Author Topic: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)  (Read 7599 times)

Johnstone

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Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« on: February 28, 2012, 01:57:47 PM »
So, Paul asked me about my process of taking my really basic AW hack, called World of Algol, and crossing what Vincent is calling "the Iridium Plateau" in order to make it a full-blown game, like Monsterhearts or Dungeon World. I have been working on this very slowly, because school keeps me pretty busy.

For the first version of World of Algol, I wrote some new playbooks, added a second harm track called contamination, and wrote up a list of spells so I could use Vancian-style D&D magic. Then I wrote an adventure and ran it more or less the same way I run B/X D&D, but with the basic moves from AW.

It was fun! The only really serious problem I found was the disparity between character advancement that AW supports and what Planet Algol assumes. Everything else was good... but I could also see how to make it better.

So here is a quick list of my considerations for taking World of Algol the setting hack and turning it into world of Algol the stand-alone game.

The first two considerations are the most important:

1. What is my goal here?

You'll notice I don't have a sub-forum here in the hack section. This is not laziness, this is intentional. I have friends who like to design games in public, but it's not really my thing. And for this one, my intended audience consists of one person: me. I'm making this so I can run Planet Algol with it; no more, no less. And so I tailor my process to that goal.

I do want to make something that looks as professional as possible, and I like sharing my work and hearing about what other people do with it, but other peoples' opinions on what this game should or shouldn't be are not actually helpful to me. So, until I finish something, I mostly keep it to myself, and once it's done, then I decide what I want to do with it. "Done" is a variable concept of course. The first draft of World of Algol was done and so I decided to share a pdf of it on the internet, for example.

2. How much do I really want to change?

I thought about this one for a while, and even tried out some radically different rules variations. Ultimately, the basic resolution (2d6+stat) of AW is also inherent to D&D, and I decided to stick with that. This way, my finished game's moves will be able to cross-pollinate with both D&D stuff as well as other AW hacks. The workspace rules are also very nice, so in terms of the basic mechanical resolutions, I'm not straying far from the tree.


But here is a short list of things where I DO need to diverge from Aw:

3. Basic moves and stats.
What you use for stats and what the basic moves are, even if players don't always pay attention to them, is a key aspect of a game's genre. There are two considerations here: what's best for the setting, and what works with my sensibilities.

So for example, I need different stats to deal with technology and psychic/magical powers. so I rename the stats for flavour and add a tech stat, and that's probably good enough.

However, I also need a search move, because that's something D&D characters do a lot and Planet Algol adventurers are no different. So I add a search move that's basically like open your brain.

Those are two examples of things the setting demands. I also want things like: fighters should be tougher than wizards, and while the setting is pretty deadly, there's also an element of rough-and-tumble pulp action heroism there, so I have a recover move, for when you pick yourself up off the ground and get back into the fight, instead of, say, variable hit points.

But I'm also annoyed that some moves are really easy to use without adding much to the fiction, like reading people and situations. So I re-worked reading a sitch:

When you assess your situation, roll+wise. On a hit, you can ask the GM questions. Whenever you act on one of the MC's answers, take +1. On a 10+, ask 3 from the list. On a 7-9, ask 1:
* What should I be on the lookout for / paying attention to?
* What's my enemy's true position?
* Where's my best escape route / way in / way past?
* Who has the advantage / is in control here?
* Who is the biggest threat / most vulnerable to me?

If acting on one of the GM's answers requires you to make a roll, you get +1. You can only assess the same situation once.

So now you have to actually assess your situation, in character, before you can roll. Go ahead and do your impression of a noir detective: "I knew she was trouble the minute she walked into my office..." This version isn't particular to Planet Algol or anything, I just like it, is all.
(Feel free to steal this one from me if you like it too, but remember: being able to assess someone else's situation is a special move.)

4. Playbooks.
The stats and basic moves establish a baseline for what everybody in the game does, and then the playbooks tell you how characters are different. I don't have too much to say about this, it's just like writing up a custom playbook. You figure out what the archetypes of characters you want and decide what the range of options they should have is and then just write them up. As long as you know what game you're writing, this is just work, nothing more.

In World of Algol you can have two players choose the same class/playbook, so each one needs more options than what's available to, say, the Chopper and the Hardholder.

5. Violence.
In my experience a lot of the time people tend to treat harm in AW as hit points. You get shot in the face and take 2-harm, but the real consequence here is that you mark down 2-harm on your sheet, not that now you have to deal with being shot in the face. I think harm should be a bridge between mechanics and fiction. If you break your leg in the fiction, you check the harm list and mark that much harm. But, because there is a recover move, even if you can un-mark that harm, your leg is still broken until it heals in the fiction. The harm listing for weapons is when you use them with a move, and it says to deal harm, you deal that much harm, and the GM will look at the list of injuries at that level of harm and say what the injury is. When you mark X amount of harm on your sheet, you drop dead. If you die in the fiction, you die mechanically too.

I don't really mind hit points per se, we use them in D&D, but I'd prefer to go with a more fiction-first design here. Joe did a neat thing by adding conditions to Monsterhearts. That ensures you have to write down your injuries, so I'll be using some version of that idea.

6. Bonds
Hx is a neat idea, and so is bonds. What I need for these rules to do in my game is two things: support adventuring-party play while leaving room for betrayal (unlike in Dungeon World), and supporting retainers. And by retainers, yes, I mean meatshields.

The Hx questions in AW are often easy to forget about, which is why I like bonds. I like resolving bonds, too, but I want to retain some tension between resolving a bond for xp and keeping it for the bonus to helping rolls, so I need mechanisms for creating bonds other than just writing a new one when you manage to resolve one. I'm still not sure exactly how bonds with PCs and NPCs will differ yet.

7. Experience
This is probably where I break most from AW. I want xp to be really stingy and focused on long-term play. Rolling dice, playing your character, and having fun are their own rewards, if you want to advance on Planet Algol you need to actually accomplish things. No highlighted stats, no alignment moves, and if there are player-determined goals via bonds, these only allow for a very slow rate of advancement. If you want a quicker rate, you need to accomplish things the game says are important.

However, I'm also looking at writing three different modes of play for this game, with the main differences being in what the GM creates for each mode, and how the players are rewarded. So in Exploration mode, for example, the GM prepares an unfamiliar environment for the players to explore, and the players are rewarded for recovering valuables. But of you want to play Story Now style, you can play Survival mode, which is more like AW.

But a lot of the details are still pretty nebulous and I won't get much work done on them during the next couple months.

So! Those are my issues. If you have been following other peoples' hacks, some things might be familiar, others maybe less so. Everybody has a different process, and even when some things seem like they should be similar, they often aren't. This game takes a lot from D&D, for example, but it's not the same D&D that informs Dungeon World.

Anyway, I hope that was interesting to somebody.

Ariel

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2012, 08:23:03 AM »
+1

Matteo Turini

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2012, 10:30:42 AM »
Definitely interesting.
I saw your first hack and it seemed realy enjoyable, so I'm looking forward to this.

Johnstone

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2012, 11:34:10 AM »
Thank you!

John Harper

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2012, 11:22:59 PM »
Very interesting. Thanks!

Johnstone

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2012, 04:53:40 AM »
No problem.

Steve Hickey

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2012, 09:07:57 AM »
4. Playbooks.
The stats and basic moves establish a baseline for what everybody in the game does, and then the playbooks tell you how characters are different. I don't have too much to say about this, it's just like writing up a custom playbook. You figure out what the archetypes of characters you want and decide what the range of options they should have is and then just write them up. As long as you know what game you're writing, this is just work, nothing more.

This is incredibly helpful. You've articulated something I was seeing out of the corner of my eye. Thank you!

Johnstone

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2012, 10:51:55 AM »
Oh, good! It's probably something that's easy to miss because it's so simple, but playbooks are just splats, same as class, race, vampire clan, etc. Any type of splats will work with the AW rules, and the same rules can work without splats, too. They're a very efficient way of structuring a game and communicating core themes to both readers and players, but you want to tailor them to the setting and the character creation method you want to use, when you start hacking.

Z in VA

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2012, 10:29:32 PM »
i for one am very excited about this project!
hence the thread-necromancy :)

Johnstone

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2012, 02:58:44 AM »
The basic rules are pretty much done, including playbooks (aka character classes). Right now I feel like I've "fixed" AW so it plays to my sensibilities almost 1:1, but I'm still unsure if it's appropriately Planet Algol enough. And the GM section is a jumble of half-formed thoughts in my head.

I'll be at Go Play Northwest at the end of the month. If 2 or more people want to play this, they should hit me up and we can work out which slot to play in. I should have 2 or 3 different adventures.

Jeremy

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2012, 03:22:25 AM »
Would you be willing to share (at whatever detail) you're doing for harm/damage/conditions or whatever?  I've got similar sensibilities to those you outline in your "Violence" topic.  I'm curious to hear what you came up with.

Johnstone

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2012, 05:30:13 AM »
Sure.

Harm is more-or-less the same, but you die when you fill in 5 circles, not 6 (so it matches xp). Or you can take a debility (there are 3, not 4, and two of them give you -1 to 2 stats) and erase all your harm on the track.

When you suffer harm, you take a condition: Write down the wound on your sheet. The harm track is just a mechanical method to determine how many non-mortal wounds you can suffer before dying.

Conditions include injuries and insanities. I had intoxication as a type of condition, but I think I will fold that into contamination so that contamination is separate from magical curses, even though they would both be logged on the curse track (which is identical to the harm track but has its own 3 debilities). There are supposed to be 4 types of conditions, they don't cover as much ground as they do in Monsterhearts, because reputations and whatnot are not conditions in World of Algol. Conditions are personal and not social.

If a condition would adversely affect a roll, you roll a penalty die. That means you roll 3d6 and keep the 2 lowest. You might also have to go into danger or hold it together because of a condition, when you wouldn't otherwise, like if you try to escape with broken legs or you see snakes when you're scared of snakes. Conditions last until they're gone, in the fiction. So even if you erase your whole harm track, you still have the broken arm condition until it heals. But your harm goes away when you heal from your conditions.

I expanded on the table that lists wounds and harm. When you suffer harm mechanically, like as the result of another PC attacking you and doing her weapon's harm, the GM will look at the chart and describe an appropriate injury, and you write that down. When you suffer a specific wound in the fiction, perhaps getting your hand cut off by a trap, or because another PC shoots you in the foot with her laser pistol, the GM looks up that wound on the chart, and that's how much harm you mark on the track. Maybe you already play AW like this! I'm just making this super-explicit and mandatory, with conditions.

I haven't written an equivalent table for curse, though. I keep thinking you should suffer 1-curse at a time, and that curses and contamination getting worse (adding 1-curse to your track) is a hard move. Recovering from curse is pretty hard.

Recovering from harm is a basic move:

When you recover from injury, shock, or other setbacks, roll+mighty. You can shake
it off, fight through the pain, bind your wounds, or rest in bed. On a 10+, choose 1:
 * You recover immediately and take +1 to your next roll as your instincts take over.
 * You stay down and remove 2-harm over time.
 * You take a moment to gather yourself and remove 1-harm now.
On a 7-9, you can stay down and remove 1-harm over time, or shake it off and continue
acting as normal.

Oh, and doing damage to NPCs is wishy-washy and narrative-y like it is in AW, where they die immediately half the time they take 3-harm, but it's up to the GM and stuff. I'm thinking that monsters, which are not people, need to have "hit points" or something, instead, because they are supposed to be bigger and scarier. And stuff.

Jeremy

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2012, 12:13:47 PM »
Sweet, thanks!  That's very, very interesting.

Are you still using the when a PC suffers harm move?

Johnstone

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2012, 06:29:05 PM »
Of course! PCs need to get knocked down so they can use the recover move and get back up again like action heroes! Or so they can fall unconscious and get captured by cannibal sorcerers.

I swapped a few words and put the options in alphabetical order, but the main difference is that when you roll+harm, you add all the harm on your sheet, not just the harm you've just taken.

Same with curse:

When you suffer curse, write the nature of the curse on your sheet as a condition and, if the GM asks you to, roll+curse (total curse on your sheet). On a 10+, the GM chooses 1:
 * You gain a condition from the shock and stress.
 * You lose control of yourself, and come to your senses a few moments later, having done who-knows-what.
 * Or 2 from the 7-9 list below.
On a 7-9, the GM chooses 1:
 * You fail to notice something important.
 * You freeze up, hesitate, or pause.
 * You lose track of someone or something you're attending to.
 * You lose your grip on whatever you're holding.
 * You take a single concrete action of the GM's choosing.
On a miss, either you're okay, or the GM can choose something from the 7-9 list above and the amount of curse you suffer is reduced by one.

Jeremy

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Re: Going from Setting Hack to Full Rules Hack (World of Algol)
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2012, 04:07:14 PM »
If a condition would adversely affect a roll, you roll a penalty die. That means you roll 3d6 and keep the 2 lowest. You might also have to go into danger or hold it together because of a condition, when you wouldn't otherwise, like if you try to escape with broken legs or you see snakes when you're scared of snakes. Conditions last until they're gone, in the fiction.

How are you finding this works in play?  From an armchair observation, it seems like the line between "roll the move with a penalty die" and "you've got to hold it together/go into danger before you can make that move" is pretty blurry.

Also, have you looked at the math regarding the penalty die?  Just how big of a penalty is it, numerically?  (If you're just using it by gut, that's cool. But I figured I'd ask before I did the maths.)