The headwaters at the continental divide

For anyone who’s wondered what happened to the Spelens Hus RuneQuest game, I’m here at last to tell you that we have played our fourteenth session, which means five more for you to see. We shifted to screen play for safety purposes, and the editing is pretty hard core, so I’ll be adding episodes to the playlist and commenting here for a while to notify you.

This one – #10, our first by screen – is really long, and I also messed up relative screen time with a couple of characters getting shorted. But after that we were used to the medium and kept the participation more even and the session length down. So maybe editing won’t be as exhausting as I go on.

Also, in this one, Sandra and Nate are just icons, but as the sessions proceed you’ll them get their cameras going until we’re all visible.

Other changes include the addition of Mikal to the group. You saw him in session 9 as a guest, but this session introduces his player-character Ikindu. I began the game with the concept of halfsnakes in place, but no one chose the picture of one (she was pretty human-looking), so this time I included a more snakey portrait and that’s who Mikal chose. His name is a not-liable twist on “Enkidu” as that’s who Mikal referenced when we started talking about him, but as it’s turned out, Ikindu is a very civilized, very positive kind of guy. Like all halfsnakes he’s involved with the racial cult, but he’s also a member of a mercantile cult called the Open Way.

The setting continues to expand by leaps and bounds, and now we also have the political and religious situation exploding into proto-Hero Wars too, just like a RuneQuest setting is wont to do, Glorantha or not. Patrons have access to all the cult writeups I’ve done, which is now almost a whole Cults of Prax, and I’m even working up the culture “on the other side of the horizon” as we are situated at the geographical border.

The five sessions represent a whole chapter of mayhem and morality. You’ll see in this session (#10) that I have drawn heavily upon Circle of Hands in terms of establishing what sort of fantasy this is, and how we experience it through food and cultural activity. You can see it too in that no, this is not D&D Hollywood “olden times” fantasy with its inns and coins.

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25 responses to “The headwaters at the continental divide”

  1. Session 11 added!

    In which the midnight events of the previous session prompt social upheaval.

    For this session, I had prepared what I needed for the arrival of the giant at the village, thinking to myself that it would be a few days of game-time and I'd better be ready.

    As it happened, the players were very invested in the immediate interactions and I tightened my focus, so that almost the whole session concerned the next morning. Which is fine! You'll see that when I realized this, I slowed down the passage of fictional time and also froze it for a bit while we went back a few hours and played what people said they'd be interested in doing immediately.

    This marks the moment, for this entire game, when I softened the hard cuts and framing I'd been using constantly until this point. It's related to my resolve that we would also be shifting to more NPC nuances and to a more extensive, ongoing supporting cast.

    The video is a bit better this time, with less incidental noise (still a little bit) and now we can see Sandra, although Nate's still an icon.

    Here's the direct link to the session, which is now in the main playlist – the whole thing is, at this count, 84 freaking videos!

    • Observations on Session 11

      1. A small observation of the entire situation – a giant's marching to town, the sacrifices, the mutated children shenanigans, the way the local community reacts to this, the ambiguity of the giant's usefulness to the community: this all strongly reminded me of a game I was running several years ago in the Dark Sun setting. Swap a few names – the Dragon instead of the giant, basically – and we had a very similar situation. Both kind-of bronze age settings. 
      It's hard to pinpoint the palpable differences between how the rules and setting converge to create significant differences in the experience, but I can't help noticing how much more vivid and perhaps more mundane (in the most positive sense) this was (expecially considering the aspect of running a similar situation in D&D vs RQ). It's the kind of non-heroic (in the most D&Distic sense) vividness that, looking at different genres, you find in rural horror. One of the aspects I've appreciated the most about this let's play is how focused on the people and the interactions with the local communities it has been in face of the most outlandish, fantasy elements of the setting. This stays true in the face of this situation, in a very authentic way.
      How much it depends on the goodness of the setting, on Ron's interpretation of it or on the player's commitment is hard to say, but it's very noticeable to me on a non-surface level.

      2. Another small thing on the concept of situation that was touched in several other discussions on the site. You can clearly see people being extremely invested in finding out what's actually going on with the giant, the children, the people. I as a viewer want to know what's going on with that. 
      I don't think it's particularly revelant to find out when that creative process happens, but I think there's a strong value in this part of the GM/Narrator's role. It's a controversial theme in the indie sphere – when I bring this up, the responses I get generally manifest as defenses of the "intuitive continuity" model (from "if there's something to uncover, then it can't be emergent" to "I'm not interested in reading your novel"). 
      But that last snarky remark highlights the issue: I am interested. In fact, the idea that a part of the hobby may tap into the same stimuli that make me enjoy a certain type of show or a good rural horror is very valuable to me. If we look at every person at the table as a player, I'm interested at content provided by my fellow players, in the form of production or interaction/reaction. This includes a narrator coming up with a situation and us exploring/uncovering it.
      Here's why I think the term situation is relevant. Preparing/unconvering "story" is problematic when that story is made of pre-planned interactions ("I'm writing something inspired by Game of Thrones!") or it's a whodunnit ("I need to stall you long enough to make this entertaining"). But a proper situation (the giant exists beyond and before the influence of the players, the village and its NPCs too, all this is "setting" that has no expectations or planned interactions with the PCs) works for providing both emergent play AND the pleasure of unconvering a good, exciting bit of fiction.

      3. In the light of what was discussed in the Patreon chat last week, I foundt the way the social conflict and negotiation was handled quite interesting (in a positive way). People said things, which prompted conflict, rolls were made and things had consequences, and stuff moved from there. Not a procedure of retrofitting the narrative to the roll but a coherent process.

      4. Closing notes: the amount of time devoted to making plans and preparations was immensely enjoyable for me. This is a stage of play that in this type of games I find incredibly satisfying and inspiring when I gm. So the last third of the session was possibly the best one for me. 

      I prefer to break down comments per-session if it's ok.


  2. Session 12!

    Here's the direct link. Sandra added her camera this time, so we're stuck with only one icon-panel, for Nate. (He gets his cam going in session 13, currently in edits.)

    This session continues and especially displays the transition from the initial mode of play/GMing, which used significant intersession transitions and hard scene framing, into the current mode of "you're living in this place, what do you want to do."

    At about the time of the destruction of the Buried Dead temple, I realized, or the players decided for me, that we were no longer showcasing a bit of fantasy adventure RPG experience, but playing invested characters in an apparently engaging setting. Therefore aside from the exigencies of landing them in danger in the Insect People nest/temple, play has focused more on their initial statements and desires at the start of each session, relative to my descriptions of the immediate environment.

    For example, Mikal really liked the cult writeups and incorporated their details and ideas frequently. It really "popped" the halfsnakes as a subculture as well as connecting Ikindu as a person to the other player-characters in what seems to me to be a very solid, believable, non-arbitrary way.

    You can see very clearly that I've shifted into Circle of Hands mode in a lot of ways – the food, the linguistics, grounding all activity in the social and daily activities of the community, and the hard-driving, status-heavy priorities of named NPCs. As usual, for one or more players, that entails scraping off standard-RPG-fantasy tropes and expectations: "buying a round at the tavern," that sort of thing. I should have caught the mis-used term "blacksmith" for the bronze crafter, but it got past me – and it could have been a really nice instance of showcasing how bronze things are made, which is badly excluded from dramatic moments in fiction in favor of the famous iron-mongery techniques.

    The tougher or more aggravating side of that transition shows up here too: specifically, that I did not want to shut down anyone's desire to do a "thing," but that saying, "I want to talk to person X," with no description of the character going anywhere or doing anything, effectively stops play. It's kind of non-play, like punching a button in a digital game to "see what he says." You can see me trying hard to keep everything happening in fictional locations with a landscape or a room or a place in the village, but it wasn't easy.

    Furthermore, that kind of play tends to eat up time and also to spawn more of itself. It took over an hour for me to get to the Bang that I'd intended to begin with (the giant's arrival), when I realized that plan, ask for another clue, devise, plan, devise, ask for another clue, devise, plan just wasn't going to stop. Again, I wanted to honor players' desires for their characters to do things, but at a certain point I realized the announcements were getting repetitive.

    The third third of the session, however, was pretty harrowing – all the mechanics were used properly and so, yes, Skava could have been mentally blasted into idiocy with just more point on the damage roll against her, and in that case, could not have channeled the womens' collective Power into the wild magic directed against the giant. Erko could indeed have fallen to his death or at least significantly delayed their arrival at the giant's head. If Zort had been Bound by the magic attack, he would not have been able to defend Skava (currently physically helpless) against Vang. I was in pure "what happens" mode in managing the actions and effects, and a couple of times I was thinking, shit, this is going to be tough to say. I'd love to see what you think of how it turned out!

    • That was nail-biting! Excited

      That was nail-biting! Excited to see what the characters do next – are they invested in the settlement or will they be wandering off home?

      I feel like I could see your struggle with the "plan, ask for another clue, devise, plan," cycle as the players kept proposing things that as you dug into them were full of potential. But as you say this required grounding them in social interactions etc. and less asking "please may I" of you as the GM.


    • Well, two more to finish

      Well, two more to finish editing, so you'll see how things went, and briefly, there are some really nice interactions between Ikindu and the others that make all their "let's try" and "what abouts" much more character-centric. I'm getting better at enforcing naturalistic locations for every bit of play too.

    • Some comments:

      Some comments:

      Sorry for the blacksmith, second language unfortunately sometimes means “I don’t find the word I’m looking for”. I had no intention to suggest ironwork.

      As for the “eating time” part. For me that was necessary and showing the groups dynamics quite nicely. Zort and Skava lost their leader/employer, Erko and Jalla lost the connection to their god. Before that point in time we frankly were to busy surviving to realize the vacuum we are in. Everybody actually wants different things right there and then. Skava is set on getting the giant out of the way before he reaches the village and the children. Erko would rather do some more studies before even contemplating fighting it. Zort and Ikindu would rather leave the settlement sooner than later. I think all of that plays out rather nicely. As is the fact that Ikindu as a newcomer to the group had a rough start and is at that point in time watched with a considerable amount of distrust by both Skava and Erko. My point is, even though an hour is on the long side we would have missed something if we just had gone straight out in the mountains and fight him face on.

      As for the third part of the session. Loved every second of it. Don't get me wrong.  Both me and Skava know very well that life has a tendency to end violently if you seek fights the way she does. It's ok.

  3. Session 13!

    Our first no-combat session, and in some ways, my attempt at restoring cultural knowledge and immediate location to the first priority. Also, all welcome guest participant Max, with no player-character, who wanted to be with us during play just for the fun!

    You know I'm in this game because there's a decorated scary chaos skull and a great big translucent egg with a developing bug in it.

    You'll see session 14 soon, but I have a job for you: identify their failed rolls in this session, and then session 14 will make a lot more sense.

    • I can imagine that the failed

      I can imagine that the failed chaos lore roll when they found the ritual skull can create some problems for them! I'm exited for the next session!

    • They somehow missed every

      They somehow missed every roll that would orient them into the larger cultural and theological clash they are in the middle of. In session 14, as you'll see, therefore they walked face-first right into the result, and were asking, "wait, why did that happen so suddenly and how did it start so violently?"

      So until they get a chance to make sense of what happened, I am saying (to myself), "Because you didn't get '2' from the skull, and didn't get '2' from the egg, and without even one of those there's no way you could have made it to '4,' and this is what life looks like without '4.'"

  4. Session 14, all caught up

    The session starts here! We did meet for another session, but technical difficulties shut us down.

    This may have been our most savage fight yet. I call attention to the effectiveness of the Shimmer spell, which saved Skava from direct attack twice, and the luck of hitting charging foes hard in the legs, which kept her from getting swarmed.

    I used an illustration that Nate Marcel posted to his Facebook page, and it was incredibly good for its purpose here.

    • I noted how Ron narrates

      I noted how Ron narrates successes and failures. In particular I noted the Cult Lore roll early on (it was a 91 – failure) where you explained the failed roll as information overload (I think). I thought that was a clever way to frame what happened.  I would not categorize it as a "fail forward"; the roll did indeed fail; but I felt that the context of the failure kept the action moving forward.  As if skills rolls are more conversation? Am I off base there? 

    • I think you’re right but it

      I think you're right but it isn't just Ron doing it, several of the players do the same thing. Narrational authority is more spread out and doesn't just sit with Ron as GM – although I think the extent of this varies depending on the type of roll.

    • You’re probably not surprised

      You're probably not surprised that I created a whole screed on failed skill rolls as a historical phenomenon in role-playing design as a necessary preamble to my comparatively simply direct answer. I'll make a little video of it, because without it, my direct answer will mean exactly the opposite of its intent.

    • Here’s my prequel to replying

      Here's my prequel to replying, which I chose to write instead of video. It's necessary for what I have to say, and comments are appreciated, but remember, the task is to try to get our minds back to before this history happened.

    • Ok, that all makes sense and

      Ok, that all makes sense and is something I have noted to some degree over the years. And the changing relationships between character role and skill availability. 

    • So! What am I doing with this

      So! What am I doing with this game? Similarly to other times I’ve played early-phase RPGs (Tunnels & Trolls, D&D 1977/Holmes, others), I’ve deliberately tried not to go down the road of history and to use what’s there as it is, not as if it were a rough draft for a later, “completed” skill system. In some cases, and especially since I have been playing several iterations of these RuneQuest rules, I’ve taken liberties and moved into design space – again, according to aesthetics and functions that make sense to me today, skipping most of the examples in between.

      The first point is the skill list itself. I pulled out a number of early RuneQuest skills that I decided everyone would have at a reasonable starting level: Ride, Scan, Hide, at least one Cult Lore; and made up a couple of others that were specialized but not too weird, including Regional Knowledge. I wasn’t trying to be systematic but merely functional for people who’d be playing “fantasy adventure” with me for a short time, and thinking about an in-fiction party who were exploring strange and dangerous places.

      As play continued, and I decided that I’d done my time playing the skills strictly as written over the past few years, I basically rewrote the conceptual foundations: “what are skills for,” explicitly. My notes break the game’s three resolution mechanics down as follows:

      The classic skill (“Scan,” the Lore skills, Ride) presumes a difficult situation in which a practiced expertise is relevant. If the situation isn’t difficult, it’s not rolled; similarly, there are no such skills for anything that most people can do most of the time. My mental benchmark was, are we in a situation in which an expert can still fail. If not, then no roll.

      Personal, interactive conflict uses the Resistance Table, extending the Power vs. Power rules to things like Charisma vs. Intelligence for swindling someone, or Strength vs. Dexterity for a grab, and whatever else. I specifically removed any and all skills which overlapped in this function; e.g., as of this adjustment, the Oratory on one of the character’s sheets is not for convincing people of anything, but merely of presenting a position in a group context so that it’s understood.

      Juxtaposed skills (Attack/Parry) are treated as a way to scale the Resistance Table so that absolute values matter in addition to relative ones. In the Resistance Table alone, it’s always 50-50 for equally opposed values, whereas the juxtaposed attack/parry has different outcomes based on expertise – e.g., an 80% Attack vs. an 80% Parry has a 64% chance to hit, whereas a 40% Attack vs. a 40% Parry has a 16% chance to hit. But other than that “sliding scale,” the basic math is the same.

      Technically you could use the same method for Scan vs. Sneak and any other opposed skills, but I decided the Resistance Table alone is more “personal” and creates a more level playing field across characters for things like that, which I like. (What you don’t do is what they did, historically, which was to start figuring in “by how much” you succeed or fail, then comparing that, which is very roundabout math for no particular gain.)

      Armed with these standards for what is or isn’t a skill, I developed a pragmatic, if not absolutely fixed list, with an eye toward playability. I conceived “Cult Lore” to be very broad, e.g., for the Buried Dead, it included anything to do with historical places, architecture, forgotten customs, and similar things. This list was then modified more when Ikindu was conceived by Mikal to be an alchemist. I was iffy about this because I suspected that this is merely the fantasy role-player’s way to throw grenades, but then again, those early RuneQuest rules do have an absurdly specific and detailed array of skills for alchemy (a different skill for every kind of poison, for example), and I might as well accept it in principle. I came up with a different organization for it, making a generic “Brew” skill and then having separate skills for different schools/categories of application.

      So that’s what I did. Now for the question: what does it mean for them to fail?

      The easiest is the same as it always was: Attack vs. Parry. (the plain old existing rules are fine, including impales, criticals, fumbles, damage to weapons, et cetera).

      The Resistance Table is also clear as long as you understand it: deadlock (both fail), one succeeds, or both succeed with full effect. The latter would seem nonsensical for many things, e.g., a grab, except that the table’s use is extended by definition – “damage” taken by reducing the attribute score and then it’s a matter of being trapped to face more damage, escaping, or struggling on. The roll itself doesn’t decide the outcome; the outcome is determined by damage and options.

      I hope you can see the key concept: opposition. It’s already present in the first two things above, which require no further discussion, I think. For the third, I’m stating outright that there is no such thing as rolling a skill “because you try it,” or in the sense of “can I make this soup now, because any time I make soup it’s a 75% chance.” You’re rolling only because, right now, you’re making soup in the face of dedicated adversity and/or the possibility of relevant consequences for the outcome. Your 75% chance is about how you handle the stress, uncertainty, or complex context of doing it this time.

      For example, as you can see from the group’s reactions when someone improves in Cult Lore, we all know that play will never include a Cult Lore unless there is something to realize, and also, that not realizing it withholds specific, relevant information. They like improving weapon skills, sure, but they crave and celebrate improved Cult Lore skills. Why?

      I want you to consider this: someone else’s Cult Lore may not apply at all. Skill use is not merely “when you try it.” You don’t roll your Cult Lore just because your character stares at something and tries to think about its relevance.  All the characters can do that, but only the characters whose Cult Lore could reveal something important actually roll – and by “important,” I mean, it’s going to make a difference if they don’t see it.

      That’s why Ikindu and Skava did not get Cult Lore rolls concerning the decorated skull-staff thing, but Zort and Erko did. All the characters looked at it and thought, “what the hell could that be,” and given the culture and setting, they would automatically do so via the lens of their personal cults. But only those two rolled. I really want you to mull over the logic of that.

      In closing, that’s why failed skill rolls matter in our game: because unless the oppositional details or, more subtly, upcoming consequences are absolutely in place, then there’s no roll. If there’s no roll, then either the success is merely stated or the skill was a fat zero from the outset. But if there is a skill roll, and it’s failed, then the opposition or consequences are coming in like a freight train.

      Final thought and, if you’ll forgive the professiorial nature of this question: given all that, then why is the “Stakes” concept that infected the indie design community in 2005-2006 so thoroughly wretched and bad? How is it different from what I just said? I know the answer. If you do too, then excellent; if you don’t, then consider it worth an entire round of actual-play consideration and formulating the right questions.

    • Let me start with how I feel

      Let me start with how I feel about stakes and negotiating stakes and then get back to the original question. My memories of those times are vague as I was phasing out of my Forge and Indie discussions at that time. This is what I think and feel now after a brief refresher on the topic.

      Stakes are an inherent part of the fiction. The player decides on a moment to moment basis how much of their character’s currency (health, money, stuff, love, hate) they want to risk on interacting with the fictional backdrop. Don’t want to fight a minotaur over his box of twinkies? Okay then don’t go in his place. You do want to take on the wight in her ice-cold throne room to find that ancient warp drive? If you feel it worth it to do so, then go ahead. Trying to negotiate that in the middle does not make much sense. What are you even negotiating? Shouldn’t all negotiations happen within the fiction themselves (I hesitate to use ‘in character’)? Climbing a mountain is not negotiable. Climbing a big mountain is life threatening.

      But then perhaps I do not understand what folks mean when they say stakes.

    • I grok what you are doing

      I grok what you are doing with the skill checks, I have done similar things with BRP or RQ over the years, though the use of resistance is something I had not really considered. At least not the way you are using it here. But that seems to be an eloquent solution of available tools. I think it makes a skill roll more meaningful not just for the character, but for the player as well. This is your curated, personal experience with this piece of the fiction and I find that to be a valuable tool for building rapport between the GM and the player.

    • I wanted to give a more

      I wanted to give a more robust answer than I had given earlier, briefly enumerating some of my own thoughts and why I like the idea of less skills and fewer general skills. This may tie into my thoughts on stakes.

      My first experience with anything that looked like a skill was with my first RPG, the Moldvay edition of D&D (Basic). What the game establishes is that everyone can attack, but each class (except fighters because fuck those guys) has a special ability. Some are special attacks, like Turning Undead or casting spells or Backstab. And some skills that thieves and dwarves and halflings have. Elves can cast spells and find secret doors. Each class had its own, basically unique flavor. I cannot say if this comes from design ideas or the literature or the idea of specialty units in war games (sappers, dragoons, grenadiers, and what have you). I also cannot say with any degree of certainty that this is where the troublesome idea of niche protection came from. Though I suspect that this is where some people experienced it. (maybe more on that later).  But it is true that much like a group of special forces, everyone had their role and by role, I mean job. And their skills were part of that. Functionally the fighter, magic user, and cleric had no real skills. The others (thief, dwarf, elf, and halfling) had skills. The thief’s skills are even called skills and very much a part of the character’s identity. This wide range of skills is balanced by the fact that the thief is a weakling in terms of hit points. But they rise in level quicker than the others, so those skills get better at a faster rate than other classes skills.

      Skills as Power Balance

      My next great experience came from several games, notably Rolemaster, Runequest, Marvel Super Heroes, and Cybperpunk. Throw in some Shadowrun too. All of these games have skills as an inherent part of the character. And all hand out variable levels of skills points / character creation points for skills, based on origin or other choices. In MSH you might get a certain number of talents if you were a tech origin, versus a mutant origin for instance. And to one degree or another, skills and skill points at character creation are as much about balancing out classes / origins / professions as they are flavor.

      But it is back to D&D, this time 3E/3.5E, where I think this idea became clear to me. The 3E Ranger was fun, but a bit flaccid. You played it because you wanted the aesthetic. When 3.5E came around, they took away some health (D8 instead of a D10) but gave the ranger more skill points. Which is to say, someone (Monte Cook I think, maybe) thought that more skills, more utility, could balance out less combat ability. Especially over time. And they tried to maintain niche protection by using class and non-class skills. But someone like a thief, a smart thief, could out-skill a ranger in the ranger’s class skills if they chose to do that. Even with paying the non-class skill penalty.

      Modern games tend to follow this idea and some are “skill based” where skills are more important than attributes and they break down the attribute – skill relationship to some degree.  PBtA games harken back to that old D&D idea of signature moves or skills. Sorcerer does not even have skills, not really? Unless I have been misreading the rules for over a decade.

      I tend to use skills in games as a way to shift momentum in one direction or another and believe casual skill use is just a time filler or worse, an actual perversion of play. Why do you have to make an astrogation check to make a simple jump? A critically failed skill can be turned into a dressed up random encounter. And this ties back to illusionism I think, where a GM (or players) can derail play over inconsequential tasks and create new plot elements that make no sense or kill momentum.

      Admittedly, though I prefer narrow skill sets, I do have a soft spot for that large middle section of the RQ character sheet with all those skills in it.

      I think I may have rambled quite enough. Niche protection as a topic may not be relevant to what we are talking about, so I won’t say more about it other than I find it sometimes necessary, but often tedious as a concept.

    • Last thing. I do think it

      Last thing. I do think it could be worthwhile to examine a range of games just from the POV of what they consider skills, how important skills are, is combat handled in the same was as other, non-combat skills, and the relationship between attributes and skills.

    • Seeing you struggle – not

      Seeing you struggle – not fruitlessly, but struggling nevertheless – makes me wish I'd included just one last little thought in the comment I made summarizing what I'd done with the skills.

      As I'm seeing the "single" skill rolls for this game, by which I mean no formal opposition like parrying or resistance, the presumption is that if you have the skill at all, then you know how to do it. For one thing, you may have noticed that I am not starting skills at tiny percentages, but at Characteristic x 3. There is no "beginner" or "just learning" percentage represented, nor does a starting percent mean less in terms of what they can do or know with it.

      In this context, the automatic 5% for failure (a variable and ambiguous concept in these rules, by the way) and more importantly the inverse of your percent take on much more meaning. You have, for example, Scan at 55%. I'm talking about the other 45% percent. What even is it?

      In this game, as I'm constructing it as we have gone along, this percentage is literally adversity – it has to be the stress, the circumstances, the unique challenges, and the dramatic perversity of this exact and particular situation. A person with less chance of failure ("better at it") handles this better more often than another person, but just as one might expect, is not guaranteed to do so either. I want you to stay with this paragraph for a while – I have not seen it in any role-playing text regarding skills, ever.

      Here's another development, not obligatory, but at least available to emerge when you look at skill failure like this. Take a look at Skava's rather poor record with woodcraft and forest travel in these past few sessions. You'll notice that Helma typically contributes to the narration, treating this as a fictional signal that "something is wrong, something is out of balance," above and beyond the notion of merely not doing a skill well in some intrinsic or incompetent way. This is the "mega" version of what I'm talking about. The default is that each instance has its own unique profile of adversity/perversity, and that's how I personally narrate them … but Helma has taken the opportunity to use a series of such events as a larger-scale fictional context that she is, basically, telling us all that she'd like to see developed.

      [Side point: as play continues, you'll see that I scrub out the few exceptions regarding low starting skill values that had made it in before I thought fully about this. In session 15, in editing right now, Skava's starting Plant Lore that I'd put at 10% just gets erased and I say her Woods Woman Cult Lore is ipso facto Plant Lore anyway.]

    • Runequest is interesting in

      Runequest is interesting in that is allows a character with low skills to be played. There can be a high whiff factor with the low or beginnign skills and this is not always desirable for play. On the other hand, a baseball player who gets a hit 3 out of t0 times at the plate in their career would be a Hall of Fame candidate. It is not a perfect analogy of course. But perception of success chance I think plays a large factor in player enjoyment and buy in. We spoke a little during the Empire of the Dragon-Lotus consult about success being too difficult and that perhaps unbalancing things a bit. 

    • Hi! This discussion about

      Hi! This discussion about skills is the best I've seen so far. I thought for a long time that I "hate the d100 system" after years of playing call of cthulhu 4th and 5th edition. First it was a feeling, not an analysis. I also "hate the vampire mascarade system", without much more thought, except my representation of my experience with it. When I tried to think about it a bit a few years ago (emphasis on "a bit"), I came to the conclusion that the problem was the degree of success, not the d100 by itself (maybe I did not have any problem with the d20, just because we never played with d20 rules).

      It seems you nailed perfectly what I didn't like, which is more the definition of the skills. Be it vampire or d100, and whatever what is actually written, all gm or group did not use the same definition of skills, and as a consequence, did not describe the failure and success the same way. That was the problem, and generally with specific skills ("Bluff", "spot hidden").

      Now I have a very naive question on this particular game. We have three system of resolution: (a) skill percentage roll, (b) raw opposition rolls (characteristic vs characteristic), (c)  opposition that takes absolute values into account (attack vs parry).

       When do you choose that "something" can be resolved as an opposition roll instead of a skill percentage roll? Or more specifically, when do you choose to make "something" a skill ?

      Here is what I understand from the rulebook : mechanicaly, it's easier to gain experience for skills than for characteristics. So when does a discussion between characters (for instance, making a case) can be solved through charasteristics against characteristics (CHA vs INT), vs a skill roll (for instance, Oratory). Maybe my question is wrong, and maybe I did not understand everything in this discussion about skills, I'm still trying to internalize the logic. 

    • That is a relevant question.

      That is a relevant question. The answer is explicitly in my notes following my previous adaptation of RuneQuest for which I was fairly strict about the rules. For this game,when we arrived at this point of play, I decided that I would implement those notes, bringing this activity into the realm of slight hacking/design rather than rules-as-written.

      • Characteristic x5 (or sometimes x3): everyone can do it and (significantly) anyone can fail at it too
      • Resistance Table: anyone can do it and if there is no opposition, success is assured – therefore you roll when being actively opposed by someone (or loosely speaking, something else which is best modeled as "effort")
      • Skill %  roll: you had to learn how to do this, and practice improves it
      • Juxtaposed skill %: Same criteria as the above, taken into physical combat

      Some of this required polarizing certain actions: abandoning, for example, the notion of skill in speaking or confronting others at a personal level, to treat it as a universal activity so it could invoke the Resistance Table. Similarly, I deliberately abandoned the roll for unopposed spell-casting, which by the rules fails on 96-00, so that an unresisted spell merely requires the Power, and no roll.

      I also abandoned the incredibly low starting percentages for skills, wondering what on earth 5% in Hiding even means, and set a starting skill at Characteristc x2 or x3 (no systematic difference, I just said whatever).

      Given the starting character sheets, some legacy prevented us from adopting this breakdown fully. For example, Scan really needed to be a Characteristic multiple rather than a Skill, but we'd started with it as written and were stuck with it, or at least I felt we were. Oratory was similar, which I wiggled conceptually so that it was used a crowd or performance activity, thus no "opposition."

      To answer one of your related questions: this breakdown was not affected by any considerations about rate of improvement.


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