JP On Gaming

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Battle For Gytha: Tracking battle progress and play-testing

So with the creation and writing of "Cities of NeoExodus: Gytha", I resolved to write a major story arc to accompany the book. And to this day, I have two adventures completed. They will both be released for Winter Fantasy (and I may have a surprise or two...).

Now what makes these two events different than all of the other adventures and how did play-testing changed one of the biggest concept I had? Read on.

I won't lie to you. The Battle for Gytha series is about a war between the Arman Protectorate and the Janus Horde, and more specifically, of the Protectorate campaign to take the port-city of Gytha. By the same token, this has to do with the Janus Horde defending its territory from the "Invaders". I have been trying very hard to represent both sides making serious and logical efforts to achieve victory. I really focus on mundane means for things like logistics, defenses and movement. Then use magic for the special cases. In short, just because they have clerics and druid doesn't mean their army crosses the Tyranius Straight. What is possible to a small unit (such as a group of adventurers), rarely applies to an

Next I have been reading a number of blogs and article on medieval warfare. Unlike today's wars, it is a lot more of a chess game than a speed game. That chess-like approach is the basis upon which the series is based on. Major battles will take place, usually as special, one-shot/interactive events. Expect adventures that include combat, supply runs, espionage, and a number of other dirty tricks one should use during war time.

But how can I come up with a system that is easy, elegant and that will allow me to track the PCs' progress and allows me, as a designer to reward them for their progress?

Taking a page from a Pathfinder Society adventure I really like, PFS2-01 The Bloodcove Disguise, I decide to track the PCs' progress through the series and affect certain encounters and events in-game. PFS2-01 tracks a number of successes/failures in a skill-encounter like way, making later encounters more or less difficult based on results. It's pretty effective and makes a fairly drab adventure into a good one.

Unlike PFS 2-01, I wanted to assume that PCs actions against the Janus Horde in previous adventures mattered. In short, if you've been there and killed a lot of them, then they would know who you are and start to notice. Eventually, act against you. So we now have one thing to track: How much NOTICE you have gathered thus far.

Next, I need to track how much the PCs' actions have impacted the Janus Horde. This is a war, and hurting the enemy's ability to wage war is important. So I have my second indicator: How much DAMAGE have you done?

Next, I counted a number of factors such as improving one side vs the other, or betrayal potential, but in the end, all of these other elements could easily be folded into Notice or Damage. So I went with those two.

Then I made a big mistake...

Yup. Major.

I had initially assumed that PCs would get just "a few" points of notice and could impose that number as a penalty on their social rolls. However, play-testing with veteran players (we played the APL9 version of "94-LC-05 Knee Deep")... the numbers just spiraled out of control. So I had to adjust the modifiers, or the system.

But how?

How could I use the system I had already without massively affecting the game, allow the PCs a chance to do their thing, but still make them pay for their previous meddling against the Janus Horde. Then I wanted to make it so higher-level PCs are affected more and lower-level PCs are affected LESS.

I must admit that I spent a few days thinking about how to do that.

So Notice will work the following ways.
   -  First: On certain encounters, the GM will take Notice average of the party and multiply it by the APL. This will give a percentage chance for the Janus Horde to have additional forces available. In other words, "they know you are there and they are acting against YOU".
   -  Second: Whenever the PCs are trying to be nice to a member of the Janus Horde, they will add their level to their notice and divide the result by 5. This will be the penalty players get when they try to talk to members of the enemy. That is, if they know who the PCs are and this can be mitigated by the PCs judicious use of Bluff or Disguise. In other words, "They are wary of you and don't want to say too much."

What do you think?


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