Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wayshielders Peril & Chaos

The rules for Peril and Chaos describe a time-free method of tracking party action and decisions. From the Arbiter's rules:
Light, health, and safety are inimical concepts within a dungeon - its denizens sense them and grow agitated. Likewise, panic, bedlam, and doubt attract and bolster them. Actions such as these build Peril, which is tracked by the Arbiter and determines when wandering monsters or dangerous events occur.
Peril is, in many ways, a global counter of all the harm, danger, risk, stupidity, panic, and indecision the party has built up within a dungeon. Here are the current rules for:

Building Peril

  • +10: Seizing a dungeon core.
  • +3: Resting.
  • +3: A mage's Breach reaches 6 or more.
  • +2: An elf's Whim reaches 6 or more.
  • +2: An orc's Mayhem reaches 6 or more.
  • +2: Extremely loud actions (yelling, gongs ringing).
  • +1: Using an Assist talent.
  • +1: Creating a light.
  • +1: Loud actions (arguments, dropping a heavy load, breaking glass).
  • +1: Searching a zone.
  • +1: A hireling failing a morale check.
  • +1: Lingering too long in any one place.
  • +1: A cleric's aura reaches 0.
Some spells, kit options, or monster abilities also build Peril.

So why Peril at all? Honestly much of it stems from my hatred of tracking long periods of time while playing. A torch burns for 6 turns, great. Let's all argue about if it's been 6 turns or five-and-a-half. Torches in Wayshielders are made by a civilization that exists only underground and in their own recursive cities - they each burn for a day. They go out when something puts them out.

Similarly, checking for wandering monsters every turn, with so many chances for nothing. We can simulate this in other ways with less record keeping and make it based on the decisions of the players.

A friend was concerned that Assist talents added Peril - she found this counter-intuitive, that assisting a group lessens peril for all involved. Perhaps Assist is not the right descriptor for these talents, but here some the rationales behind why they raise instead of lower Peril:
  • From a meta-game perspective, all Assist talents are healing talents. If they're allowed unlimited use, the concepts of hit points or resource management go out the window. This introduces a decision - is it worth healing now to accelerate our next roll against Chaos (discussion of which follows).
  • Aside from the healing, each Assist talent provides a buff or tactical bonus. In using these I feel a player has acknowledged their player has met a challenge worthy of some thought and consideration, that is, something dangerous. At these points the sum total of the danger experienced should go up.
  • Narratively, the things in the dungeons, and the dungeon itself on some level, hate teamwork and health. They get under their skin (or whatever serves that purpose for them), drive them snuffling out of their lairs, waken dead and killing limbs.
Right now the kit options that build Peril are the ones that allow players to obliquely question the Arbiter directly. Speak with Dead, Speak with Plants, Speak with Stones: all these function only within dungeons and stretch the laws of sanity.

A number of spells add Peril as well. Anything that heals. Well, almost anything - the Weird spell can be turned into a potion that increases the healing done by resting. Weird in Wayshielders is Cantrip or Prestidigitation in many other games, "Harmless dancing lights, modify flavors, clean a small item or area, and all manner of frivolity" to take the spell description. But it's also the only spell that can improve healing without building Peril.

The other spells that build Peril either provide substantial buffs that border on Assist talents or create minions. I didn't want to give players an "out" on building Peril from Assists by choosing spells that mimicked them. Minions of any sort can be used to circumvent all sorts of danger, and tend to be unnatural in their manifestations, so they get Peril as a balancing and thematic factor.

All the classes whose resources build Peril are the magical types. Mages are most dangerous because they're basically channeling the dungeon's power directly, breaking space and time. 

I'll go into dungeon cores in another post on magic. Suffice to say for now they're how magic items get made, and the dungeon does not like having them taken.

Now, what do with all that Peril?

Checking Chaos

For every 10 peril, Chaos increases by 1, then Peril resets. Chaos represents the general instability, nascent will, and growing hostility of the Dungeon itself. The Arbiter should roll d6 + Chaos on this table.

Wandering monsters roll their treasure value at -5 their normal value.
  1. Treasure. A minor treasure is unveiled.
  2. Supplies.
  3. Nothing. Perhaps the beams creak, perhaps some dust settles, but nothing happens mechanically.
  4. Darkness. 1d4 of the party’s light sources falter and go out.
  5. Manifestation. The dungeon provides a disturbing reminder of just what it’s capable of. All hirelings must make a morale check.
  6. Weak Wandering Monster. The dungeon will list possibilities.
  7. Supplies.
  8. Moderate Wandering Monster. The dungeon will list possibilities.
  9. Treasure.
  10. Strong Wandering Monster. The dungeon will list possibilities.
  11. Overpowering Wandering Monster. The dungeon will list possibilities.
  12. Catastrophe. The dungeon awakens.
In many ways, the dungeon slowly wakes up the longer and louder the party mucks around in it. There are a few chances for treasure or supplies on here, but those evaporate fairly quickly, and the party is left facing stronger and stronger wandering monsters, or the will of the dungeon itself.

Manifestation is, I think, somewhat insidious if you have a lot of hirelings along. Each that fails their morale check is going to add 1 to the new Peril counter, putting you quickly at the next Chaos check. Similarly with darkness - relighting those sources adds 1 Peril each.

I think some of the options for various "wandering monsters" are also perfectly within their rights to be displays of the dungeon itself. Things like "traps reset" or "entrance closes".

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