Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

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Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby Agamemnon » 30 Jan 2017, 18:33

Thought I'd post a minor update and a bit of a teaser.

The rewrite is going full steam ahead and making good progress. Higgins is doing well with school stuff, so with luck, he'll be able to join us again soon. In the meantime, I didn't want to leave you guys completely in the air so I pulled Higgins away just long enough to approve a bit of a spoiler for you guys.

Sword&ScoundrelBook1.pdf

The above is the raw text output from scrivener, spaced as such to make it easier for Henri to red-pen me to death. The document isn't pretty, but it gives you a good idea of the tone/feel of the next draft. It's also functionally the core of the system. If you're using pre-gen characters (and yes, we'll be including a bunch when complete), then this is all new players would need to know up front. The rest can be taught as the game goes on.

Of particular note, we've added a new feature. This edition will have a glossary in the back as an appendix because no game has ever been accused of being too well-organized or too easily referenced.

Enjoy.
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby thirtythr33 » 31 Jan 2017, 02:27

It's nice to see things progressing well.

Things I like:
  • Changing to d6 only
  • Removing exploding in normal rolls
  • Reqs replacing Obs
  • Drives now only fire when they are directly the subject of a conflict instead of any time they are incidentally furthered, upheld or defended.

Things I am on the fence about:
  • Tapping traits. I would have to see the specifics, but this might be getting too close to "+2 to persuasion" edges.
  • Cascading. See below.
  • No intelligence or Social Attributes

On Untrained Ability checks:
You could move the "Roll attribute at FTN6 to replace skill or proficiency" rule out of Untrained ability checks and have that option available to all skill checks.
This lets you dodge the issue of sometimes forcing someone to make a worse roll for being more skilled.
(If it is untrained only, someone with Agility 6 medicine 0 is better at surgery than someone with Agility 6 medicine 1)
and
It can give you a last ditch chance at hitting higher Reqs now that exploding is removed.
(Rolling Agility 6 FTN6 has a very small chance of succeeding on Req 6, but medicine 3 at BTN4 has 0 chance).

This can't really be abused by putting all your points into attributes and skimping on skills and proficiencies in hopes of always replacing with agility since:
Rolling attributes at FTN6 also has a much greater chance of spectacular failure and
Always rolling attribute means you don't get to Tap in that attribute like you would be able to, had you been rolling a skill.

Questions about tapping:
Is it to be expected that in any given skill check there is ALWAYS going to be at-least 1 attribute available to be tapped?
In the Help section, instead of saying "Helping works just like tapping, but isn't tapping", wouldn't it be simpler to say that when Tapping you can additionally Tap into 1 ability of each person helping you?
Is the character sheet going to have two listings for each ability to show Rank and Tap (like dnd does for attribute and modifier) or are we going to be doing (divide by 3, round up) on the fly?
I like some circumstances for tapping traits (eg, tapping a facial scar when trying intimidate someone) but I don't want them to turn out to play like +2 to coercion traits you pick at character creation.

Cascading:
Is the idea here to replace Full Contests, the Healing and Infection rules and Sharing Successes (now otherwise completely absent) with one fell swoop? Pretty neato if so. Otherwise, this is just adding unnecessary bloat.
I would like to have it said in this section somewhere that you have to to choose how many rolls are in the cascade before you start any of the rolls, instead of just making it up as you go along.
When cascading, can you also Tap and get Help on each roll? With Drives applying, the shear volume of bonuses and second chances you can pile into cascading conflicts might make them trivial to beat.
It is interesting that you have decided to have Failures increase Req and Successes add dice instead of having +/- Req or +/- dice. I assume this was done just to avoid subtraction and "divide by 0" errors.

Also, in case some readers missed it, the glossary confirms new attributes to be Agility, Brawn, Cunning, Perception, Will. With no Intelligence or Social attribute to substitute or tap, I guess you will be defaulting to Cunning for everything from Engineering to Manipulation if you don't have the skills. Not sure how I feel about that. It makes more sense now that you have also scrapped tied attributes feeding into minimum starting skill values in favor of tapping.

Nitpicks/typos:
  • p11 Proficiencies third line needs to be cleaned up
  • p19 Attribute fourth line says B6 means Brawn 7
  • I noticed in the glossary it implies you can Tap derived attributes but you can't double dip. That should be pointed out in the Tapping section.
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby higgins » 31 Jan 2017, 10:16

thirtythr33 wrote:Questions about tapping:
Is it to be expected that in any given skill check there is ALWAYS going to be at-least 1 attribute available to be tapped?

Basically. It's how attributes affect things now, but unlike before, isn't solely restricted to attributes.

thirtythr33 wrote:In the Help section, instead of saying "Helping works just like tapping, but isn't tapping", wouldn't it be simpler to say that when Tapping you can additionally Tap into 1 ability of each person helping you?

Image

thirtythr33 wrote:Is the character sheet going to have two listings for each ability to show Rank and Tap /--/

Yes.

thirtythr33 wrote:I like some circumstances for tapping traits (eg, tapping a facial scar when trying intimidate someone) but I don't want them to turn out to play like +2 to coercion traits you pick at character creation.

Agreed.
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby taelor » 31 Jan 2017, 16:07

Don't really see the need to change from OBS to reqs, but ultimately, it makes little difference. (With my Burning Wheel veteran group, i'll probably end up calling the OBS 90% of the time anyway.)

Cascading rolls are derived from Burning Wheel's linked rolls, no? I've always been of the opinion that they were unnecessary given burning wheel's forking rules (similar to tapping), but that seems to be a minority opinion on the BW forums.
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby hector » 31 Jan 2017, 16:21

I actually rather like the linked rolls in Burning Wheel - they're for when a thing is too important to be left to a single die roll (or where finding the point of failure is important), but not quite important enough for a full blown subsystem (or in this game's case, a Full Contest).
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby Agamemnon » 31 Jan 2017, 16:53

thirtythr33 wrote:On Untrained Ability checks:
You could move the "Roll attribute at FTN6 to replace skill or proficiency" rule out of Untrained ability checks and have that option available to all skill checks.
This lets you dodge the issue of sometimes forcing someone to make a worse roll for being more skilled.
(If it is untrained only, someone with Agility 6 medicine 0 is better at surgery than someone with Agility 6 medicine 1)

It depends, really. If they had no other sources of dice - nothing to tap, no drives involved, no help, and no tools, then Agility 6, Medicine 0 is better than having 1 medicine. But the moment they get any bonus dice in there, you're better off with the medicine 1. 3 dice at TN4 are statistically better than 8 dice at TN6. This weirdness really only matters at the first rank or two, but at that point the character probably isn't expecting to beat higher obs anyway.

thirtythr33 wrote:and
It can give you a last ditch chance at hitting higher Reqs now that exploding is removed.
(Rolling Agility 6 FTN6 has a very small chance of succeeding on Req 6, but medicine 3 at BTN4 has 0 chance).

I don't really have a problem with this so much as that it's an edge case that might not be worth including. Req6 is already bumping into heroic territory, so it's not a normal task. If I have Medicine 3, I'd be better off looking for ways to get more dice and hoping for the best than the virtual impossibility of rolling 6 6s. Keep in mind, MoF is a thing.

thirtythr33 wrote:This can't really be abused by putting all your points into attributes and skimping on skills and proficiencies in hopes of always replacing with agility since:

Rolling attributes at FTN6 also has a much greater chance of spectacular failure and
Always rolling attribute means you don't get to Tap in that attribute like you would be able to, had you been rolling a skill.

thirtythr33 wrote:Questions about tapping:
Is it to be expected that in any given skill check there is ALWAYS going to be at-least 1 attribute available to be tapped?

On some tasks, there would be an obvious attribute connection (Agility or Brawn on Athletics checks, for instance), but for the most part it should be something the character has to actively play for. So always? No. In fact, the GM should feel free to be pretty strict on the application. The whole idea with tapping is that the player needs to get creative in how they role-play situations to bring other aspects of their character into it.

thirtythr33 wrote:In the Help section, instead of saying "Helping works just like tapping, but isn't tapping", wouldn't it be simpler to say that when Tapping you can additionally Tap into 1 ability of each person helping you?

The only rub there would be I then have to turn around and go "It's like tapping an additional ability from each person helping you but also it doesn't count as tapping for the sake of your maximum amount of tappings"

I dunno. Is it simpler to say "This is called a different thing but acts in a similar way" or "This is called the same thing but has exceptions from the way the other thing called this works?"

thirtythr33 wrote:Is the character sheet going to have two listings for each ability to show Rank and Tap (like dnd does for attribute and modifier) or are we going to be doing (divide by 3, round up) on the fly?

I'm going to have a little triangle with three circles beside each entry. You fill in the bubbles It will make it easier to see what you actually can tap into at a glance, and it's more visually interesting than writing 6 (2), 5 (1), etc.

thirtythr33 wrote:I like some circumstances for tapping traits (eg, tapping a facial scar when trying intimidate someone) but I don't want them to turn out to play like +2 to coercion traits you pick at character creation.

I'll get more into that when we get the character creation section released, but none of the traits are just going to be <specific ability>+X.

thirtythr33 wrote:Cascading:
Is the idea here to replace Full Contests, the Healing and Infection rules and Sharing Successes (now otherwise completely absent) with one fell swoop? Pretty neato if so. Otherwise, this is just adding unnecessary bloat.

Full Contest is out. I loved the idea of it, but after a whole bunch of testing it became clear it just wasn't working as desired. I'm uncertain on Sharing Successes. I love the idea, not sure if it's worth having another mechanic, though. If it is retained, it will be in the advanced stuff section along with the mechanics for dealing with groups and crowds. Book 1 is the "stuff you need to start playing immediately." Advanced Doing Stuff (title subject to change) will have its own section that will cover ways to manipulate the core mechanic into doing complex things. We're still chewing on the healing and infection rules. We're on the same page, though. I was thinking about applying that there.

thirtythr33 wrote:I would like to have it said in this section somewhere that you have to to choose how many rolls are in the cascade before you start any of the rolls, instead of just making it up as you go along.

By definition, you're not rolling just to be rolling. You need to have broken the thing down into separate tasks. You have to choose what those tasks are before you start rolling.

thirtythr33 wrote:When cascading, can you also Tap and get Help on each roll? With Drives applying, the shear volume of bonuses and second chances you can pile into cascading conflicts might make them trivial to beat.

Yes. Though I'm chewing on whether it would be necessary to clamp down on how things can be handled here, or if it would be enough to just have the GM apply scrutiny to what is being used.

Keep in mind that the most benefit you can get from a cascading roll is +3 dice at MoS5+. That's the equivalent of two people helping on a single task, or one guy with something at 10. It doesn't matter how many rolls you had in the chain, the only one that really matters for the outcome is the last one and that can only get a maximum +3 dice from previous rolls.

Roll A is 99 dice vs Req4. MoS 45... +3 die bonus.
Roll A is 99 dice +3 vs Req4. MoS 47. +3 die bonus.
Last roll is 6 dice, +3 bonus, vs Req4. Statistically 4.5 successes, so MoS1.

There is a definite point of diminishing returns, here.

The only bit that gives me pause is a scenario where Player A has Perform and Player B has oration. The thing looks simple enough, but should Player B be able to help the Peform check with his Oration on the first roll and then Player A then also turn around and help Player B with Perform during his oration? That seems too incestuous for my liking.

One draft of the rules made it explicit that you could do no double-dipping at all in a cascading check.
Unused snippet of draft wrote:Abilities can’t ‘double dip,’ across a cascading check. If an ability is used in any way on a check, whether as the thing being tested, tapped, or used as help, it can’t then be checked, tapped, or used as help on any future checks in that same chain even if being used by different characters. The same characters can help across multiple checks, however, they just have to use different abilities for each check.

<insert example, dude A uses Mercantile as the basis for the first check to cascade into a Stewardship roll by dude B. Neither dude A nor dude B can use Mercantile as a tap or help for the second roll because it’s already come into play. On the other hand, Dude A could always try to help with some other ability if they had one that applied>


I liked this quite a bit for solving the above neatly, but it also then prevents us from using cascading rolls as-written for, say, a foot chase..or some kind of crafting roll over time, etc.

thirtythr33 wrote:It is interesting that you have decided to have Failures increase Req and Successes add dice instead of having +/- Req or +/- dice. I assume this was done just to avoid subtraction and "divide by 0" errors.

My immediate thought was that it's more interesting to make a roll harder than to take away your dice. Now that you mention it, though, it occurs to me that this breaks with an opposed cascading roll as they don't use reqs. Would it be better then to remove dice from the pool (arguably what we do for melee combat already), or make it into some kind of disadvantage? Maybe -Dice is the way to go after all.

thirtythr33 wrote:Also, in case some readers missed it, the glossary confirms new attributes to be Agility, Brawn, Cunning, Perception, Will. With no Intelligence or Social attribute to substitute or tap, I guess you will be defaulting to Cunning for everything from Engineering to Manipulation if you don't have the skills. Not sure how I feel about that. It makes more sense now that you have also scrapped tied attributes feeding into minimum starting skill values in favor of tapping.

One of the major revisions that took place in this edition was the place of attributes in the system. On the one hand, they are no longer the automatic best choice they were before. On the other, they are now a stronger more distinct category of their own.

Attributes are defined by your ability to do things. They don't exist to power skills, nor is it assumed that every skill would automatically get to tap an attribute. The bar for "is this worthy of being an attribute," then, was "under what circumstances would I roll this?"

Social is a dead attribute. There is nothing you would roll for social that isn't a skill. In the old system, it only existed to power skills. Thus, in this edition, it's out. If you want to be a social character, invest in skills.

Intelligence has the same issue. If both Cunning and Intelligence exist, the Cunning is about mental quickness and cleverness, Intelligence is basically just your knowledge and your ability to learn knowledge. Under the old system, Acumen only existed to power knowledge skills. If you want knowledge, then you're investing in skills as all of the knowledge stuff is represented by skills.

We can have this same conversation about manual dexterity as well. Anything that you'd call for a manual dexterity check over is a skill. Thus, it doesn't need to be an attribute.

Where untrained ability use is concerned, I think you're looking at it backwards. You're used to thinking of X as an Intelligence skill because X is associated with intelligence in most systems. With no intelligence attribute you're thinking "Cunning is close enough."

Instead, untrained abilities have to ask "If you don't have the thing you need, what can you use to get there?" Think it through in literal terms. How would you do it in real life?

If you need athletics to do something, there's a pretty good chance raw Brawn or Agility can do it, but less well.

If you're lacking a social skill, how do you try to approximate it's function? If you have a related social skill, you can try to apply what you know from one to another. If that doesn't work, you have to either try and clever your way through it as an intellectual exercise (cunning. If I do X, they will do Y), or just try to strong-arm them with your will.

If you need a Lore skill and you don't have it, what are you doing to make this check? You don't actually have the information or else you'd have the skill, you're making an educated guess. You could lean on a related lore skill, if you had it. You could lean on your Education skill and claim you may have read about the thing in passing.. Or you can go with Cunning and try to figure it out from first principles because Cunning is about being quick-thinking and resourceful. Critical thinking. Being clever.

All of the character's abilities - attributes, skills, and proficiencies - are about the character's capacity to do things. If you don't have the ability that you need, how can you try to accomplish the same thing with another ability?

thirtythr33 wrote:Nitpicks/typos:

Fixed.
thirtythr33 wrote:I noticed in the glossary it implies you can Tap derived attributes but you can't double dip. That should be pointed out in the Tapping section.

I figured I'd put that later when we actually explain derived attributes.
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby Siggi » 31 Jan 2017, 22:26

Well, I don't know, what to say. I just cease to understand, what's it all about.

You had a good, decent system. It was a bit raw, but still... And what've you done? Thrown away the best things that it had, the essential things.

You say, you're streamlining? I say, you're simplifying. And simplification is a bit overrated to say the least. All the best things in life are complicated: books, music, movies, relationships, games... You were trying to do an intuitive, yet sophisticated game, and where are you now? Three kinds of pools that are somehow different but look very alike. How is it less confusing then the elegant Attribute+Skill system? Needless to say about d6 that is so less flexible then d10...

What I cannot understand is the reasons for such profound changes. The system was fine. It needed some tuning, of course, there were a couple of issues. But it all was manageable. Besides, you weren't hoping to write a perfect game, were you? Yes, I remember that thread about issues that concerned Agamemnon. But unfortunately I'm quite sure that the new iteration (a) will not cure all of that issues; (b) will add more issues of it's own, which may appear to be even uglier, and that concerns me.

We'll see what you're going to come up with eventually, and I'll definitely have a look at it (and I even have a functional opinion on how to improve the game that I'll post in another thread), but unfortunately, my enthusiasm is all but gone. I still believe in this project, that is to say in your success, but at this moment I'm not feeling as being this new game's target audience anymore (and the same goes with my group). Alas!
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby thirtythr33 » 01 Feb 2017, 04:46

Agamemnon wrote:It depends, really. If they had no other sources of dice - nothing to tap, no drives involved, no help, and no tools, then Agility 6, Medicine 0 is better than having 1 medicine. But the moment they get any bonus dice in there, you're better off with the medicine 1. 3 dice at TN4 are statistically better than 8 dice at TN6. This weirdness really only matters at the first rank or two, but at that point the character probably isn't expecting to beat higher obs anyway.

Regardless of where the extra dice come from, rolling Attribute at FT6 is better than rolling Skill under the following circumstances:

1) Your attribute pool is larger than your skill pool and either:
a) the Req is higher than your Skill or
b) Your BTN is rolling at TN6

2) Or when your Attribute pool is double your Skill pool and your BTN is rolling at TN5

Knowing these circumstances are the counter intuitive ones, it is easy to come up with some very plausible examples of where the current system punishes you for being skilled at something.

Agamemnon wrote:The only rub there would be I then have to turn around and go "It's like tapping an additional ability from each person helping you but also it doesn't count as tapping for the sake of your maximum amount of tappings"

I dunno. Is it simpler to say "This is called a different thing but acts in a similar way" or "This is called the same thing but has exceptions from the way the other thing called this works?"

What? Why don't you say it IS tapping? You can STRAIGHT UP tap abilities from people helping you. You just have to change the tapping restriction to account for source; when tapping you can tap a maximum of twice from yourself and once from each of your team-mates. This has the neat side effect of now allowing you to tap a helpers trait whereas the current setup doesn't allow it.

Agamemnon wrote:My immediate thought was that it's more interesting to make a roll harder than to take away your dice. Now that you mention it, though, it occurs to me that this breaks with an opposed cascading roll as they don't use reqs. Would it be better then to remove dice from the pool (arguably what we do for melee combat already), or make it into some kind of disadvantage? Maybe -Dice is the way to go after all.

Personally, I would just delete the second paragraph in the Contests section and say that under some circumstances competitors can roll separately against different Reqs and then compare number of successes. In the simple case of a competition where the Req is set by the success of the opponent (like arm wrestling) you just take the Req to be 0.
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby dysjunct » 01 Feb 2017, 10:07

Releasing this on the same day that Blades in the Dark officially dropped is cruel. I can't read everything at once! :?
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby higgins » 01 Feb 2017, 14:54

Siggi wrote:/--/ unfortunately, my enthusiasm is all but gone. I still believe in this project, that is to say in your success, but at this moment I'm not feeling as being this new game's target audience anymore /--/

That's sad to hear. Although there were people who also disagreed to our tonal shift from Song of Steel to 'Bastards, we've actually grown quite a bit as a community since then. We have one major change yet to announce that will (hopefully) blow everyone's minds in a positive way. It's pretty big, and pretty cool at the same time. If it turns out to be not for you, there's always the old draft if you liked that one better. Monetary system and bestiary aside, it's virtually complete.
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby Siggi » 01 Feb 2017, 19:00

higgins wrote:Although there were people who also disagreed to our tonal shift from Song of Steel to 'Bastards, we've actually grown quite a bit as a community since then.


I know exactly who you're talking about. :) :roll: Yeah, that's the truth: I was somewhat sceptical about 'Bastards back then, but later I changed my mind. And now I admit that I was wrong. I came to like the tone of 'Bastards: this mix of recklessness, mischief, brutality, and – at the same time – serious personal drama. Or not too serious. )

And here we go again: now I'm ranting about 'Scoundrel. But this time I have a good reason (at least, I believe I do): you're substituting something that looks flat and awkward for quite good system that had much potential.

That said, I'm still not giving up on 'Ba...Scoundrels. ) And I'm really curious about that big announcement that you've mentioned. Hope it won't be long in coming.

higgins wrote:If it turns out to be not for you, there's always the old draft if you liked that one better.


Thank you for this one, I really appreciate that! I was going to run a 'Bastards game within a month or so. I'll probably post a report after the game notwithstanding that the system has changed. In fact, now I'm thinking of trying both systems with my group, as I wonder, what they're going to like better. :)
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby higgins » 02 Feb 2017, 07:10

Siggi wrote:I know exactly who you're talking about. :) :roll:

:twisted:

Siggi wrote:And here we go again: now I'm ranting about 'Scoundrel. But this time I have a good reason (at least, I believe I do): you're substituting something that looks flat and awkward for quite good system that had much potential.

The inherent problem with sharing just a slice of the overall system is that you guys don't get to see the big picture. And the Scrivener text dump compared to a proper layout probably won't help the impression either. I'll be honest, I'm still missing the dots, but this change allowed us to scrap a lot of subsystems in favor of a more unified mechanic. Helping is now essentially tapping, not a dedicated thing you need to know mechanics for. Our several attempts at monetary systems that all felt tacked on now ended up essentially seamless (in fact, you can tap your skills into purchasing rolls, representing your character's insight into what they're buying; or just their general savvy if you're tapping into Mercantile). So, not only do we have what is essentially haggling (completely absent before), most skills can be used for that purpose. I could go on, but you'll see soon enough :)
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby Benedict » 02 Feb 2017, 13:20

higgins wrote:The inherent problem with sharing just a slice of the overall system is that you guys don't get to see the big picture. And the Scrivener text dump compared to a proper layout probably won't help the impression either.

Couldn't agree more. That's why I opt to lurk and not comment yet. Endless debates without hard facts and only ifs and whats to go by is not helping at all. :)
higgins wrote:I'll be honest, I'm still missing the dots, but this change allowed us to scrap a lot of subsystems in favor of a more unified mechanic.

If it's any consolation, I miss the dots too. :)

That aside, I trust in your judgement guys and wait for the first draft™.
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby higgins » 02 Feb 2017, 18:18

Benedict wrote:If it's any consolation, I miss the dots too. :)

Anyone know a good dot-buddies 4life gif or something? :D
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Re: Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Postby myanbar » 02 Feb 2017, 20:07

Typo on the first paragraph of page 1
First, Song of Swords, then Band of Bastards

You people were Song of Steel, not Song of Swords.

Another typo, page 11.
default to a proficiency in that category at half it's normal value

The "it's" should be "its"
Same typo on page 16
made independently, with it's own Req

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