I live….again

I  live…..again.  OK folks. I’ve officially arrived at a decision. I’m returning to the “active GM” chair. No more just tinkering with mechanics. I’ll aim my tinkering to a specific game/group. And it won’t be for a planned out, extensive campaign. It will be for a one-shot…just to play. That one-shot may grow into something bigger, but for now I’m aiming for a one-shot game. Details to follow…..but as a teaser, I’m thinking some Atlantean Fantasy goodness is in order.

[As an aside, I really need to trim the number of categories I have…..jeesh.]


Mash-up RPG

warrior1OK, its time to build the PBP I mentioned here. I plan on doing two of these actually. The second, HAGIS: The Mythos Files, will essentially be The X-files meets Call of Cthulhu. I’ll table it for a bit since its a bit more complicated…plus my wife will be involved. She’s not a gamer as of yet, but has expressed an interest in such a game…in fact, I’m not sure if we’ll do that one as a PBP…It might need to be live. The first will be HAGIS: Atlantean Adventures (Aega Mythea?) and will be  set in the Atlantean world (High Swords & Sorcery a la Bard Games Atlantean Trilogy…with my own spin of course).

OK, Here’s the mix:

The Atlantean Trilogy (Bard Games’ The Arcanum, The Lexicon, and The Bestiary…the last two of those were also published as a combined volume called Atlantis: The Lost World). This will serve as the core setting. It is essentially our own Earth or proto-Earth before the Oceans drank Atlantis. It contains all the real-world cultures all mashed up anachronistically. This is my favorite setting of all time.

FUDGE/FATE – I like the aspects provision or Fate (kind of like the Spiritual Attributes of TRoS). We will be making free and frequent use of  metagame elements. In fact, I plan on the players having much more information than their characters do. It will be expected that player and character knowledge will be kept in different buckets…I’m going to think about how much interchange between these two will be permitted/encouraged. I also am looking at the 5by4 Magic system on Steffan O’Sullivan’s page….or maybe the Magical Medly system…hmm, need to think on this.

Castles & Crusades – I really love this game. I’m still not crazy about the Vanican Fire’n’Forget style magic, but its really not that hard to write that out. The point here is that I’m going to be using class-like structures, call them archetypes, whatever. Pretty much pick a class from any source D&D, C&C, The Arcanum, etc. and I’ll adapt it to our Mashup.

the HAGIS TriDie system – as previously discussed, roll three d20’s and use the median result (unless we have some meta-game funk going on and then either the hi or lo result is used….).

True20 – I’m looking at their positive/negative tags and their magic system.

No Kung-Fu is better than swords crap.  So monks and martial artists are pretty much out for this dance.

As I look at this, I realize that my Mash is a mess. That’s OK though; it was only intended as a brainstorming session. I will work on tightening this up and throwing some of it out….I only need *one* magic system for this. I can always try another one later.


C&C Tweak for Spellcasting

C&CAs mentioned, I’ve recently become a Castle & Crusades enthusiast…not so much for the system as is, but for how tweakable it is and for its ease/speed of use for pickup/online games (esp. with people who have played any version of D&D in the past).

Well, in line with the “tweakability” of the game, I recently contributed the following post to the Troll Lord online forum for the game and would like some feedback. In actuality, it uses the HAGUS/Aega Mythea paradigm of magic being just another skill.

I was intrigued by the variety of interesting ideas in the Spell Recovery Idea thread and thought I’d throw something else out there. What if spell casting used the Siege Engine too?

Here’s how I would envision it working:

1) Casters can cast any spell in their book/pantheon/etc. (no memorization, preparation, etc.).

2) Casters would Roll d20 + Caster Level + Attribute Bonus (if any) each time they cast a spell (Make a Siege Engine Check vs. their ability).

3) The DC for spells would be 18 + spell Level + any extra modifiers (high or low magic region, etc.).
If they make the Siege Roll, they cast the spell. End of story.

4) If the caster fails the Siege Roll, he/she still casts the spell, but loses a Caster Level until resting a solid 8 hours. If the effective caster level ever dips below zero…..something bad happens (e.g., Burnout, Magical Coma, HP reduced to half of current, etc.). Note that once a caster fails the first one, they’re more likely to miss the next one as effective caster level is now lower.

5) This can be tweaked to increase or decrease the magic in your game by adjusting the base DC, the consequences of failing the Siege Roll, and the impact of a Burnout.

Any thoughts?


Historical HAGIS/Aega Mythea Design Goals

Sword of AdaenOk, as promised, here are some of the design concerns that first made the pull for the TriDie. Now it has been some time since I last looked at my design goals and I seem to remember them being a bit more formal than I found them. It is possible that I lost a more refined document during my computer crash, but I’m not sure. Some of my thoughts for this system have changed, so a fresh look at this is definitely warranted. I’m sure the formatting, coming from MS Word as it does, will look atrocious here. The figures/graphs/tables will almost undoubtedly not display correctly. I’m not going to reformat this historical document just now as there are better uses of my design time (which is pretty scant anyway). I would welcome comments/questions on the textual content though. For the time being, I’ve also included the MS Word file in the Box.net widget on this page.

In any case, here it is – Part Design Document/Part Mind Dump:

AM Sectional Development

The following are the proposed sections of the Aega Mythea rules. Note that the intent is for them to be modular in nature so as to allow for them to be utilized in a piecemeal fashion, in conjunction with components from other game systems.

System Goals:

Player vs. Character skill balance: This should favor Character Skill over Player Skill. Obviously, removing all player skill would render the game a self-driving simulation. However, focusing player choices firmly on the strategic rather than on the tactical changes the tone of the game and removes the need to be an expert on the rules or on a character’s area of expertise.

Primary Combat Determinant: The primary determinant of combat should be character skill.

Generalist vs. Specialist: How well do these characters compete and under what circumstances? How does this relate to player/character skill balance? Skills should be tiered into groups that have additive ratings (e.g., Total Bonus for a task = skill bonus + skill group bonus).

Talent vs. Skill: How does the Ultra-talented novice compare to the less talented, but more experienced veteran. The system should be able to support both. Attributes should not become less important as skill levels increase.

Character Creation: Old school, life path-based, semi-random, organic creation needs to be an option. Probably not the only option however….and if not, then definitely not the only viable option.

Niche Protection: Each Player Character should have an area or areas in which he or she shines beyond the capabilities of the other members of his or her party. That is, each player should have a primary sphere of influence or a shtick, which should not be surpassed by a secondary or tertiary sphere of influence of another character.

Character Competence: Players should have the option to play highly competent characters. It is assumed that players will want to play the “interesting periods” of their characters’ lives that may or may not include their “fledgling hero years”.

Tiered skills/abilities should allow for flexible levels of detail in the game (crunchiness). If desired, various level of detail should be supported within a single campaign between PCs vs. NPCs or even between PC’s who require differing levels of mechanical detail for their characters.

Standard Action contests will be almost purely “Fortune” based. Important [use a better word than “important”] action contests (to that specific character or group) should be fortune based with a heavy influence from “karmic” metagame constructs (e.g., mid20 become a hi20 for actions that are fueled by one’s passions, destiny, etc.)

The basic mechanic should have rarified extremes, but should allow for them to actually occur on occasion (e.g., each 20 extreme occur 5% of the time = too frequently; each 3d6 extreme occurs ~0.46% of the time = about right, but with a more limited range; each mid20 extreme occurs ~0.725% of the time = just right, with a slightly broadened range and the propensity for karmic influences via the use of hi20 or lo20
rolls (extremes occur for hi20 and lo20 at ~14.27%).







Magic will be a set of skills (possibly with creation advantages/disadvantages to access). [Option: Magic may only be available as a birth advantage (i.e., “mage-born”) or as part of other extraordinary circumstance (as per GM discretion). This advantage will be available in varying levels (perhaps) and may not be needed for some “organic” or “innate” magic. These “organic” magical abilities are extremely highly developed skills that function as if they were “magic”.

Most abilities should be handled via skills groups, skills, and skill qualifiers (specialties/restrictions/etc.). There will not be stacking binary ability (feat) trees that require a character’s long-term development be planned out at the time of character creation. Skills should be predominant over special abilities (feats).

The game will use a “Wound System” rather than track the more abstract “Hit points”. To keep cinematic, high-combat games viable, damage will be subject to a “Damage Resistance” roll (Similar to a Saving Throw in d20 or Resistance Roll in MERP). Wounds will be categorized by either Minor, Major, Critical OR numerically (e.g., a level 2 wound is not as bad as a level 5 wound in a system in which the amount by which the damage resistance is beaten + modifier for weapons, STR, etc. is the wound level). As such, a hit location system may be needed to identify the hit location-dependent damage resistance. This may involve a second role for critical wounds that takes into account location. [Note: This may be optional. The rules should be written to facilitate its use or disuse.]

Combat System Goals:

Small vs. Large weapons – One should not be completely dominant of the other. There should be valid choices and differentiators other than raw effectiveness. However, there should be a level of reason in this: A sword should be better than a fist (all other things being equal).

Armor vs. No Armor – “Both Heavily Armored” AND “No Armor” should be valid choices, albeit for different characters (and abilities) or in differing circumstances (e.g. duels/small skirmishes vs. all out chaotic war on a huge battlefield.

Items for Development:

Example of Play

Flavor Text/Short Story

Core Mechanic

Character – Creation

Character – Development





Default Setting


Use of Components with other systems (FUDGE, d20, etc.)


These are some of the terms being considered for use for what D&D has called “Ability Scores” and other elements of a character.






Special Abilities






Quantitative Attributes



Skill Group/Skill Area/Skill Mode/Mode

[Note: Mode may be a spell term so use only if it does not conflict….may want to keep it separate anyway.]

[Note: Look at what the elements of the zodiac are called, etc. Try to not conflict with them or introduce more confusion (e.g., Elements used as a term for Attributes might be confused with


Attribute Table

These terms need to be better locked down and defined. I also need to look at where they fall in the table. Of note, I need to be sure to differentiate 1) PER vs. INT, 2) PRE vs. EGO, and 3) EGO vs. IMA. 4) Also, am I sure that I want to use IMA rather than EMP (Empathy)?


Perception (PER): Perception is a measure of mindfulness. Combined within is the effectiveness of the senses, and the ability to focus on them. It is a measure of the effectiveness with which one pays attention and notices things within one’s surroundings. It

Will (WIL): Will is a measure of raw will power, determination, and self discipline. It represents resolve and strength of purpose.

Recall (REC): Recall is a measure of memory, and of one’s ability to apply memories in a meaningful fashion. It covers eloquence and one’s ability to bring to bear knowledge.

Reasoning (REA): Reasoning is a measure of logic abilities. It is an indicator of one’s capacity to grasp complex or abstract ideas and correlates with what is commonly called intelligence (IQ).


Quickness (QUI): Quickness is a measure of physical reflexes and macro-scale, rough, raw athleticism. It does not reflect any degree of grace, form, or subtlety of movement.

Strength (STR): Strength is a measure mainly of raw physical strength, but also covers the application of that strength.

Constitution (CON): Constitution is a measure of physical hardiness and resilience. It captures the effectiveness of resisting disease, toxins, and physical violence.

Dexterity (DEX): Dexterity is a measure of grace, coordination, and micro-scale movement. It is an indicator of the fluidity of motion and true balance.


Intuition (INT): Intuition is a measure of foresight, irrational senses, and subjective knowing. It is very complimentary with Perception.

Presence (PRE): Presence is a measure of one’s force of personality, likeability, charisma, and the internal, intangible power of the spirit.

Ego (EGO): Ego is the spiritual resiliency and conviction. It is a measure of the resilience of one’s psyche and soul. It indicates one’s connection to existence.

Imagination (IMA): Imagination is a measure of one’s ability to innovate, dream, and empathize. It is an indicator of one’s comprehension of all that is possible. [Note: It might be better to call this Empathy, EMP???]


This is something that currently lives mostly in my head. I need to start clearly defining them and the relation between them. I need to look at the following game systems and look at possibilities that may help AM and avoid those that are not consistent with my vision for it: Rolemaster/MERP, D&D/d20, d20 Conan, Atlantis RPG, Decipher’s LotR’s RPG, GURPS, FUDGE, FATE, Fantasy HERO, TRoS, True20, SoR, Online Skill Lists, etc.

Melee Combat

Thrown Combat

Missile Combat

[Note: Given the granularity of the skill groupings, it may make sense that the combat skills fall under the Athletic skills…. This may not be consistent with the “feel” I want for the game…Try it both ways, but for now keep them separate]

Magical I

Magical II

Magical III

[Note: The numerals I, II, II, etc. are just placeholders for the names of the appropriate granularity. I am not sure at what level of granularity to put the skills for magic. I think that it might make sense to have broad schools of magic and then sub skills within (e.g., Sorcery, High Magic, Enchantment, etc. with types of magic within. I will have to look at the Atlantis systems (both old and new), d20 Fantasy systems (including alternate ones online or in various supplements), the FUDGE Magical Medley, TRoS, Rolemaster, etc.]









Performing Arts

Graphic Arts










Total Skill = (Sum of 7 Attributes/50) x (Skill Ratings)

Attribute Factor (SR)

(AF) SR = Skill Value + Skill Group Value

Attributes range from 1-20+ with 7 being that of an average man for most if not all attributes. Heroes will have the propensity for Attributes considerably higher than that.

Using this scheme, Attribute Factor (AF) will vary between 7/50 (= 0.14 for an extremely inept, handicapped, etc character) and 140/50 (=2.8 for the prodigy of the world). This prevents the importance of natural talent (i.e., Attributes) from declining a character increases in skill level.

*The dotted line in this table indicates the skill development for an average man (Average Attribute = 7). The red line in the table indicates what is the practical upper limit of average Attributes (ATT) and Total Skill Level (TSL). [Note: The limits on ATT and TSL may change based on play test data].

Once the appropriate skill levels are determined, I will need to name the various levels based on competency: Novice, Apprentice, Initiate, Journeyman, Master, Greater Master, Grandmaster, and Mythic Master.

[Note: Hmmm, maybe only 7 needed. Maybe drop Journeyman or Greater Master.]

The divide of effective skill between Skill and Skill Group (Skill Area?) should be balanced appropriately…this balance will likely be determined by the Generalist vs. Specialist findings during play test…or perhaps from the Niche Protection concerns. Tentatively, 4 levels of skill and 3 of skill group (4:3) seem about right. Perhaps 5:2 would work as well. I would like to focus the skill group a bit more than say Rolemaster or MERP does.

Core Mechanic Description


1) Roll mid20 + Total Skill Level (TSL) = Total Roll vs. Difficult (D)

2) If > D, Success

If < D, Failure

If = D, Schrödinger’s Cat; Result determined via “Karmic Incident”, “Karmic Intervention”

3) Doubles and Triples have special meaning (increasing the intensity or modulating the success or failure….These may be handled via Karmic Intervention as well (in terms of modulating how successful or unsuccessful a result actually is.

4) Margin of Success is determined

a) Total Roll – D = Margin of Success (MoS, or just Margin)

[Note: Perhaps players could modulate some aspect of the Karmic Incident for some instances Doubles/Triples. Only GM for most cases (e.g. D = roll + TSL)

Karmic Incident – On these occasions, the GM may exercise their caveat as to the success or failure of the action. They may deem it a success or failure based on the most recent role-playing quality of the player most affected, a partial success or failure (a success with a complication or a failure with a positive twist), select a result based on what would most improve the story, roll again, or just select based on the GM’s amusement. [Ideas: Karmic Decision by GM, Interesting, and/or Advantage Reversal separate from actual success or failure of the attempted action.]

For combat Difficulty = Defense (D = D…. neato).

5) Defender rolls to resist damage:

a) mid20 + Damage Resistance # (to be named) = Total Roll vs MoS (of the Attack) + Damage Factor (DF)

b) Damage Resistance # = Some CON, WIL, etc. combo + Local Armor Factor (LAF)

c) DF = Attacker STR + Weapon Factor (WF)

[Note: Maybe break Armor out until after…That way location isn’t needed if the attack doesn’t get through general toughness (Damage Resistance).]

[Note: Perhaps cap Weapon factor based on STR.]

Aim Zone is predetermined hi, med, or lo corresponds to a hi/mid/lo20 roll (hml20 OR lmh20 probably 2nd one). There is a possibility to tweak this (push the result towards a desired target).

Mind Dump


1) Total Number of Skill Group Level Limit – It may advance the niche protection goal to limit the total number of levels that can be accumulated in the Skill Groups. This would not be a hard limit, but would serve as a modifier for future skill gain rolls. Spreading oneself too thinly would make skill gain rolls more difficult. It would also reduce the effectiveness of Generalists…Think on this.

2) Name of the Difficult Term – I want this term to reflect that it must be beaten and not just matched. Currently, I’m using Difficulty (D). This works b/c it also can be Defense (D). I might want it to be Difficulty Level (DL) just to have an acronym with more than one letter (which can get confusing and can be difficult to search for). Another idea I had was to call the Difficulty, “The Bar” (B or TB). It seems pretty clear that you’re either over the Bar or under the Bar. Also if you hit the bar on the way over, one never knows if it will stay up or fall…..

3) Skill Groups (SG’s) or Skill Areas (SA’s)? Which ever, a SG/SA should be capped either arbitrarily or effectively via mechanics at ½ of the highest skill in that Area/Group (This assumes that skills are actually used and players are not using the Area/Group-only option for fast play).

4) Read WUSHU


1) Karmic Events – Perhaps call these Cosmic Events, Cosmic Episodes, Invoking the Hand of Fate, Invoking the Fates, Karmic Episodes, Karmada, Mytheic Events, Mythea,

2) Handling of Karmic Events – Drawing of a Tarot Card/Playing Card/Fate Card/Deck of Many Things Card/ and GM interpretation could be an option for these. Perhaps the player or group interprets the card. Perhaps there is no card and only a person’s Star Sign/Star Sygn/Cosmic Sign/Cosmosi/etc. is used in conjunction with any Fate’s, Passions, etc. that are involved.


1) Balance: A conscious decision must be made by the GM and his/her Group regarding game balance. Aega Mythea will default to Balance being based on player power level (i.e., “screen-time”, or the player’s ability to impact the chronicle/story/narrative/tale/myth); and not necessarily on character power-level. The goal of Balance is to ensure that everyone has fun playing the game. One’s enjoyment typically is based on having an impact on the Chronicle.

[Note: name a game session/narrative/story/tale/myth/legend/chronicle needs to be named; as in “Balance will be defined by the role of the player in affecting the chronicle”…..I think Chronicle may be it…..Look at TRoS and FATE.]

2) Look at the thoughts of others as to unlinking attributes and skills.

3) Look at the thoughts of others as to skill trees and variable complexity….what should the default level of complexity be? Answer: Since my group may be the only one to play this game, it should be how I want it! But think about variable levels of complexity within a single Chronicle…..that has some bizarre implications.

4) Do I want this game to involve maneuver? At all? I like lots of games that involve maneuver…. Will this be satisfying without it? I think so, but should seek out an experience playing a narrative system (or less crunchy at least). BEWARE of SCOPE-BROADENING!

5) This game is a crunchy narrativist game. Perhaps? Think about what that actually means.

6) Rewards should be based, in part, on following one’s nature/destiny/passion/etc. This should be mechanically evident.

7) The hi20/lo20 rolls help to prevent the “rash of marginal successes” that is common in some systems. AM is a heroic game. Successes and Failures should be meaningful and should in some way cater to the agenda of the Cosmos (In terms of Karma, important results should be fulfilling/satisfying).

8) Use DCK as a person with unfortunate occurrences (Exussum or Dacul Valen, perhaps OR, better yet, Lance Duval or Valenca Lud, aka, “Slash”) in the colorful examples.


1) Attributes should be very important in the effectiveness of characters. However, this effectiveness should scale with skill level at all power-levels. To achieve this, skills and attributes are multiplicative rather than additive (i.e., effective skill = skill level x attribute factor). This serves to maintain the importance of attributes throughout the skill-levels of characters.

2) Skills and Niche Protection: The majority of skills and/or skill groups should be reflected by a character’s background, destiny, passions, etc. “Opening” new skills should not be a trivial matter, but could perhaps be reflective of the difficulty of the particular skill or group. Thus, the scope of characters should remain fairly static over time without major, life-changing events.

3) Dfrdsfs


1) Consider hai/myd/loe20 designations (e.g., hai20, myd20, loe20, etc. rather than high20 or hi20, mid20, and lo20 or low20. This can differentiate and uniquely identify the roll types. Think on this. Too much quirky terminology and/or alternate spellings can get kind of confusing/hokey/annoying rather quickly. IS THIS HOKEY?

2) Skill AND Talent should both be important to contests. Perhaps, one could cap certain aspects of the other. THINK on this! Could be very complex. Could result in something elegant….more thought.

3) Skill List/Trees etc. should be developed next and these game components should be named. It is difficult to discuss them on their merits/flaws otherwise. Remember, things can be changed later. They need to be locked in (temporarily for now).

4) Why do all this if FUDGE/FATE fit my play style (and better allow for GM-fiat….Do I want to create a system that puts more power in the player’s hands, reduces GM-fiat power, and generates consistent game-world physics? Think: Why yes, I think I do!

5) Die Rolling Terminology:

a) 3d20(1) = roll 3 d20’s and take the highest individual die as the result.

b) xdy(z) where x = # of dice to roll, y = # of sides on each std. die, and z = results to apply (z =1 is the highest die, z = 2 is the second highest die, etc.).

c) Mpte: xdy(1+3) = roll xdy and add the results from the highest and the 3rd highest die. This assumes that x ≥ 3.

6) dfd

Valenca Lud was meeting someone.

Jovok, his contact at the Tawdry Unicorn, had been quite clear where this man could be found.


Bad Ass Axe

Axe in Face“Hey!” That’s what the Duke said just before he smashed George Kennedy in the face with an axe handle.

This post is not about game design…not really anyway, but it started out that way. For some reason, while working on mechanically differentiating weapon types (in ways other than raw amount of damage) for HAGIS/Aega Mythea, I got thinking about axes.

For some reason, I absolutely love the 60’s John Wayne-style western movie, The Sons of Katie Elder in which the Duke wallops the blacksmith-bullying George Kennedy in the face with an axe handle. I think much of the appeal is actually due to the axe-handle scene. I suppose I should seek help. Anyway, here’s the relevant section of the movie on You Tube:

While I was chuckling, I remembered the uber-useful linguistic site that provides translations in all known languages for the definitive utterance: “Oh my god! There’s an axe in my head!” Now there’s a lesson in multi-culturalism for you all. Please be attentive.

Inevitably, I suppose, that brought my warped mind to the discussion between Gimli and Legolas in the The Two Towers movie as to why a dead orc was still twitching…Gimli w/ Axe

Gimli: 42, now that’s not a bad score. I myself am sitting happily on 43.

[Legolas pulls out an arrow and shoots the Urukhai body Gimli is sitting on]

Gimli: He was already dead.

Legolas: He was twitching!

Gimli: He was twitching because he’s got my axe embedded in his nervous system!

Gimli's Axe

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve got to admit that Gimli Gloinson does have a point there. Even after Legolas fires his “just to make sure arrow” into the Uruk corpse, Gimli is still able to make the corpse twitch with but a little twisting of the axe…

Anyway, I haven’t gotten anything concrete yet as to how I’d like for a Great Sword to work differently than a Great Axe just yet, but I have some ideas. I don’t think it will be working like it does in D&D3.x though.

And with that I leave you….ok, just one more movie image from The Shinning…..that’sDefinitely Holding an Axe right, The Shinning…..after all, who wants to be sued? Shut up, Boy!Not Willie, let me tell youNow, let’s look at this picture…with an expression on your face like that, everyone knows you’re likely to be holding an axe (and be up to no good). Right?

Eh, I better get back to it….

~Adaen of Bridgewater