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KingOfDreams

Aberrant RPG - Need Help! Game Disaster!

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So a group of gamers, which includes myself, started up an Aberrant game a couple of weeks ago. Everybody scoured the books for the best way to create their character concept. We really evaluated the mechanics to make sure our novas could perform cool actions when things started to get exciting.

We all got together for the first session. When the Storyteller got to the first round of combat that night, everything fell apart.

The problem was that most of the players felt like they could not do anything effective during a turn due to constraints of the rules. Many of us would declare our intentions at the beginning of the round, and when it came around to our time to act all we had left to do was to abort to defensive action or sit there and twiddle our thumbs. A few of us also had problems calculating our dice pool penalties for multiple actions, including actions gained from the Quickness enhancement and Time Manipulation power. The Redirect enhancement also fueled a debate during the session. All of this sucked most of the enjoyment right out of the game. We spent most of the session discussing how to change the system to make everyone happy.

My first question is as follows. Were we using the mechanics right? I'll extrapolate the problems we had with how we interpreted the rules for combat. Before rolling Initiative, everyone declares what they intend to do for in the turn. This included splitting actions [including extra ones from powers like Quickness], calling for defensive actions, and use of quantum powers. Then we all rolled initiative and went down by number. If you were attacked before your time came in the round and you had not declared any defensive actions, you could try to abort to a single defensive action. If you were attacked more than once before your time and you had already aborted into a defensive action, you were screwed and had to take the hit without defending. If your time came and you had not performed any actions yet you only had two choices. Perform the actions you declared, which were most often a moot point by the time your turn came because circumstances had changed [your target was down or out of combat, you were being grappled by an opponent, another player already accomplished what you were planning on doing, etc.]. The only other option was to move or sit and observe. Another problem we experienced was determining if we were going to have enough dice to perform the actions we wanted to. Calculating Multiple Action dice pool penalties for different dice pools was very time consuming and confusing.

It sucked. I had only played Aberrant once before, and it was a very short lived game [about three sessions]. The players in that game were not into power gaming and none of us really utilized the full set of abuses to the rules the powers offered. I was not ready for what happened this time.

Is this something other Aberrant players experience, or were we doing something wrong? Are there any house rules that address some of these difficulties? Does the system need an overhaul from the bottom up?

We really want to play Aberrant. The setting rocks! We all love our characters and want to have them achieve greatness [or fail miserably in a Taint induced explosion]. What should we do?

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Usually what you do is roll initiative and then declare actions in the order of highest to lowest, which gives lower acting characters a chance to defend against the faster ones. the exception is an obscure enhancment called foresight which makes players declare in order from lowest to highest with the foresight character speaking last, and possibly able to prempt other characters.

Otherwise you did it pretty much correctly. Combat sucks when you have to be on the defensive...if you don't think you can handle a fight it's probably best to not get in one...play smarter and all that. Its perfectly natural that the higher initiative characters will prempt a slower characters actions meaning that yes, they may have to abort to defense or yes they might get grappled and have to break free. Such is the nature of conflict.

As for mutli action penalties, however many actions you are taking becomes the penalty for the first action, with each successive action happening lower on initiative and with a further +1 cumulative penalty. This is really explained quite clearly in the rules. If you take 3 actions the fiorst is at -3, the second at -4 and the third at -5. Note that this takes away from dice pools so you keep your megas. If your dice pool is reduced to zero, you can't roll at all megas or no (It specifically states that Megas ADD to your dice pools but are not considered part of them on their own). This penalty can be reduced by the multitasking enhancment or through extra limbs if you have them and quickness and temporal gained extra eactions suffer no penalty. It has been a matter of some debate whether quickness and temporal gained extra actions may be "split" the way a normal action can. (My thought is that they can be split, since the two powers in question either make you faster or make everything else in time move realatively slower in effect actually giving you more time to act. other people disagree with this interpretation on grounds of game balance in the face of characters who could potentially take dozens of actions if built for it).

Note that with Quickness and Temporal manip however, you may only take physical actions, ie no firing multiple combat actions, or activating any other powers.

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Is the Storyteller supposed to publicly declare what the NPCs are going to do as well? Let's say I target an NPC with my Immobilize power. When it gets to my turn, that NPC has already teleported out of the area. The only options I have now are to abort to a defensive action, move, or do nothing. This type of scenario left players without any options. There were still other things they wanted to do with their turn, but since they did not declare it, they could not.

It also seems to me that Initiative is a very powerful trait. Going before everyone else gives you the flexibility to declare offensive and defensive actions and pull them off. If you go later and don't declare defensive actions, you forfeit any offensive actions to defend. If you have low dice pools and performing multiple actions is not a desirable option for you then you had better win Initiative if you ever want to go on the offensive.

I realize the intention of the mechanics. It's just that for us they seemed to get in the way of what we wanted to do without providing too much real world representation.

As far as the multiple actions go, here's my frustration. Let me give you the following example. I declare that I'm going to fire my Q-bolt once, use my Immobilize power, use my Flight to approach a target through a field of enemy combatants [Flight roll to maneuver through the obstacles], then punch it, and save one action for defense. I now have five different dice pools to roll. I need to calculate my penalties and figure out if I will have enough dice to perform each action in the order I have declared. This takes a lot of time. Granted this is probably an extreme example, but most of us playing were attempting complex maneuvers that warranted some note taking and calculating to determine efficacy. It was very labor intensive. Isn't there an easier way?

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Well, my group tends to not declare actions according to initiative rolls, but just run through the scene by the rolls. We declare attack, defense, or a mix. This rewards higher initiative players who can go first, but doesn't stick people into unusable actions(an issue I have with White Wolf in general, to note). If you're attacked before your "turn", in the first round, you can declare defense, or if you acted the previous round, any remaining defensive actions can be used...or you're out of luck(and likely hurting). Also, all actions but defensive ones go off on that player's turn, just for ease of play, instead of book -2 initiative order.

To note, for a starting game, Time Manipulation implies a really high starting point. You may want to run a "play" fight without extra actions just to get used to how splitting pools work. Another thing that will certainly speed it up...are you playing with the official sheets? They have a box next to the all the skills that lets you just put the number in so you don't have to recalc it everytime . Also, if you cut power use to one active quantum power a turn, like the book rules, it will speed things up greatly.

And as I'm one of the people who agree that extra actions shouldn't be split, it's exactly this reason, it complicates bookkeeping and way overpowers speedsters.

For your example...let's assume you had two extra actions. My group does it this way, if we were ignoring the book about only one "active" quantum power a turn, which you shouldn't(Q-bolt or Immobilize, flight is a scene long).

Q-bolt(first action, no penalty)

Immobilize(second action, no penalty)

Flight(third action, first split -3 dice, and to note, my st wouldn't make you roll for it unless you're dealing with a fair amount of flying opponents or obstacles)

Punch(Brawl + Str, first one that should be written down, -4 dice)

Defense(Dodge + Dex, written down, -5 dice)

Of course, my group has already been playing for quite a while, and we tend to know our dice pools by heart, you might even want write down your dice pools for powers until you're used to them, though most are just stat + power. It's been an issue for my character, who has the most complicated setup in our game(Shapeshift, while wonderfully versatile, means I have to recalc most of my damage codes and soak each fight, I just tend to have it memorized now, but for someone like that, let them have the book at hand, and pregened powers which they can grab and have the effects written down already helps)

And the funkiness of full dodge...well, at least it's easier to remember -1 from each successive roll, but given it almost never comes up in game, you'll likely want the book open to there.

Edit: On the ST declaring what NPCs actions are going to be...well, our way doesn't have that issue, but yes, in book order, he(or she) has to declare the NPCs action, at least in general(attack, defense, fleeing or power use) unless the npc has something that would prevent it from being known. (Invisible until his initiative, surprise attack, that sort of thing)

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Hmm, and this might be combined, but another issue is...well, I'll be honest, you shouldn't roll initiative every round. It does kind of mess up those who had bad rolls in the first round, but it saves so much time that it is worth it.

Also, those who do active powers(such as the Time manipulation) need to do so at the start of the fight, or at the start of their turn, to get the full effects, which might clear up things for your group. It sounds like that may have been an issue. And yes, that does make things that are reflexive or innate much more valuable.

And, though I'm being long winded already, would you like a couple of sample turns from my group's game?

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Is the Storyteller supposed to publicly declare what the NPCs are going to do as well? Let's say I target an NPC with my Immobilize power. When it gets to my turn, that NPC has already teleported out of the area. The only options I have now are to abort to a defensive action, move, or do nothing. This type of scenario left players without any options. There were still other things they wanted to do with their turn, but since they did not declare it, they could not.

It also seems to me that Initiative is a very powerful trait. Going before everyone else gives you the flexibility to declare offensive and defensive actions and pull them off. If you go later and don't declare defensive actions, you forfeit any offensive actions to defend. If you have low dice pools and performing multiple actions is not a desirable option for you then you had better win Initiative if you ever want to go on the offensive.

I realize the intention of the mechanics. It's just that for us they seemed to get in the way of what we wanted to do without providing too much real world representation.

As far as the multiple actions go, here's my frustration. Let me give you the following example. I declare that I'm going to fire my Q-bolt once, use my Immobilize power, use my Flight to approach a target through a field of enemy combatants [Flight roll to maneuver through the obstacles], then punch it, and save one action for defense. I now have five different dice pools to roll. I need to calculate my penalties and figure out if I will have enough dice to perform each action in the order I have declared. This takes a lot of time. Granted this is probably an extreme example, but most of us playing were attempting complex maneuvers that warranted some note taking and calculating to determine efficacy. It was very labor intensive. Isn't there an easier way?

You are absolutely correct...Initiative IS powerful...and it should be. In combat, speed is deadly and the ability to act before your opponents can react can and should be rewarded. No the ST doesn't tell the players what the NPCs are going to do (Unless a player has foresight or similar).

Your players need to p.lay smarter and respect the power of novas...a good rule of thumb is to state two actions and then use the first one for defense and the second for counter attack. Movement such as flight etc doesn't cost you an action to use....if you are doing a half move. More than that and it takes up your turn. You can half move and then act and it doesn't count as an action. In your example, you have 3 actions. Q-bolt, Immobilize, half move, and then 1 for defense...again I think with novas (and especially Novas about whom you dont know their capabilties) you need to play defensively smart, but we are using your example. The first action is at -3, the second at -4 and that defensive action is going to be at -5.

I really don't have too much sympathy as you might tell....If a character wants to attack someone and they teleport away...well too bad! Life is tough, and Novas on Nova combat is a brutal, and often short affair. Tactics mean everything.

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BCcAugust,

I don't think you need to post examples of game play unless your group uses an innovative house rule or system to simplify the mechanics. I also agree that rolling Initiative every round is time consuming, but not doing so seriously disadvantages the players who get low initiatives. If your spending every round using up defensive actions, or aborting to defensive actions, you might get pretty frustrated. Maybe I would offer the ability to delay to the beginning of the round [unless this is already an option].

Now here's what I've been up to.

I tried coming up with a quick table or two for referencing multiple actions and dice pools. If the players had an easy way to check for how many actions they could perform and what their penalties would be it would make the process smoother. I guess my brain is not advanced enough to come up with a solution because I have been unsuccessful so far. There are just too many variables or something. I did however come up with an option that I think will work.

What if instead of using the dice pool penalties to determine multiple actions, you simply change it to a difficulty? For each action you want to perform beyond the first one you get you simply add a cumulative +1 difficulty to the roll. Say I want to perform four actions in one turn. The first one is standard. The second one is at a +1 difficulty, the third is at a +2 difficulty, and the fourth is at a +3 difficulty. It may seem broken at first, but I think it may work with some tweaking.

What do you think?

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I don't know if you have read my post above or not since I believe you were posting at the same time, however I have to point out that your proposed fix makes things worse.

We know mathematically that with a dice pool of 10 dice (easy for a nova if you spedn points on atts and skills) you will average 4 successes. Every die adds .4 successes and every mega adds .9

So if you want to take 3 actions normally the penalty breaks down to -3,-4,-5. So that means you are rolling 7, then 6, then 5 dice out of an original 10. This leaves you with an average of 2.8, 2.4, and 2.0 respectively.

Now say you want to take 3 actions with your proposed system...you just added a +3 difficulty. It is going to take an average of 3 dice (or 1.2 successes) to be able to offset the difficulty. With 10 dice orginally you are looking at about a success on average for each of the 3 rolls...less than if you had used the original system.

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I don't know if you have read my post above or not since I believe you were posting at the same time, however I have to point out that your proposed fix makes things worse.

We know mathematically that with a dice pool of 10 dice (easy for a nova if you spedn points on atts and skills) you will average 4 successes. Every die adds .4 successes and every mega adds .9

So if you want to take 3 actions normally the penalty breaks down to -3,-4,-5. So that means you are rolling 7, then 6, then 5 dice out of an original 10. This leaves you with an average of 2.8, 2.4, and 2.0 respectively.

Now say you want to take 3 actions with your proposed system...you just added a +3 difficulty. It is going to take an average of 3 dice (or 1.2 successes) to be able to offset the difficulty. With 10 dice orginally you are looking at about a success on average for each of the 3 rolls...less than if you had used the original system.

My brain is starting to hurt again. Maybe this will be the cause of my eruption!

Let me reexamine your example. You have a PC who wants perform three actions on their turn. They conveniently have a dice pool of ten for each action. Now depending on the actions they want to perform, they will need a certain number of successes to perform each action. Let's keep it simple for now and say that each action requires one success, standard rolls. The PC gets 7, 6, and five dice to perform these standard actions. Using your formula of one dice equals .4 successes, the PC succeeds at all three rolls with an extra success on each one to boot.

Now use the difficulty option. The PC now must make the first action at a standard roll. The second action now requires two successes, and the third action requires three successes. The average successes the PC should achieve are four with ten dice. The PC succeeds each action with more extra successes overall. With this option it becomes easier to perform the multiple actions.

Is that what you were pointing out?

I might start the difficulties at one higher, applying a +1 difficulty to the first action and a cumulative +1 to each one after that. I'm not sure I like that idea though. In the example above, the PC has the same starting dice pool for each action. Realistically, I believe the dice pools are going to vary greatly depending on the types of actions declared. Unless you are pummeling your target to death with a series of Strikes, it is likely that each action is going to consist of different dice pools.

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Exactly...and with lower dice pools the chance of success with greater difficulties drops precipitously. Of course, having Megas can help with that.

Honestly dude I have played alot of Aberrant over the years and have never encountered the problems you are having. The other problem with chaning the system is now you have to come up with new rules for extra limbs and multitasking as well.

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You must declare your actions, in as much detail as the storyteller requires.

In my opinion, the solution to your having to abort actions and do nothing problem is simple: Require less detail in the descriptions before resolution. Say 'I'll hit one of them with my Q-Bolt' or 'I'm attacking', not 'I'll take the guy with the funny hat'. Stay flexible. Yes, there will be times where you're out of options, but that's just the way it goes. In general, though, staying flexible will help combat scenes run more smoothly and let everyone show off their characters well. Action declarations are there to give the ST and the other players a rogh outline of the turn to come, not to constrain and limit the heroes.

Personally, I think the multiple action rules are simple and easy to use, but it takes some practice. Maybe doing some simple combat test runs is a good idea? No roleplaying, just testing the system and get used to the mechanics?

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*shrugs* As I said, my group doesn't declare actions before initiative, period. If you're going to keep that, then yes, keeping actions general will be of much greater aid. (Attack, defend, move, split actions)

And as the person who's almost always at the bottom of the initiative pile in my game(depending on my rolls, of course), it's really not that frustrating, even given my gm's habit for mass combat(I've had thirty actions go off before my first turn in one example). You can always hold actions to restart the initiative order, or leave and reenter combat, though that will cost you a turn or so. Plus, I hate to say it, but someone is always going to be at the bottom of the pile. And over time, it's likely to be the same people, unless you engage in an initiative arms race. (We have something like a twenty difference in initiatives, I believe, given the various concepts) Of course, if this frustrates your group that much, yeah, you might want to put a limit on initiatives and roll every round.

As for the difficulty idea...difficulty raising is bad, much worse then losing dice. And it will become more intuitive after a while, though if you're going to do a chart...ten dice has a max of five actions with a split, 9&8 four and the like.

Has your group played White Wolf games before this? I mean, I always used to have this same problem in Vampire, which is one of the reasons our group runs this way.

No comment on writing down your skill pools? Really, you use the same stats + skills 90% of the time, it should cut time down for your people.

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In my tabletop group, we kept it very specific - "I'm going to make 3 attacks." "I'm going to activate Flight and hold an action for defense." "I'm going to TK one of them." That way, even if your initial target was taken out, you are still following your initial plan of action.

Alternately, just declare your actions when your initiative comes up. *shrug* It might not be as "fair" to the high-initiative novas, but it streamlines combat.

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Eh, the high-init character still gets the ability to force everyone further down the chart to either abort to a defensive action, or eat an undefended attack. He also can hold his action, and then preempt whatever an opponent later down the chart does.

Declare-after still gives plenty of advantage to the guy who goes first.

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OK. I'm throwing caution to the wind. The players in my group have expressed a willingness to try anything to make the system appealing for us. I think I have come up with a chassis to fix the dislikes I have with the mechanics. I went with the difficulty option for Multiple Actions even though it was debated against quite effectively. I still think it can work for our group. I'll break it down with my rough draft of definitions. There are some other tweaks I made, like Quickness and Redirection, but I'm not going to list those here right now. Feel free to blast away, I can take the criticism. I am also interested in anyone pointing out drastic flaws in this setup.

Turn

This is the smallest amount of time combat is broken down into. It is usually about five seconds, but may encompass a various amount of time in different circumstances. During a turn, each combatant is able to perform one Action and move up to half their Sprint movement, or they may forgo their Action and move up to their full Sprint movement.

Initiative

At the beginning of an encounter every combatant determines Initiative by rolling a d10 and adding a number equal to their Dexterity and Wits combined [Mega dots of both these Attributes count twice for this calculation]. The result is the Initiative order for every combatant each turn of the encounter. Everyone then declares their intention to perform an Action, move more than half their Sprint, or perform Multiple Actions. Then everyone performs their declared intentions in order from highest to lowest. If a character is attacked before their Initiative comes up, they must make a Willpower roll [or spend a Willpower point] to perform a defensive Action. If they are attacked more than once and did not declare Multiple Actions at the beginning of the turn, they may not actively defend themselves against subsequent attacks. Of course you may opt to not defend yourself at all, saving your action for attack or something else. You may choose to delay your Initiative to perform your Action or move to any time until the end of the round. This delaying may be used to interrupt another characters Actions if they have a lower Initiative than yours.

Action

Every player has the chance to perform one action during each turn. These actions encompass anything from the use of quantum powers, getting up from a prone position, or blocking an attack, and many others. Actions are usually performed when your Initiative comes up, but sometimes they are performed at other times in a round in response to various circumstances. A player who has performed one action during the turn may not perform another unless they declared that they were going to perform Multiple Actions at the beginning of the turn.

Movement

There is only one movement trait a character needs to calculate in meters which is Sprint [Dex x3 +20]. This is the maximum distance a character can move during a turn. They may only perform an Action during a turn if they move less than half this distance in the turn. If they restrict their movement to a walk [about five meters] then they may perform Multiple Actions. If a player moves more than their Walk distance, they may only perform one action in a turn. If they have already performed an action, they may not perform another. If a player declares that they are going to perform Multiple Actions or do so before moving, they may not move more than their Walk distance. Run distance is no longer required.

Multiple Actions

You can perform more than one action during your turn, but this must be declared immediately after Initiative is rolled before the first player commences their action. The player need not declare how many actions will be performed, just that they intend to do so. The first action performed that turn is done a t a +1 difficulty. Each subsequent action performed incurs a cumulative +1 difficulty to the roll. So a player performing four actions during a turn makes the first one at +1 difficulty, the second at +2, third at +3, and fourth at +4. Other difficulties may also be applied as normal to these rolls. If a roll fails the player may perform another action, but the cumulative difficulty penalty still applies. The cumulative penalty is also still increased after actions that do not require a roll to perform. So getting up from a prone position doesn't require a roll to perform, but the next action taken in the same turn has a increased difficulty by +1.

Total Defense

At the beginning of a turn when declaring intentions, you may decide to spend the entire round defending. This allows you to only perform defensive Actions during a Turn. You use the Multiple Actions difficulty rules for each defensive Action performed, but you are able to lower the difficulty by one for each defensive Action taken. You are not required to make a Willpower roll to defend against an attack before your Initiative comes up. When your Initiative does come up, you may also move up to half your Sprint distance in the Turn.

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