Wheel of Time mechanics


  • Admin

    I'm looking to dip my toes in a Wheel of Time MUSH and I'm looking at a copy of Ares (with @tempest's kind help) to figure out what kind of commitment we're talking about.

    Before I do much more I wanted to open a discussion about its mechanics. While knowledge of the WoT books and settings isn't necessary in it, I'd very much appreciate not derailing it into tangents too unrelated to this, since I'd like to use whatever I can from the debate to generate the system itself for such a game - meaning rolls, attributes, and so on.

    Design ideas:

    Overall:

    I want players to make interesting choices. Forcing dilemmas about A or B should be at the heart of the system, which means as few 'filler' skills, talents and attributes as possible.

    All systems need to be easy. Simple. If you have an idea of an amazing system that would require too much work to explain and too much reading to understand then it won't work for this. However additional complexity that can be automated and hidden beneath a coded roll is fine.

    Balance between channelers and non-channelers won't be tackled directly (i.e. I don't plan to try and make them equal in power). However while channelers' power will be placed at considerably less than the book characters' with IC reasoning - no Nynaeve/Mazrim level powerhouses - I want non-channelers to be able and achieve the highest skill levels, including heron-marked blades or other cultures' equivalents.

    Resource management should also be in the picture if it can be managed, since it can fuel the Great Game.

    One part of the books I think is very thematic is the progression from trainee (in whatever disciple) into mastery. How do we, and can we do that on a MUSH convincingly? Aside from the timeline (obviously we won't require waiting for RL years for a Novice to become Aes Sedai), can this be done mechanically without turning it into a chore?

    Channeling:

    I'd like PCs to purchase overall potency, individual Powers or weaves directly, with each purchase becoming more narrow but more impactful. So for example you could sink one point (?) into your overall strength as a channeler which powers all your weaves, or put it into Air to make all your Air weaves stronger than they'd get if you had just purchased a point in overall potency, or even use it to buy something like Windstorm specifically which would empower that one weave far more than the former two options.

    Not sure how I would handle overgrasping Saidin/Saidar enough to burn out. Maybe make it impossible for channelers to, but give them the channeling disease itself where they are impacted for a RL duration of time?

    Non-channeling:

    I'm trying to figure out a system that allows PCs to buy sword forms directly to improve their fighting but also not limit all fighting in the game to match that style. The Aiel don't use them, for example, and I don't simply want to give them a separate (but boring or unrelated to the books) system instead to achieve balance. One way to do it is keep forms completely IC separate from mechanical power, so characters can be assumed to know what they know based on their skill levels. Thoughts?

    A trope from the books is fighting one-versus-many. I don't know if it's nostalgia speaking but in my own gaming past we gave NPC retainers to certain organizations - so for example a Whitecloak PC would have X NPCs with him, a Band of the Red Hand member would have Y (where Y<X) but with bonuses to Band-only groups, etc. These are hard to balance; is it worth having? Can you come up with or propose a system that achieves this?

    Finally, what challenges am I forgetting so far that absolutely should be in a WoT game? Remember, let's keep it mechanical and try to focus on general rules rather than exceptions; channeling has a myriad of the latter but unless it's going to realistically happen in a somewhat day to day basis then I don't care about it too much for now, and it can be handwaved or summarized in a roll later on.

    Thanks in advance for any input!


  • Pitcrew

    I'm basing this without anything related to Ares:

    When dealing with channeling the most successful system I've seen is as you have a 'strain' attribute. As you utilize weaves that strain value decreases until you 'collapse'. Purchasing weaves allows you to use the weave, further 'leveling' in the weave reduces the strain cost.

    Not being uber familiar with Ares I'm not sure if such a system is feasible; however it has been what I've experienced as closest to the book feel as I've come across and is very simple to implement.


  • Pitcrew

    Oh my! Looks like we may have competing WoT games. How nostalgic!

    Are you looking at buying individual sword forms or just a style of "sword forms"? i.e. 1 xp for River Undercuts the Bank, 1 xp for Ribbon on the Air, etc or 10 xp for Sword Forms.


  • Admin

    @wildbaboons I don't have a game. I have some thoughts and a port on a VM. Now I also have a thread!


  • Admin

    @wildbaboons said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    Are you looking at buying individual sword forms or just a style of "sword forms"? i.e. 1 xp for River Undercuts the Bank, 1 xp for Ribbon on the Air, etc or 10 xp for Sword Forms.

    Well, that was one thought. The problem with that is that then what do Aiel, swordbreaker users, etc skilled warriors buy? I could make some shit up but it won't be thematic since... they'd be made up.

    I'm looking for an alternative.


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    @wildbaboons I don't have a game. I have some thoughts and a port on a VM. Now I also have a thread!

    Me too! It's like the good ol' days of competing options.

    @arkandel said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    Well, that was one thought. The problem with that is that then what do Aiel, swordbreaker users, etc skilled warriors buy? I could make some shit up but it won't be thematic since... they'd be made up.

    My own ideas are still very vague, but thinking of doing something like Fate style stunts/more familiar Feats. The basic combat skills would be there, but then people spend XP for some specialty focuses like Spear and Shield for the concept of that style, but with Spear Dancing being able to be added atop that for the specific Aiel style.


  • Admin

    @wildbaboons said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    Me too! It's like the good ol' days of competing options.

    I've no great interest in running a game, I just want a modern, well designed WoT MUSH to be around. If you get yours on the road and there aren't big conceptual differences I'd be happy to play there instead.

    @arkandel said in Wheel of Time mechanics:
    My own ideas are still very vague, but thinking of doing something like Fate style stunts/more familiar Feats. The basic combat skills would be there, but then people spend XP for some specialty focuses like Spear and Shield for the concept of that style, but with Spear Dancing being able to be added atop that for the specific Aiel style.

    How does this sound, to work work within the 'interesting choices' mandate:

    A single unified paradigm for both channelers and non-channelers.

    • "Aes Sedai training", "Three-Fold Land conditioning", "Channeling Potency" which give all of your actions within their scope a modifier. This has a very high price so if you buy more than one you're not going to able to buy nearly anything else (and it's our job as designers to make sure it's not a no-brainer either way). These things might actually be scaled; perhaps someone got training up to the level of an Accepted and then fled the Tower, for instance.

    • A second degree of ability levels such as "Offensive/Defensive Sword Forms", "Fire/Earth/Water/Air/Spirit" which again, offer modifiers (more bang for the buck) than the previous tier. The fact non-channelers have fewer of these also makes purchasing them all more economical, which helps balance a bit more - you can make a somewhat well rounded, excellent melee combatant easier than a channeler (which is something the books point out - remember how many Asha'man didn't feel they should know how to use a sword).

    • A third degree of skills such as "Apple Blossoms in the Wind" and "Earthquake". The number of forms is troublesome here, and I can use input, as well as trying to make them be distinct from each other; why pick the first one instead of Parting the Silk?

    Thoughts?


  • Coder

    @bobgoblin said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    Not being uber familiar with Ares I'm not sure if such a system is feasible; however it has been what I've experienced as closest to the book feel as I've come across and is very simple to implement.

    I don't think the choice of servers is important in system design. Ares, Evennia, MUSHcode... they're all just attributes stored in a database and commands to use them. There are other factors that can drive your choice of servers, but the system mechanics are a negligible concern.

    ETA: Unless of course you're looking for an already-bulit implementation, like FS3 for Ares, or Theno's WoD for Tiny, or Dahan's Star Wars for whatever MU it runs on.



  • @arkandel said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    I'm looking to dip my toes in a Wheel of Time MUSH and I'm looking at a copy of Ares (with @tempest's kind help) to figure out what kind of commitment we're talking about.

    I think you meant somebody else.

    Channeling-wise, I agree that a huge issue will be balancing skill with weaves, different elements, and just pure 'power'.


  • Admin

    @tempest Shit, yeah, sorry. I meant @faraday, I had just read a post of yours and in my head wires got crossed.


  • Politics

    @arkandel said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    @wildbaboons said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    Are you looking at buying individual sword forms or just a style of "sword forms"? i.e. 1 xp for River Undercuts the Bank, 1 xp for Ribbon on the Air, etc or 10 xp for Sword Forms.

    Well, that was one thought. The problem with that is that then what do Aiel, swordbreaker users, etc skilled warriors buy? I could make some shit up but it won't be thematic since... they'd be made up.

    I'm looking for an alternative.

    https://www.amazon.com/Wheel-Time-Roleplaying-Game-Fantasy/dp/0786919965

    Looks like there was a RP / Tabletop for Wheel of Time that could help.


  • Admin

    @thatonedude I bought it back then and it's been physically sitting on my shelf for years. It's not that good - I could use it, but it's not that inspired.


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Wheel of Time mechanics:
    How does this sound, to work work within the 'interesting choices' mandate:

    A single unified paradigm for both channelers and non-channelers.

    • "Aes Sedai training", "Three-Fold Land conditioning", "Channeling Potency" which give all of your actions within their scope a modifier. This has a very high price so if you buy more than one you're not going to able to buy nearly anything else (and it's our job as designers to make sure it's not a no-brainer either way). These things might actually be scaled; perhaps someone got training up to the level of an Accepted and then fled the Tower, for instance.

    • A second degree of ability levels such as "Offensive/Defensive Sword Forms", "Fire/Earth/Water/Air/Spirit" which again, offer modifiers (more bang for the buck) than the previous tier. The fact non-channelers have fewer of these also makes purchasing them all more economical, which helps balance a bit more - you can make a somewhat well rounded, excellent melee combatant easier than a channeler (which is something the books point out - remember how many Asha'man didn't feel they should know how to use a sword).

    • A third degree of skills such as "Apple Blossoms in the Wind" and "Earthquake". The number of forms is troublesome here, and I can use input, as well as trying to make them be distinct from each other; why pick the first one instead of Parting the Silk?

    Thoughts?

    I would be wary of doing anything with individual sword forms. While it is thematic there are a few problems to overcome:

    • there are a ton of them! Making them each mechanically different and balanced would be a chore.
    • What would you do for the non-sword users to create an equivalent system or balance? If you figure out the point above and end up with 50 sword forms to choose from.. what is the staff fighter going to get? The knife?

    Specialization absolutely makes sense though, both for channelers and non. Blademasters being the obvious example, but even aside from Talents on the channeling side there are plenty of examples of people just being good at stuff from doing it all the time. Windfinders and weather magic, that kin with the unbreakable Shield, etc.


  • Admin

    @wildbaboons said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    I would be wary of doing anything with individual sword forms. While it is thematic there are a few problems to overcome:

    there are a ton of them! Making them each mechanically different and balanced would be a chore.

    I agree. The other option is to simply not offer that tier of specialization for non-channelers, but merge those modifiers on the second tier ("Offensive Fighting") - which saves them XP they can spend on other things.

    What would you do for the non-sword users to create an equivalent system or balance? If you figure out the point above and end up with 50 sword forms to choose from.. what is the staff fighter going to get? The knife?

    The way described above means non-sword users can simply get the same trait, but buy multiple levels of it which channelers can't afford to. So you could make an excellent assassin type who's a glass canon, or a careful defensive warrior who capitalizes on out-surviving their opponents. Again, choices.

    We can even ensure different weapons have slightly different modifiers. A knife user has a better initiative, for example, but swords hit harder (and axes the hardest).

    Ranged combat is going to be harder. Handling range in general on a MUSH... I don't think I've ever seen it handled well, but maybe some of you have.

    Specialization absolutely makes sense though, both for channelers and non. Blademasters being the obvious example, but even aside from Talents on the channeling side there are plenty of examples of people just being good at stuff from doing it all the time. Windfinders and weather magic, that kin with the unbreakable Shield, etc.

    What I was thinking was that Asha'man who wasn't very strong at all, but who had a true knack for making Gateways. We can definitely do that, and use it for anything - one trick, useful ponies! Then you can have a great healer who can't do much else but she can do that one thing like a champion - and she's a great spy on top of it. Stuff like that.

    Half the fun of designing games is doing things better this time around, so what else can be done, even if we throw all the above down the drain and start over?


  • Pitcrew

    One thing that I think might help with character diversity, if you ever get the point of having a population that sustains it, is making crafting, trading and lore specialties as demanding as the One Power or earning a Blademaster reputation.

    It would be interesting to see these very powerful characters who basically have to build up their networks of merchants and tradespeople if they want to be able to maintain a Great House or build (and sustain) an army. Or have to consult scholars to get clues as to where McGuffin X might be, etc.

    If all those specialties come out of the same base pool of points and count against some theoretical maximum, (which may be absolute or slowly lifted over time), you have characters who have to make meaningful trade-offs. Sure, it's great to be best in breed at something, but if that's ALL you are, you need a support network.

    And it allows for characters like Veren and Cadsuane and some of the Sea Folk merchant captains, or how the Mayene use trade and diplomacy (in part) to keep from being eaten entirely by their larger, powerful neighbors.


  • Pitcrew

    @thatonedude
    The published Game is D20 mechanics of the 3.5 era, not sure how thematically close that is since I have not read the books but that would seem to conflict with both the desire to avoid "filler" skills and keeping things simple with were @Arkandel's first two stated goals.


  • Pitcrew

    @arkandel said in Wheel of Time mechanics:

    which means as few 'filler' skills, talents and attributes as possible.
    All systems need to be easy.

    I think that these are very good goals for any game design. However, I think they explicitly conflict with these two points:

    I'd like PCs to purchase overall potency, individual Powers or weaves directly, with each purchase becoming more narrow but more impactful.
    I'm trying to figure out a system that allows PCs to buy sword forms directly to improve their fighting

    Neither of these sound easy in the slightest, and they both sound like they would result in a great many "filler" skills/weaves/forms that very few people take (and some that everyone takes).

    For instance, if you have forms, then they probably have to Rock-Paper-Scissors each other, since that seems to be what they do in the book. But then you get a really strong metagame: if Apple Blossoms On the Wind is the "most powerful/useful form," then when someone picks up its counter, they're suddenly super-good against half the MU that picked up Apple Blossoms. And if you have too many forms (and there are too many of them to keep track of easily, especially when you get into what counters what and what works with in what situation -- I've tried) then nearly everyone will have 1-2 forms that they're just hopeless against. I think that your idea of "second-tier" skills is an interesting one, however. Say you've got specializations in Air, Water, Earth, Fire, and Spirit for Channeling; Offensive, Defensive, One-on-One, and Group for weapon skills; Charm, Convince, Intimidate, and Bargain for Persuasion; Quality, Decoration, Speed, and Cost for Crafting (I'm making these up as I go along, you would want to change the details, of course), etc... it might work. But again, you're no longer anywhere near as simple or easy as you might be otherwise.

    One part of the books I think is very thematic is the progression from trainee (in whatever disciple) into mastery.

    There are a lot of games that do the Heroes Journey well, all it really takes is a high amount of XP given out, and a logarithmic(ish) cost scale to increase your skills. Make it easy to get up to a certain level, and then hard after that. You just have to balance this with the dangers of dinos and do-everything-characters (because if it's XP cheap to get all skills up to a certain level, then most long-time characters are going to have them at that level). I would suggest taking a page from FS3 here and capping the number of skills you can have above a certain level, and then going beyond that and capping XP at a point where you can't get every skill to that "easy-to-get level" (after you reach the XP cap, perhaps you can instead swap skills around? Lower one to raise another?).

    Channeling:
    So for example you could sink one point (?) into your overall strength as a channeler which powers all your weaves, or put it into Air to make all your Air weaves stronger than they'd get if you had just purchased a point in overall potency, or even use it to buy something like Windstorm specifically which would empower that one weave far more than the former two options.

    This sounds very interesting, but also really hard to balance. What about something where you have a Channeling stat, with Elemental specializations, and then can just note where your character has particular strengths/weaknesses with individual weaves? Like Edges and Flaws-style? Then you don't have to have a full list of ratings for individual weaves (since there are likely dozens), but you can still have people who have advanced expertise (or weakness) in a given weave.

    Not sure how I would handle overgrasping Saidin/Saidar enough to burn out.

    How about tracking the amount of channeling one does vs their strength in the One Power (which should definitely be different than their ability to weave), and if they go over it, they have to start making exhaustion checks of some sort? If they fail, then they basically start a cascade of checks that could lead to them burning out. It doesn't address simply over-grasping, but it does address over-channeling, which seems far more common in the books.

    Non-channeling:
    Forms

    I would suggest keeping Forms to RP, but styles (as mentioned above) in code (if you want that complexity). Forms are an interesting part of the WoT world, but they aren't really well-enough described to put together a full system based on them.

    A trope from the books is fighting one-versus-many. I don't know if it's nostalgia speaking but in my own gaming past we gave NPC retainers to certain organizations - so for example a Whitecloak PC would have X NPCs with him, a Band of the Red Hand member would have Y (where Y<X) but with bonuses to Band-only groups, etc. These are hard to balance; is it worth having? Can you come up with or propose a system that achieves this?

    I don't know that MiT every really balanced them well. I remember CotL wandering around obliterating (non-Asha'man) channelers with their awesome guild equipment and really powerful mob-summoning skills. I was never very good at coded PvP, but even I punched well above my level because of the mobs. I think as long as you have a series of NPC sheets available for use in RP and in code, you can let PCs (with Staff adjudication, of course) handle it.

    Finally, what challenges am I forgetting so far that absolutely should be in a WoT game?

    World of Dreams vs Real World? Tel'aran'rhiod is a huge part of the series as it goes on, but travel there is hugely different, and people start to be able to hop back and forth between them, and you can affect things is amazing aways in TAR. It's going to be a huge challenge to integrate into a game.

    How are you going to handle the Flame and Void? It seems to be a pretty huge advantage for everything from channeling (heck, it's -necessary- to channel in most cases) to archery to swordsmanship. Will it be a skill? If so, how will it be implemented? Bonuses so long as you can stay in it, but chances to drop out based on Persuasion/Deception checks and wounds?

    Just to be clear on an earlier point, I think that Ares is a great idea for a starting point, but I really, really don't think that FS3 is, based on your ideas thus far. I certainly think that a coder could make FS3 work for a WoT game if they were willing to write up and implement a channeling system, but several of your ambitions above (rate of skill increase, complex subskill systems, etc) are pretty much the antithesis of FS3.


  • Pitcrew

    There is a Sage Starwars to Wheel of Time conversion that was done and I remember people enjoying, but I don't recall any details of it itself but may be worth a look through.

    In fact, I'll put a link so I can find it later and do just that myself.
    Wheel of Time SAGA Conversion


  • Pitcrew

    @wildbaboons Unfortunately, both the Saga Edition conversion and the licensed Wheel of Time d20 edition... leave something to be desired (at least for me). Since in both cases they're adapting channeling to a Vancian magic system, and it's really not a good fit.


  • Pitcrew

    One of the things I do like from the SAGA system is the "weaves per hour."

    Reading the books, it honestly seems like your overall power/potential is totally useless and only exists to make the awesome characters even more awesome. That is, Egwene is OMG SO MUCH MORE POWERFUL than Moiraine, but wtf does that even mean from a game mechanics perspective?
    Moiraine knows more than Egwene, and - excepting things that are full-on world-breaking - being able to hold more of the Power doesn't actually matter - in an RP setting.

    Really, it seems like the "power" aspect is totally pointless. What seems more relevant is how many weaves you know, how easily you can learn them, and how many you can keep going at once.

    I guess you could call that "power," but it's really more like "finesse + stamina." This allows for a learning curve, too: MoirainePC knows way more than EgwenePC, but EgwenePC learns quickly and has the potential to master many more weaves in the long run. Until she levels up, though, no matter how much raw potential she has, MoirainePC is going to mop the floor with her.

    I have to agree with @faraday about not using FS3. I played with WoT using FS3 just to see what I could make of it, and the answer was: Something totally hacky.

    I love AresMUSH, but it would take someone that could code a whole different stat system to pull it together.