Background Storm Knight Activities

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Arcesilaus
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Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby Arcesilaus » Tue Oct 22, 2019 9:02 pm

Hi, all. I am about to start up a new campaign and have some ideas about the best way to make the War seem like it's more than the activities of one small group of heroes. (Of course, it goes without saying that I want to make my group the most interesting and powerful heroes in the world, but they shouldn't be the only ones.)

So here's an idea I've had for simulating the missions of additional SK groups. This is a typical start of session:

The SKs have a briefing with the local Deputy Director, in which they are given a choice between 3 missions. For example,

    Sources have told us of a powerful artifact in the form of a chalice, or grail, held by a sorcerer in Northern England. You need to track this down.
    Reports of a monstrous creature sinking trans-Pacific ships off the coast of San Francisco have reached us.
    A series of attacks on small villages in northern Sweden has locals worried.

The PCs are welcome to choose any one of the three, knowing that there are other Storm Knights in the Delphi Council. I will then have an NPC squad of SKs who address one of the other missions; the players can pick which one (maybe this option to choose comes with Beta Clearance, when they are clearly among the DC's top agents). After the PC SKs finish their mission, I will collect their hands of unused Destiny Cards. Between sessions, I'll roll a Torg die (including rolling again on 10s and 20s) to get a sense of the overall success of the NPC team. I'll use the collected Destiny Cards and the results of the die roll to come up with a quick narration of the events of the other mission to share with the PCs before they start their next mission. For example, maybe the collected group of cards has a Glory and a Martyr and some Action cards. In that case, I imagine there would be a very memorable scene in which one of the NPC SKs dies while gloriously defeating the main bad guy of the mission with an amazing action. A Connection card, on the other hand, might lead to a new campaign-wide NPC being added to the War effort.

As for the third mission on the list, I'll assume the worst case scenario (i.e., the bad guys complete their nefarious plan) and narrate that to the PCs as well.

My goal is to simulate a living war, so I want to be able to use the results of the three missions to impact the actual war effort. I assume the PCs will win their mission (though maybe not), the unmanned mission will definitely count as a fail, and the NPC SK mission could go either way, depending on a die roll and cards. My primary question is how to turn those results into measurable and perceivable in-game consequences? I have a sort of rudimentary "sliding scale" for each cosm and am thinking that perhaps there's a "point value" possible for each outcome.

Any thoughts on this potential system and/or answers to the final issue?

Thanks in advance.

O
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Istrian
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Re: Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby Istrian » Wed Oct 23, 2019 2:44 am

In my opinion, there's no need for a system if the players don't get to interact with it directly, to them it would feel no different than the GM deciding the outcome on fiat.

In a past (non-Torg) game I did something similar. Situations popped up all around the world and the PCs could decide if they went to deal with it themselves or if they asked an NPC (ally, underling, contact, etc) to do so. The outcome was pure fiat depending on each faction agent's background and if they had any ties to the other agents in the area (and often involved NPCs switching sides - but that was a political game). My main out-take from that is that you shouldn't give too many NPCs to the players, otherwise they'll spend an entire session deciding which pairings to use and where to send them.

I think the core idea to develop in your plan is the "Destiny Card Fund" since that is how they "help" the other team. Perhaps at the end of each scene or act, each player could decide on a card to put into the Fund for the other team to use?

graethynne
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Re: Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby graethynne » Wed Oct 23, 2019 7:03 am

There's some common DNA between your idea and mine viewtopic.php?f=30&t=3861

Feel free to pilfer from mine as I may borrow a little from yours too!

The biggest difference I think is that my folks un-selected missions don't auto fail right away (necessarily). My thought is to let things progress there. So they might be able to attempt it later, but the state of play has changed. This lets me seed clues or advance things for another mission during the current one. Also, I have more than one team's worth of players, so just because the group that is first offered the mission doesn't take it doesn't mean another won't snap it up at close to the same time. Which is kind of what you are replicating with the "other chosen" mission.

Anyway, hope something there is useful to you, and even if not, thanks for sharing!

Grae

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Arcesilaus
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Re: Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby Arcesilaus » Wed Oct 23, 2019 8:29 am

Istrian wrote:In my opinion, there's no need for a system if the players don't get to interact with it directly, to them it would feel no different than the GM deciding the outcome on fiat.

Yes, fair point. How might I give the players the ability to interact directly with the outcome, beyond just letting them choose which other mission will be attempted? I imagine some sort of mini-game that the PCs could play. I like your idea of letting them choose cards to allocate to the NPC party's "fund" as well.

Istrian wrote:My main out-take from that is that you shouldn't give too many NPCs to the players, otherwise they'll spend an entire session deciding which pairings to use and where to send them.

No, I wasn't thinking of giving them NPCs to "run." Probably, I would use the archetype characters from the Core Book, being sure not to choose one that bumped up against a PC character concept.

graethynne wrote:The biggest difference I think is that my folks un-selected missions don't auto fail right away (necessarily). My thought is to let things progress there. So they might be able to attempt it later, but the state of play has changed. This lets me seed clues or advance things for another mission during the current one.

Yes, I see how that might seem to suggest that evil always triumphs in those situations. What I imagined, in fact, was something close to what I think you're describing here. Without Storm Knight interference, the plot plays out as the instigators expect it to, which just makes things a little worse in the area. This is still something the PC Storm Knights can come around to dealing with at a later time.

I think the most important part of this idea is using it to power an engine that helps to replicate "consequences" for player (and non-player) activity without it feeling like GM fiat. What I want is an objective system, somewhat like the "High Lord Points" from oTorg's High Lord's Guide to the Possibility Wars. Using this system I could, for example, give Baruk Kaah a "point" when the players decide that no one is going to go deal with the giant sea monster in San Francisco. Baruk Kaah could then use that "point" (or perhaps several points) to strengthen his position in the War, by flipping Mixed zones to Dominant, or planting another stelae, or whatever. In this way, if the players regularly ignore stuff going on in the Living Land, there are in-game consequences that they'll need to deal with later.

On the other hand, since they chose that mission looking for the Chalice in England, Uthorion doesn't get his necromancer-y hands on a powerful Eternity Shard and, therefore, loses a "point." This means that Pella Ardinay's forces gain ground or (after losing several points) Drakacanus begins to lose look in other directions (or whatever).

The mission results of the NPC Storm Knights also contribute to this "point" total, so it's in the PCs' best interest to help them to succeed, as that helps the overall war effort.

Right now, as I mentioned before, I'm considering a "number line" for each Cosm, on which lie events, positive and negative. The War Counter starts at zero and moves left or right depending on point accumulated by each party. If the Counter stays at zero, then events progress as determined by the books (i.e., in accordance with the "official" timeline). When the Counter moves to the right, the first positive event is triggered; if it continues to the right, another positive, and so on. Left movement is more or less the same.

In reality, I don't imagine the Counters moving more than a couple points left or right, as the players will work to maintain balance, but I still need to come up with a few positive and negative events for each cosm (including Core Earth), which is one area in which I need help.

Does anyone out there see major flaws in such a system or have suggestions for improvement?
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Istrian
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Re: Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby Istrian » Wed Oct 23, 2019 9:59 am

Arcesilaus wrote:How might I give the players the ability to interact directly with the outcome, beyond just letting them choose which other mission will be attempted?

One game I ran in the past had PCs being investigators. However at times the cases they were working on required a team of specialists to do stuff they didn't build their characters to do (like breaking & entering or hostage rescue). When that happened they usually requested such a team from their employers and sat in the "command van" being fed information by the team as they progressed. Players could tell them what to do or how to do it but were unable to intervene. This made for situations just as tense as if the PCs were directly involved in the act. Especially one time when they quickly had to decide between risking the lives of their men trying to capture a high-profile villain they had been tracking for a while, or having a sniper take down the target (they chose option 2 with a heavy heart).

You could try the Torg version for something similar. For the NPC mission(s) determine some critical moments when they would need additional input. At those critical junctures have one of their members call a PC (if possible, might not be as easy in the Living Land) or their Delphi Council contacts (temporarily played by your players). Outline the situation from the character's viewpoint and ask for advice / priorities. That could also be the right time for playing a Destiny Card for the other team.

Thus your players get to influence the other mission at critical junctures without actually being there.

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Re: Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby Kuildeous » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:24 am

I’m intrigued by the idea that leftover cards could provide a benefit to other groups. Most of the time, the players go hog-wild with their cards and Possibilities in the final scene because it all gets reset.

But what if leftover Possibilities and cards could be cashed in at the end to aid the other Storm Knights out there? This would encourage players to play more cosm cards, even more than the usual enticement.

And banking these resources early could be interesting. Say, the earlier you bank a Possibility or card, the more it foments, sending ripples through the cosmverse and providing aid to those other groups. I’m kind of digging this idea.

So to spitball some numbers, say that at the end of the act, the other groups get the following points:
Leftover Possibility points and cards: 50 points
High-impact cards (Leadership, Second Chance, Opponent Fails): 150 points
Moderate-impact cards (Flurry, Action, Reconnect): 80 points
Low-impact cards (Idea, Connection, Mistaken Identity): 10 points

Of course, opinions on impact vary. I am looking at it from the perspective of the final fight, where I feel that these cards are less impactful due to their slow build.

And banking a Possibility or a card before the final scene is an automatic +25 points. You weaken your own position later on by getting rid of resources you could’ve used early on. I’m trying to reconcile the thought that players could just dump cards prior to a scene change and game the system. Perhaps the sacrificed card is actually a hand size reduction for the rest of the act. The bookkeeping for that sounds dreadful, though I guess if you include some blank cards to represent this, then it is easier to track.

Then the GM comes up with a quick scale in the background for each NPC group.
Less than 200 points: Mission fails terribly. Storm Knights are wiped out, and the High Lord exceeds their expectations (for example, two stela zones established).
201-300 points: Mission mostly fails. Storm Knights survive, but the High Lord accomplishes their goal (for example, only one stela zone established).
301-400 points: Mission success. Storm Knights win, and High Lord fails (no stela for you!).
401+ points: Rousing success. Storm Knights win with a little extra (no stela, and there are two Glory results in that zone now).

I might try something similar in my PbP game. I have eight semi-identical Orrorshan horrors that the Storm Knights are chasing. Maybe I’ll let them use their resources to determine the fates of the horrors they aren’t pursuing. I have time in a PbP game to concoct something. Probably not as severe as the example I just gave.
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Re: Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby Kuildeous » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:26 am

The downsides I see to this are that:
a) You may end up not running other material because the Storm Knights chose not to play through them.
b) It runs contrary to the notion of encouraging players to spend through their resources and not hoard them.

Downside A is kind of easy in that you can merely give a brief description of the missions, so that you don’t paint yourself in a corner and toss published scenarios that get ignored. You just run those later on with a different hook. Not sure about Downside B though. It’s a big one.
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Re: Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby Arcesilaus » Wed Oct 23, 2019 11:53 am

Kuildeous wrote:So to spitball some numbers, say that at the end of the act, the other groups get the following points:
Leftover Possibility points and cards: 50 points
High-impact cards (Leadership, Second Chance, Opponent Fails): 150 points
Moderate-impact cards (Flurry, Action, Reconnect): 80 points
Low-impact cards (Idea, Connection, Mistaken Identity): 10 points

And banking a Possibility or a card before the final scene is an automatic +25 points. You weaken your own position later on by getting rid of resources you could’ve used early on. I’m trying to reconcile the thought that players could just dump cards prior to a scene change and game the system. Perhaps the sacrificed card is actually a hand size reduction for the rest of the act.

Then the GM comes up with a quick scale in the background for each NPC group.
Less than 200 points: Mission fails terribly. Storm Knights are wiped out, and the High Lord exceeds their expectations (for example, two stela zones established).
201-300 points: Mission mostly fails. Storm Knights survive, but the High Lord accomplishes their goal (for example, only one stela zone established).
301-400 points: Mission success. Storm Knights win, and High Lord fails (no stela for you!).
401+ points: Rousing success. Storm Knights win with a little extra (no stela, and there are two Glory results in that zone now).

This is exactly the sort of thing that I was looking for.

I agree that there could be a lot of discussion regarding the impact of each card, but I love the idea of using the less impactful cards (subplots, escape, etc.) to increase the details of the story that will be told to the PCs and to add flavor. I also agree that I would want any card "banking" to have a long-term impact, so a hand-size reduction makes sense.

Kuildeous wrote:The downsides I see to this are that:
a) You may end up not running other material because the Storm Knights chose not to play through them.
b) It runs contrary to the notion of encouraging players to spend through their resources and not hoard them.

Downside A is kind of easy in that you can merely give a brief description of the missions, so that you don’t paint yourself in a corner and toss published scenarios that get ignored. You just run those later on with a different hook. Not sure about Downside B though. It’s a big one.

A) I don't see this as a huge issue, because I'm using missions from oTorg that I'm fairly sure the players will never choose. So there's tons of background material out there to be mined. I guess if the players surprised me with an interesting choice, it would force me to write something, which is ok, too. As you say, I can probably use the mission they didn't pick by reskinning the hook and antagonists.
B) I agree that this is an issue, but, in my experience, players will spend cards/possibilities when they need to. So, if you want them to chew up resources, hit them with harder opponents and bigger dangers. I think, ideally, players will have a card or two and no more than one possibility left at the end of an act. As you say, cosm cards can increase this, and hopefully players will be encouraged to play those cards as often as possible (not really a problem in my group). In short, I don't really think my players will hoard, and, if they do, that's fine. It just means making other missions more successful at the risk of failing their own. I don't think they'll choose that too often. This might require a careful look at the number of points needed for NPCs to succeed at their mission to keep the players from feeling that by spending that Hero card, they're dooming someone else to failure.
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Arcesilaus
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Re: Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby Arcesilaus » Thu Oct 24, 2019 9:31 am

The more I think about things, the more I realize that I want some sort of mechanism that includes the unforeseeable and occasional luck. So, I'm back to the idea of rolling a die, modified by cards, rather than just a straight up point system, perhaps with a range of possible outcomes. So, an example:

The PCs decided at the beginning of the session that they were going to track down the Chalice in north England and that the "backup" team would head to San Francisco to handle the giant see monster. At the end of the session, I collect my players' Destiny Cards and find the following:

Drama
Willpower
Glory
Nemesis

So, to determine how the mission against the sea monster went, I roll a die and apply cards. I roll a 17. I play the Drama card and roll an 8, which I count as a 10, and add to the 17. So now I have 27, which gives me a bonus number of 9. Additionally, I'll assume one of the NPCs played the Nemesis card, so I'll add a Possibility to the roll, which is another 8 (so 10), which brings my roll to 37, bonus number 11. This isn't nearly high enough to play the Glory card, but I can play the Willpower card and get the bonus number to 14. So, I compare that final bonus number to something like:

Final Bonus Number --> Result
Less than 8 --> Failure! The High Lord gets exactly what he wants.
8-10 --> Qualified success. Definitely the HL makes some headway.
11-14 --> the heroes have succeeded and doom delayed for another day.
15 or higher --> A tremendous (perhaps Glorious) result that leads to a major loss for the HL.

So this result means that the party defeated the sea monster and saved a freighter full of much-needed supplies for resistance groups in the Sacramento zone. As I narrate this to the players, I would try to bring the cards played into the description. The Drama card might have been played as the NPC party battled the beast after drawing it out of its lair. Willpower might mean that one of the characters came up with a clever method of luring the creature out or mitigating its formidable defenses. Of course, the Nemesis card means that the beast isn't really dead, or perhaps that the beast had a mate that will be an issue later.

As an additional complication, I could draw an appropriate Cosm card and apply it. For example, I could add The Best Defense to the above mission and describe how viciously the SKs attacked and refused to let the sea monster "turtle."

Finally, if the first roll is a Mishap, then, regardless of cards (with the exception of Second Chance), the mission fails and the party is likely wiped out by the High Lord's troops.

So, thoughts?
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Re: Background Storm Knight Activities

Postby mystic101 » Thu Oct 24, 2019 10:50 am

As a player, I really like the idea of affecting the environment in additional ways, and would totally be down for something like this.


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