Monthly Archives: January 2009

Random Thought

If a vampire feeds on someone with diabetes, does it make them tired?

War for the Throne

Here’s a preview of what I’m doing with the Faction Rules for War for the Throne.


Analogue: None

Aid: N/A

Unlike the other faction-stats, Size isn’t rolled. It’s really a measure of how much the faction can do at once, and how many people can pull it in different directions.

Average (1): The faction is too small to be divided on any practical level, but has its interior detractors and idealists. It’s small enough to be effectively ruled by a single person.

Fair (2): Large enough that not everyone in the faction knows each other. At this level, there can be a major schism within the faction, but at the same time, the faction can do more.

Good (3): The faction is a major player in the empire’s politics, and can effectively multitask in political affairs. It’s likely that there are multiple people with vested interests in the faction’s doings.

Great (4): The faction is huge, and likely has many inner rivalries, but it’s legions, spies, and wealth are practically without limit.


Analogue: Charm, Contacts, Empathy

Aid: Leadership, Contacts, Empathy

What sort of pull does the faction have?

Mediocre (0): Culturally backwater, with trouble getting reliable news from elsewhere.

Average (1): A decently sized gossip circle, spreading and tracking rumors.

Fair (2): A small court, with the occasional famous visitor, and minor contacts in other areas.

Good (3): A well-established court, frequented by distinguished members of other factions, with experienced courtiers and spies.

Great (4): The greatest social circle and/or spy network in the land. The secrets of others are bare to you. This faction is the center of culture.

What can you do with it?

Make friends and influence people.

Find out your enemy’s plan.

Trick your enemy.


Analogue: Fighting

Aid: Fighting, Leadership

What sort of armed forces can the faction leverage when fighting breaks out?

Mediocre (0): Bands of agitators, armed with peasant weapons, and poorly trained.

Average (1): A mix of trained troops, supported by peasant levies.

Fair (2): A small but well-trained private guard, mercenary group, or standing army.

Good (3): Well trained troops, well equipped, with good leadership, and an ace or two in the whole.

Great (4): The greatest armies of the land, well experienced, well armed, well supported, and with magical powers.

What can you do with it?

Invade your neighbors to kill them, seize their land, and sack their treasury.

Seize control of key sites, like the Imperial Palace.

Kill your enemies.


Analogue: None

Aid: Leadership

What sort of financial shape is the faction in?

Mediocre (0): The faction is on hard times. Most of the resources are hoarded away somewhere, and everything else is falling into disuse.

Average (1): Struggling, but getting there. The extravagant is out of reach, but there’s no problem paying for the day-to-day activities of the faction.

Fair (2): Relative financial success. In times of trouble, the faction can probably hire some mercenaries or consultants or magicians.

Good (3): Prosperity. The faction has reserves stored away. Faction members tend to be well supplied, well equipped, and well dressed.

Great (4): The greatest stores of wealth in the entire land- vast treasure vaults, monuments, and an extensive financial infrastructure.

What can you do with it?

Acquire rare and unusual items.

Pay for mercenaries.

Bribe your enemies.


Analogue: Endurance, Resolve

Aid: Leadership

How tenacious is the faction? When push comes to shove, will it stand firm, or will it yield to pressure?

Mediocre (0): Members of the faction are mewling sycophants, ready to lick the boots of anyone who presents them. It will not be long before this faction is defeated and sacked by a worthier one.

Average (1): Lip-service and token obedience. Low-level members of the faction, such as the peasantry, feel no particular loyalty to the leaders.

Fair (2): True feelings of loyalty and pride. Most members of the faction will give aid to another member of the faction they have never met.

Good (3): Great deal of devotion and loyalty. Members of the faction are proud of their affiliation. The peasants would rise up in rebellion against an invader.

Great (4): The faction’s morale is supreme. Key personnel would rather die than admit secrets. Profound, perhaps magically enforced loyalty to the faction’s leaders.

What can you do with it?

Make sure loose lips don’t sink ships.

Stop the enemy from messing with your faction.

Whiff Factor in Burning Wheel

It’s been a long time since I’ve complained about something for no reason.  Time for a rant.

The Whiff Factor is too high in Burning Wheel.

Let’s say you’re running a game, and there’s a fight.  You’ve got an extended conflict-resolution system (say, most combat systems) in place, and lots of people are taking lots of actions.  When it’s your turn, something should happen, right?

In a lot of systems, something doesn’t always happen.  That’s what leads to boring fights with “I hit… I miss… I hit… I miss.”  Those “I miss” turns are boring- nothing changes.  The game-state is the same as it was before.  The “I hit” turns are better- you’re wearing down the opponent, but an exercise in attrition is still pretty boring.

The best fights I’ve run or played were those were the game-state was constantly changing.  D&D 4th is actually often surprisingly good for this with the tactical map- even if you’ve got turns of hit/miss/hit/miss, there are lots of monster and character types that like to move around for tactical opportinities.  Those fights are pretty interesting- where can you position yourself for maximum benefit?  The answer changes from turn to turn.  I ran an Exalted game with abstract positioning that due to the stunting of the players, moved from place to place during the fight, and had a real great wuxia-feel.  An often in Awesome Adventures (or Spirit of the Century), you’ll see an expenditure of Fate chips (and therefore a display of awesome.)

And, sometimes Burning Wheel is like this.  The Fight! rules have a lot of tension to them, trying to figure out what the enemy is going to do.  But then you get turns like Block/Block where nothing happens.  You can get entire exchanges where nothing happens.  And that is all the more likely due to armor.

When I ran the demo scenario the Gift at Oshcon in 2007, I ran into this.  The scenario features a Dwarven prince with decent armor, and an Elven prince with very rare mithral armor.  The whole scenario is pretty much about the dwarves wanting the mithral.

Our game featured a duel between the princes.  Such an epic fight cried out to use the Fight! rules, so use them we did.  What a mistake.  The way armor works is you roll a number of dice (and in this case, we were talking like 4-5), and if any come up 4 or higher, you deflect the attack entirely!  (Some attacks might need more successes.)  But your armor might degrade- which I’ve found to be a mitigator in less high-level fights.  But these were high-quality armors, which made them highly unlikely to degrade.  We called the fight as soon as one of the combatants (the Dwarf) got a good hit in, but the fight could have been still far-from over.

So yeah, I think the whiff-factor is huge, especially when things like armor come into play.  Kind of annoying, and drags out Fights!  Other than that, the scenario was pretty awesome (especially with Sara joining mid-session as crazy Auntie Oxen.)

Games I Played in 2008

Games I Played in 2008

3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars: Ran several games, played in a session ran by Tim.

Ariel: Playtested this game.

Awesome Adventures: Ran a few sessions, notably at Gencon and Forge Midwest.

Beowulf: Played a session of this IAWA variant, ran by Tim.

Blazing Rose: Playtested the heck out of this.

Blood and Bronze: Played a few times.

Blood Red Sands: Ralph Mazza ran a playtest of this at Gencon.

Dogs in the Vineyard: Ran a couple of sessions.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition: Ran not one but two campaigns, played in several short adventures.

Escape from Tentacle City: Played many games of this.

Grey Ranks: Played a short campaign of this.

IAWA: Played many sessions ran by Tim, and ran many sessions.

MAID Rpg: Ran several short sessions.

Misery Bubblegum: Tony Lower-Basch ran a game of this at Gencon, and we did a playtest game.

Mist Robed Gate: Ran a game of this at Geekcon.

Mountain Witch: Ran a session at Forge Midwest.

Savage Worlds: Ran a game at the Grumbling Dwarf Meet & Greet.

Shab al-Hiri Roach: Played a game of this.

Sign in Stranger: Emily Care Boss ran this for us at Forge Midwest, then we played two playtest sessions of this.

Trollbabe: Ron Edwards ran this for me at Forge Midwest, and I ran a session for Tim and Len.

Under My Skin: Played this at Forge Midwest.

I’m probably missing a couple that I played in the first half of the year- most of my session notes are gone from the website I used.