Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Eldritch Musings: Honor, Bloodline Score, and Races

Sometimes I will sidebar, and sometimes a sidebar is worth an entire blog entry!

I've been thinking a lot about the ways I'd like to handle the various mechanical changes I'll need to make in order to bring Birthright forward, and I've gotten several avenues of feedback about my intended methods. I'm not so stubborn as to not let discussion change my mind, as that is a death sentence in game design.

So the following are points of contention that I am flopping around about, and will decide for 100% certain when I get to the respective articles.

Races and Blooded Scions

Caiomhe probably hit on something good with the decisions made for the races. Harbinger bludgeoned me with facts convinced me after a brief discussion that, well, the reason you play Birthright for the setting conceit; that is, blooded scions and domain management. Willingly recusing yourself from those aspects is a conscious choice to play a slightly different game than the other players. Further, relegating the bloodlines to a feat is not inherently bad, but making it so non-humans are outright excluded from getting past the bouncer until 4th level is kinda poopy.

So I'm going to mea culpa there and concede that the choice to be a blooded scion is one made at first level, through selection of variant racial packages. I don't think I will do quite the same arrangement as aforementioned PDF conversion, but the general idea will be similar. Also, the stat bonuses might be troublesome, because...

Nix Honor, Add Bloodline

Hero With a Thousand Hit Points had a great suggestion in using Bloodline as a new, Cerilia-specific ability score for players who are blooded scions. And in thinking about it for much of the day, I'm liking the idea more and more. Hear me out.

As the DMG suggests, adding a new ability score (from their examples of Honor and Sanity) gives you another score to roll for, more points to add in point-buy, or another 11 to place with the standard attribute array (full disclosure: I prefer the standard array for a lot of reasons that would take a whole blog entry to cover). If an ability score is used, you can increase it via level-gains any time you would otherwise increase an ability score, it creates a notable (and likely difficult) decision on character creation on where to place your best scores, and gives humans (who are typically possess the most potent bloodlines in the setting, short of awnsheghlien) a slight advantage in where to place their bonus ability points.

This also helps give the player more control and less blind randomness in how strong their initial bloodline ends up, and neatly delineates the different bloodline dilutions. To wit:
1-8: Tainted
9-14: Minor
15-19: Major
20: Great
21+: True
Harbinger expressed that this didn't feel right, and I feel like I am getting the same itchy sensation about it, but it helps tie a great many future features together. Regency Point gain based on ability modifier and proficiency bonus. Blood abilities that scale based on how strong you make your ability score. Heck, domain action resolution can use a Bloodline ability check to resolve actions that don't already reference another skill proficiency.

So this is what I'll likely be shifting toward as we continue on this blundering design journey of mine. No promises I won't be convinced otherwise later on, though!


  1. Okay, I've thought about this some more. It's still percolating, but I have the following questions.

    1. Since this will have such a strong impact on the regency/domain rules, what parts of the regency/domain rules do you see as *Important to Keep* or *Worthy to Keep?* I realize this is design-in-progress and things may change, but as a starting point, do you want to keep the actions? the general mathematical structure? every part of it? (Don't keep the NWPs. That would be silly. Adding 1-3 new skills might be feasible.) I don't see any of those as bad things, other than the NWPs. But a Bloodline stat on a 1-25 scale obviously behaves quite differently, math-wise, from Birthright's default 1-100 (?) scale. You could do worse than (4 * Bloodline Strength score) to repair the math.

    2. In review, I realized that ability scores have no way to factor into the general course of domain actions. Is there a reason that this is preferable, which I am overlooking? They are structured like DCs that you modify with Regency Points rather than anything else on your character sheet. The NWPs can throw the rest of the game's delicate balance into chaos - for example, Leadership is like getting one free Agitate action for a single province every domain turn. My point here is that I would personally like to see the domain actions retuned to factor in ability score bonuses. Historically, leaders gain reputations for cleverness, wisdom, charisma, whatever; I would like that to Mean Something in Birthright. (If that swings the balance too far away from fighter-types, that would be a problem to address separately.)

    To preserve the usefulness of ability scores and add in Bloodline Strength as a component, I would allow regents to substitute Bloodline Strength for any other stat once per domain turn, or to add the Bloodline Strength modifier to a roll once per domain turn, or something along those lines.

  2. In response!

    1. I won't deny that the math is going to need a pretty heavy overhaul, but short of stapling on a bulky 2nd edition system straight onto 5th seems more fraught with pitfalls than rebalancing and remathing the actions, costs, etc.

    I would like to keep a majority of the actions, and give some of the old handwavey ones (like Decree) an actual measurable benefit. At least I believe it's decree, my books are Way Over There right now. You get what I mean though.

    I don't think new skills are explicitly needed, though I'll touch on that more later on.

    2. My initial feeling is that yes, the domain actions have target DCs you need to hit. I'll have to break down a few of the actions in particular and run a few simulations, but I believe you can still keep the dynamic of using RP to decrease the target DC, but those DCs should be bounded in keeping with 5th edition's difficulty curves.

    You could make the argument that Bloodline score acts like a special "proficiency bonus" that you add to relevant skill checks, but my current angle is it simply being its own ability check that can be applied to a number of skills. For example, the Espionage action could be a Bloodline (Deception) check. A Diplomacy check might be Charisma (Persuasion), but if your Charisma sucks, you might have the option to use Bloodline (Persuasion) once per domain turn, as you suggest; an option I really, really like, at that. :)