Thursday, December 27, 2012

Avatar World: Masters and Apprentices, the Students of Piandao and Kyoshi Warrior Outlines, and Armor System Thoughts

Who would have thought that 6-hour drives through the Moroccan scrublands and mountains was great for game design? The only-occasional Wi-fi doesn't help getting feedback, but thankfully James on S-G has been a great help regularly.
The Journey soundtrack makes an excellent accompaniment to the Earth Kingdom. It also makes excellent music to listen to just about whenever.

So, let's talk a little more "Karma." For now, I'm definitely liking Chi as the name of it. Chi Points is an okay thing to say. For the "Karma Keys" James suggested Chakras, since they're already show-tied, but I'm not so sure about that. The exact phrasing of it feels a bit odd. That's another day's thing though.

Now, what I'm really here for today is for a couple of new design bits! First:

When You Train With A Master:
So Apocalypse World, and Monsterhearts, have this thing called sex moves. They're a set of moves, one per playbook unique to that playbook, with a single universal trigger, "When you have sex with another character...". I'm fascinated by the way that that is a single action that permeates the very core of the games and genres in such a way that everyone has something special that happens in that circumstance. Sometimes it's good, or even great (the Hardholder's is pretty fantastic), while some are more detrimental than others (the Driver, the Mortal), and yet others are entirely neutral (the Battlebabe). I was looking through my list of stuff that I want to have implemented in some way, looking for something just as universal, since I of course won't have sex moves.
And what I came across was the previously-discussed Master-Apprentice relationship.
It doesn't matter what kind of character you're playing as. All the benders benefit when they train with a master. The ancient monk on the peak of the tallest mountain, the wizened sage in his grand library, the greatest knight of the land, the diplomat-emperor of a dozen lands, the elite commando troops of the crown, these are all examples of masters that could be sought out as instructors. Think about Avatar itself: Book 1 was all about getting a master for Aang and for Katara. It even had a training episode for Sokka as episode 3 on Kyoshi. Finding the great masters is a common theme in the media, and it's something sought by all sorts of people of all archetypes.
So everyone will have a When You Train With A Master clause of some kind. My general thinking at this point is that this is a hard benefit that you will have from then on, improving you as a whole. I'll note that I don't feel bad about giving this out since I DON'T plan on making advanced versions of the basic moves really. These bonuses are hopefully somewhat flavorful, rather than just a little stat boost, and they DEFINITELY won't be actual attribute boosts. Here's a couple examples.
Once you've trained with a waterbending master, whenever you use Waterbending you may add the (Area) tag to the attack without penalty.
 So you'll see that I've already modified the phrasing. That's because I remembered that I've been writing them in the past tense and don't want to go back to the above stuff and change it. This is the standard I guess.
As far as I can tell, adding the Area tag isn't overpowering, and is definitely something both Katara and Aang learned to do more and more as they trained.
The other thing you might notice is that that doesn't stack at all. You get it once, and after that, further trainings wouldn't actually help. Now, logically that doesn't make too much sense, but making stuff that's also stackable is hard while not making it really generic too. Instead, I have this message for you: If you've played the game long enough for a single character to have trained with multiple masters, either you should have the experience to write a custom move up for them by then or you probably handed out the chance at master-training too fast. And that takes skill - maybe it's just me not getting it for other people, but I find that after any time running a *World game, coming up with special move stuffs is really natural. I know that I hoped one of MY players would've been suckered into getting cyber-parts cuz I know I could have had crazy fun with that.
(for the record, I say "suckered" because an NPC boss named Rex was pushing them and they were likely to cause mind control to him, not because I personally was trying to trick the players or play Gotcha! or anything)

Now, I'm not entirely devoted to it even just being one single move! For the benders, yeah, just one really makes sense as a whole. What am I talking about then? The Scholar. The Scholar, as I've been writing him, has a pretty clear set of two paths you're likely to take him. They aren't mutually exclusive or anything, and you can do both, but I expect various character concepts are going to take one path or another (and this isn't even thinking about his sub-playook The Doctor). Those paths are the path of the Inventor, and the path of the Sage, which is mostly just what I've taken to calling them, not rules jargon. The Inventor is about building things, about utility. The Sage is about knowing, about the mind, about being smart. As such, I'm considering two Master moves, one for training under a master Inventor and one for training under a master Sage. Any single character can still get both, I just couldn't think of a type of person to really learn both sorts from, and mechanically it seems to be working out pretty well too.
Oh yeah, I'm talking about the Scholar. I should mention that I'm already mostly done outlining the Scholar, I just need to flesh out a few more moves and I think he'll be good to post. I'm actually going to sit on his Master moves until then since they don't make sense without his mechanics anyway.

So, what else do I have for you today? A couple of non-Core sub-playbooks for a playbook I haven't written yet! That's always a good idea, right? Let's deconstruct that real quick.
The unwritten playbook is the Samurai. The Samurai is a regular playbook that focuses on being an honorable warrior in tough armor. Both of these sub-playbooks apply to the Samurai.
Oddly enough, one of them also could apply to The Ninja, a much more nimble but lighter armed and armored than the Samurai. I should mention that while the Samurai is actually quite a specific idea that is still prevalent in the media, The Ninja is actually very broad. Sokka is a Samurai (I know, no armor, I'll figure it out), Mai and Ty Lee are Ninjas. You'll see what I mean with the sub-playbook in a second though.
What did I mean when I said "non-Core"? Well, if I were to compile all of this into an actual book in the end, they wouldn't be in it. Why? Because they are hyper-explicitly straight out of the show. I like to have the text not have literal elements of the show beyond Bending and occasional move-name references and inspiration. They would still be free, and readily available, I just wouldn't mix them into the core mix. So who are these two?

They're the Students of Piandao and the Kyoshi Warriors. Two organizations of individuals with their own specific styles that can be modeled even more closely using the sub-playbook mechanism.
Piandao is pretty easy, and I actually have FOUR move ideas for him. He's the one just for Samurai. Here's the basic ideas.
Well-Rounded Warrior: Either a new roll or a modification of Speak Honorably, based around the idea of Piandao's students being instructed and trained in all the arts of high culture, such as painting and poetry, in addition to their combat skills. If this is a new roll, I'll be reading Artful And Gracious to see if I can pull ideas there, as well as the rest of the Skinner and the Maestro D'.
Humility Makes The Master: Based around Piandao's idealization of being humble and modest about one's skills. It would most likely find its modeling in a Chi Phrase.
Use The Environment: A boring name for a core idea of Piandao's strategy. The Samurai is likely focused far more on direct attacks through Commit Open Violence than support (even supporting himself) through Move With Intention. I would bring that idea back in some way.
Forged In Piandao's Furnace: Making a custom blade is the final step of Piandao's training. While the Samurai has a sword of his own already, this is a more powerful blade made by a master swordsmith. This is an opportunity to have a truly unique weapon with a statistical benefit attached to that uniqueness, and I'm considering treating it like a modified version of something like the DW Fighter's Signature Weapon.

Let's talk about Sokka for a moment. Sokka IS a Samurai. He doesn't wear the armor, but watch him take hits - he keeps getting up in a way not unlike having 2-armor, and he sure as hell is the (clumsy) that goes with that. It's a bit flimsy, but whatever. Also important is that early-show Sokka isn't a player character at all - PCs start at a given strength level, and he doesn't have that. He learned 3 of the 4 moves here from Piandao though, skipping over Well-Rounded Warrior, though not for lack of effort. His blade, of course, was the Space Sword. He has the humility when it matters, but probably doesn't actually score Chi on it very often at all.

The other sub-playbook was the Kyoshi Warriors. Like I forecasted before, this is both a Samurai one AND a Ninja one in a lot of ways. The Kyoshi Warriors as a whole kind of blur that line, being heavily armored strong combatants that ALSO have stealth and speed. I have three moves.
War Paint: The Kyoshi war paint has power, both as a morale-booster for the team as well as an obvious intimidation aspect, as well as the symbolic "We look just like Avatar Kyoshi" factor (despite none of 'em being benders...). Probably gonna work this into Speak Dishonorably.
Armored, Yet Nimble: A very strong move, this allows for the wearing of 2-armor without the (clusmy) tag. It makes Samurai faster and Ninjas tougher, and is generally quite desirable. The rather steep entry condition for the Kyoshi Warriors makes this one hard to get though.
Teamwork: This is DEFINITELY a Chi Phrase. In fact, I wrote the phrase.
Add this [Karma Key/Chakra]: "When an ally takes advantage of a tag you imposed, take a point of [Karma/Chi]."
The Kyoshi Warrior helps the other team members, and this just keeps stacking up if you have multiple Kyoshi Warriors together. However, it's only good on setting up others: when you take advantage of others setting things up for YOU, the better situation is its own reward. Help your friends for Chi, actually attack to make progress. This isn't combat-restricted either. As a note, this is a Chi Phrase that refers not to an in-character action, but a mechanical one that still requires a fictional component.

Suki is the best of both worlds of Samurai and Ninja. Fast, strong, quiet, and tough, good in teams and capable of solo operation. However, we have a couple other folks who found their way in! Ty Lee at the end makes it in, and by that point likely has Teamwork. The weird one, especially given the Kyoshi Warriors' normal female-exclusive condition, is Sokka again. He got in, and already had War Paint, and got Teamwork. Still clumsy though. Note that, in these examples, Ty Lee is definitely a Ninja and Sokka is a Samurai. The Kyoshi Warriors blur the line, and as such are multi-playbook available, and that's okay.

What kind of entry conditions? Well, both are basically to be accepted into or at least given training by Piandao or a current Kyoshi Warrior. The Kyoshi Warriors do not normally accept men, but make exceptions in rare cases. In general, sub-playbook Entry Conditions will look like that: Training or mentoring by someone in the know; essentially, a different version of finding a Master. When you work with a Master of the stuff you're already good at, you trigger your Master move. When you work with a master who shows you a new way of doing things entirely, you could be unlocking a sub-playbook!

THIRD! After writing the above, I left and came back and I think I want to talk about armor too here since I mentioned and was conflicted about things.
I'm thinking of splitting playbooks up into three armor categories.
No Armor: 0-armor, this character is completely unarmored. Alternatively, the character is armored but is frail or weak as a whole, thus counteracting the armor. There are no innate penalties or bonuses for No Armor.
This is the armor type that will be typically held by Airbenders, Waterbenders, Scholars, and Ninjas. They aren't the sort to burden themselves with armor, and the benders there would be significantly impaired by wearing armor usually.
Examples: Most characters in the show are unarmored - Katara and Aang have No Armor, and and most Ninjas in media where very little armor to maintain maximum mobility. Scholars in the show (such as in the Library, or the inventors) have No Armor, and are rarely armored in other media.
Lightly Armored: 1-armor, this character has some form of protection. It may be literal armor, or the character may just be tough enough to shrug off a hit or two. You reduce all damage you take by 1 from any non-Armor Piercing source, and have no penalties.
This is the armor type you'll see on Earthbenders (who are just plain tough) and Firebenders, who often will wear some literal form of protection. Monks are also Lightly-Armored, just ignoring worldly things like pain and injury. The Aristocrat is sometimes Lightly-Armored.
Examples: Most firebenders in the show wear some kind of armor, but it's light and easy to move in. Toph is powerful enough to take hits without being bothered by them. Bumi would arguably be Heavily Armored, but by the rules I would classify him as Lightly Armored, with other techniques helping him take so many hits.
Heavily Armored: 2-armor, this character is usually wearing an actual set of armor, though occasionally they are simply very tough. A Heavily Armored character reduces all damage from non-Armor Piercing sources by 2, but a Heavily Armored character is also penalized with a perpetual negative tag. What this tag is is up to the player, though should be related to the highly-armored status (such as encumbered or clumsy).
This is full-on armor usually. The Samurai is Heavily Armored, and on the rare occasion an Aristocrat will choose to be heavily armored as well. The tag is loose and open to interpretation, and should of course be fictionally true. If you're wearing actual armor, for example, it would make sense to go away when you're not wearing the armor.
Examples: Sokka with the clumsy tag can take quite a beating, and any full suit of Samurai armor.

Essentially, the Armored Yet Nimble move on the Kyoshi Warriors negates that tag. The exact mechanisms of this are in flux, this is just what I'm thinking right now, but I'm mostly okay with this idea right now.

So, that's it for tonight! We had the universal trigger move Training With A Master, the non-Core sub-playbook outlines for the Students of Piandao and the Kyoshi Warriors, and a small discussion of my current thoughts regarding armor. Hope you like it! Pretty soon should come The Scholar, and I don't know what next. Maybe The Monk, or I'll get some ideas regarding an Hx/Bonds/Strings/Trust variant.

Actually, I have a small question. What do folks think of the way I'm presenting the material? I write it in a conversational and explanatory way, kinda making it up as I go, but if people would prefer a more structured presentation of things, I could totally try to do that. This style of writing just comes naturally to me, so I want to make sure people actually enjoy reading it.

End Recording,

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