Saturday, January 26, 2008

Virtuous House-Rules

I told James I'd list some of my current Scion house-rules here for his perusal, but I haven't really followed through. Here's a start...

The Scion RPG has traits called "Virtues". They work kinda like a morality / alignment system, goading PCs and NPCs into specific courses of action. They also give boosts to certain die rolls.

I really liked this "die roll boosting" aspect, but felt it was too weak. So I boosted it.

Firstly, I made Virtues (and Legendary Deeds) be a resource that renews every session, not every Story. This simplified multi-session record keeping, and allowed Virtues to matter more often. It also gave my PCs a greater level of control over the game. When something really matters to the PCs, I can expect lots of dice and successes boosting that critical roll.

Secondly, I merged the rules for Willpower boosts and Virtue Channels. Here's an explanation of what that means, and why I house-ruled it:

As written, a character can either:
  • Spend a Willpower to get +1 success on a roll
  • Spend a Willpower to get bonus dice on a roll equal to their relevant Virtue rating
but not both on the same roll.

Virtues are rated 1 to 5, and each PC has four Virtues. A starting PC can have virtues of 4/3/1/1, 4/2/2/1, 3/3/2/1, or 3/2/2/2. A level 5 virtue is possible via XP/upgrades. Each die (of Virtue) has a 60% chance of scoring no successes, a 30% chance of scoring 1 success, and a 10% chance of scoring two successes. That means:
  1. Virtue 1: Not worth using the Virtue. The auto success from Willpower is far more reliable.
  2. Virtue 2: You have a 14% chance of doing better than the one success you could have automatically, and a 36% of doing worse. Better to use the auto.
  3. Virtue 3: Here's where it starts to matter. Virtue three will average slightly better than the auto-success, but it can still bomb out and get you nothing (and will do so 21% of the time).
  4. Virtue 4: At this point, the Virtue is clearly better than the autosuccess. Rolling this Virtue averages 2 successes, and has only a 13% chance of totally failing.
In other words, each starting PC has at most one Virtue that is almost always better than just taking the auto-success from Willpower. The rest are a real gamble - so anytime you REALLY need the extra success(es) you're better off just spending Willpower instead of channeling a level 1 to 3 virtue. I didn't like that math, as I really wanted Virtues to matter.

My solution was to combine the two. Now, when you Channel a Virtue in my campaign, you get +1 auto-success, and roll your Virtue dice. This, combined with refreshing Channels and Deeds at the start of every session, has really empowered the characters.

I've been using this system for 5 months now, and really love these changes. It made combat (and nearly every die roll, regardless of scene or purpose) a lot more interesting. When something really matters, the PCs throw everything they've got at it, and it usually pays off. I love that - it keeps me on my toes. Nothing makes me happier than PCs surprising me. It also makes contested rolls very exciting, with a nice back-and-forth as each involved party incrementally raises the stakes.


SiderisAnon said...

Uh-oh, I made Rolfe work. Sorry. :)

r_b_bergstrom said...

Don't apologize. I've been "concealing" this house-rule from the forum for months now because I knew people wouldn't see the point of it. You inspired me to write out the logic behind, a vital step if I'm ever to mention it on the forum.

SiderisAnon said...

The "apology" was meant as a joke, hence the smiley. Darn lack of a sarcasm button on blog posts. ;)

I like most of the logic behind it, though I am uncertain about allowing multiple virtues in one go. I don't have enough in-game experience yet to have an informed opinion.

Do you charge one Willpower per Virtue or do you just spend one Willpower per total activation? Is there a limit to how many Virtues could be activated if they could be applied?

r_b_bergstrom said...

One Willpower per Virtue.

No other limits, but I'm mildly draconian (oxymoronically so) about whether or not a virtue applies. For example, the "fighting a powerful foe" clause to Courage means it wouldn't apply versus Extras (or villains with lesser Legend than yourself).

r_b_bergstrom said...

Darn lack of a sarcasm button on blog posts. ;)

HOW DARE YOU INSULT THIS BLOG? If I intended there to be a sarcasm button here, I'd have programmed one myself! Kneel before my smiley and prepare to accept your punishment. :)

Umm... Nevermind.