growth
Dragonflight

C: Growth+
Draconic Terror

D: Growth++
Draconic Breath

Baby Dragon Biology: You are a small dragon, the size of a cat. You have a limited carrying capacity. You cannot fly but you can glide. You have a coldblooded metabolism and can go a long time without food if you are not exercising or exerting much energy. You are a hypercarnivore. Your teeth and claws are as dangerous as a light weapon. Civilians and guards may react very badly toward you.

Dragonspeech: You understand and can use Dragonspeech, the language of dragons. Draconic is to Dragonspeech as a three-year-olds rambling babbles are to Shakespeare.

Draconic Flavour: Choose your Draconic flavour. Learned folk, especially Elves and mages, know about the different flavours and may judge you accordingly.

  1. Astral Dragon: You are very difficult to spot in the night’s sky. You have increased luck, at night, when outdoors.
  2. Magma Dragon: You are immune to fire damage
  3. Rainbow Dragon: You can change the colour of something by licking it
  4. Lightning Dragon: You always emit sparking light and must be careful to avoid setting things on fire. You have an advantage on initiative rolls.
  5. Ice Dragon: You are resistant to the cold
  6. Invisible Dragon: As long as your eyes are closed and you are holding your breath, you are invisible (takes an action to turn invisible)

Growth: You are as big as a medium-sized dog.

Dragon Flight: Your wings are developed enough to fly for 1d4 rounds, though you cannot hover and must keep moving. Your wings get tired easily so you must take a breather before flying again.

Growth+: You are as big as a large dog. Your teeth and claws are as dangerous as a medium weapon.

Draconic Terror: You have advantage on attempts to induce fear/intimidate.

Growth++: You are the size of a lion. Your teeth and claws are as dangerous as heavy weapons.

Draconic Breath: You can unleash a dangerous breath attack which recharges when spells recharge (default once per day). The attack is a 15ft cone unless you have a better idea.

  1. Astral Dragon: Your breath attack can light up those it strikes for 1d6 rounds, enemies get advantage when attacking them and they get disadvantage to hiding
  2. Magma Dragon: Your breath attack is a plume of hot ash, which damages those it hits for 1d6 fire damage, can set fire to suitable targets, and leaves a lingering smoky cloud giving disadvantage to attacks in/through it.
  3. Rainbow Dragon: Your breath attack can mesmerize those with a neutral or better disposition toward you that it strikes, freezing them in place. Charisma saves to avoid it, and again each round to break it.
  4. Lightning Dragon: Your breath attack does 2d6 damage to the target, and can chain (1/2 chance for those in melee, 1/6 chance for those near but not in melee) to other nearby individuals.
  5. Ice Dragon: Your breath attack is a freezing torrent of wind and ice, coating everything in the area with a sheen of slippery ice, dexterity saves are required for any movement more than half-speed per turn. It also does 1d6 cold damage.
  6. Invisible Dragon: Your breath attack turns those it hits invisible for 1d6 rounds.

Notes on the Dragon Wyrmling Class

This class is supposed to be a pseudo-fighter, with some varied utility depending on the draconic flavour. Like the Really Good Dog it has some in-built roleplaying challenges and boons. You could easily make new subclasses, all you need is a breath attack and a small A template boon.

Some of the subclasses are probably more powerful than others but a lot of balance would come from how the GM plays out NPC reactions to you so I think the imbalance is fine. The subclasses are hopefully different enough to be relatively incomparable too.