Monthly Archives: December 2016

Cruxmas Time: Talents

 

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It’s behi…oh never mind…

So, the festive period is beginning to die down, we find ourselves running low on leftovers, and realise that perhaps we ought to be doing something, whether this is the case or not. With this in mind, I present to you a quick look at how we intent to be managing Talents, which determine all the wonderful and unusual tricks that your character can do; the things that make you special.

The Talents are organised into three categories, so you can choose to favour one of these three character archetypes, although in play, you won’t be tied to any particular bias in this case; they just provide a rough guide to your character’s initial calling.

They are:

SAGE: Knowledge and technical ability

SWINDLER: Social ability and finesse, as well as the shadier side of things

SOLDIER: Martial and physical supremacy.

The various Talent Trees within these categories are divided into three levels of proficiency, each of a greater power than the one before. Within each of these levels, we have individual Talents, which are special tricks (Or Feats, if you will, if you’ve been playing D&D for ages, like I have). Many higher level Talents have prerequisites, which will be listed in their description. Frequently you’ll need to learn a couple of lower-level Talents, before you can progress to a higher level one. It follows, after all, that you’d have to learn the basics, before you start picking up the deeper mysteries.

I’m going to assume that you have been through the previous article, so the system shouldn’t be too arcane. So, without very much further ado, here’s an example of one Talent Tree from each of the archetypes, plus a handy flowchart so you can see how one could progress through the trees.

The flavour text is meant to be evocative of what the Talent does, and not a canonical explanation of its sole application. If, like me, you are a fan of describing awesome stunts, try and think about cool variants on this…

SAGE

Arcane Theory

This deals with the understanding of the workings of magical devices, auras and magical phenomena, and how they interact with the world.

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Jayce from Magic: The Gathering – probably quite good at theory

Arcane Theory Flowchart

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Proficiency Level 1

Discern Enchantment

Your understanding of the ebb and flow of magical energies allows you to intuitively understand the nature of any enchantments present on any device you are in physical contact with, and how to use them. No roll is required.

Attune Any Item

Prerequisites: Discern Enchantment

Normally, the process of attuning an item so that  you can harness its arcane properties requires a ritual so that the energies of the item and your aura may harmonise with each other. With enough training and understanding, you are able to extend your etheric sense into the item and integrate with it instantaneously. To do so requires the expenditure of one point of Conviction. You may unbond items from yourself with equal ease.

Witchfinder

You are able to recognise the telltale marks of different magical guilds, allowing you to determine what powers a practitioner possesses. Make an Analysis+Arcane Theory roll against a difficulty equal to the obscurity of the magical guild upon meeting them, each success reveals one fact about the nature of the guild’s powers, or tricks they are likely to possess.

Seal Enchantment

Prerequisites: Discern Enchantment

Just as you are able to implicitly understand the workings of a magical device, you are able to put measures in place such that they are prevented from functioning. By spending a point of conviction while in contact with an item, and making an Arcane Theory roll, a number of magical enhancements equal to your successes the device are disabled, such that a user, apart from the seal’s caster must spend a point of  their own Conviction to gain access to them again. After this, the device functions as normal; the seal is broken.

 

Proficiency Level 2

Control enchantment

Prerequisites: Seal Enchantment

By spending a point of Conviction, and committing an Aura Slot, while in contact  with a device, you are able to establish a connection to the enchantment placed on an item or device. After you have done this, you may cause the device to activate its enchantments, shut them down as per Seal Enchantment, or use any other Arcane Theory talent that would affect the enchantment specifically, provided it’s within your line of sight.

Talismanic Gesture

Prerequisites: Attune Any Item

You make a disruptive sign infused with your Will and Aura to protect you against hostile magic. Spend a point of Conviction and make an Arcane Theory roll against standard difficulty. The number of successes gained are used as a penalty against any magical attacks made against you, in the same manner as cover, with a value equal to your Integrity.

Binding Gesture

Prerequisites: Seal Enchantment, Talismanic Gesture

Reaching out towards a target, you create a binding ward that impedes the use of any magical items in use, although not innate abilities (summoned and created entities count as items for the purposes of this Talent). The affected items are unable to function for the rest of the round. This costs 1 point of Conviction to use and requires an Arcane Theory roll against standard difficulty, or the target’s Integrity, whichever is greater.

 

Proficiency Level 3

Empowered Focus

Prerequisites: Control Enchantment

By spending a point of Conviction, and committing an additional aura slot to a device, you drastically increase the arcane power available to a magical device. The next time it’s used, double the amount of net successes rolled. The device cannot be used the following round. Especially fragile items may become damaged through use of this power.

Shatter Enchantment:

Prerequisites: Binding Gesture

You are able to unweave the magical structure of enchantments, causing them to become unstable and collapse. This includes the removal of simple curses, shattering wards or barriers and other sustained effects. Imbued items, and severe curses  are often more difficult in terms of the degree of success required, so disenchanting an item is often the subject of a downtime action, with in-game activities to support it – particularly powerful curses and wards may require a sidequest to shatter, but with this Talent you will always know what is needed to do so. As with its prerequisite, this costs a point of Conviction to perform.

Talismanic Barrier

Prerequisites: Talismanic Gesture

You are able to sustain the ward created through Talismanic Gesture for a number of rounds equal to your Endurance. While the barrier is active, you may not use any other Arcane Theory talents or magical devices.

Commentary:

This one seems quite complicated, but the ability to manipulate arcane devices is quite a prominent part of the ‘technology’ system in Crux – In some cases, devices use both mundane and magical components, so learning to manipulate this is very useful.

That having been said, the process of understanding the arcane is not meant to be simple, so many Talents require others as prerequisites. Developing a proper understanding is a process that requires some commitment, hence the path is long and a little bit winding.

 

SWINDLER

Deceit

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Lying and cheating by massaging your truth until it does what you want it to. This applies to both written and spoken communication attempts.

Deceit Flowchart

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Proficiency Level 1

Blather-barrage

In a pinch, your quick wits and smart mouth can get you through some tight situations. Make a Deceit Roll against their Integrity to shift their attitude one step towards Neutral (if somewhat confused). (e.g. If they are hostile, doubling their Integrity score in successes moves it directly to Neutral). This normally lasts until the end of the scene.

For 1 conviction, this may be used upon the opening of hostilities if you act first, potentially averting the combat.

Flirtatious overtones

Getting into someone’s personal space, whether metaphorically, emotionally or literally, is often enough to put people off their guard. Spend a point of Conviction and make  a Presence + Deceit roll against their Integrity. Every two successes lowers their effective Integrity by one for the next social roll. If they have reason to suspect your advances as disingenuous, this roll is opposed either by an Intuition + Streetwise or Deceit roll (their choice). This doesn’t reveal your intentions, just rebuffs your attempt. Of course, if the ploy is successful, you may have to make good on your promises…*

(NB: Gender or sexual preference does not play any part in this strategy, mechanically speaking, although the details of how it functions may differ – how much you want to go into that is up to the preferences of your group)

 

Proficiency Level 2

Method Actor

Prerequisites: Blather-barrage

Your skills at deceit are so honed, even you believe them, at least temporarily. Any attempts to discern whether you are lying at that point, will automatically fail,

Outrageous display

Prerequisites: Flirtatious Overtones

Sometimes, to win a verbal exchange you don’t have to be right, you just have to make a good show of being wronged. In a situation where there are witnesses present, make a Deceit roll against their integrity, the greater number of successes you achieve, the stronger the impression your display makes, and the greater their disapproval towards your mark. A normal crowd’s collective Integrity will be 3, although this will vary depending on their attitude

 

Proficiency Level 3

Up is down

Prerequisites: Method Actor

Using your sincerity and persistent assertions to wear down your marks’ will, you may eventually convince them of nearly anything. Spend a point of Conviction and make a Deceit roll against their Integrity, as an opposed roll if they disagree with your position. Success means that they believe what you told them as true, until presented with evidence to the contrary. Blatantly false assertions or common knowledge tend to unravel rather quickly, so it is best used with an element of the truth, or kept within the bounds of plausibility.

Commentary:

While not having as many Talents as Arcane Theory, Deceit’s talents are far more universal in their application, and while the path to mastery seems straightforward, the outlying Talents provide complimentary abilities that allow the main path to come into its own.

 

SOLDIER

For direct combat skills, there are very few prerequisites, all that is required to learn a higher level Talent is to have one of the level below it. So, to learn a level 2 Talent, you need a level 1, and for a level 3, you need to know a level 2. Straightforward, yes? So straightforward, it doesn’t require a flowchart.

 

Close Combat: The Cunning Path

cunning-tree

This set of techniques is basically the opposite of fighting fair, and that’s the way its practitioners like it. It’s often not the only style someone learns, but it’s one that, after it saves their life, it’s the one they never forget.

Proficiency Level 1

Cheap Shot

Sensing a gap in your opponent’s guard, you make a swift lunge, catching them unawares in a vital, and often sensitive, spot. When attacking, you may declare to use a cheap shot instead. Instead of dealing usual damage, inflict the weapon’s base damage and inflict the Dazed status upon them.

Trip

Interrupting your opponent’s gait, while offering a little leverage and encouragement, you up-end them, sending them sprawling to the floor. Declare Trip instead of a standard attack. In place of usual damage, inflict the weapon’s base damage and your opponent suffers the Knock Prone status

 

Proficiency Level 2

Arterial Strike

You throw a rending strike through a vital area, causing a spectacular gout of blood. Spend 1 Conviction. If your attack hits, as well as normal damage, your opponent is affected by Bleed.

Human Shield  

Dodging with liquid grace around your opponent, you always manage to keep their body between you and danger. Spend 1 Conviction. This round you may add your opponent’s Defence score to yours, counting as cover. Attacks aimed at you that miss will automatically hit your opponent.

 

Proficiency Level 3

Turnabout

With perfect timing, you jar your opponent’s hand as it swings towards you, causing their weapon to drop. Catching it in the crook of your elbow as it falls, you spin it around to give them a taste of their own medicine. Spend 1 Conviction. If your attack hits, they are disarmed, and you may attempt to make a bonus strike using their weapon.

Commentary:

As with Deceit, all the Talents are part of a toolkit, and while you can reach the capstone quickly and easily, you’d benefit from the lower level ones also being in your repertoire.

 

So, there we go, another example of how the development is going. I’m currently in two minds as to whether the next excerpt will be crunch or fluff, so will probably have a chat with Matt, and see what wonders we can come up with.

 

Until then, take care and Hard Love,

 

Tom Cole.

 

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You’ve never even *been* to the Crunch.

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Crux: The game mechanics, part 1.

Most of the previous articles have been concentrating on the worldbuilding aspect of the project. The mechanics were being constructed in parallel with the lore and the setting, as we hashed out what we thought characters should be able to do, how they should behave, and what kind of feel that we thought the game should have. Initially, a lot of the values were decided on either an an ad-hoc basis or just  a rough value kept in there as a placeholder until the mechanics around it could shed some light on the matter. After some time, and rather a lot of head-scratching, we’re finally at the stage whereby we have a near-enough complete system suitable for initial playtests.

So…how does it work?

Most challenges and tasks are resolved through the use of skill checks, which work as follows.

Roll (ATTRIBUTE) number of D6, and add a number of extra D6 equal to the appropriate Talent’s mastery level, from 1-3.

Dice that roll 4 and above count as a success. A greater number of successes equate to a greater margin of success at your chosen action.. Your GM will allocate a number of successes required for a task to succeed. A routine challenge would require 3, while truly heroic tasks may require 8, or more.

Mastery in talents allows for a dramatic increase in the potential for rolling successes, on several levels.

A Fistful of D6s (Dice Tricks)

So, depending on your level of mastery with your Talents(Your skills, powers, and what makes you special), you can make your dice pool (All the dice you roll) either Explode or Cascade.

Exploding dice means that any that roll above the target number are rolled again and any successes scored on those dice counted toward your total. These dice are not rolled again, even if they scored above the target number.

Cascading dice are like the exploding dice, only more so. Every 6 that you roll, roll again, counting the roll towards your total successes. Keep going until you stop rolling 6s. In this case rolls of 4 count as successes and rolls of five still qualify as Exploding for one more roll – which can begin Cascading again. This particular trick has the potential to generate a massive amount of successes, and because of this, it requires Conviction to access(more on that later)

So:

Talent Mastery

Proficiency 1 – dice rolls of 6 Explode

Proficiency 2 – dice rolls of 5+ Explode

Proficiency 3 – dice rolls of 5+ Explode, a point of Conviction can be spent to convert any dice rolling 6 to Cascading.*

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The Combat System

We’ve been hoping to keep combat streamlined, and it plays out a little differently to how things normally go.

  1. Each participant declares their action.
  1. They make their attack (or suitable skill) roll, noting successes, and add their weapons’ Initiative Modifier, as well as any others.
  1. The highest initiative acts first, followed by the others in descending order.
  1. You may deviate from your declared action, but doing so incurs a 1-success penalty on your attack roll.
DECLARING ACTIONS – CLARIFICATION

While actions can be declared by participants (player characters and NPCs) in any order, and they can be changed in response to anothers’ right up until the combat rolls are made, it is probably most effective to have the players to declare their actions together, and choose whether they wish to act impulsively, or to react to the intentions of their opponents. This adds the feeling of a little more agency as battle is joined, and groups can pick their style to suit, whichever version suits them best.

Attack rolls, that is skill checks in combat, run as follows:

Roll (ATTRIBUTE)+(Talent Proficiency Level) vs. Opponent’s Modified Defence

(Defenders add their melee TPL to Defense in melee, and applicable cover value to ranged combat rolls)

If you beat your opponent’s modified Defence, each net success is added to the damage you deal.

Most melee attacks tend to use AGI as their base skill, while ranged combat is most dependent on Reflexes or Perception, depending on whether you’re in a quick-fire gunfight, or are lining up a long-distance shot.

Weapons and Damage:

To explain this, let’s take a look at how weapons work:

They have values in the following categories:

Weapon type: Their basic group; this defines the Close Combat Talent Trees – in this case, the styles, that are available to the weapon group.

Initiative Modifier:(+xI)  How quick, or responsive the weapon is. Adds to your Intiative, as we covered above

Base Damage:(+yD) This, normally static value is added to your net successes for your attack. The total is dealt to your opponent’s Resolve

Keywords  These describe the special properties that each weapon has. You also have the option to add more, through customisation or enchantment, or a combination of both, should you be particularly wealthy.

Sample keywords:

Awesome:   Your opponents suffer a -2 initiative penalty for the first round of combat. Costs 1                                            Conviction  to ignore this effect.
Spin-up      The weapon’s Base Damage increases by 2 for every successive round it is fired (Spot the                               gatling gun keyword)
Righteous   +4 Base Damage, provided you are not benefitting from any cover bonuses.                                                          (Shields/barricades count)
Chaining     Every two net successes cause the attack to jump to another hostile target, losing                                            two levels of damage per jump.
Unstable     +2 Base Damage. If no successes are rolled, the weapon explodes, dealing double base                                    damage to the wielder.
Entropic      Each hit degrades the targets’ cover or armour value (in that order) by 1. When it has a                                    value of 0, consider it to have either melted or disintegrated into a pile of dust.

While we’re on the subject of armour…

Ned Kelly

The Armour Value reduces incoming damage, and can negate it entirely. However, the weight and bulk of armour, along with shields and suchlike, reduces your AGILITY, often penalising your attack rolls, and consequently your potential to seize the initiative.

As you can probably gather, you can choose to trade off speed for greater resilience or survivability to outlast your opponents, should you want to go toe-to-toe. Alternatively, you could plan for a faster attack, and use the cover you find in your environment to your advantage, as seizing the initiative can often dictate the flow of the battle…

Called Shots and Status Effects

It’s perfectly possible to trade your common-or-garden strikes until you wear down your opponent’s Resolve and they drop. Or, you could spice things up with a tried and tested kick to the crotch. Perhaps you’re something of a pacifist, and don’t have the stomach for killing, but know the scriptures are fuzzy on the subject of kneecaps. Called shots are more difficult to pull off, requiring more successes, but have additional, and often debilitating effects, depending on where, how hard, and with what you choose to make their day with.

Your Talents also will give you the option to inflict status effects on your opponent, ranging from stunning them, or having them staggering around dazed, knocked flat on their figurative arses, or bleeding profusely(internally or externally, your choice), these can be applied in succession, and can really put a damper on someone’s day, and easily spell a sticky end if you’re not careful.

So, that’s a quick overview of the crunchy parts of Crux. Coming up next time, we’ll have a look into Talents and Conviction, and how your character’s special skills, along with faction and bloodline powers, allow you to be Big Damn Heroes.

Until then, Take care and Hard Love

Tom Cole