House rules for more power and less fiddling

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Uli
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House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by Uli » Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:46 pm

Though Earthdawn has shed many of the burdening atavisms from the dark ages of pen&paper rpgs over its editions, I still have a need to simplify and streamline. :) Here are my house rules.
  • 1) Karma is a permanent bonus d6 to all appropriate talents & tests except those attained by Versatility. => So more dice-power to the adepts, making even lower circles visibly superior.

    2) These bonus d6 can be rerolled in a number of tests per day equal to the species' Karma modifier (e. g. Windlings can reroll the Karma d6 in six different tests). => So players still have an option to put in more effort or save their characters' asses.

    3) All strain is reduced by one. => No one dies/faints from dodging (or holding threads :mrgreen:) which was always weird to me and talents can be used basically all the time. Strong talents like Riposte still hurt a bit however. This streamlines the game and makes adepts more remarkable again.

    4) No training time except for advancing circles and leaning new disciplines. => If you have enough lp, just buy it whenever - even midcombat. Again streamlining, but I like the idea of sudden epiphanies in the relation to one's discipline. A sudden increase of power has a nice anime feel, too.
I also use the option that modifier are just numerical and do not change the step for a test. Basically I'm using the Exalted approach for empowering the characters and stressing the high in high fantasy. :)

What do you think? Do they serve their purpose? Suggestions or critique? And what are your own house rules? :?:

Jason
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Re: House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by Jason » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:26 pm

The Karma change weakens the value of Karma. Also doesn't address class abilities that are 'spend a karma to do x'
Strain reduction -> ??? not sure, my take on this was always a trade off/resource management
LP spending -> is this for skills also? The time difference between talents and skills is part of the difference between the two
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The Undying
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Re: House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by The Undying » Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:13 pm

The main thing is that your changes work for you and your vision of the game, regardless of how others feel about them.

If you're really interested in input:
Uli wrote:
Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:46 pm
1) Karma is a permanent bonus d6 to all appropriate talents & tests except those attained by Versatility. => So more dice-power to the adepts, making even lower circles visibly superior.
I'm guessing that you're starting at low circle. At low circle, you're giving as much as a 50% increase to every single Talent test - a Step ~7 step immediately goes to ~11. Seems like this would completely destroy your ability to balance enemies against it to provide a challenge while not insta-killing your players on hit. I see a huge problem with your avoidance Talents (Avoid Blow, Steel thought, Resist Taunt) - the Step on these significantly outpace the enemy's attack Step, potentially making the players untouchable except do to dice randomness. As you move into higher circles, you may end up giving as much as a 100% increase to Talents, depending on how some of the Discipline bonuses line up.

You've also trivialized the idea of Karma, which is that it's a nitro boost for when you want it or need it. When it's always added, you've removed one way that you, as a GM, can add drama to the game: pitting your players against someone slightly stronger than them so that they REALLY need to push through - via Karma - but still have to be smart about when to use it.

Lastly, I'm assuming you're doing this for everyone? If you're doing it for PCs only, that's way over slanted for the players. If you ARE doing it for everyone, keep in mind that later in the game, you're going to be having enemies with high Karma Step. These guys are already heavy hitters, with tests often above the player's. If you stack on their Step ~10 Karma on top of that, you're going to pulp your players.
Uli wrote:
Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:46 pm
2) These bonus d6 can be rerolled in a number of tests per day equal to the species' Karma modifier (e. g. Windlings can reroll the Karma d6 in six different tests). => So players still have an option to put in more effort or save their characters' asses.
Your mention of Karma modifier points out a separate good point: giving your full Karma bonus to every applicable test destroys one of the balance pillars designed into the system. Races have different Karma modifiers, meaning that at higher Circles, some races have significantly more Karma than others. That's a trade off for other benefits the race receives. These Karma changes complete throw that balance out.
Uli wrote:
Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:46 pm
3) All strain is reduced by one. => No one dies/faints from dodging (or holding threads :mrgreen:) which was always weird to me and talents can be used basically all the time. Strong talents like Riposte still hurt a bit however. This streamlines the game and makes adepts more remarkable again.
This has trivialized a high design space and made some Disciplines that are already fairly strong way too strong. Strain is meant to be a limiter, which helps build drama, and you've lost that. Again, more than anything, I'm pointing at the avoidance Talents - when you can just avoid everything, you'd try to avoid everything. Also, again, I'm assuming that you're extending this to enemies. Seems like battles would drag on forever.

Lys
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Re: House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by Lys » Mon Feb 27, 2017 11:57 pm

Decreasing strain costs by one shouldn't affect game balance over much in specific encounters, but it will alter the pace of encounters. Because in my experience the main effect strain has is not to make adepts stronger or weaker in any particular battle, but rather to affect their endurance across multiple battles. To illustrate, picture a type of creature that the Warrior can reliably defeat, but only by going all out with her talents, such that at the end of the fight she's still standing but almost out of health. With strain costs the Warrior is likely to only be able to face one such creature per day. Without them she may be able to face two. Either way she'll still reliably win the first fight.

In short, if you want adepts to not wear themselves out after only one or two fights, decreasing strain costs like that is a great way to do it. There are however a few caveats. One important one is that if there is no cost to using dodge talents like Avoid Blow, Resist Taunt, and Steel Thought, then they will be used every single time. It doesn't matter if the opponent rolled a 32 and your step is only 12, if it doesn't cost anything you might as well roll. This doesn't speed up the game, it slows it down. So while "reduce all strain costs by one" can work as a house rule, it's best if it exempts dodge talents.

The stuff you're doing with karma has a fair number of issues as already pointed out. You should probably rethink your implementation. In particular high karma modifier races really get the short end of the stick here.

Uli
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Re: House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by Uli » Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:57 am

The Undying wrote:
Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:13 pm
The main thing is that your changes work for you and your vision of the game, regardless of how others feel about them.
Oh, they work brilliantly. Still, input is usually nice. :)

The power boost doesn't worry me. Quite the contrary, I welcome very strong PCs. The house rules apply for NPCs too, so weaker adept opponents are less of a challenge, while non-magical opposition is a piece of cake. This feels right for my vision of Earthdawn.
Yes, the defense got intentionally stronger, as I considered an often weak combat option before.
This doesn't speed up the game, it slows it down.
This very slightly increases the number of dice rolls in my sessions. However, the close combat specialists (currently the troll troubadour...) already skilled, uh, talented Avoid Blow high enough that they would conceivably try to avoid almost any attack anyway even without the reduced strain. And being able to risk two to three fights is a good thing in my book.
You've also trivialized the idea of Karma . . .
I run games with very little competition and a more cooperative narration style between me and the players. I generally don't kill PCs without consent and I tend to reward players' initiative with few dice rolling. I want my players to succeed and since I only play with a select group of cool gamers (tm), we have a solid group contract about what flies or rather feels narratively good.
So normally the question isn't if the players use their game mechanic resources cunningly enough to achieve their aims; :arrow: it is how they will co-create a dramatic scene which allows them to extend the legend of their characters on the basis of their abilities to the narrative benefit of all. :lol:
If you stack on their Step ~10 Karma on top of that, you're going to pulp your players.
Good point, yet irrelevant to me. Even before my house rules, which I started to implement with the very appreciated 3rd edition, I never used the monstrous demon karma points. It was never necessary to play their resources in the hardest way possible to create an atmosphere of challenge and threat.
Races have different Karma modifiers, meaning that at higher Circles, some races have significantly more Karma than others.
That balance was IMO hugely skewed from the beginning. So I have little care to reduce the importance of racial karma modifiers. The karma strong races always felt overpowered (except maybe orks), so it not just saves everyone the notetaking, it nerfs the damn humans and windlings. :mrgreen:
Strain is meant to be a limiter, which helps build drama, and you've lost that.
In my experience, the stakes of game mechanical limitations inspire less enjoyment in my groups than our verbal cooperative creation of dramatic scenes. Limits rarely appeal to me and I stress again that my group mostly shares my approach. :)

Tattered Rags
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Re: House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by Tattered Rags » Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:22 pm

It looks like you've thought through the ramifications of your house rules and deemed what works and doesn't within your group. It's especially helpful that you have a cadre of excellent players who work to make a good story, not just bash in the next enemy for loot. This smooths over many of the rough edges unbalanced house rules can have.

This discussion hopefully lets others see the problems and benefits of these rules and helps them decide which, if any, they want for their games.
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Uli
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Re: House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by Uli » Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:40 pm

Well, if the whole group enjoys hack & slay, then that's fine, too. ;) Strong simulation, boardgame-like tactics with deep rule usage, and competition among/between players and the GM just aren't for me.

I've had groups for which these house ruled would never work, especially the Cardassian counselor that always aimed phasers set to max at enemies' head... :?

ragbasti
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Re: House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by ragbasti » Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:15 pm

I am certainly one of those players from whom these rules would never work. Not only do these house rules significantly alter gameplay, as far as I am concern they also break the fluff of earthdawn.
Still thought it to be a good read though.

Slimcreeper
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Re: House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by Slimcreeper » Tue Feb 28, 2017 6:41 pm

It sounds like your table has found a nice balance - that's awesome!

Not that this is a thing I'm planning on doing, but what if instead of increasing damage strain decreased the Unconscious Rating, resetting at the next recovery test? You could even have a damage tracker/unconscious tracker on the side of your paper with numbers from .... 1-100. Put a purple paperclip on the current Uncon rating and a green one on the current damage. Each time you take strain, you lower the purple one and each time you take damage you slide the green one up. When they meet your character is KO'd.

Uli
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Re: House rules for more power and less fiddling

Post by Uli » Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:29 pm

That's a great way of keeping track. :) And resetting strain after combat or with the next recory test would be a great house rule, if I used normal strain. :)

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