– A lost crown, and consistency in design of a game

Posted: October 7th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: News | No Comments »

This thought all began with a royal crown, now long gone from the head of the monarch it was made for, and instead lost to some horrid cult.

I was re-working the adventure “Through the Eyes of Madness” for a Spooky October-session of playtesting when I came across the mention of the Seafarer’s Crown. This is an item the characters can find in the game, and it has rules for its magical effects. This is where my rabbit-hole opened.

The rules for magical artifacts were decent in the last iteration of the rules, but did not survive the transition into the current edition, so I needed to come up with a way to implement the magical artifacts into the 15th edition.

The Wavestone Regalia. By Peter Edgar

Rather than just coming up with a way to wing it and get on with writing the adventure, this actually ground the entire effort to a halt, and I had to revisit the original article where the Seafarer Crown was introduced; a specially-written article for the Swedish gaming magazine Fenix.

The crown was part of the Wavestone Regalia, a series of adventure-hooks meant to start characters off on a series of quests to gather the entire collection of the lost regalia, but also serve as a little spice of other adventures, as the regalia was scattered through a handful of adventures and locations mentioned in other adventures still. It was a fun article, but the rules in it are now of course outdated.

After reworking the article it became apparent that I needed a new set of rules for magical artifacts for this version of the rules. This was planned for the second expansion of the game, and that is most likely where it will be published, but I still needed the rules working and working consistently so that I didn’t make mistakes when adding magical artifacts to the game as I progress towards that point.

So I sat down and rewrote the Sphere of Artifacts, to harmonize it with the ways the current edition of the rules work. I had to whittle 20 effects of the original rules down to a most concise 9, had to make the rules work without secondary attributes like the old edition relied on, and so on.

And of course, when that was done I had to get the other big piece of artifact-rule out of the way; the way to randomly generate magical artifacts, which was part of the post-apocalyptic adventure “In Glorious Ashes” which was written for a Lin Con-convention some years back. That task wasn’t very easy either, as contained not just those rules, but an entire adventure-setting that needed to be re-worked into the current edition of the game. I am currently hip-deep in those broken ruins with its scavengers, bandits and monster, working my way though it. Once I am done, however, I will have a very solid foundation for balancing magical artifacts that any player can encounter in any subsequent adventure or scenario, even though the rules for making your own artifacts might not be available for some time.

 

Why is this important though? Because of consistency in game-design.

There is this game that we played a lot back in 80s and 90s. It has rules for creating your own magical weapons. You cast “Enchant weapon” at some level, and the weapon becomes that much more deadly. “Enchant weapon 1” adds 1 to the damage of the weapon, whereas “Enchant weapon 4” adds 4 to the damage. You then add permanence so that the effect does not get consumed when you use it, and then a third effect called Nexus, so that you don’t have to ‘pay’ for it with your soul’s power over and over. It is a neat and consistent system that makes it clear what you can do and how.

And then there is an adventure where the bad-guy, a sorcerer, has a sword with the description “The sword is magical and does double damage“. There is no way to cast such an effect on any item, and certainly is not an “Enchant weapon“-effect as described in the rules. This has bothered a lot of players, and bothered me when I read it, played it, and tried to figure it out.

The conclusion I came to was that if a piece of magic, skill, ability or something else should be available to the monsters and bad-guys it should, if within reason, be available in the same way, to the player characters. Why would the world make exceptions for the player characters and make it impossible for them to learn and use the same skills that others in the world could use? So when writing this adventure I have set out to try to be as consistent as possible, meaning that if a bad-guy wears armour, that armour is just as effective for him/her/it as it would be for a player character, that the sword does as much damage, that the spells work in the same way, and so on and so forth.

And this brings us back to the Seafarer Crown. I could certainly have written some rule for the crown which would have made it work in the adventure, but not be the same as the rules for similar artifacts in the next, making it pretty ad hoc, which would make it disconnected and ultimately useless. I don’t think players should have to learn new rules for the same things in each and every adventure, but expect the world to remain consistent, so that they can focus on the fun of the game instead.

That’s how a single crown lead to a re-work of mechanics for magical artifacts all across the entirety of Lociam, past, present and future.



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