Monday, November 18, 2013

CARDS RPG, Mechanics wrap-up

So, still a few things to cover in CARDS. Namely how things works on the GMs side. Obviously since characters use an entire 54 card deck for their "hit points" they won't be going down without a lot of punishment. If each monster or NPC had their own deck things are going to get ridiculous. So, there's got to be a separate mechanic for NPCs and a fairly specific structure for games.

Game Set-Up

So, once everyone has created a character they should get a deck of cards and shuffle it and draw their first hand and the Adventure begins. The Adventure basically consists of the plot for your game. It could be an adventure of courtly intrigue tracking down hidden assassins or (more likely) a journey through a deep, dangerous dungeon to snag some loot. Essentially an Adventure is the period where things are happening, risks are taken and cards are played.

Normally a player keeps the same deck throughout an Adventure. Cards that are played or discarded are put in a separate discard pile. In many cases Adventures will be simple and can likely be resolved in a single play session but if you're running a longer term adventure then it's easy enough to separate your deck and discard with a strip of colored paper or something similar and stick it back in the box.

It's not normally possible to "heal" damage during an Adventure unless you're using a Trick or benefiting from some sort of magic item. Even if you spend the night at an inn, receive first aid or make camp in the woods you can't recover from the strain of adventuring. Full restoration (shuffling your hand and discard back into your deck) normally only happens at the end of an Adventure but for long-term adventures the GM may allow the players to restore their deck under special circumstances (blessing of a divine entity, dousing in a healing spring, a powerful artifact, etc). GMs should keep in mind that restoring a player's deck not only lets them keep going longer, but also gives them back any of the powerful face cards they may have used, making it an extremely potent gift. Don't hand that sort of thing out lightly.

When planning your adventure keep in mind that there's just about no fight a character can't win with a full deck of cards. A 1st-level warrior could probably take down a dragon in a one-on-one fight. Even low-level characters have a full range of face cards for each suit. Higher level characters have more reliability and a powerful suite of Tricks, but if you burn through all your cards in one sitting you're going to end up with a hefty dose of powerful cards before burning through all 54. And no matter how mighty they may be there is no foe who can simply strike down a PC with a full deck in a single blow. Pacing is important in this system, battles are about attrition and forcing the player to make choices about conserving their resources.


After an Adventure is over, foes are slain and the loot has been dragged back to down everyone can shuffle their cards back into their deck and start Downtime. Downtime is when XP is handed out and players have an opportunity to handle personal projects, buy equipment and kill time. You don't play cards in downtime normally, generally there shouldn't be much that would call for it. If things start happening that really need cards to be played then it should probably represent the start of a new Adventure.

NPCs and Monsters

So, if a PCs deck makes it more or less impossible for them to be taken down in a single fight, how does it work for their foes? Obviously an orcish warrior isn't going to be toting around fifty-ish cards of their own.

Instead, each NPC has 4 statistics associated with a card suit: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and Spades. Whenever taking an appropriate action they can automatically be considered to play a card with the appropriate rating.

Take an "average" human. They have a rating in 3 in all four categories (2 would be the equivalent of a deficient score, while 1 is practically worthless). If this guy decides to try and clock you with a chair treat his attack as a 3 of Clubs. If he tries to figure out that you're lying he is treated as playing a 3 of Diamonds, etc. Keep in mind that face cards represent immensely powerful abilities, and no one (except perhaps a powerful god) should have an Ace.

As far as taking punishment goes that depends on the opponent's Threat Level, which are as follows:

Fodder: These guys are the weakest of threats and mostly represent nameless human or humaniod monsters who hang around in gangs and are fairly worthless on their own. They generally do not have any stats above a 5 or so and any successful attack will take a Fodder character out. Fodder might have a Talent or two.

Fodder Gangs: A group of Fodder NPCs can team up to take on stronger foes. Treat a band of Fodder as a single character that attacks and defends as a unit. They have the stats of a single member of the gang, with a bonus based on the number of members. Two Fodder NPCs get a +1 to the Card Value of attacks using Clubs and this increases by +1 every time the gang doubles in size (+2 at four members, +3 at eight members, +4 at 16 members, etc.). Each point of damage inflicted on a gang kills one its members. In addition to the Talents of its members a Fodder gang may occasionally have a teamwork based Trick it can perform.

Minor Threat: A minor threat is an opponent who is not tough enough to present a significant challenge to a PC, but a group of them might make for a decent fight. They're often the leaders of a group of fodder (such as a guard captain or an orcish war-leader). Minor threats can take 5 points of damage before going down and generally have stats around 4-6 in their relevant areas. Minor threats usually have 2 or 3 Talents and may have a Trick or two.

Moderate Threats: A single moderate threat might be able to hold their own against a band of PCs for a couple of rounds. A group of them might present a real danger, especially to an exhausted team. They will usually have some stats above 5 and can take 10 damage before giving out. They will have at least 3 Talents and a small selection of Tricks.

Major Threats: Major threats are the really big opponents, dragons, giants, arch-mages, etc. These are usually the "boss battles" of an adventure. A single Major threat could easily burn through half a PCs deck before being taken down...and usually you don't face them until you're already exhausted. A group of these opponents would be suitable only for high-level players. They are likely to have around 5 or so Talents and 3-5 powerful Tricks. They can also take 20 points of damage before being taken down.

Extreme! Threats: Want to challenge your level 10 party? Well, an Extreme! threat is the way to go. These are things like gigantic dragons, titans, master liches and demi-gods. They'll have some stats at 10 or possibly higher. They'll have a selection of talents and unique Tricks as well, likely around 6 or more (although they could easily have 3-5 extremely powerful ones). Extreme! threats can take 40 damage before expiring. Keep in mind that even a threat of this magnitude can't expect to win against PCs with a full deck of them for final fights.

The DM's Deck

Obviously a monster with stats in the 3-4 range isn't going to be enjoying much success unless they're facing a particularly unlucky PC...and may not be able to act at all if things are Difficult. That's where the DM's deck comes in. The DM has a deck of cards as well that he can use to help out NPCs facing off against players. Any time an NPC takes an action or reaction the DM can play a card from his hand which replaces the monster's suit stat. If the task involved is Difficult the DM can choose to play the extra cards from his hand (or just play two or more and replace the original suit entirely).

Example: The DM is in charge of an ogre that is battling 3 PCs and has a 5 of diamonds, a 9 and a 7 of clubs, a 5 of spades and a two of hearts. The ogre has the following stats: 5C, 2D, 4H, 3S. On the monster's turn it wants to try and smash the puny warrior before finishing off his two companions. However, the warrior's player has a couple of defensive Talents and the GM is fairly sure that he'll be able to beat the ogre's automatic 5 of Clubs without a problem. So he decides to play his 7 of clubs. This replaces the ogre's score of 5 for this attack and forces the warrior to play an 8 of Hearts to successfully defend. Now it's the PCs turn. The Trickster uses a Trick in order to make the Ogre's defenses Difficult for the round and his two allies attack. The wizard is low on cards and plays a measely 3 of clubs. Normally this would be beaten by the ogre's Hearts stat easily but since this is difficult he's got to produce another card to defend. The DM decides to accept the failure and plays that 2 of hearts. That's still a failure, but only by one and the ogre takes a single point of damage. 

Just like the PCs the DM will draw a hand of 5 cards at the start of the adventure and after playing any cards will draw up to 5. The DM does not "take damage" and generally only discards cards to active a monster's Tricks. If the DM's deck runs completely dry he is forced to use up the cards in his hand and once that happens he shuffles his deck back together and draws a new hand (however, the PCs get a healthy XP reward every time the DM burns through his deck, see below).

Levels and XP:

I'm still mulling over how levels and experience are handled. Here's what I've got so far:

Five XP is enough to level up until you hit level 4. That point it doubles to 10 XP per level until level 7 when it increases to 15 XP per level. Earning XP is pretty simple:

*2 XP for defeating a Major Threat, 5 for defeating an Extreme! threat.
*3 XP any time the DM refreshes their deck.
*2-4 XP for completing an Adventure, depending on length.
*1 XP for doing something amazing unrelated to any of the above.

You get 3 Talents at 1st level and you get an extra talent every odd level. I also think that at say levels 4, 7 and 10 you should get to increase the size of your hand by 1 but I haven't decided that for sure.

So, I think I'll spend some time organizing all these thoughts, maybe throw them into a pdf and playtest a little.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

CARDS RPG, classes part IV: The priest

The priest class has me a little conflicted. The other three classes serve good, generic roles that can be easily adapted to a variety of different character types. However, the role of "priest" is much more specific and comes with a lot of baggage. At it's heart of course it's actually a very flexible archetype: the 'support' character. This could be a priest, a bard, an inspirational warlord. But the "priest" is so deeply ingrained as the final member of the "big 4" of the classic dungeon crawling group and it has so much history. Not to mention "supporter" makes a terrible name for a class. Leader could work but that still has a lot of baggage.

For now, I'll stick with the idea that what I'm describing is a priest of generic "good" gods. In reality it has a much closer resemblance to a paladin. Since the Mage is the primary magic user they're the ones who'll get the flashy powers. The most obvious of the Priest's Tricks is Support which covers healing as well as the ability to enhance the abilities of others. I'm still a little torn on the other one. My first thought was "smiting" which would cover things like blasting evil and all that...but since part of the goal is to build a very generic set of abilities I don't want to get into too many circumstantial situations. Instead I think I'll make their second tree Miracles. Like a Mage's spells Miracles focus on the ability to perform abilities not covered by normal actions, but they're more focused and less flexible...but often more powerful. Lets see how it works out. Unless specifically noted a priest's powers cannot be maintained like a Mage's

Starting Tricks

*Holy Warrior: The priest is exceptionally good at battling the enemies of  their deity. For most "good" gods this means they have an advantage against beings of supernatural evil such as demons or the undead. Different settings or dieties may alter these definitions slightly. For instance in a setting where there are few supernatural foes your Priest may receive a bonus against followers of enemy gods. Either way, if the priest succeeds at an action against their god's foe then they increase the margin of success by 2.

*Shield of Faith: Each religion has a few basic tenets which should be worked out by the GM and the player. If the priest violates these tenets willfully then they should lose their holy abilities until they atone. However, the priest receives a +2 to the Card Value of any actions made to resist being forced or coerced into breaking the rules of their faith.

Priest Tricks:

 1st Level:
-Prayer: Before he sleeps for the night a priest may pray to their deity for some specific situation ("strengthen my arm against my orcish foes" or "give me courage when I face the dragon") and set aside a Hearts card. At any time the next day when faced with an appropriate situation the priest may use the card for an action and treat it as whatever suit is appropriate for the situation.
+Guidance: At any time when the priest or one of his allies plays a card which fails the priest may discard a Hearts card in order to allow them to play again, opposed by the same Card Value as before. the original card is still discarded.

2nd Level:
-Command: As an action against a target (Hearts vs Hearts) you may command them to perform a single action that would not normally require playing a card (dropping an object, moving, not moving, etc) and would not result in direct harm to the victim. The target may act normally after their next action.
+Aid: Play a Hearts card and your or an ally you can reach may take a number of cards equal to the Card Value from their discard pile and put them at the bottom of their deck.

3rd Level:
-Sanctuary: With about 15 minutes of work or prayer and you can consecrate an area the size of a large room and ensure that no hostile beings may enter or attack anyone within. Anyone within the zone of safety who attacks or otherwise breaks the "truce" will ruin the protection. You must discard at least one card, the protective sanctuary lasts for one hour for every card discarded.
+Boon: Pick a suit, so long as you are conscious any allies within Close range receive a +1 to the Card Value of actions played using the suit. You can change the chosen suit by spending an hour or so praying/meditating.

4th Level:
-Divine Retribution: Play a Hearts Card. For the rest of the Scene whenever you make a defensive roll using Hearts cards then the attacker suffers an immediate "counterattack" using the Card Value of the card used to activate this Trick.
+Rejuvination: Discard a card to allow you or an ally to swap a card from their hand with their discard pile. Each additional card allows an another target to be affected.

5th Level
-Get Ye Back!: By discarding a Hearts card you may make an attack against all foes who are In Your Face. Discarding two will increase the distance to Close.
+Stand Strong: Any time an you or an ally in Close range is damaged you may discard a card to reduce the damage suffered by 2 (to a minimum of 1).

6th Level
-Holy Weapon: Play a Hearts and a Club card to summon a floating weapon. Treat this as an NPC with a Clubs and Hearts rating equal to the Card Value of the cards you played -1 and a Spades/Diamonds rating of 1. You may play cards for the weapon in the same way the DM plays cards for NPCs. It vanishes if successfully damaged or at the end of the scene.
+Never Give Up: Any time you or an ally within close Range are taking an action that would be Difficult you may discard a card to reduce the Difficulty by one step.

7th Level:
-Smite: If you discard a Hearts and Diamonds card you can make an attack (as a separate card action) to call down your god's wrath in the form of a column of fire, lightning or holy power. This is a ranged attack which affects everyone Close range of the target, and will inflict double the normal damage if successful.
+Good Fortune: After drawing your first hand from a Deck (at the start of an adventure or after a recovery) you can set aside up to five cards, face up. During the course of an adventure you or an ally may discard a card to use any of these cards as part of an action or to power a Trick.

8th Level:
-Summon Servant: You may call upon a divine servant. To do this you must play a single card of each Suit. These cards become the servant's attributes (it cannot have any attributes above a 10, regardless of Card Value). You may play cards for the servant the same way the GM plays cards for NPCs. The servant will remain for one Scene and will carry out it's deity's wishes, so it is under GM control and may or may not do exactly what you expect
+Healing Hands: Discard a Hearts card and you or a touched ally are cleansed of any diseases, poisons, curses, or similar negative effects. They may also (if they wish) shuffle their current hand back into their deck and draw a new hand.

9th Level:
-Wrath: Discard a Hearts, Clubs, and Diamonds card to invoke a powerful curse on a target, which cannot be resisted. The target suffers pain, blindness and spasms, making any actions Difficult. This curse can only be removed by another priest of equal power or similar divine intervention.
+Savior: By discarding a Hearts card you can reduce damage inflicted to you or an ally to 1.

10th Level:
-Avatar: Discard your entire hand to assume the form of your diety's avatar. While wielding the power of the avatar all Card Values are doubled (before counting any bonuses). You may keep channeling this power so long as you can discard a Hearts card at the start of your turn. Once you return to normal you must discard your entire hand again.
+Miraculous Recovery: The target immediately shuffles their hand and discard pile back into their deck. This can even bring a character back from unconsciousness or death so long as it hasn't been longer than a Scene since they died. However, until they have time to take a normal recovery they must discard an extra card every time they take an action or reaction. This power cannot be used more than once per adventure on a particular target.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Wow, it's been a long time. So long I'm needing to re-read these mechanics as a write them to make sure that I haven't forgotten how this game was meant to be played. Here's the Mage and hopefully the rest of it will be completed soon. 

Okay, so now we're on to the mage, and this brings up something I've been struggling with: How does magic work in CARDS? There are tons of different magic systems out there and they all have different things they bring to the table. Personally I always find myself torn between magic systems with unique, iconic spells (D&D and Exalted are good examples) and ones that allow a great deal of flexibility and freedom (QMR or Mage for instance). But, I've also got to keep in mind that this system is fairly simple and I should be aware of it's limits. I also don't want spellcasters to be significantly more complex than the other classes. A complex magic system typically means that a mage is either less fun or effective than other classes or, with enough mastery of the system, significantly more effective.

So in the end, I'll probably take my cues from FATE, especially the Dresden Files RPG. Essentially, magic is not significantly different than anything else. A mage can attack, defend, and perform Tasks just like a normal character. If it's possible to achieve the same effects without magic then it's possible to do it with magic and if it's impossible without magic then magic can't be used to get around it (excepting through the use of Tricks). So, if faced with a locked door a mage could play a Clubs card to blast it open, or a Spades to charm the lock, and the target number would be the same as if they were a warrior or trickster. However, without an appropriate Trick the mage cannot simply walk through the door like a ghost.  Mages can typically ignore the need for tools like weapons or lockpicks, but they do have to wave their hands and chant their magic words.

Magic can be used for ranged attacks (see the rules on range here), in the form of magic bolts and so on. If a mage is attempting to keep a spell "running" for longer than a single Task or action in a Struggle then they have to take an action and playing a new card every turn (effectively "repeating" the spell round by round) in a Struggle, or every 15 out-of-games minutes. The new card played becomes the Card Value of the spell for that turn, or for the next 15 minutes. That sounds a bit awkward so let me give an example.

Mike The Mage is in a Struggle. While his friends are attempting to defeat a golem guarding the king's treasure the Royal Guard have been alerting and are trying to break into the treasure room. On his action, Mike gestures and causes the doors to swing shut and seals them with an arcane rune of binding (this is a Clubs action, effectively holding the door closed with brute force) Mike plays a 9 of Clubs, so the guards will have to beat a 9 in order to break down the door, which they fail to do. Next turn Mike wants to keep the spell running to keep them from breaking through, He has to play another card, dropping a 6 of Clubs. This means the guards now have to beat only a 6 when they attempt to break in this turn. 

Magic definitely can not instantly slay, paralyze, knock out, or mind control opponents. Certainly such spells exist but they work using the normal Struggle system for damage. A death spell is not effectively any different from a lightning bolt.

So, that's a lot of words that boil down to "magic works pretty much the same as non-magic, it just looks neater". The real difference comes in the form of Tricks. The Warrior is all about power, when they succeed they succeed impressively. The Trickster is all about reliability, they will succeed more often than not which makes them very good at defense and tackling Tasks. Mages are all about flexibility and expanded options.They can do things in ways other classes cannot and to a degree that is normally impossible, however they don't get much in the way of flat bonuses so their successes to be less impressive. The Mage's two Trick categories are Spells (-; granting a specific special power) or Enhancements (+, altering how an effect is pulled off or who it affects).

Starting Tricks:

*Magic Resistance: When attempting to resist or overcome a magical effect, the Mage gets a +2 bonus to their Card Value.

*Magic Tricks: Remember how I said that magic works the same as non-magic, just looks neater. Well, that's true in most cases, but sometimes the flexibility of magic gives it a distinct advantage. For instance, a mage's fire-bolt could set fire to a house or severely injure an ice-beast, while an archer's arrow would not. When you want to add some kind of advantageous special effect to a magical action then you must discard a card. You can also discard a card to perform minor, but useful, magic tricks (such as lighting every candle in a room as you enter). Minor, but not useful, tricks shouldn't involve any extra cost (making your nose a bit longer or emitting spectral flatulence).

*Magic Dependent: Magic is a powerful tool, but it demands a lot of it's practicioners, meaning that they're generally not as capable without it. When in a situation where you're attempting to deal with a situation without resorting to magic you suffer a -2 penalty to the Card Value of your actions. If your game is going to involve lots of situations where magic can be suppressed or persecuted then this penalty should probably be dropped to -1, or increased to -3 if the opposite is true.

Mage Tricks:

1st Level
 -Evil Eye: A curse of misfortune and grief. The victim suffers countless minor indignities and bad luck and a -1 to all Card Values. This lasts 24 hours and does not need to be maintained. This is a Diamonds action, resisted by Hearts.
+Far Spell: By discarding a card when making an attack you can increase your range, suffering no penalty for attacking Far Away targets and attacking targets at a longer range (that you can see and directly target) with Difficulty.

2nd Level
 -Telekinesis: This Trick allows you to do anything that could be done by hand a distance (Close range normally, Far Away it becomes difficult). You can cause a sword to swing, open a door, shove a foe, etc.
+Power Up: By taking additional time to build up your magical energy you may unleash spells of immense power. You may play one card per turn (or cards if the action is Difficult), keeping all cards in play until you choose to unleash your spell, adding all the cards together to get the final Card Value. The cards must be of the same suit and it is not possible to "hold" a spell, it must be unleashed as soon as you're done charging up.

 3rd Level
 -Counterspell: Diamonds becomes an appropriate suit for defending yourself against magical attacks, and you may attempt to dispel or break enduring enchantments as a Task.
+Focus: Maintaining your spells is easier. Rather than having to repeat the same action turn by turn you may discard a card at the start of your turn to keep the previous card "in play" for another round. This does not require an action.

4th Level
-Flight: You can take flight as a Spades action, flying at roughly the same speed you can run. The card used in your action serves as the maximum Card Value for any physical actions you take while in flight (such as attempting to dodge an attack or swing at someone else). This must be maintained as normal, if the spell lapses (as opposed to being dispelled in some way) then you float gently to the ground.
+Barrier: Discarding a Diamond card allows you to play a card to create a barrier. The barrier can be offensive (attacking anyone who passes through it) or defensive (resisting attempts to pass through) using it's Card Value. The barrier can be a simple wall (up to 10 yards or so wide) or a circle or dome (which may be big enough to encompass anyone within Close distance). This spell must be maintained like normal.

5th Level
-Drain Life: By discarding a Hearts and Diamond card before making an attack you may absorb your opponent's life force. For every point of damage inflicted, return a card from the top of your discard pile to the bottom of your deck.
+Blast: By discarding a Diamond or a Clubs card you may cause a spell to affect a large area, affecting everyone Close to the original target. This is not selective, all are affected equally.

6th Level
-Projection: As a Diamonds action you may project your senses at a distance (at normal range), ignoring barriers or other physical impediments. Your projection is completely intangible and is usually invisible and inaudible (unless you wish it to be otherwise). This spell may be maintained and if so you may move your projection at a swift walking speed each round.
+Chain Spell: You may discard a card to have one of your spells affect a second target (they get to play their own resistance card against your action, assuming it is negative). You may discard additional cards to affect more targets, but you cannot target the same character twice.

7th level
- Charm Item:  enchantment enhances the ordinary function of an otherwise mundane item. Whatever the item's general function, it will perform better: swords will be sharper, bows more accurate, armor is more durable, etc. The wielder of the item receives a bonus to appropriate rolls for the remainder of the scene equal to half the value of the card used in the action (this is a Diamond Action). This cannot be maintained. None weapon charms will typically add a bonus to some related tasks with the approval of the DM (an enchanted pair of boots may add in leaping and running for instance). 
+Sympathetic Magic: If you have access to some sort of mystical link to a target (typically this would be ritually prepared blood, hair, etc) then you may target them even if you cannot normally perceive them by discarding a Diamonds card. This transcends normal ranges and may affect anyone on the same world but it is always Difficult.

8th Level
-Teleportation: As a Diamonds action you may disappear and reappear somewhere else. The range is based on the TN set by the DM (generally 2-5 is within combat range (close to Far Away), 6-9 is within a handful of miles, 10+ would be for Teleporting between cities or countries), which may be increased if the Mage cannot see the target or envision it properly. It is possible to take additional willing targets with you so long as they're nearby and you discard a card for each additional character.
+Contingent Spell: You may play any card(s) you wish and state the spell they are intended for and a condition that will cause the spell to activate. When the condition is met then the spell will activate without requiring an action. If circumstances would cause the spell to be treated as Difficult then you may supply additional cards from your hand if possible...if not then the spell fails. The contingent spell will remain indefinitely until triggered.

9th Level
-Shapechange: By discarding a Hearts, Clubs and Spades card you may take a Diamonds action to transform into the shape of an animal, monster, or similar other form. The Card Value of your action can be used as the Card Value of any actions or reactions appropriate to the new form. For instance, taking the form of a giant would allow you to apply the Card Value of your spellcasting action to rolls to resist physical injury or feats of strength. Your abilities are limited to physical abilities possessed by the new might take the form of a demon but this grants you no infernal powers. This must be maintained as normal (obviously without the Focus Trick your new form will be quite unstable).
+Persistent Spell: Your spells are irresistible. When an opponent successfully resists a spell you may discard a Diamonds and Spades card in order to have the spell continue to "target" the victim. On the next turn (or 15 minutes of out of game time if you are not in a Struggle) the spell "repeats" at the same Card Value without requiring an action. This continues until the target fails to overcome the spell, the spell is somehow disrupted, or the caster chooses to cancel it. This does not require maintenance, although once the spell succeeds it must be maintained in order to continue functioning.

10th level

-Mage's Eye: The universe opens up to you. As a Diamonds action you may increase the maximum number of cards in your hand by half the Card Value of the action (rounding up). This must be maintained, and if the Card Value drops or the spell ends then you must discard any extra cards.

Permanence: By discarding a Diamonds and Hearts card when casting a spell you may choose to make the spell permanent. The action's card(s) are set aside and serve as the Card Value of the spell until it is destroyed or you intentionally cancel the magic (at which point they are discarded). If you attempt to create more than one Permanent enchantment