AWW: The Hand of Fate

Having played around with a bunch of different chart concepts for cross-referencing the player’s result dice vs. the Storyweaver’s fate dice to find out what happens with your attempt, I’ve decided to go with a slightly simpler concept and one that produces a bit more even results.

The fate dice are a 3d6 roll that exists more or less irrespectively of the result dice for the check. They’re cross-referenced to a table that has two parts, Wild Fates and Normal Fates

Wild Fates happen when the fate roll comes up triples. Each possible wild result has only a ~0.46% chance of happening, so collectively they occur ~2.76% of the time. Triple 1 and Triple 2 are extremely negative, similar to a critical failure. Triple 3 and Triple 4 are neutral/mixed. Triple 5 and Triple 6 are positive, similar to a critical success.

Wild Fates supersede normal ones, which means the odds of most given normal fate are slightly lower than normal probability analysis would otherwise indicate.

The specifics of the Wild Fates are still something I’m pondering, but I believe the Normal Fate portion of the table will look something like this:

5 or less: Injury! Succeed or faile, you hurt yourself or the person you were trying to help doing it. You gain a Wound or Injury or lose an asset, as the Storyweaver deems appropriate for the situation.

6: Embarrassment! Oops! Through sheer random chance or a moment’s inattention, you managed to make a complete fool of yourself. If you succeeded, your success stands… unless your goal was to impress someone or avoid attention. But still, you’ve hurt your pride. If you failed, you likely landed flat on your face, literally or metaphorically.

7-8: Complication! Oops, there’s a hitch. If you succeeded, then your success has an unexpected downside. If you failed, then something went wrong beyond just failing.

9-12: Situation Normal. You succeed or you don’t.

13-15: Cool! If you succeeded, this means you looked cool doing it, making it look effortless. If you failed, this means you kept your cool doing it, possibly making it seem intentional. A cool result can mitigate some of the results of failure beyond simply not succeeding; trap doesn’t go off, you don’t fall, the target you missed from hiding is still unaware you’re there, et cetera. A cool result on a success is roughly the positive version of an embarrassment: interesting flourish, might help you impress people.

16 or more: Bonus! There’s an unexpected upside, a silver lining to your failure or an unintended but positive outcome to your success. This is effectively a complication in your favor.

A few notes:

  • Situation Normal will occur a bit less than half of the time. When it doesn’t, the results are split evenly between positive and negative. On the whole positive outcomes are likely to hold an edge in frequency because of player abilities that focus on improving fate rolls.
  • While “Embarrassment” is mechanically weaker a result than “Complication” in most situations, it is ranked as being far less likely because occasional pratfalls are interesting, but frequent ones are annoying. The game is heavily geared towards larger-than-life heroes doing legendary things, so making embarrassment a more frequent outcome of trying to do things is probably not a good design decision.
  • Because I love Fool archetypes, you can make a character who is more prone to embarrassments and less prone to injuries and complications as a special ability. As long as you stay away from anything that requires subtlety and don’t care about looking cool, this is an advantage.
  • The Wound/Injury distinction: an injury puts one of your character-defining qualities into an impaired state, while a wound puts you one step closer to being out of commission. Which is worse depends on your character’s status. If you’re healthy and completely unharmed, a couple of wounds do nothing. If you’re badly wounded already, having a quality injured lowers your effectiveness but lets you keep going.

STATUS: Monday, August 31

The Daily Report

Good news, bad news time!

The good news is that I have discovered exactly why I seem to have been having intermittent upper respiratory problems/the killer allergy season from heck at the end of July through all of August. It relates to a frozen-over A/C dumping water on the floor, and an unfortunate floor slope that caused it all to pool out of sight before it could be noticed.

The bad news is that my bedroom is, for the time being, unlivable.

That’s a small thing, considering. I still have a place to work during the day and a place to sleep at night. That it’s not *my* place might have some impact on my sleep, but it’s too soon to say how much. In any event, the situation is temporary. I’m taking the opportunity to give my bedroom the kind of deep cleaning and serious reorganizing it hasn’t had since I moved in, and the move on was so hectic and disorganized due to the circumstances of the house that it’s basically been a glorified store room that I sleep in the corner of. That probably played into how I didn’t notice the growing mustiness before, as I was only going in there when I was ready to fall asleep.

Right now, we’re letting things dry and air out. There’s not much else to do. Once the room no longer smells like wet things, I’m going to treat the floor and get on with the cleaning described above. Not sure what the timeframe on that is, but it is likely to cut into my work days during it.

The State of the Me

Feeling better after spending a night breathing a better quality of air, but bit tired due to getting less sleep and the physical activity yesterday in doing the initial clean-up.

Plans For Today

Not sure,because of the immediately above.


So you want to record a dramatic reading.

So, there’s this thing that happened where I wrote an e-book parodying another e-book. You might have heard about it, or saw what happened when John Scalzi got involved. If you didn’t, that link contains all the vital info.

The thing is, while I think Scalzi has pretty well nailed it in terms of the definitive reading, other people have expressed an interest in getting in on the fun, but with some trepidation about copyright.

Well, as sole rights holder to the work John Salzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity LevelsI’m here to say: knock yourself out, within the fairly lax bounds laid out below:

  1. I give permission to perform and record performances of the text, so long as they are distributed for free and following the guidelines in this post. “Distributed for free” means no selling copies, no selling admission, no putting it behind a paywall.
  2. To clarify point 1: putting your copy up on a monetized platform such as YouTube or Patreon or a page with ads is allowed, so long as the post is freely visible to all. The injunction here is that you have to give the content away, not that you can’t make money from your work.
  3. Proper attribution in this case can be made to Alexandra Erin or to the character of Theo Pratt, depending on if you want to give the joke away or not. Please accompany this attribution with a link to the book in the Amazon Kindle store and/or my direct-to-readers store. I understand some people have compunctions about giving Amazon business. I do not share them, but I respect them.
  4. While all my work is DRM-free, please actually buy a copy before you record it. It’s $3. Links in the previous point.
  5. Creative reciprocity: If you make a recording of this work available for download, you agree that I may choose to post it to my blog and/or my own Patreon feed, with a link back to the source. I call this win-win. Note that this is not a promise that I will do so. Note that my Patreon is on the monthly model, so my followers won’t be charged for your work.
  6. Do not re-distribute the actual ebook files or the text.

Them’s the terms.

Have at it!

AWW: “Cards are hard, you guys.”

In case you can’t tell, today I’m taking all the positive creative energy I have and threshing out my game design ideas. So, as much as I like the DORC (Deck of Results Card) system I have previously described, I see several obstacles.

  1. Producing a deck of cards takes greater resources than a set of game rules playable with common dice does.
  2. Purchasing a deck of cards takes greater resources than purchasing a set of game rules.
  3. Playing over the internet is more complicated.
  4. Managing a ~50 deck of cards that’s used for the resolution of every action could also get cumbersome.
  5. Shuffling cards well is a specialized skill requiring greater dexterity than rolling dice.

With that in mind… I’m going to proceed with the development of AWW using a dice model, but with the same basic ideas I liked behind the result cards. This does mean–in the absence of specialty dice, which are still easier to produce than a specialty deck of cards–that there’s going to be a die roll chart. But so long as all the results can fit in one easy access reference thing and there’s no need to dive through books, I think this is an acceptable compromise given that it better fits my goals re: accessibility, affordability, and online portability, with developing a “Deck of Result Cards” as an optional replacement/supplement for the dice as a future goal if the demand develops.

So, here are the things to be kept from the card idea:

  • The player is the one making the roll for any interaction their character has a stake in: players make stealth rolls to sneak past NPCs; perception rolls when they’re on guard against NPCs sneaking past them. Players roll to see if their spells affect another; roll to see if they resist being affected by another’s spells.
  • The results are not just success/fail, but have a chance of being “wild” in some fashion.
  • The player produces a number of “extra” results based on the combination of their ability level in the area and the difficulty of the task. If the player has a net advantage, they pick their favorite result. If they have a net penalty, the Storyweaver picks.

What I’m leaning towards is a result chart that has a 6×6 grid of results, with the rows being numbered according to the player’s result die (chosen from the dice rolled, as described above) and the columns being numbered according to a separately rolled (perhaps by the Storyweaver) “wild” or “fate” die. So you’d look at the wild die, find its column, look at the results you have available and take the best one. Generally, “best” would mean “highest numbered” for the player and “lowest numbered” for the Storyweaver, but there will be the odd edge cases.

It would be very generally the case that a result die of 1-3 fails and a result die of 4-6 succeeds, though the whole point of the wilding system is to make things more interesting than success or failure. For both sets of numbers, higher is better, so 1×1 would be critical failure, 6×6 would be critical success; each would require one more die roll on a separate table/line to determine the nature/magnitude, but other that, the table would give you everything you need to figure out what happened without a subsequent die roll.

I think this would be a reasonably quick playing alternative to cards, and easy enough to translate into a more flexible card system later on. The same element of greater ability level = more ability to control the outcome is still there.


AWW: Allies As Your Allies

The ideas in the last post spiraled out of thoughts about handling things like character pets, beast companions, et cetera, that I’d also like to take the time to thresh out in blog format.

One of the things I really liked in D&D 4E was the way familiars worked. Specifically, the fact that instead of being limited to a very small range of very small animals, they ran with the idea that a familiar is not *quite* an animal to begin with and defined it as basically a meta class of creature that fits a certain size and has certain limitations in interacting with the environment, but can be just about anything, then defined exception-based templates for many different types, with an invitation to flesh out your specific familiar’s “fluff” in ways that fit your character (crackling elemental energy auras, metallic skin, demonic or fey appearance, etc.)

The original choices were mostly limited to the familiar animal fare, but the expanded offerings included everything from pet slimes to gear-driven automata to disembodied eyes and hands.

The basic problem with such an embarrassment of wealth when it comes to choices, though, is that you have to either define everything you can think of (the 4E approach), or you have to give players a reasonably balanced set of tools to build their own definitions (the GURPS approach), and both approaches tend towards bloat over time.

Jack in particular liked the idea of a roguish character with a disembodied hand as his accomplice, so making sure this is an option has been added to my General System Benchmarking Standards along with “can do all the character archetypes D&D players would look for”. Not in the sense that any system I design would have disembodied hands added to it in order to please Jack, but in the sense that “Can it handle a player who wants to do this?” is a pretty good question given that it’s reasonably specific, reasonably limited, and interesting.

The last major draft of AWW tried to do a compact point based approach to building companion figures, and I don’t think was terrible but was out of place next to the define-by-archetypes system for player characters. Figuring out how to work them out under the Strong Points/Qualities system I’m working with now helped me refine my understanding of exactly what the system is and how it works, which is why I’m going to use the idea of animal companions and similar abilities as an example of how it all hangs together.

Your character’s major features are sketched out by choosing a number of Qualities. Each Quality has its own level. These are the only “levels” in the game. Your character does not go up a level, except within the scope of a Quality.

Your level in a Quality basically means your ability to Get Stuff Done using it. What stuff? Whatever stuff that Quality applies to. All Qualities work on the same level scale, which when applied to Qualities representing a personal attribute like strength or speed or a particular skill set looks something like this:

  1. Would be considered outstanding in a small village.
  2. Outstanding in a good-sized town.
  3. Outstanding in a large city.
  4. Outstanding in a kingdom.
  5. Outstanding in a vast land.
  6. Outstanding in the world.
  7. Outstanding in history.

This is “outstanding” in the sense of “tending to stand out”. Only outstanding abilities register as Qualities; they are the things about you that people tell stories about.

All Qualities have the same basic effect: they give you better results when you try to do something, and shift the upper bound of what you can do. Again, the “something” varies from Quality to Quality. This is referred to as the Quality’s scope, and while some will have definite exceptions, what is part of the Quality’s scope is a matter of interpretation and negotiation.

Personal Qualities like Strength, Speed, Influence, or Perception have a fairly obvious scope.  Archetypal Qualities like Alchemist and Thief, slightly less so. What about Companion Qualities, though? What does it mean to have a Level 1 Wolf, Cat, Horse, or Raven? Or a Disembodied Hand? Or Slime? Or Bottle Imp? Or Gear Thing?

Well, your level of a Quality determines how reliably you can do the things that Quality does, and how impressive the things you can do with it are. So if you have a Level 1 Raven, you can do anything you could reasonably (with dramatically flexible definitions of “reasonable”, as this is heroic fantasy fiction) expect a hero’s raven companion to do, with the same facility as if you were using Level 1 in your own abilities. Same thing with a Level 1 Wolf, or Cat, or Hand.

“So basically,” some people reading this will be saying, “you should put everything into animal companions, because a level in your companion is the same thing as a level of everything.”

Not so!

Your raven is still a raven. It’s scope is defined as things that the person across from the table hears and says, “I could see a raven doing that.” That person also gets to decide how easily a raven could do that. Having more levels of raven cancels out the added difficulty of things the person across the table thinks are kind of a stretch, but your raven remains a raven.

It’s also an autonomous creature with a will outside your own, even if we’re constructing our character in a way that suggests a mystical bond, which means anything more complicated than having your companion follow you or perform a simple trick may call for a draw, which means possible complications. Even stuff that is automatic when you do it yourself involves an element of chance when you send your monkey or imp to do it, because it’s not you doing it.

“Allowing players to define the scope by the type of creature would be seriously unbalanced, because obviously a panther is more useful than a house cat.”

It’s not obvious to me. I’d rather have a panther who was attuned to my wishes in a tactical wargame, but in terms of actual problem solving the domestic feline seems to bring a lot more versatility to the table. I mean, in real life, I would rather have the cat familiar than the panther ranger companion simply because the cat would be more of a pure bonus whereas living (to say nothing of traveling) with a panther complicates things.

Once you get your head around the idea that the Quality itself suggests a scope of things that can be done/problems that can be addressed and the level determines how often you succeed at that, I think the possibilities for creativity become apparent. Balance can be addressed on the fly.

“So why can’t players define a deity as their companion? Level 1, scope: everything.”

Actually, being a character who benefits from direct divine intervention can basically work this way. You just have to add in some limiting assumptions that puts it down to a similar level of usefulness. I mean, it’s easier to imagine a character having access to the full resources and entire attention of a dog than of a god.

While the system would encourage players to define their own Qualities, I am planning on having a list of several specific animal companion/familiar types and a few off-the-wall ones with their scope sketched out, to give people a starting point and an idea of how to keep things on a more or less even keel. As a holdover from the previous version, specific capabilities (full combat, mount, flight, articulated hands, et cetera) are mechanically limited in a way separate from scope, so you can have a Wolf (combat!), Horse (mount!), Raven (flying!), or Monkey (hands!) more easily than you can have a Warhorse or Flying Monkey, and a simple animal familiar with none of the above more easily than them.

That disembodied hand? It would be a companion with the “handy” feature (letting it do anything a human hand could do). Its scope would be “anything you can do with your hand without exerting a lot of leverage by moving your arm” (because it doesn’t have any), with some wiggle room to represent the fact that the “handy” trait normally would give you two hands. So it could work thieves’ tools in a lock, even though that’s normally a two-hand job and it only has/is one hand.

Fairly easy to define, fairly limited in scope, but useful and cool.

To sum up: the scope of a Quality is not an exhaustive list of what special abilities you have under a Quality, but a general understanding of what it can be used for. When it comes to Personal Qualities, these are basically attributes. For Magic Qualities, they’re the type of magic you can wield. For Companion Qualities, it’s, “What kind of things could I see this critter doing in a story?”

AWW: Magic As Your Ally

A lot of roleplaying games have rules that allow for characters to have a companion character who is in some ways an extension of the player character. They take up resources you would otherwise use for your character’s own abilities (points, slots, build choices) but more or less belong to you and act more or less at your direction, though sometimes they are under the game runner’s control.

The approach I’m taking to defining broad character qualities in A Wilder World encourages you to think of your character’s main defining qualities as a bit like a Green Lantern power ring to begin with. You still have to figure out which of your qualities best addresses the problem, and figure out how it addresses the problem, but the limits are the intersection of your imagination and the skepticism of the Storyweaver or group at large.

Magic takes that up a notch, in that there’s much less of a clearly defined line where “Okay, that’s just impossible.” Whether or not it’s possible to acrobat so hard you break down a reinforced stone wall is a matter of the game’s tone; if it’s at all realistic, then no, you can’t. Whether or not it’s possible to grow and animate plants with plant magic to take it down is more a matter of opinion, since “realism” and “verisimilitude” aren’t concepts that apply to high fantasy magic.

So magic needs to find its limitations elsewhere. I was talking about this back in June, and while I like the ideas I came up with there for different “magical prices”, I feel like they’re way overly mechanical in the way I imagined them being applied.

But while thinking about how to refine the idea of “low control” magic made me think of a general approach that I really like, and that is: treat magic the way you would treat an “ally” ability, one ultimately under the control of the Storyteller:

It shows up when the player character calls it, mostly.

It does what the player directs it to, mostly.

It does only what the player asks it to, mostly.

It’s the “mostlies” that matter, that make it interesting and that serve as a limitation. And the thing is, they all hinge on the idea that the magic use is successful.

Under this model, the use of magic would consist of three acts, which we might call summoning, directing, and dispersing. Each of them would have a chance for success or failure. If you fail to summon magic, nothing happens, or nothing significant. You might get a rustle of leaves when you wanted a gale of wind. You might get a brief patch of discolored air where you tried to form an illusion. You’re not left with any more problems than you started with, though.

When you direct the magic, you tell it what to do. Success means it does more or less that, but with the possibility of “wild” results built into the result mechanism. Failure would generally mean it does not do what you want it to do, with any significant negative downsides also coming from the play of cards.

You could continue to direct the magic as long as you maintain concentration on it, without having to draw or disperse it in between. This would be the normal state of affairs when a wizard is dueling or doing battle, or using magic to accomplish a large task that is actually many smaller ones.

When you’re done, though, you’d have to attempt to disperse the magic. Success signifies a clean ending. Failure would not mean your magic lasts forever, just that the magical forces you unleashed linger a bit longer and do some damage on their way out the door.

Even when magic is operating under your control, though, it would be like a charmed minion or a familiar or beast companion or cohort or point-bought ally, in the sense that you can tell the Storyteller “I have my magic do this”, but the Storyteller can interject, or interpret things a little differently according to the nature of the forces involved.

Making the equivalent of three checks to do anything with magic might be a little excessive. The concept of “trivial magic” (cantrips, roleplaying special effects, “I’m a wizard” demonstration) still exists. It’s only when you’re trying to achieve something that magic accumulates risk and price. Character gimmicks that take the form of specialized spells your character has mastered removes the need to summon magic before and disperse it after for that single very specific application, leaving only the control roll.

All this doesn’t completely supplant the idea of different “magic prices” I described back in June, but I think it makes for a better baseline approach. As always, my central idea when it comes to magic is to create an experience more like how powerful magic works in fiction than how it works in roleplaying games.


STATUS: Friday, August 28th

The Daily Report

Okay. First, I started this morning with over 450 unread emails in my contact email address. I’m not sure at what point the dread of opening it became too much. In my mind, it’s been months. In reality, probably weeks, maybe a month at most. In my mind, most of it was people furious with me for not writing back or getting stuff done. In reality… most of it is automated notifications, ads, bulk email, et cetera.

What finally got me to look at it… and clear out about a quarter of the backlog, answering some very important work related emails in the process… was that I have had people getting in touch with me over my latest work of satire, John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular.

For those of you who only follow this blog for my own original work and are mystified about what I’ve got against John Scalzi: nothing. Believe it or not, he’s not the target of that title. Someone showed it to him last night and he thinks it’s hilarious. He has offered to perform a dramatic reading of it in exchange for donations to Con or Bust, an assistance fund for bringing diversity to fandom conventions.

Scalzi Is Not Popular is now the number 1 seller in multiple categories on Amazon, and in particular, number 2 in the category dominated by the source material that inspired it. To invoke an old family saying: so, I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

In the midst of all this and a little renewed attention on my equally off-the-cuff book about loss and grief that I wrote last year in the wake of Dorian’s death, I have been reminded of an important thing: as an author, I’m an experimenter at heart. I do best when I dare. And while depression sometimes makes me feel like I’m surrounded by the bones of my failures, all a failed experiment really signifies is that I wasn’t afraid to try.

That realization even more so than the positive attention this little booklet has garnered has done a lot to lift my spirits.

The State of the Me

Even though it’s still August and we’re still seeing very summery temperatures in the afternoons some days, today I realized that waking up early as I have been doing means I can open the windows for a bit without turning my office into a swamp. It’s very refreshing.

Plans For Today

It’s MU posting day. I’d hoped to be done with today’s chapter before today, but on top of the circus that’s been happening all around me, I had to close the office early yesterday because of external circumstances. That’s okay. I don’t have anything else that needs doing today. I’ve got a chance to get out of the office and still do some work in the afternoon if I want it, and I think under the current circumstances I might just do that. Time to get away.

Learn why SJWs always lie…

…and who benefits when they do, is this groundbreaking new book from Hymenaeus House by Theophilus Pratt:

John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity LevelsJohn Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity LevelsBoasting an impressive 50% more chapter fives than the next leading competitor, this is the only book about the lies of SJW you need to buy this year.

Get it for Kindle today!

The Indefensible Mr. Day

When I once referred to Vox Day as an alleged editor, one of his followers browbeat me until I promised never to make such an allegation again.

When I shared excerpts of his new book as part of a Twitter review, his followers demanded I stop attributing such obvious made-up garbage to him.

When I said he has written better things in the past, his followers called me an awful liar.

I know I’m not the first person to wonder why anyone would defend this man, but I feel like when I say it, there’s a slightly different inflection.

STATUS: Thursday, August 27th

The Daily Report

So, call this another day that didn’t begin quite the way I expected. I’ve been waking up early each morning and finding something to blog about to occupy myself and warm up before I actually start writing. Today I noticed that Rabid Puppy leader Vox Day had released a book he’s been promising for some time with the charmingly rhetorical title of “SJWs Always Lie”.

(Vox Day never lies, of course. He only speaks rhetorically.)

Well, I had to see it for my own eyes. I’d say I wasn’t disappointed, but I actually was. It was worse than I thought, not in the sense of being any more blatantly offensive or out of touch with reality, but in the sense that he didn’t even deliver the book he’d described. It’s far more concerned with re-hashing old sleights and old hurts. The chapter that’s supposed to be the tentpole chapter, outlining his premise of the “Three Laws of SJW” (hint: they always lie) is devoted to his bizarre recurring conspiracy motif about how author John Scalzi supposedly inflates his web traffic statistics, which is important to social justice or anything else because reasons.

He got one thing right, though: SJWs always double-down. Having spent 35 minutes of my life that I will never get back reading Vox Day’s magnum opus, I proceeded to spend the next few hours bringing to life the only possible response:

prattYes, it’s Theophilus Pratt’s important new tract, John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels. It should be available on Amazon later today. I maintain that of all the books with “SJWs Always Lie” in their title that were published today, it is the clear victor.

For one thing, Vox Day’s book only contains two Chapter 5s. Mr. Pratts boasts three, an increase of 50% over the next leading competitor.

Not how I intended to start my day, but there you go.

The State of the Me

It’s getting easier and easier to get up in the morning. I’ll say that much.

Plans For The Day

Man, I’m not even sure, really… all this Puppy stuff is just so increasingly surreal. Next week I might just have to put it all on block for a while.