Thursday, October 3, 2013

Erratic Attempts At Rule Writing

For some reason, I find coming up with rules, or keeping them in my head, to be fairly simple. Writing them out so that the least precise reader can understand them ... that I find to be very hard. I tend to see through writing to grasp the author's intention. I am constantly taken by surprise however, when this fails to work in reverse.

It's my fault, yes. I concede this. The only thing I can do to get better at it is to practice, practice, practice.

So please, tell me what's wrong with this obviously inadequate effort below, so I can make the language clearer (these three pages open as images):





UPDATE:

An alternate, better lay-out to page three in keeping with Giordanisti's suggestion in the comments. Sometimes, I just need someone to poke me and make me think harder.

13 comments:

Alan Harrison said...

Ok by me. when you ruthlessly adhere to doctrine of "rolling to hit" I'll take an issue maybe, but your movement rules are elegant.

Giordanisti said...

I'll go through this page by page.

Page 1: The formula for weight allowance is in the incorrect place relative to its explanation.

I highly suggest having the example of the healthy individual's weight allowance come after the explanation of how AP is affected by encumbrance, rather than before.

The sentence "...so much so that their AP would be reduced 80% (1 point)." makes it seem like the 80% reduction is a 1 point reduction, rather than a 4 point reduction. Try "...would be reduced by 80%, to 1 AP."

Page 2: Under "Running", the sentence "...have expended at least half their AP in movement, rounded to the nearest whole hex" reads better if the word "number" replaces the word "hex". That could just be personal preference, however.

Page 3: There's a typo in the first whole paragraph, "In effect he moves forward, THEN breaks into a couple of short..."

The way you have organized this page is confusing. Usually when splitting text into two columns, the column is continued to the bottom of the page, regardless of interruptions like images. You have restarted the column at the top once the image appears, and made two more at the bottom. I read this incorrectly the first time through because of that.

General Clarity/Questions: Within an individual's turn, does the order of the AP spending matter? For instance, if I walk 3 hexes, then bend to uproot a potato (2 APs), can I run in the next round? I have spent half my APs, but there's a clear interruption in my movement.

Do creatures that move quickly but have ordinary reflexes spend movement APs in the same way as humans? A horse is considerably faster than a human, but shouldn't have more APs. Do their movements cost less? Do they have even greater Improved Runs? You might have been planning to cover this later, though.

Other than those points, the rules themselves were clear. Love the illustrations, they're helpful and have a nice aesthetic.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Regarding layout - in fact, there are two schools on this, Giordanisti, and I have a shelf full of books that used the formula I employed ... but YES, I angsted over that. The problem is the image is inconvenient, and one way out would be to fill the whole bottom of the page with it, and start a new page with improved running.

What's needed is a statement that says that half your AP you've expended the previous round has to be at the END of the round. But that is the sort of thing I mean; any IDIOT can figure out that no, you can't walk, dig up a potato, then run ... we can play a thousand games without rules, and everyone can inherently guess at that. But write a rule, and some power-playing bastard will think of a way to twist the purpose like a lawyer.

That's why the DM is there to say, "NO you can't you dumb fucker." But thanks for the warning, Giordanisti. It is for rooting out such bombs (pun!) that I posted these pages.

more to come.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Perhaps the solution to the horse AP rule is to argue that some animals can burst forward with the 1/2 or 1/3 AP cost per hex, whereas humans in the game cannot. Therefore, the horse would not have more AP, but would be able to launch itself 15 hexes away in one round. And a 1/4 cost per hex or better is obviously an option for some creatures.

I shall think on that.

In general, they're great criticisms, Giordanisti. Much appreciated. Love point by point grammar critique in these matters.

Mike said...

Let me state the obvious, the degree and clarity of explanation you need depends upon your audience.
First a comment on the rules, they require a two-variable calculation involving multiplication and division. The resultant numbers are often 3 digits. The movement rules require tracking the movement through several phases, the AP expended or “base rule,” can change with phase. In addition, the tracking of AP is complicated by making reference to fractional AP.
In short, for a player to want to read these rules, they will need to feel comfortable with that level of detail management for the actions described.
In all likelihood the player that is excited by this level of detail will have no problem reading rules like you do. They are fine as is and the graphics help immensely and add a nice feel.
In my experience most players, and I count myself as one although my own rule designs in the past have been just as detailed, will trust your general explanations of the gist of the rules and what you are trying to achieve. As these rules appeared to be based on a well-reasoned approach to how the real world works, the players can draw upon actual experience to know how your game world works, thus there is no need to get into the details for these players.
Expect in most cases for your players to ask you if they can run there or have enough AP to move there. I’ve also had many problems with players, and myself for that matter, tracking encumbrance. Just found adding up the pounds (or kilos) tedious for little benefit over a well thought out slot system. Consider having a base easy to use slot system, that has them carrying somewhat less. If they want to carry more they have to do the calculation to justify it. I found the carrot is typically the only way to get players to track their own encumbrance.
Now there may be a subset of “rules lawyer” types in these players, that is where pulling out these rules could be handy.
In sum, written detailed rules (when the author sits at the table) in a RPG serve but three purposes to me: (1) to maximize advantages that arise from the rules construct that are not apparent from common experience or counter to common experience; (2) to prevent disagreements between GM and player about what happened or could happen under the rules; and (3) as a torah of your ideas to keep things consistent (and add your own flavor) from game to game.
Your rules as written do all three.

jbeltman said...

Hi Alexis,

it all seems quite clear and well written but since you asked...

The formula for calculating weight allowance is, seemingly randomly, inserted into the last paragraph on the first page. The sentence referencing it is in the first paragraph of the second column and doesn't appear to reference anything. "The formula calculating maximum weight allowance is as follows:"

The last paragraph describing encumbrance has the details as text in the paragraph ("A creature is considered 'encumbered'..."). I thought it would be nice to have that information presented as a table. It would make it quicker and easier to refer to but the table itself would be so small I am not sure.
Carrying: 0-1/3 1/3-2/3 2/3-5/6 5/6-max
AP: 5 4 3 2

It would be nice if players had a box to write that on their character sheet so they didn't have to calculate it all the time.

It would be interesting to have AP modified by dexterity.

The second page could use a little bit of tweaking format wise I think. Reduce the white space below figure 1 to get the "180 degrees." into the first column. Reduce the white space above and below figure 2 as well if needed to get the entire third paragraph of "Running" onto the second page.

I found the third paragraph under "Running" to be a bit hard and had to read it a couple of times. I will attempt a rewrite with my understanding.
"First and foremost, the first two hexes (1/2 AP per hex) covered while running must be done at a run (see figure 3). Additionally, the creature cannot continue to move forward at normal speed during the round they wish to start running and then finish the round at a run. These rules exist for no other reason than to make calculating movement more practical."

I don't see how this makes it easier. Could you just say "It takes three hexes of normal movement before a character can start running. After that their movement changes to two hexes per AP until they stop running."

I also found the layout on the third page confusing as I was used to reading down the columns from the previous two pages.

It was a bit surprising reading about Albert without any introduction. I don't think he needs to be named. "...for each hex moved through."

Spelling mistake "..., the breaks into a couple of short..."

Also "... in running is that is must ..."

Under Improved Running you say "In order to fast run" after already calling it Improved running and triple speed. Maybe just call it sprinting? e.g. "Sprinting is running at an increased speed,... In order to sprint, the ..."

When you say "... the participant must have expended all of their AP..." I don't know when they should have done that. Perhaps add "immediately prior" to the end?

Stopping and figure 5 are not included.

jbeltman said...

Can it be summed up like this?
A creature can walk their AP in hexes per round.
If they walk three hexes one after another they can then start running.
Running doubles their movement to two hexes per AP. They can only turn 30 degrees.
Once running they have to run at least two hexes before stopping.
If they have expended their AP in running movement they can start sprinting. They can only turn 15 degrees.
Sprinting triples their movement to three hexes per AP.

It would be nice to have a little table for AP modifiers for terrain.

I was thinking how this relates to sprinting (e.g. the 100m event). It takes a person 12 seconds to start running. The 100m would be finished in that time. To run 100 yards for an unencumbered person would take 25' first round + 50' (running speed) second round + 2AP (30') third round = 36 seconds (say 30 seconds). Normally these rules will be used for a humanoid with clothes, boots, backpack, weapons, armour etc so maybe that is reasonable but at some point they are going to be used by someone naked and running for their life, or a fur bikini clad barbarian and they will wonder why they are running so slow. I would love to start with a lightly clothed, unencumbered person being able to run 100' in one round then go from there.

Another possible change for running would be that it would take 6 minus your AP to accelerate. So if you have 5AP it takes you 1AP to accelerate to running, encumbered (4AP) it takes 2AP, heavily encumbered (3AP) takes 3AP, fully encumbered (2AP) takes 4AP to accelerate. So lightly encumbered people can speed up (and stop?) quicker than heavily encumbered people.

I was wondering what else you can use AP for? You obviously could continue on but if this were part of a larger document I would expect a short table of actions and their AP cost before moving onto Simple Movement, perhaps with page numbers for ease of reference.

This seems like a small part of a larger work. Should I be looking it up on your wiki?

Regards,

John.

Homer2101 said...

This is a really neat system. Has it been playtested?

Some comments and questions:

(1) Is it possible to turn into a table the breakdown of encumbrance levels provided on page 1, right column, third paragraph from the top? Tables are easier to read and reference.

(2) How does action point accumulation work? Does it only occur while performing an action requiring more action points than the actor possesses, for example while casting a spell which requires 10 action points? Or can an actor not do anything for two rounds and accumulate 10 action points?

(3) As it's currently written, an actor can spend half of his action points in any manner, in order to run the following round. Why not just require an actor to walk at least two hexes before being able to run? Ditto for improved running.

(4) It's not clear whether or not an actor must, after running the minimum two hexes, spend the entire remainder of the round walking in a straight line. And unclear why this rule exists, if so. If the purpose is to prevent players from abusing the run mechanic to cover excessive distances, then a fixed deceleration period of two hexes or so may make more sense and be less punitive. An actor wishing to stop over a shorter distance could risk tripping or falling.

(5) If I understand correctly, the action point system works as follows. Each actor starts with 5 action points (with some rare exceptions). The action points are reduced by the armor encumbrance, which represents armor's weight and mobility restrictions. Action points may then be reduced to the floor set by the total weight worn and carried.

It may make more sense to discuss armor encumbrance first, and mass encumbrance second. That may be a more natural order. Conceptually, if I understand correctly, the armor's effects on mobility set a ceiling for an actor's movement, which then may be further restricted by excessive weight. And armor encumbrance seems like it will be relevant in more circumstances than weight encumbrance.

If virtually all actors start with 5 action points, then bringing up "base" action point allotment might be adding unnecessary complexity. There's no reason for a reader to worry about the possibility that an actor might have more than 5 baseline action points if 99.9% of all actors have 5 baseline action points. It becomes an irrelevant variable which the player still has to keep in mind and worry about. The reader can just look at the table on page 2 and see that an actor with no armor has 5 action points before weight is accounted for. Maybe starting the calculation from the armor impact table on page 2 will make things simpler and more streamlined. Cases of actors with more than 5 baseline action points can then be handled in an appendix or something.

Otherwise, the armor encumbrance table calibrated for actors with baseline 5 action points might be of limited use, and a table which shows the penalties of armor may be more useful. (i.e.: plate armor gives -3 action points; 1/3 encumbrance gives -2 action points; take highest penalty)

So it may make sense to present a reader with the following calculus. A reader looks to the table on page 2 to see how many action points her character has due to armor worn (if any). The reader then sees if the weight would further restrict the character's action points, and takes the lowest action point allotment.

Scarbrow said...

As I read the first page, the first issue I find is the "participants pile up AP towards that particular action until it is completed". The question pops to my mind: "What if the player changes her mind and wants to abort? Are all the AP lost? Is there any additional penalty for doing that?

Just before of "Armor effects on Encumbrance", I would add what seems to be derived from a prior phrase, that is, that creatures with 5 AP are reduced to 1 AP when they are at or over their maximum weight allowance. Unless I have not understood it, because I wonder what happens if I carry 30/60/90lb over my encumbrance limit. 0 AP, no matter how much? I can see the "mule" character popping up. Since I don't see you making that error, I suppose the "1 AP" comment at the start of that section is an error. If not, how exactly am I reduced to 1 AP, if I can carry more than 5/6 of the maximum and have 2 AP?

After redesigning the third page, you've left out a phrase "for no other reason than to make calculating movement"

For "improved running" on the third page, I think you're lacking "in the previous round" after "the participant must have expended all of their AP in running movement"

The "30/15"% limitations, I see as realistic, but somehow hard to picture without an hex grid in front of me. I suppose that is greatly mitigated while on the table, in front of you. Is there a way to express it as a ratio of number of hexes you can deviate to either side in relation to your AP?

For the rest, it is very clear. I'm very glad you published this. Are you planning to disclose all of your combat rules in this fashion?

Alexis Smolensk said...

jbeltman,

The placement of the formula was an oversight. When you lay things out, the text floats around the images and sometimes things end up where they shouldn't after rewriting. Rest assured the formula will find its right place.

Regarding a small table, that seems the sort of thing a player could make for themselves as desired.

I am utterly opposed to having dexterity modify AP.

I think in general a number of the images could be smaller. White space, however, is good, particularly with a lot of differently shaped images. Too little white space and things start to look cluttered. Sometimes its worth spending some space. The total of rules that will be written will be the same amount, regardless of how much white space surrounds them.

Agreed, that third paragraph sucks. Giordanisti made some suggestions. I've made some changes and I'll post it later.

The 3 hex before running suggestion doesn't work because a character with only 2 AP due to encumbrance can still run, so long as they expended 1 AP in the previous round towards movement. It clearly needs to be the LAST AP of the round, however, not just any part of the round. Working out the rewrite in my head now.

Giordanisti caught the same typo in a comment before you, jbeltman.

"... in running is that IT must ..."

Yes, sprinting! I will change all such references to 'sprinting.' Apparently my imagination bottomed out.

Expended all their AP in the previous round.

Yes, of course Stopping and Figure 5 were not included. They started on the next page. I took it as understood that people would realize these were unfinished.

Alexis Smolensk said...

John,

AP modifiers for terrain will be included eventually, yes.

This is not in any way intended to convey the practice of running by a human being. 1) athletes are effectively naked; 2) athletes are not concentrating on the whole of the battlefield, in order to take an action in a given instant; it is presumed that while moving, the player is OBSERVING, and therefore understands what is happening around them; 3) this is a GAME, and therefore needs some regulation that makes movement reasonable and controlled. If characters moved 60 hexes (100 yards) in a 12-second round, the battle hex-map would have to be larger than my computer, or your table, could contain.

I'm not looking for any changes in running rules. These work. I'm keeping these.

You can use AP for everything. Note this earlier attempt at these rules. Also, this and this.

Yes, part of a much larger work.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Homer,

I have been playing this system in all my D&D gaming since 1986.

1) I think that players ought to be able to make a small table for themselves that applies to their characters without my doing it.

2) This is a poor choice of words. It merely means that some actions may take more than 1 round to perform.

3) Because some persons who are encumbered and can only move 1 hex per round can still run, increasing their speed to 2 hexes per round or 3. Therefore, "walking 2 hexes" before running isn't universal enough. And yes, it should be the last half of their movement. Paragraph will be rewritten.

4) I think it will be clearer when stopping rules are posted, and when other actions are described.

I think the natural order of what is described first and what is described second is immaterial. Once you adapted to the rules and got used to reading them in this order, it would become "natural."

Not all participants start with 5 action points. Monsters, for example, have a wide range of action points. They all have to fit into this system too.

I am not looking for any alternate rules on how to determine encumbrance or armor effects. 27 years of using these. I only want to be sure that the way I use them is clear.

I expect players to be able to do math.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Scarbrow,

Aborting can be done at any time. No follow through on actions is ever demanded. If you spend 2 rounds looking through your pack for your bandages, and then decide to stop before finding your bandages, you're free to do something else.

With zero AP, you can do nothing. You can't feed yourself. So once you are at your encumbrance limit, you basically collapse and cease movement. So no, it doesn't matter how much more you have on you once that occurs. Could be a piano. You would fail to move with the exact same inability than if it was a 300 lb. gorilla.

"I suppose the "1 AP" comment at the start of that section is an error. If not, how exactly am I reduced to 1 AP, if I can carry more than 5/6 of the maximum and have 2 AP?"

I don't know what you mean by this.

Regarding hex grids. I run my game on a computer. When I want an angle, I simply draw the line on the screen. I suppose someone else would just have to eyeball it. Remember that the real purpose of this rule is to restrict people from suddenly running off at a 90 degree angle. It is meant to capture momentum.

I'm not interested in calculating out ratios. Someone else can do so. My problem with that is that the field is rarely empty. It seems easier to me to simply get out your protractor.

Don't you like geometry?

I am planning on continuing to disclose my combat rules in this manner, for both my online and offline players.