Saturday, January 12, 2013

Art, Avatar World: The New Meditate and the Complete Scholar (nearly) (also, shout-out to Abyss)
Final Fantasy XIII is not a good game. It is a highly mediocre game that masquerades as good and seems to have tricked itself into thinking it's good, but it's not. I watched 60 hours of Let's Play of it (because I sure as hell couldn't have tolerated it myself) and, while it had good bits, was overall just not worth it. However, the soundtrack was actually quite good, and the sequel's is a damn good album even just for regular music listening, both are highly recommended. This is the battle theme for early is XIII, and one of the most memorable tunes in the game.

Hey there, today I've some special stuff for you! And that is: A Complete Playbook! Yeah, you heard me right. COMPLETE. Not just a bunch of incomplete moves, not even just a bunch of complete moves, but everything a functional playbook needs. Minus two things - I haven't yet written the intro text nor a list of names. But if you've been reading this stuff you don't really need that stuff now. It'll, of course, be in the final playbook. I just don't have it yet.
And, as for the tag up there, yup, I did some art too! Now, the art isn't exactly final. It has a piece that is explicitly not final, but even taken as a whole I haven't decided on an art style. Still, I worked hard on it and really like it so I'm gonna share. That'll be at the end of the post where I'll talk about it.

I wanted to give another shout out to this Foroth kid on Story Games. He's a 15 year old writing this game and he's been putting up the drafts on Story Games, and I think they're pretty rad. I've been trying to help him as much as I can (I've yet to NOT break the post character-limit on a critique post about it :/ ), and it's really reaching the point of a pretty sweet little idea. Nothing too revolutionary - it's built off of The Pool or Lady Blackbird (he hasn't specified but it's pretty obvious) - but the setting is cool. It's called Abyss, and you play Daemon Hosts in a world out to get you. Here's his Intro Section (which, admittedly, still needs a good amount of work - it's been the focal point for my feedback):
On the planet Aporia, humanity lived peacefully, solely advancing in
technology for over 700 years until that day.
That day in which they started to appear.
Rifts, portals to another world called the Abyss started opening, and
horrifying creatures, which were later called Purgers, came through, murdering
every human they lay eyes on. All of society was nearly thrown into the ruin.
Other creatures that came through the Rift, called Daemons, meant the
Humans no harm. They came through, running away from the Purgers as well.
However, terror filled the humans, since they knew not that the Daemons were
no threat to them. The Daemons bonded to humans, making them their hosts.
Hosts of Daemons were granted supernatural abilities from their type of
There are 6 types of Daemons:

However, the Humans didn't see that the Daemons were on their side. Afer
all previous Government had been dissolved, the new theocracy formed, called
The Restoration.
The Restoration believes the Abyss, and everything that comes from it, is pure
evil. Hosts and Purgers are killed on sight.
Hosts were quickly classifed as wicked beings, society believing to have been
completely taken by their Daemons.
The Purgers continue to massacre humans, their Rifs only opening at night.
They stay afer dawn, however, killing as many humans as they can before they
themselves are killed. They seem to target Hosts specifcally, however. It seems
as though they have a hatred towards the Daemons. No one knows the true
purpose of the Purgers, but all fear them.
The Hosts live mostly in Wastelands making their residence in Enclaves,
buildings in where groups of Hosts live together. The Restoration dares not
attack these Enclaves because of the great number of Hosts there. They avoid
them as much as they can.
The Hosts live in true anarchy. They commit crimes against The Restoration
together, trying to stay alive.
What do the Purgers have to plan against Aporia?
What mysteries does the Abyss hold, and what can be done to stop it?
It looks pretty cool. Anyway, what I'm really counting down to is that you should go to the Story Games thread and give it a look. He could use some feedback from another point of eyes that aren't mine (I ain't trying to hijack his writing design! I mean, I'm only 19, I don't have that much more experience on top of him). Heck, even if you don't write out feedback, go and tell him it sounds cool. Interest from people really helps, believe me - if James hadn't been giving such regular help and interest on S-G, Avatar World probably would have died in the water.
Also: if you read it and are interested, totally get in touch with me if you want to try playing a game of it sometime! I'm up for trying out some Skype gaming if we can saddle up some players.

So, now that I'm done with that interlude, let's get on to The Scholar!

Nope. First, we gotta talk about something I brought up last time.Yeah, the part where I entirely removed what I'd written for Meditate. I finished re-writing it, and I'm WAY happier with it. It had its original form, which was pretty bad, and then a form that looked a ton like Spout Lore that you don't get to see, and now this one. I'm just gonna past from the Story Games thread because I fully explained there last night.
Meditate: When you spend time[!] in quiet[!!] contemplation, name what you're thinking about and[!!!!!!!] roll+Natural[!!!]. On a hit, you learn a detail relevant to the subject of your thoughts[!!!!]. On a 10+, declare what that detail is[!!!!!]. On a 7-9, the MC will declare what the detail is[!!!!!!].
"That's a lot of exclamation points, isn't it? Let's see:
[!] Yup, you need to spend some time to meditate. This ain't no Epiphany.

...Oh my god, Epiphany would be a great move for something. I've got no use for it right now, but I gotta remember that one.
[!!] "Quiet" is the word I'm going with, but my intention is that you're on your own basically. It's a lonely activity. Considering a change to "concentrated contemplation" but that's really more semantic than effectual.
[!!!] Natural is the biggest difference I did to this. This is no longer a Keen move. It's about intuition and a connectedness to things and nature and stuff, and NOT really about observation and smart thinking. (you may have just guessed what I'm making Think It Through now) I kinda wanted the Monk to have a more Natural focus anyway, and this makes the Airbender, someone who already has meditation as a part of their culture, actually good at it.
[!!!!] You pick the subject when you meditate. This is more of a Buddhist "reflection" type of meditation rather than the also-popular "clear-your-mind-completely" stress relaxation meditation. And you can't just Meditate and hope that SOMEthing comes to you, you DO need to have a topic in mind.
[!!!!!] The most dangerous part of the move. This is an enormous placement of power in the hands of the player. I'm strongly thinking about adding a "(subject to MC approval)" but feel that violates the very spirit of the ApW game structure.
[!!!!!!] This, on the other hand, is great. Yeah, they succeeded, they're learning something. This is a great place to complicate things, reveal things you've had in wait, or spring unhappy revelations. I really struggled with doing a 7-9 at first - you've seen the early draft of the move, and it's not that interesting. The second draft was just Spout Lore basically, and repeating moves doesn't please me (aside from Stand Fast - that one's simple enough and diverse enough to be in pretty much all the hacks. Even Speak Naturally gets a new context from Manipulate thanks to heavily engaging the Oaths mechanic). I'm actually very fond of this version, though possibly that's just because I only just now wrote it."
A day later, I still like it a lot. Hope you agree.
EDIT: [!!!!!!!] Added a clause about targeting something specific thanks to creases on S-G - I'd kinda assumed it's implicit and it wasn't - now it is! No opening your brain about nothing in particular!

* +1 Natural, -1 Hot, +0 Solid, +2 Keen, +1 Fluid
* -1 Natural, +0 Hot, +1 Solid, +2 Keen, +1 Fluid
* +1 Natural, -1 Hot, +0 Solid, +2 Keen, +1 Fluid
* +0 Natural, +0 Hot, +1 Solid, +2 Keen, +0 Fluid
So yeah, just like in ApW I've set up a set of several arrays of the stats, and players pick one from the list. The exact arrays aren't necessarily final, but I see nothing wrong with them. The big constants are "Scholars have great Keen and aren't so good (or are bad) at Hot".

* Loose billowing robes, nice high-quality robes, practical clothes with many pockets, regular clothes with a large bag.
* Pallid sunken skin, tanned rough skin, scratched and callused skin, flawless well-maintained skin.
The thing about clothes is that they needed to have somewhere to pull things from with Materials. I think I've got that done pretty good, and I don't think I missed any obvious ones. The skin thing is mostly my own creation, though I imagine it fits. The pallid is for that scholar who spends all their time in the library, up late into the night, learning at the expense of their health. The tanned is for the scholar who spends their time in the field, doing practical research and working on machines out in the air. The scratched and callused is for the inventor who's experienced and long-practiced at his art. The last one is for the court scholar who keeps himself well-kept.

Armor Type: No Armor
A basic weapon (pick one):
     * A long walking stick (1-harm, reach)
     * A small, easily concealed knife (2-harm)
     * A thick book for bludgeoning (1-harm, inconspicuous)
A bag of handy supplies and texts
     * Name two simple mundane objects we know are inside
So, Scholars are a no-armor class. They might wear something, but they're too frail to gain any real armor bonus from it. Their weapons are simple, but aren't obvious. The inconspicuous tag on the book is more about it not looking like a weapon, not it being small and not noticeable. Inconspicuous is likely the wrong word, but whatevs.
The pre-included stuff in your bag is basically 2 Materials you start the first session with in addition to your regular ones, but you need to predetermine what these are.

* Another character once saved your life. Who was it, and what did you promise them in return? Tell them to put +2 Honor with you.
* What did you promise yourself you would discover?
Tell everyone else to put +0 Honor with you.
This could easily be revised if I come up with something even more flavorful. In general though, this sets up two promises already, one with yourself and one with a PC. I'm back and forth on making his default +0 or +1 - both work, it's just choice.

Gain a point of Chi when you act (pick 2):
* Quiet and Reserved
* Excited and Reckless when in the presence of your research interests
* Spacey and Prone to not noticing people
* Detail-oriented and Haughty
* _________ (write your own)
The first is for the shy scholar not accustomed to social endeavors. The second is for Raine Sage, pretty shamelessly. The third is for the scholar who's more interested in the world or his books than other people. The last is for the sage up in his tower who looks down on all the stupid peasants.
Here's something I forgot to mention before: the Singleton Rule is in effect for Chi gaining. In other words, you can only gain one Chi from any given key in a scene. If you hit multiple keys sure, if you hit the same in multiple scenes sure, but not the same one over and over in one scene. Thanks to Joe and Monsterhearts for the original Singleton Rule (which is also in effect with this game btw)

* When you learn from a master inventor, choose a small object. You never need to spend Materials to produce this tool.
* Once you've learned from a master sage, when you Observe Carefully you may also ask the following question:
     * What do I already know about this from my research?
Talked about these before!

When you have 5 XP, you can gain no more. Reduce your XP from 5 to 0 at any point to take an advancement:
__ You have +1 Natural (max +3)
__ You have +1 Hot (max +3)
__ You have +1 Solid (max +3)
__ You have +1 Fluid (max +3)
__ gain a new "Chi Key" from the list, or write your own.
__ gain a new Scholar move
__ gain a new Scholar move
__ gain a new Scholar move
__ gain a move from another playbook
__ gain a move from another playbook
///////////////////////// (these improvements can only be taken once you've taken 5 of the above improvements)
__ You have +1 to any stat (max +3)
__ Retire your character to safety
__ create a second character to play side-by-side with this one
__ change your character to a new type
__ You have +1 Material
This is the most incomplete thing here today, I didn't actually put that much work into making it amazing. Whatever, it's certainly functional at least.

You start with Always Prepared and one other move of your choice.
* Always Prepared: When you begin the session, roll 1d6+Keen. The result is the number of Materials you have for that session. Spend Materials 1-for-1 to produce a small, simple tool of your choice. You may spend a second Material to produce a small complex tool instead. Lastly, you may at any point spend 1 Material to ask a single question as if you'd succeeded on an Observe Carefully roll.
* Ingenious: You have +1 Keen (max +3).
* Construct: When you take your time to build a complicated contraption, roll+Materials spent. On a 10+, you build it all up! On a 7-9, the MC will choose a condition or two that must be fulfilled before completion:
        * Parts broke and you had to use your spares; the project takes an extra Material.
        * It'll take significantly longer to build.
        * The best you can do is a lesser version, unreliable and limited.
        * Finishing it attracts trouble.
        * You can't do it alone.
* Trained Observer: When you Observe Carefully, you may ask an additional question, regardless of result (even on a failure).
* Think It Through: When you use rational thought to Meditate on a subject, you roll+Keen instead of +Natural. If you spend 1 Material to consult your books in the process, you can Meditate quickly as well.
* Fight With Your Head: When you Observe a foe Carefully in combat, in addition to the usual effects impose the special tag Analyzed to the foe. When you Commit Open Violence against an Analyzed foe, roll+Keen rather than +Hot. When you Help or Hinder an ally against an Analyzed foe, you may choose to roll+Keen rather than +Honor. 
You may have noticed a few changes from the moves I brainstormed last time. First, there's a new clause in Always Prepared providing a more research-y use for Materials.
Okay here's a note to MCs: If your Scholar player wants to do something with his Materials but I haven't called it out as something and haven't made another move that unlocks it, consider its viability and try to accomodate it. In some cases, it's as simple as the Always Prepared move where they can just do it. In others, make it a move like Construct where their chances are better if they spend more. Btu just because I don't call it out, doesn't mean it's impossible. One idea that James tossed out in the S-G thread that I just don't feel I have room for is using Materials to shorten the research time for something - this is a great example of a custom move scenario.
Anyway, other changes involve the destruction of the Library/Workspace move. I just didn't really find myself compelled by the idea. Instead, it was replaced by the move Fight With Your Head, which allows a Scholar to either directly or indirectly support his friends in combat.
Lastly, with the rewritten Meditate, Think It Through became a no-brainer and is now fully written.

And I haven't changed The Doctor's stuff at all either, but I'll save that for when I draw some Doctor art.
Speaking of Art, it's time!
The original charcoal drawing I did. It's decent. It's also  entirely unedited here - the file is fuckin' huge, I don't recommend clicking it.
 This is the same drawing, with editing. This one was a really shrunken down screencap I did did during my process that I shared on Twitter last night. It's mostly a despeckle filter plus a couple other basic things.
But this... this is the final .Went through and pen-tool'd my way over the whole thing. I'm really freakin' happy with it. You can obviously see what I meant by some of it is explicitly not-final - turns out I don't know enough Japanese to write one of those little poems that are all over Japansese art. I want to include one, and I'm gonna try to learn enough to at least fake it, but that's not the point. And this one I DO recommend clicking, cuz it's big and clean and awesome.
Now, I'm not really sure that this is the type of style I'll be going with in the end. I could do a total 180 on the style. But I did this and liked it enough to share anyway. I hope you like it, because I sure do.

That's it for today! Later folks.
End Recording,

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