Monday, October 21, 2013

R&D Update: Elementalism

Well things have finally settled down to manageable near-crazy levels so I should be able to keep a regular posting schedule.  Plus this weeks upcoming dog sitting will keep me chained to the keyboard.  With that said I can't help but notice it's already October 21st.  My original plan was to have a prototype rule set ready by the end of October.  Of course this isn't the first time I've made such claims but I'm feeling pretty fruitful and since I have a major life/career change on the horizon I'd like to at least publish before I'm potentially overseas for a few years.  So, two weeks left; I could strip a lot and put out something bare bones and serviceable; but like a typical engineer I'd rather just let this one run over budget and sink more time into it.  More time, of course means more playtesting.  Speaking of which:

This playtest gave me a chance to try out two competing resolution system for Channeling the Elements and Unleashing their Fury.  This scenario and it's repetitions took a party of three geomancers, Terra the Teraformer, Frosty the Snowmage and Dr. Witcher M.D.

To set up the scene the three Elementalists were traipsing through the Slithering Swamp of Frequent Doom.  Since Dr. Witcher was not selected by the two playtesters we opened the scene with the poor sod being swallowed whole by a giant Anaconda.  In the earlier playtests Dr. Witcher and Terra the Terraformer spent most of play avoiding the snakes while they opened their mortal vessels to the flow of mana in order to unleash a devastating attack (although some playtests they didn't survive that long).  Meanwhile, after Frosty the Snowmage was devoured, he managed to numb the snake each turn slowing him down.  When the time came Dr. Witcher's fireball was used to great effect and they were able to rescue their chilly companion. Instead this time around the party was forced to have Terra the Terraformer and Frosty the Snowmage deal with a giant anaconda while beset on all sides by a horde of vipers.

This was a good chance to test out flanking, surrounded and mob violence rules.  Flanking works out flawlessly, it fulfills conceptually how flanking ought to work as one of the most valuable basic strategic ploys.  It presents a clear and present danger and gives you the incentive to secure your flank as soon as possible.  Surrounded on the other hand required a few quick edits of the wording and some dice scaling to make the mechanics easier to recall off the top of your head.  It's fairly strong but the system is setup so that the average joe is at a tremendous disadvantage when surrounded even by the weakest of enemies.  The beleaguered oaf is suddenly facing fearsome foes on all sides so it is to his advantage to either make his escape but unfortunately disengaging becomes more difficult the more foes that surround them.  Alternatively they can finish off weaker foes to end the surrounded formation.  We are currently testing out a whirlwind multi-attack limited to heroics (those who possess Intrepid Dice) which has seen mixed results so far.

Now when testing out flanking and surround my goal was to see if this would effect the player's destination.  If the risks are strong enough that they will choose their footing carefully lest they be quickly flanked or put in a position where they can be surrounded later or if they would simply charge headfirst into a throng of foes like usual.  As you may have guessed, my players are only cautious when it comes to traps; not in the slightest when it comes to snakes.  There's still plenty of time to evaluate whether these two formations will add depth to the game without ratcheting up lethality, there is still debate over whether this pre-combat strategy will have any effect in a abstract vs tactical combat but whether or not those distinctions will remain in the base game (even as an optional module) remains to be seen.
by nJoo and also Pathfinder Cover

As for mob violence it follows a similar rule to surrounded but allows for storm trooper shenanigans grouping them as a single unit that gets weaker (and fewer) as they become damaged.  One thing that needs to be cleared up for later is how surrounded and mob violence will interact as it can lead to some heinously lopsided combats.  In the meantime mob violence was a great time to test out weapons that had wide sweeping arcs that are able to hit multiple adjacent spaces and to dish out extra damage to mobs and giant creatures that occupy multiple spaces.  In a similar vein in the earlier playtest Dr. Witcher's fireball was most effective against the viper swarms as well as the giant sized anaconda.

Some highlights of players creatively using Geomancy.
Terra the Terraformer
Using Stone shape to turn mud he slinged into the sly into a rain of hardened earth shards, unfortunately hitting all in the vicinity (himself included.)
Using stoneshape to sink the surrounding marsh so that the vipers had a difficult time escaping and reaching him.
Using a fist of mud to destroy the frozen Snake (and unfortunately Dr. Witcher along with it)
Creating a quagmire/quicksand which unfortunately did not slow the anaconda but did stop the vipers

Frosty the Snowmage
Crystallizing the Anaconda while he was being constricted by it
Using numbing cold to devastating effect on cold blooded snakes.
Creating an ice wall after disengaging to prevent him from being immediately constricted.  The anaconda was not excited constrict it like the mud wall due to their aversion to cold.

A cold snap that obliterated all the vipers remaining

Dr. Witcher MD
Heating the armor of a constricted teammate
Using Pyrotechnics to turn the hanging vines into a sparse wall of fire.
Sending a ball of embers to explode near an overturned tree creating a flame source for next turn

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