Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Simplifying Chanbara

A year or so ago, I started revising my Chanbara draft from the ground up.  The first iteration was way too complicated, and had strayed too far from its roots in Flying Swordsmen. 

Then, the project got put on hold due to grad school and family duties. 

Now that GamMarvel World is pretty much ready to run (I still need to make custom wilderness encounter charts, but at the start of the game, the ones in Mutant Future will work).  And two days ago, my mind turned back to Chanbara.  Yes, I do eventually plan to finish and release this game.

Anyway, I was looking at the 2014 revisions, and there's a lot of good stuff in it.  But a year later, I look at it and think, "How can I make it simpler in ways that will make it better?"  There are many ways to simplify the game, but then I risk losing that feeling I want the game to have.

Yesterday, my thoughts were on the 'a la carte' special abilities.  Having to choose them is nice, but also slows down character generation, takes time to level up your character, and could lead to more min-maxing than I like in games.  Basically, Flying Swordsmen and 2014 draft Chanbara suffer from some of the problems I have with 3E D&D.  I was thinking yesterday that I should just pick some abilities for the classes, more like AD&D, so that a samurai is a samurai is a samurai.

This morning, though, I was thinking to go the opposite direction.  I currently have nine classes.  The classes fit three basic molds, Warrior, Spy or Magician.  Why not do like I did with Flying Swordsmen, and have three basic classes with 'kits' that can be used to customize them?  Borrowing from 5E D&D's Backgrounds, I could even allow 'cross-class' kits, which would make it easier to customize certain archetypes.  A Sohei could be a Warrior class with a Monk kit/background.  What I've been calling the Kagemusha (a mystical ninja type, there isn't a specific name for it in Japanese that I'm aware of) would be a Shinobi class with an Illusionist kit/background. 

The next thing I'm thinking of changing is the Skill Dice system.  Flying Swordsmen's Stunt Dice are based on ability scores, making many high scores desireable.  The previous drafts of Chanbara have continued this, except for one iteration where I just had a generic Skill Die for your class with variations on its use depending on class type.  That variation didn't work well, but I think divorcing the Skill Die from ability scores is the right thing to do.

My current idea then would be to have ability scores give constant bonuses as they do in Classic D&D/Labyrinth Lord.  Skill Dice can then be more specific, and class and kit can determine which types of Skill Dice your character will get.  I may allow a point-distribution system to determine die size [eg. 0 points for a 1d2, 1 point for a 1d3, 2 points for a 1d4, 3 points for a 1d6], or else give a set array to each class but let the player pick where they go.  So if a Bushi (Fighter) gets a 1d6, a 1d4 and two 1d3s, they can place each die on four of the six categories: Melee, Range, Defense, Tactics, Health, or Psyche.  If the character takes a Ronin kit/background, they may get an extra 1d3 Skill Die in Thievery, for example.

Special abilities will also likely be limited based on class and kit/background, or maybe just set (or with very limited choices).  We'll see. 

Anyway, hopefully simplification will help get me motivated to finish this game.