Friday, June 27, 2014

Deluxe T&T Beta Playtest Rules

The Beta version of the Deluxe T&T rules were released in PDF format to backers of the dT&T Kickstarter last week. Printed copies were also available at Origins. I've had a chance to look through the rules and am relatively pleased with the current product. The Beta rules include the Basic rules except for sections on magic and advice on running games. The Elaborations section is not present nor is the majority of the Trollworld material with the exception of the introduction. A PDF copy of the dT&T Preview Pack was also included at the end of the Beta Rules. This is useful for filling in some  of the gaps and actually being able to run a play test game (something which is definitely needed).

I will say that the overall appearance of the dT&T rulebook is excellent. The organization and format of the rules is, in my opinion, on par if not better than the 5th edition rules. The art program is amazing. There are pieces from a number of different sources including the previous rulebooks, solo adventures, GM adventures, and Sorcerer's Apprentice. There are also several new pieces.

The basic mechanics of the game have not changed too much in dT&T. The Saving Roll is still the main driver of the game and combat is handled in much the same way (except for some minor tweaks-for example Wizards and Rogues can cast spells and use weapons in the same combat turn). Talents have been retained, but lists of broad and talents have been provided for better guidance. This is a huge help. The Saving Roll bonus for talents has been set to a fixed +3 rather that the 1D6 of 7th edition. Characters still gain a new talent each level, but players now have the option of buying an extra talent with adventure points once per level. The weapons tables have received a bit of an overhaul. While there are still 10 pages of weapons tables, most have been changed into small, medium, large, and extra large categories. Each of these has lists of examples; Short Swords, for example, include the gladius, short sword, manople, punch sword, and sword cane from previous editions. All have the same dice (3D), cost, weight, STR and DEX requirements. In addition, weapon adds seem to have gone away with the exception of daggers and gunnes. Each step up in weapon size increases the damage by 1D or 2D.

The two big items of discussion, however, have been related to a new advantage given to the human kindred and the fate of the Rogue's  Roguery talent from 7th edition.

Human Advantage

This change has been the topic of most discussion around the dT&T Beta rules. In dT&T, humans get the new advantage of being able to re-roll any missed Saving Roll. That is a pretty big deal. Liz Danforth explained the reasoning behind the new rule in a recent post at the Deluxe dT&T blog.

I do like the idea of humans having some kind of advantage. The other kindred get some rather large boosts to their starting attributes and human characters are often left with much lower attributes. This results in lower Personal Adds especially now that negative adds have been removed. Also, given that levels are tied to attributes, nonhuman characters rarely start as 1st level characters. Most will start as 2nd and some as 3rd level (the dwarf with x2 STR and CON for example). So why bother playing a lowly 1st level human character with attributes hovering around an average of 12 and perhaps 3 Personal Adds? There are certainly "role" playing reasons to do so, but it is hard to escape the "roll" playing aspect. If you want to do as well as you can in the game, you take all the advantages that you can get.

Giving humans an edge on Saving Rolls is a nice solution. Their attributes are still not modified because human attributes are considered the base to which all others are compared. If human attributes also had modifiers, that could not be the case. Since Saving Rolls are often the difference between life and death, having an advantage on their outcome makes for a nice boon.

But it has been argued that the "do over" rule is a bit much, giving humans too much of an advantage on Saving Rolls. The chance of failure at anything may become too minimal. There have also been arguments that humans do not need any specific advantages at all. They have not had them before, so why start now?

I agree that the "do over" rule may not be the best solution; it does have the potential of making Saving Rolls a little too easy (although I have missed Saving Rolls several times in a row before). I have proposed two alternatives:

1. Humans can roll over any failed Saving Roll unless they fumble (roll a 3). Fumbles always fail.

2. Humans have a + Level bonus to all Saving Rolls. This was a rule added in 7th edition which applied to all characters, but it was explicitly removed from the dT&T rules. Bringing it back to fill this role would be a simple matter. 

Rogue Abilities

This one is a little vague. In dT&T character types have a set of Specific Skills and Specific Detriments. At least Warriors and Wizards do. Rogues seem less clearly defined, especially with respect to the Roguery talent that was added in 7th edition.

The 7th edition Roguery talent allows Rogues to make any Intelligence, Luck, or Charisma Saving Roll on the highest of the three attribute plus the talent modifier (1D6). That is a big advantage for Rogues.

The problem is that, in the Beta rules at least, the Roguery talent is not defined in this way. It is mentioned in the Rogue description, but just as one of many other talents that could be chosen. On top of that, the Rogue type has only one Specific Skill, Magical Attunement. This skill allows Rogues to cast spells at their listed WIZ cost and start with any one spell they have the INT and DEX to cast (regardless of level). This can be viewed as a big disadvantage over Warriors and Wizard that have multiple Specific Skills including those that confer increasing advantages with increasing levels (i.e., increasing the number of dice rolled in combat, decreasing the WIZ cost of spells). The lack of a skill that improves with increasing level makes levels kind of pointless for Rogues since there are no other general advantages of going up a level.

My suggestion here is to redefine the old Roguery talent as a Specific Skill for Rogues and using their already defined disadvantage as a Specific Detriment for the sake of symmetry:

A Rogue's Specific Skill: Roguery

Rogues gain a +1D6 bonus to all Intelligence, Luck, and Charisma Saving Rolls per level.

Roguery was pretty clearly defined in 7th edition including the justification for its use. If need be the name could be changed to avoid confusion. I like this rule because it scales with level and each attribute is independent, so you cannot use Charisma to try to read a strange scroll or avoid a boulder plummeting toward your head.

A Rogues Specific Detriment: Outsiders

Rogues cannot learn spells from the Wizard's Guild and must find ways to learn spells often paying outrageous costs.

This is the major problem Rogues face. They can cast magic, yes, but how do they find their spells? Wizards already have to pay a hefty sum to learn new spells. How much will they charge that sketchy Rogue especially if they risk severe punishment for doing so?

With any set of RPG rules, I am sure that most will not agree with all of the new rules in dT&T. There have been omissions and house rules for every other edition, so why should this one be any different? In the end, seeing the Beta rules gave me a lot to look forward to in the new edition. Given the amount of discussion being generated and the play testing being done I also think it was a very smart move. Any game system is going to have some bugs. Getting those bugs worked out takes a group outside of the design team.

I still have more of the Beta rules to go through in detail and I hope the discussion will continue. I'll be posting more of my thoughts on the rules in later posts.

No comments:

Post a Comment