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September 17, 2018 0 comments

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Vocation Advancement and Body Development

Hi, all. I’m considering moving my home group into this playtest. So I designed a character last night and have my (possible) first question. Wizards and Animists, at level advancement, don’t ever get any Ranks in Body Development. This would mean that, unless the characters’ players divert Ranks from other Categories, their ONLY hit points ever will be resulting from their FORT and whatever they get from Kin and (possibly?) Culture and Background.

In my MERP/Rolemaster days, players made certain (and, as GM, I made certain) that, at every possibility, players developed, as much as possible, at least one Weapon Skill and Body Development. What I’m asking is: wouldn’t no regular Rank allotment in Body Development effectively amount to what I’ve heard as a “tax” on other Skill Categories, making the game one of “which Ranks am I going to strip out of my primary Vocation abilities” rather than, say, just giving every Vocation a Rank in Body Development automatically? In Against the Darkmaster, does it still seem natural that Body Development is of primary importance, or do you imagine that Against the Darkmaster is a qualitatively different game (minimizing combat options) than other high fantasy rpgs, MERP and Rolemaster most specifically?

Great question.

The Body skill is obviously quite important, and it's always nice to have more HPs, but the truth is that Animists and Wizards don't actually need to develop it. Their spells give them others, usually more efficient, ways to avoid harm. So, IMHO, this is not a "tax", because the players are given viable alternatives (while, for example, with Save Rolls putting ranks in other skills wouldn't be as good as putting them in the SR). From our experience in the playtest, Animist and Wizards tend to drop maybe a couple of ranks in the Body Skill, to raise their HPs to a level they find comfortable, and then they just forget about it.
On the other hand, Vocations like the Warrior or the Rogue are much more dependant on their Body Skill to survive, and are happy to drop their DPs each level in it. This is also because they tend to suffer damage more easily than the spell casters, being basically the "frontline" of the party. But being more resilient and able to endure more punishment is also one of the "edges" these Vocations have over Wizards and Animists.
Granting each Vocation a "free" rank in Body would tilt the scales in favor of the spell casters, robbing the non-spell casting Vocations of one of their advantages.

 

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Great answer.

So, as a follow up question (and I fear what follows might justify a new topic/thread), say my character concept is one that is a good Warrior, able to take a lot of hits, but also has some more than negligible casting ability. Perhaps I’m thinking of an Aragorn type who, being the True King, has some slightly magical Healing ability. Perhaps a good analogue is the Cleric in other games. Of course Strider is also a possibility, but I agree with your decision to nix the Vocation from vsDarkmaster. The route I went with (above) was Animist with some Ranks diverted to Body Development. But would you recommend a different approach, say, Dabbler, even though Roguery and many Lore Skills, in my concept, are less important?

Or—and I know I’m only dealing with the QuickStart—would you recommend multiple Vocations (“Multiclassing” in other games)? Do you imagine this as a feature of Against the Darkmaster, or do you intend for characters to be tightly locked into one Vocation with difficult choices, a mini-game, resulting from the decision to divert Ranks at a higher cost?

Apologies if this has already been discussed in your blog post detailing your decision to “kill” the Strider.

Yes, your concept sounds more like a Dabbler or, better yet, a Champion, which fills the whole "warrior with magical abilities" archetype.

These two Vocations aren't described in the QS, in part because they needed more playtesting, and in part because they're slighlty more complex than the other Vocations and we wanted to keep things as simple as possible. But we'll post some preview of these "hybrid" vocations sooner or later, here on the forums.

As for multiclassing, the short answer is no, we don't intend to insert it as a feature in VsD. Part of the fun in the game comes, as you guessed, by the difficult choices you're forced to make because of your kin, vocation and culture.

However, there are Background Options that let you create more flexible characters, giving them access to abilities that would normally be restricted to them. So, you could say that this is the way "multiclassing" works in VsD.

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.
Quote from Topramesk on December 20, 2018, 4:13 pm

Great question.

The Body skill is obviously quite important, and it's always nice to have more HPs, but the truth is that Animists and Wizards don't actually need to develop it. Their spells give them others, usually more efficient, ways to avoid harm. So, IMHO, this is not a "tax", because the players are given viable alternatives (while, for example, with Save Rolls putting ranks in other skills wouldn't be as good as putting them in the SR).

Sorry to resurrect that thread.

The spell you refer to are:

(Wizard) 2nd Magic Shield* (+25DEF), 7th Blade Ward* (+100DEF)

(Animist) 2nd Endure the Elements (+20DEF), 6th Sanctuary (+10DEF), 10th Nature's Shield (auto miss)

These make up by no means the difference of 80-100 HP, since there is the Bruised mechanic which grant you a -20 Penalty to all actions, if having been hit for half HP.

Even if Wizards and Animists serve a differing combat role and are not front-line combatants, on the average they will have to drop out of combat earlier or die.

 

I have taken out my old MERP and found that VsD has a (x3) higher initial HP value from Kin vs MERP having at least 1 DP in Body for all Vocations.

The VsD QS Rules contain only 10 Levels, so modifying the current Body DP allocation will surely unbalance the Vocations in the Game, while being unbalanced among themselves.

In a group of well-behaved players there should be no problem with that. In the real world thats a differing story.

One solution would be to make the spell system more flexible to balance that out, but thats for an entirely differing topic.

 

my 2 cent

 

Thanks, Alfred! Honestly, I realize that I shared my concern before I recognized that characters got a huge hp bump at level-1, unlike in MERP, and I was reacting from a MERP mindset to the Development Chart. I have to quit looking at this from a design perspective and starting gaming already! That’s coming up at the end of January, I hope. I think I’ll have a much more relevant perspective then.

I will try to add my contribution to the topic as well. I was one of the first skeptics about the starting amount of HPs in VsD. This is because I was always puzzled about how few HPs did starting characters have in the original *master games. There was no way to have a decent amount of HPs at levels 1 to 3 in MERP & Rolemaster (any edition) without buffing up the character with extra ranks, background options and stuff like that. A level 1 human warrior with a standard CON could well had started the game with less than 40 HPs. Considering a long sword strike could inflict up to 30 base damage on an unarmored character, plus criticals, it was very few HPs.

On the other hand, HPs count tended to go up very quickly in those games, thanks to the fact you could put lots of DPs in the Body Development skill and the background options bumping up the per-rank gain. In RMSS/RMFRP you could well had a character gaining over 30 HPs in a single level up. Soon enough, you could have ended up with characters lvl 8-10 with more HPs than a stock stone troll.

We pondered over this topic a lot when drafting VsD. We wanted lower level characters to have a fair amount of HPs to withstand a melee or two, and higher level ones pack some more without becoming walking HPs batteries. We wanted a smooth bell curve progression as every other skill in the game instead of a linear ramp up before the diminishing return kicked in. So we decided to:

  1. Bump up the starting HPs for any character a lot by giving each Kin a fair amount to start with.
  2. Smooth and generally tune down the progression for any Vocation but the Warrior (and the Champion, in the Full Rules).
  3. Add maximum HPs Kin caps to prevent HPs bloat and make for tough, yet still vulnerable, higher level characters and give a sense of scale when confronting a black troll or dragon.

As of late, we revised the HP rules a little to accomodate even some more extra edge for Warrior-like characters at lower levels, giving them Vocation bonuses in the Body skill - this is still under playtest but may find its way in the full rules.

In my current game group we have a lvl 3 human Warrior with 90 HPs, and a lvl 3 half-elf Champion with 75. Third are a human Rogue with something around 50-60 and finally a Silver Elf Wizard that dropped in just a few casual DPs and ended up around 30. This felt quite balanced up to now, although it still needs a lot more playtest.

For no one in this world you can trust, my son. Not man, not woman, not beast. But STEEL... this, you can trust!

Also, consider you've seen only a part of the Spell Lores. The Full Rules contain more than 30 Spell Lores, which means more than three times the spells you've seen in the Quickstart!

Spell casters have loads of options to choose from, and many different ways to protect themselves.

However, yes VsD is based on the assumption that the party will cooperate, and that the PCs will help and protect each other. This is because the party of heroes that manages to beat a seemingly impossibly powerful evil by working together is one of the most common tropes in Epic Fantasy (while lone wolves and edgy antiheroes are more common in Sword & Sorcery).

 

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.