Last Sunday, we played another session in a campaign on the Stage hosted by one of my friends. You can about the previous campaign log here

This campaign takes place in a setting of my friend’s devising. Of course, I won’t reveal too much about it (it’s his creation after all), so this campaign log will focus instead on how we experienced the system and if there might be any lessons to learn that are relevant to development.

Rules

Since I’m still working on updating the Core Material, we’re still using the Core Rulebook as published on this website. We have, however, implemented the new Defense skill rules, the new Encumbrance rules, the new stacking Bonuses rules, the new parrying rules, and the new non-lethal damage rules. The new Character point rules, however, are not used in this campaign. (Yeah, I know this is getting complicated, which is why a new book is underway.) Also, the Supernatural Rulebook is not tested in this campaign.

Skype was not an option this time around so we experimented with Google Hangouts. Unfortunately, it was absolutely atrocious: the connection did not last beyond 15 minutes. We then used Roll20 (which we’re going to use for the Silver Street Campaign and the upcoming new round of playtesting once the new Core Material is finished) and it was perfect! The built in videoconferencing works perfectly and I--to the unmitigated delight of all--had a blank screen to draw many a dong on.

So, on to the game!

Arts and crafts

Early on in the game, there was a short discussion about the time mechanics of Leveled checks, particularly of the Crafts skill. As it stands, there is a certain listed time for every Crafts skill check. In the next iteration of the Stage the listed time may be decreased depending on the result of the second dice roll of a Leveled skill check. I think this new mechanic is pretty solid; it basically comes down to ‘skilled people can do stuff quicker.

However, a uniform listed time for Crafts skill checks may at certain times make little sense. Whatever your skill level, cutting a sturdy branch from a tree to make a walking stick shouldn’t take the same amount of time as, say, crafting a longbow.

So I decided to introduce a minor tweak to Skills that feature Leveled skill checks, such as the Crafts skill, the Academics skill, the Creativity skill, and the Science skill: the time required to perform a certain Skill check can be decreased at the GM’s discretion. That means the GM could decide making the walking stick takes up to one hour, while making the longbow takes up to eight.

Aid another

My character had to free another character who got his leg trapped in a giant pile of skulls, bones, and ribcages (don’t ask). We struggled to find the right Skill for this and eventually settled on the Athletics (lift) skill. Now that I gave it some thought, this doesn't seem to be right. While the Athletics skill is fine for heavy lifting, I would say that freeing another character from being stuck is not an application of the Athletics skill. Rather, I would say this was my character assisting another (see Core Rulebook, page 26) on his Agility skill check to wriggle free.

This happens in other campaign as well: GMs (including me) allow characters to combine rolls or ask for separate rolls when the situation actually calls for an ‘assisting’-effect, which I think is a pretty solid mechanic. A lot of the new Group powers use this ‘assisting’-mechanic in their application. I’d like it to be used a bit more, so I’ll try to get it into the spotlight.

Second tier Group powers

Speaking of Group powers, in this campaign we get a regular award of Group points. We finally got to the point where we can consider choosing second tier Group powers. Second tier Group powers, however, all focus on ‘instruction,’ which means a character can instruct another in a Skill, granting him the ability to use that Skill at 2 Skill levels below the instructor’s and at the cost of 2 resources (Stamina, Intellect, or Will).

This is kind of underwhelming: the cost is quite high and it only makes sense to instruct characters in a Skill when you have a considerably higher Skill level than they have. The ‘instruction’-mechanic is not something that is going out, however: it will be in the next iteration of the Stage as well, so I’ll need to take a good look at it to make sure it is balanced and an attractive choice.

Interruptions

At some point, a player asked what happens when two characters prepare an Interruption (see Core Rulebook, page 33) and then want to act at the same time. Should this (rare) situation occur, there will in fact already be an order of play: initiative was resolved at the beginning of that Encounter. I would suggest letting people act in that order. I think, however, that the situation will be so rare that it doesn’t need to be included in the rules; instead, a GM can deal with it as he sees fit, should the situation arise.

Lessons learned

  • Allow GMs some freedom to determine the time needed to perform Leveled checks that do not necessarily need to take a very long time.
  • Remember the ‘assisting’-mechanic and use it!
  • Look at the ‘instruction’-mechanic in the second tier Group powers; it may need rebalancing.
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