Saturday, 1 February 2014

Treasure isn't always user friendly

Inspired by friend and all around smart guy Joey, I started taking a couple of side notes on super-tech stuff while working on the meat of the rules for Break!! I like the idea of characters having to figure out how to use certain advanced relics they find, and having a side-score for that means it could be role-played and sussed out without too much trial and error/pixel bitching ("So um, I hit the green button and turn it sideways, anything now?")

Then I thought - well, why the hell do magic items just work? Wouldn't this stuff be just as mysterious and wondrous as lost technology? I mean sure, I could hand-wave it and just say "It's magic" but I think that's kind of dull.

So I'm thinking every character has a rating for (Tech) Comprehension and (Magical) Concordance. Usually, characters start with 0 in both these scores. Certain Origins, Species Traits, and Calling Abilities raise these, but otherwise they only way to do it is by toying with and understanding techno relics or magical artifacts. I've chosen the names rather deliberately - Comprehension is about understanding the old world's weapons and tools and putting them to good use, while Concordance is related to intuition and how in tune one is with the forces of magic.

They also both start with "C", and I've got to have something alliterative in this damn thing. Its like RPG law, or something.

The nitty-gritty basics thus far are as follows;

  • Every Techno Relic or Artifact has a complexity or attunement rating, respectively. If a character's comprehension or concordance is equal to or greater to this score, they can use the item without issue.
  • If the corresponding score is lower, they must experiment with the item during downtime. This will be a Deftness, Insight, or Aura check depending on the particular item. Each successful check represents progress with the item, whereas a failure is a stall. Two stalls in a row set the character back one success. Once they have accumulated a number of successes equal to the item's complexity or attunement, they have mastered it.
  • Advancing in comprehension or concordance happens when one has mastered an amount of items equal to their current rating +1. This number resets each time advancement occurs. So mastering one's first item will grants the character a 1 in the corresponding score, while attaining the second level would require mastering two more separate items.
  • One may attempt to use a Relic or Artifact without understanding it, but is subject to the whims of a catastrophic mishap table for doing so.
  • Certain Magitech items may have both a complexity and an attunement rating, which both would need to be mastered separately.
One thing to note is that downtime is pretty important in the game. The time you are spending poking around with new toys could be spent carousing, training henchman, researching or attempting to romance the local nobility. I'm also considering making it so that items with multiple uses may have various features tied to different complexity/attunement levels. So you may be able to properly wear a suit of old world powered armor if you have a comprehension score of 1, but you won't be able to use its acrobatics suite without advancing to a tech level of 2.

Oh, yes - my wife (a constant consultant in these matters) said she would rather just pay an NPC to look at this stuff for her character, so one function of hirelings or sage like NPC's might be to figure out how to use these things and then teach the character. While their inherent scores wouldn't improve, it would mean a PC would have time available to dedicate somewhere else.


  1. Love this idea. And a lot of bonus points to you for making non-adventuring time management important as well.

    1. Its one of those things on my mind all the time.

    2. Has there been a post providing more details about downtime management? I for one am very much interested in knowing more about that aspect of the game.

    3. Not yet, but I've seen it in the content page listing so it's coming!

  2. "catastrophic mishap table" :-)

  3. Random thoughts:

    1. Using ancient tech is surely always a high risk activity. Even if fairly well understood, crumbling controls etc... should always have a significant chance of malfunction?

    2. Powers should be "stunt" focused, to help build on the games core differentiator.

    3. Why do we need two new stats (is this anti-simplicity)? Can't we use one? Or even use the exciting insight/aura aptitudes?... it would make the the non-physical stats more obviously valuable too.

    4. Does "bewteen adventure time" need some explicit rules/structure? Do people find this stuff dull? Can 'unlocking' be done in game?

    5. Liking the 'difficulty' rating and access to advanced powers! Maybe using objects beyond your skill level is possible but increases chance of mishap?

    Good stuff!

    1. 1. I figure each item will have its own pitfalls and perils. Some stuff is just that simple.

      2. Good idea; having some passive items is all well and good, but things with unique abilities or powers should be interesting to use.

      3. That's a good point. I'm about halfies on this one. Insight could work instead of Comprehension, and Aura could work for concordance, but I also like that these skills can be built up outside of normal level gaining, and my hope is that divorcing the physical stats from non-conventional combat will balance out things more then enough.

      Consider it one of those features that's on the chopping block all the time. If it gets on unwieldy, its gone.

      4. I'm gonna get into that next entry - its less that I think that these things are dull and more that I like players being to think about what they are doing outside of normal sessions. It also keeps individual actions other players aren't into from digging into game time. You could still do the smae stuff normally in game to - you could take your buddies along with you for moral support when you schmooze the prince, or have the group field test items.

      5. Oh totally. Especially when dealing with magic. Stormbringer, anyone?

  4. I'm in favor of tech and magic being separate stats, it makes sense and doesn't break immersion when your cryogenic man from the past can use magic items all willy nilly (unless of course magic is ancient science ala Vance and vice versa).

  5. Also...

    What is the difference between tech & magic mechanically?
    Do we need both?
    Does magic flow through the body and alter it irreversibly?
    Does tech provide powers but has them locked into ancient/faulty objects?