Friday, June 24, 2011

Conflict No. 5: Special Cards

From what I hear, the jury is out until this weekend or the next, when people actually try the system.  At present, it hasn't exactly stunned the D&D blogger world.  People have given me some considerate praise (thanks all around to everyone, I mean that sincerely), but if I were to judge the response in terms of market surveying, then yes, I made the right decision in not putting money behind this thing.

It might be a grass roots thing, with people getting interested once they test it ... who knows?  To that aim, however, I am pushing myself to get a printable set of cards up today, hopefully by 6 PM Eastern Time.  Then if anyone wants to get the set printed (there will be 19 pages, or 171 cards, suitable for a typical party of five players) tonight or tomorrow, they can.  Card stock is best, 100-110 weight.  It'll cost a pretty penny if you have someone else do it, so shop around.  The lowest price I found was $1.10 a page, but that's a shop I know in Montreal, and the quality is about 80% of very good.  (I got the cut for free, too, since I'm a friend, but it has to be mailed out to me).

A note about that (something I should probably say again, but I might forget): I wouldn't exactly say the cards are "publication ready."  I hurried a little this week, so there might be a spelling error or something worse.  I'd have a look at the cards if you can, if you're going to have someone else print them.  Let me know and I'll fix them ASAP and get the corrected copy up.  People, if you love your D&D brothers and sisters, you might want to help me by checking them yourself.  (Incidentally, the word 'defence' on the images below has been fixed already).

On to a quick discussion of the more unusual cards, then.

These cards were created to compensate for those characters who find they have a low charisma or intelligence, and are therefore short on action cards.  Its not to suggest a character can't "lie" if they don't have the card, but if they want a bonus for lying, they have to sacrifice a defence card.  Since you need action cards to pile up modifiers, it pushes people without high natural stats into a less upstanding manner of discourse ... which I think works for me in the game.

Sex doesn't generally mix with D&D, but my players loved this card as soon as they saw it.  The notes at the bottom are compressed for space.  It means generally that the greater your success with the card, the more expectation your listener will have.  If you try to seduce and you roll an 11 against resistance (and there are no modifiers), then your listener is going to want to go neck somewhere.  If you roll a 12, your listener will want you to go find somewhere private for fifteen or thirty minutes.  And if you roll a 13, well, the rest of the party just won't see you until tomorrow morning.

Of course the listener might want to reduce what they expect of you by the use of defence cards, but the DM might not want to have them do that.

One element you might want to impose is that the card is only effective against the opposite sex, or - alternately - against the same sex when the proclivity is there.  Otherwise you might want to impose an immediate insulted & violent response ... this is up to how you run your world.

This card was never intended as the sort of thing that would be used in ordinary discourse ... indeed, it is here to open the player's mind to the possibility of others interactive rules for specific circumstances.  Here, the effect of a bard upon a room full of relaxed people.  This, too, can be a conflict, if the audience doesn't like strangers and the bard has to win them over.

The tendency would be to think that the bard should get extra bonuses as the bard increases in level, but I would argue that what makes an artist better is not combat level, but experience levels.  The gaining of experiences, and therefore modifiers, would compensate for the bard's increased ability with game play.  For example, once the bard had taken steps to join a guild, that would prove an increase in the bard's play and thus a better result when telling a story to the bar.

In answer to the query about the the number of cards indicated.  The notes here are just to say that an individual with an 18 wisdom should have 3 cards for use.  It does not mean that when the card is played the user should get three more.  Players with higher wisdoms, therefore, are more likely able to quell others when they get insulted or violent.

This has to be my favorite card.  The means in which it is gained requires that the player must be trying to convince at least two listeners; that in rolling 2d6 that box cars are rolled twice in succession (that is, a 12 once, and then once again), and that both rolls result in overcoming the listener's resistance.

The chance of rolling 12 twice in a row on 2d6 in 1 in 1296.  It would really suck if one of the listeners were able to pull out the necessary resistance cards to spoil the player winning the card.

Where it says that any die roll may be re-rolled, that means anywhere on the table (I had intended it with regards to the combat system only ... but a DM might rule otherwise).  The re-roll only affects one die, however, and not both dice.  Thus, if an opponent rolled a '1' and a '6,' the 6 could be discarded in favor of another roll.  Also, the roll need not be against the holder of the luck card.  It can be any die that is played in the luck holder's company ... a friend's die against someone else, or an opponents die against a friend could be re-rolled also.

The card works particularly well in conjunction with pretending to be a member of the guard or some such (see the 'Heraldic Sign' card), since any '3' that was rolled could be mitigated by the luck card.

The key element for both these cards is that, upon choosing to do so, the defender can simply throw out the successful roll of an opponent altogether.  I included these cards because I wanted there to be the possibility of such stubbornness on the part of the listener that they would need to be succeeded against twice.  This would make it difficult to win a conflict with a high official, a noble, a general and so on, since they'd have a high resistance to begin with ... and when that resistance failed, you'd have blown your best modifier/action combination by having it just dismissed out of hand.

The equivalent ability in the hands of someone with a low intelligence just seemed obvious.  And I do understand the irony of associating someone who is very stubborn and intelligent with someone who is very stupid.  Neither are inclined to listen.

This card sticks out like a sore thumb, since it is used neither to influence nor intimidate others.  It is designed solely for use in situations where the individual might want to get one round's advantage against an opponent.  It is the equivalent of pointing over your enemies shoulder and shouting, "What on earth is that?", whereupon your enemy looks and you take off running; or attempt to surprise by attacking; or shove him off a cliff; or whatever use you can make of it.

The card can be modified as other cards.  It's effect is fleeting at best - only one round.  It too is here to suggest that a wider set of cards could be developed for use in special circumstances.

So, that's what I see that obviously needs discussion.  Are there any other cards I've missed?


Zzarchov said...

Question on Fortitude:

At 12-15 wisdom it show "1 fortitude card" but the requirement of the card is that the player have 11 wisdom.

Does that mean the player gets 1 additional card at 12, or is a typo and it should either have a requirement of 12 wisdom or show 1 card at 11-15?

Alexis said...

It's a typo. I'll fix the card.

Arduin said...

I don't have any questions, because you have indeed explained everything quite well, and it is indeed a very good, intuitive system.

It's fantastic, I wish I had come up with it myself.

I also wish you liked your own idea more. Alexis, I'm not sure if you realise this, but you're being something of a buzzkill.

Five months with no word on this thing, and y'bring it out to "I don't care much for it, here ya go" ?! Conflict! deserves better.

The system is readily expandable, but more importantly, is able to be -personalized-. I was walking to work, thinking about it, and it immediately presents the idea of personal quest rewards, small cards about incidents coming up through play.

For a group that made consistent use of them, I can see the cards expanding over time to include rewards reminiscent of past glories, increasing camaraderie and so on. They could, and would, be a certificate of -fun-.

That said, I think you expected too much of them. Ultimately, you created a subsystem for D&D. Much the same as if you'd created a system for Stamp Collection, it is limited in that the players will not always need stamps .

The idea is great. The implementation is subtly brilliant, effective, and so on. But as you yourself noted before,players will not always need or use them.

I don't see this as a bad thing, especially since, honestly, most players are not accustomed to social manuevering at all. Nor DMs. A consistent Social combat ruleset paves the way for that to change.

Personally, I look forward to using it. I'd love to see you expand on it with new cards, love to see what cards your historical NPCs would have, etc. etc.

Glad you posted it at last, and I'm looking forward to what comes next for you.

SupernalClarity said...

I have a question, Alexis:

I was considering the other day a situation from one of my own games in which a character tried to argue with a racist city guard. I gave the guard a bonus to resist the character's attempts at diplomacy simply because he would be inclined to view anything the character said in a negative light.

Is this already accounted for in your rules, or (if not) would you be open to the addition of a modifier card for something like that? I ask not because I think that you made an oversight when designing your system, but because I'm really curious how you feel about new cards being created for other potential modifiers (not just racism, but anything else the DM deemed worthy enough of card-ship).

Alexis said...

Quite right, quite right Supernal. With all of this, I forgot I had meant to add an appendix to handle this issue.

There are hundreds of possible modifiers that could be created, from the example that you mention and all kinds of special circumstances. Phobias, for instance, or paranoia, or maternal concern for a child, or hatred of another country, or resentment built up over time, etc., etc.

Once again, the DM must make the system their own, imposing a resistance bonus (avoid adding action modifiers if possible) to cover things like racist hatred and the like.

The chief problem with creating the cards is not the result, but the means of getting the card. For example, one might have a "Taunt" card that would allow you to cause a violent action when you wanted one. But what does a player accomplish in order to obtain such a card? Why do you have one when I don't?

It's easier to apply a general modifier for special situations rather than create a card. I had an idea of an adventure where you had to get info out of someone who wouldn't talk to the party, so you have to talk to his family and succeed in making them talk to the man in just the way that he finally reveals the secret that exposes one of his family, etc. This sort of thing could be managed by imposing modifiers on the various family members, such as saying the sister hates being reasoned with or that the brother knows when he's being lied to.

You get the idea. There are lots of ways to expand outwards - I suggest you run with them.

Franz said...

@ Alexis: Just a point of clarification.

So in order to obtain one of the "sacrifice" cards like BEG or SEDUCE, one must permanently sacrifice a modifier or action card, in effect exchanging one card for another? And then ever thereafter your character loses the ability to play one but gains the ability to play the other?

For example, if I (as a player) decide it doesn't matter to me if my Bard ever "tells a story," he can drop the card for something more flavorful (and perhaps more universally applicable) like LIE instead? And then for the remainder of the character's career the bard will have no ability to tell a story (well, at least not with the modifiers inherent in the actual card, TELL A STORY)?

And does it matter that, say, one drops the charismatic modifier ILL FAVOR (for Charisma <7) in order to take the mechanically stronger SEDUCE card? Forgive my chauvinism, but it would appear this would more readily work with the feminine gender (giving up any semblance of chastity to overcome her less-than-favorable charms)...why should an uncouth and slovenly lecher have suddenly more influence with the ladies?

Just trying to get everything straight in my head. Thanks!

Alexis said...


It's funny that no one ever pointed out the Ill-Favored vs. Seduce card imbalance before. You're right, of course, and I'd rule that an exception has to be imposed for that card. You can't exchange "Ill-favored" for "Seduce."

Regarding "Tells a Story" vs. "Lie" ... in a way, a lie is a story, so the effect would be that particular bard developed a desire to tell only TALL stories; which works just as well.

The lie can be used to affect a whole room of people, too.

Yes, the change is permanent, but so long as that's understood from the outset, I don't see how that's a problem. As you say, the bard could still continue telling stories, only he or she wouldn't get the story telling bonus. No big deal. The bard would still have a minumum 15 charisma, and would therefore be heap full of persuasion, beauty and jesting ... so I don't see the bard suffering much from not getting that additional +1.

It is up to the player to make the choice. I can't very well have the player switching back and forth from action to action, can I? That would give in effect both cards. So you pick your strength and you go with it - that's the character you give yourself.

Granted, it doesn't allow changing your character ... perhaps some kind of reboot/default setting could be achieved through a grand epiphany of some kind - but it better be a serious epiphany and it better be pretty grand.