Saturday, 8 April 2017

Craft Based Roleplay - the Missing Element

     While some might think its a bad idea to reveal your ideas, lest someone steal them for themselves, I don't think that either my idea is new, nor unique, just that I'll be adding it in a way that hasn't really been done in roleplay games. Crafting for adventurers...

Crafting for your Roleplay Group

     One thing that irked me in many systems for years was the inability to really make a half decent magical weapon. At least with a semi-realistic sense of the idea.
     My first encounter with the crafting rules was from Dragon Warriors, Book 2: Simplistic at best, once a Mystic reaches 4th rank, they can begin to craft +1 items, 6th for +2 and 9th for +3. The mystic must go off to a place to remain in solitude, and fast in order to 'attune' themselves to the mystical powers and then begin the 'creation' of an item. There is no talk of 'costs' other than time, 25 days to make a +1 arrow, 100 days for +1 weapon or armour, up to 1500 days for a +3 weapon..
     Yes its simplistic and flawed, A party could leave their 9th ranked Mystic off in some wilderness 'creating' the Warrior a +3 set of Studded Leather armour, and the group returns 1500 days later, now all 15th ranked characters, having acquired several other +2 and +3 sets of armour that are as good if not better from quests and such.. sorta defeated the purpose of creating magical items in the first place.
     Sure a GM could attempt to balance the system, but what ever you do, you'd probably be spending hundreds of hours coming up with some kind of specialized algorithm, that'd break either game balance or usability.. 25 days for a +1 arrow? just to be shot and lost in the very next combat? It only gives +1 to attack, ABR and Damage, its not all that good.
     Dungeons and Dragons does it just as bad, there are countless blogs talking about it just seems to be a kind of 'cash sink' for the GM to ensure the players have a reason to go out looking for more quests, rather than retiring.. even though 12+ level characters are pretty much expected to retire (according to the older forms of the rules, it can be argued) and are only brought out for epic world ending events.
    Rolemaster, Tunnels and Trolls, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, they have their own rules & houserules, blogs about it, but at the end of the day its pretty much the same.. Heroes acquire treasure, heroes get rich, heroes have little need to quest for the mundane magical items such as +1 items, but they still have a basci need for them, heroes sink cash into NPCs that make the items, or they sink less cash but more time OR experience points (another sink system to keep mages from getting TOO powerful) into making magical items with broader choices.
     Seems like not many people really got into the whole crafting side of things... 

Could be just your experience

Yes, I understand, I haven't played every single game with every single GM, and there are likely some half-decent games that are all about creating interesting items. Yet if you read up on this, by the very creators of D&D it seems that I'm on par:
     "The statement "I want to make a magic item" has the power to freeze a DM's blood. Players, too, can find the item creation process intimidating. Sometimes these fears are justified, especially when someone invents an entirely new item and then wants to sit down and make it - Skip Williams"
    I have crafted some adventures where players are trying to acquire the material components of weird and wonderous items, while I agree that they should have some kind of 'cost' to acquire, I am more of the opinion that it should be a cost of risk vs reward rather than a physical cost.
     I would rather stick to the idea that making a sword, be it magical, mystical or mundane, should approximately be of the same time of a real sword, 2-3 days for the weapon & 2+ weeks for the flair, but its more about "getting it right" because maybe forging a sword and getting it wrong just means melting down the blade and starting again, but if your using elementium steel, then it likely involves a few enchanted tools, some runes of protection against it (so it doesn't freeze or burn you while forging) and you'd only want to deal with it once, rather than risking deadly burns or life altering frostbite twice.
     So instead the "cost" to acquire goods, is for the group to acquire the magical forge, the mystical hammer, the tongs of fire, the cooling Pools of the frostbanes and several kilos of Elementium, Elysiuum Wood, Gems of Brightfire and Rubies of Blood. Once acquired, the Blacksmith/Mage/Mystic of the group gets to work, while the heroes rest their wounds and 3-6 weeks later, the Smith presents the Leader/Warrior of the group with "FleshForger the Magnificent" with all the bonuses (and possible flaws) of the new weapon.

Yeah, we all do that.. so whats your point?    

     Recently, (well, ok, 3 years ago now) We were tasked at Uni to make a game, and my group agreed to try making a "potion making game", We only had 13 days in total to make it (well its over 13 weeks, we had 1 day a week assigned to the task, because of other subjects, exams, studies etc) so in the end we made a game where you chose 3 ingredients and dependent on how you mixed it, it would come up with 1 of 9 possible potions/poisons.
     Now, the key underlying aspect of the game, was to experiment

---------------------------------- APOLOGIES TO READERS------------------------
Due to Google downgrading their system, this post was lost, I managed to find this much via some fancy caching, but from this point forward, I am mostly trying to remember what I wrote, appologies if it seems out of sync. Originally Published 08/04/2017

The Game

The Experimentation of how each 'part' worked, was the process of the game. In the 'morning' You acquired the 3 ingredients from the forest, randomly, mostly it gave you a 1:5 chance, twice, either gaining the whole plant, the roots, the leaves or the flower, or nothing( 2 chances). You'd return to your workshop by the end of the day, if you had purchased food from town you ate it, else you could eat the leaves or boil the roots as a substitute, no ill effects, just the loss of your days work looking for it.
Lastly, you could try to 'experiment' on your potions. Each of the three ingredients could be fried, boiled or crushed (for oils), no other information was given.
Oh and also you could go to town, in town you could buy food for 1 copper coin each meal, and meals could last 4 days (so you could buy 4 max) but while in town, you heard rumours.. someone was sick, someone had a toothache, someone wanted to poison her evil husband.
The only thing we had in the game was that all three paid money (3 copper), the 'bad' job would pay even for failed poisons, but a copper if you failed and 3 if you succeeded.
So each night, you'd make up some potions/poisons, and when you had a few, you could go to town, and try them out. The 'experiment' was on the evil husband, if he died, you knew it was a legit poison, if he didn't it sometimes made him happy, or angry or no effect.
This was the litmus test. Angry.. probably ill effects, happy, likely good effects, dead, most definitely poison.
Now at the heart of this, was percentile effects, Boil the root and you got soup, you knew this from your own experience, eat the leaves, its not killing you either, So boil the leaves? fry the leaves? crush the leaves? Each has an effect: From memory, Boiling, drew out the potent qualities, but not the oil effects, Frying would destroy the potent qualities, but keep the oil effects, and crushing, gave you a 50/50 effect of both, while eating it raw, would give you half of the potent effect, but all of the oil, So it became a maths puzzle..
Roots had 25% poisonous Oil, but 100% Nutitional Potent,
Leaves had 0% poisonous Oil and 25% healing Potent.
The Flower had 75% numbing Oil, and 10% Poison.

If you boiled the Roots and Leaves and fried the Flower, and threw away the Roots and boiled it again, you'd get a healing potion,
If you crushed the flower, added some raw, boiled the leaves and then threw out the leaves, you got a tooth numbing agent, so they could pull the tooth
and if you Boiled the flower several times, and fried the roots several times, then crushed the Boiled flowers into the roots, you got a deadly poison.   
The Key to it was trying out different combinations, on yourself, and the evil husband to figure out what did what, and how it came together.

In Roleplay

Firstly, to get this to work in roleplay, you need to have the ability of your group to get stuff made. Like stated before, getting the 'ingredients' is part one of the game, Having your players procure a Firebird feather, a Core of Sphagnum and a Dedicated Crystal, is the adventure that they get to go on.

But having the Unique Powerful item, is only interesting if it is Unique AND Powerful.

To Create this, you have to have more control over the flow of goods and services.

If your players like the idea of crafting their own gear, upgrading it, improving it, then make sure your setting works, Making standard items less common, with technological advances, just recently discovered.

Cavemen/Minecraft: The Most interesting 'inventions' game would be starting from scratch, players probably already know about sharpening stones & attaching them to sticks with vines, but how about baking clay to make moulds to heating fire hot enough to melt ores to even make metals.. Playing the game in a minecraft like environment might even be your players thing.

Shift of Ages: As the Bronze Age was in decline and the Iron Age beginning, we see a whole area of roleplay barely played. Have your entire group in the fall of rome, as the Gauls have just discovered Iron and Steel swords are a brand new thing. The Aquisition of Iron Ore becomes an adventure of its own. Or if your more inclined, Steampunk, as all manner of steam powered things get invented, and usually ones that would never work, steam powered mobile phone anyone?

Post apoc: My favourite (and one I'm building a new campaign for) When everything has gone to hell, and your players can't even get a decent weapon, unless the bring back some scrap metal from outside the safe zone.. This one ties in nicely with fantasy: The players have steel sword, but how to get EarthElementium? or Plogistonium. Bring back a chunk of Ever-cold Metal and have your blacksmith forge up one of those as a Cleaver! or Chukrum!

So, now that you've got the setting, Have an NPC in town, controlled by your rules lawyer/ numbers cruncher, 'experiment' with the numbers, What does Plgistonium do? well its fire based Elementium, All Elementiums are harder than normal steel by 2 magnitudes, Plus they do Elemental based damage, they should cut through armour, like a knife through butter. Cool that's your end point, but now, you have to decide how long are they prepared to wait?

For simplicity, since we have 4 values to go with, 2x harder, knife through butter & fire damage, then we need our blacksmith to experiment with at least 4 variables, so we'll need to get him at least 4 sets of the Ore. Then you make skill checks for the Blacksmith, if he passes, he's made progress on 1 of those 4 areas, Or maybe you can't wait that long.. how about mixing it with normal steel, and halving the final properties.. halving the experimentation time.

See this is where I got bogged down in other systems, Because weapons don't typically have hardness values or sharpness values, or strength abilities, and weapons don't cut through armour, the player dodges & the armour deflects & the person cops some of the damage, but not as real damage, but as exhaustion & its all rolled into one roll or one saving throw.. it takes away the players, and the GMs ability to make cool stuff, unless you know the whole formula for THAC0, or such.

This is why I made my system, Because Elementium can easily have +2 damage, without needing to increase the Initiative costs, it can have a 'ignores 2 points of enemies metal armour' for the ABR and it can have 'flaming weapon if exposed to air' and 'is 80.c', so players know the blade is hot, it burns, flamable objects will ignite, water will slowly boil (or at least start to get hot) and each of these areas can be 'learnt' by the blacksmith as skills:
Active Skill: Manufacture - Elementium - Fire - +1 Damage, no Inititaive cost. 
Once learnt, then he can start to take on the next skill.

This all works for the HUB system of my game, where players have an NPC friend, back in town, that they get to level up and choose his skills between adventures, so that you have a plausible way for players to be getting much better weapons, without needing handwavium or bullsh*t Ecomonic systems. 
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