The Odyssey: July Update
It's time to check in once again on the behind-the-scenes of Hero's Journey!
It's just a flesh wound, go back to the part about Goal balance among Devotionals
As we mentioned back in the June update, it's been a tumultuous time at HJ headquarters, with both John and Anne moving, getting ill, having work drama, and all that annoying stuff that happens while you're trying to do the things you actually care about in life. Since we didn't have a lot of room for active work, we focused on the playtests and what we could learn from some of our recent changes there, and there was more than a little bit to be excited about!
Of course, this means our checklist didn't move a lot this month:
Bummer. But not really, because here's what did get worked on! Yes, some of these aren't on the checklist at all; it's a sad truth that you make lists about what you have to work on for this sort of project and then immediately discover that things on the list affected other things on the list and then there you are, buried in the bottom of the puzzle/code system in the depths of Chapter Four, wondering what day it is and what you started working on that led you here.
So we need to have a conversation about how Savior is working out for you...
The Archetype Track
Archetypes are the guiding principles of each Hero; they have two, which they choose at character creation, and they form the basis of not only how they approach problems and what they care about but also the core of why they're a Hero in the first place. Of course, nobody succeeds at them all the time - things happen and Heroes have to make tough decisions, which is where the Archetype Track comes in. A Hero who fails one of their Archetypes adds one dot to the track, and when the track fills up, the whole group has to go on an additional Quest to address the fact that they've been collectively struggling to be the kinds of Heroes they want to be.
So far, so good - but we found in testing that since nothing happens to the Heroes when the track fills up until it gets to ten, in practice it became essentially ignorable. There was a lot less "I don't want to do this, but I have to to save this person and I'll have to make peace with that later!" Archetype failure and a lot more "This would be a lot easier and it'll only make us go up to eight dots, so let's do it" Archetype failure, which isn't quite the investment in their heroic drives we wanted. So, some new changes:
Heroes now experience consequences from the Archetype Track filling halfway up as well as filling it the entire way, experiencing a smaller version of the Big Consequences to give them an idea of what will happen if they keep dropping the ball.
Those consequences affect the entire group but are based on each Hero's pantheon, withholding some of the support they get from their patron deities when they're not doing their job very well.
In the past, we monkeyed around with a system where NPC Attitudes (which we'll talk about in a second!) were affected by how many dots were in the Archetype Track, mostly in the sense that NPCs might have heard of the Heroes' infamy or think that they were hypocrites and consequently dislike them, but we ended up deciding that this was too punishing. Since there are very few ways to remove dots from the Track, it was unfair to give everyone a permanent social negative until they filled the Track and completed a Quest, especially since the Heroes without much social investment were unfairly affected less.
And anyway, the idea that your fellow humans might understand hard choices and no-win situations but that your divine patron and pantheon are likely to be much more annoyed if you aren't living up to the kind of Hero they chose you to be resonated more strongly!
Ugh, not THESE nerds again
Attitudes are the system that Hero's Journey uses to measure how NPCs interact with the Heroes; basically, how much they like them, how willing they are to work with or help them, and whether or not it's pistols at dawn immediately the minute they show up. In the past there was a ten-step Attitude scale and Heroes could affect it primarily via roleplay, which made the whole thing sort of vaguely mysterious while also being hard to keep track of.
So, obviously, our goals with overhauling the Attitude system were to make it easy to keep track of and also have more clear effects at each level, as well as letting Heroes know a little more about how to get the NPCs to like them (besides the basics like "don't stab their children", which you would be surprised how many players seem to think is an unreasonable requirement for an NPC to want to talk to them). The Leader and Lover Heroes in particular should be able to create and maintain NPC relationships as part of their character type - now they more easily can!
The Attitude scale now has only five levels (Hatred, Dislike, Neutral, Friendship, and Love) instead of ten.
There are now clearer rules regarding where NPCs start on the scale (usually Neutral, but there are a few exceptions) and what Destiny should consider a reason to move them on it.
Heroes can now intentionally try to convince an NPC to raise their Attitude toward them by making that their goal in a Conversation.
We're hoping this will give the socially aligned characters a little more room to maneuver with NPCs and know what their powers and skills can do, rather than having to just hope that Destiny is paying attention!
Wait, so if you rolled Diplomacy and I rolled Protection... who's actually fighting?!
Another month, another few weeks of playtesters stress-testing our tweaks to Combat. There aren't a lot of changes here, but we found that while the change in Combat format last time around is definitely working a lot better, there were a few little wrinkles still to be ironed out.
Heroes with Diplomacy still get to add successes to themselves and their allies in combat, but they now get to do it with a much simpler system that doesn't make them keep track of a temporary pool of resources.
Heroes who choose to Defend themselves or others in combat may now combine their defensive skills with armor or shields they may own; if they do, they can get that benefit for the entire Episode instead of paying for it each round.
Heroes who Defend also now get to simply prevent damage instead of adding to Defense (which means that they can also defend against things like fire or acid that don't care about Defense).
We also added a few notes to Destiny's chapter about combat tactics for different group sizes. These changes are going straight into the new playtests, so as always, feel free to drop in and watch to see them in action!
All right, let's hear your pitch, no pressure
Much like Combat, Conversation has now gotten a month of being batted around by playtesters, and it has a few more tweaks as a result of being the newer system that wasn't quite as steady yet:
Heroes with Diplomacy no longer attempt to give their group more staying power; instead, they use their conversational skills to lower other characters' ability to say no to the Heroes' request.
Heroes with Allure can still distract other characters in Conversation to protect themselves or their allies, but it's no longer quite as punishing to do so.
Heroes with Imagination continue to affect the tone and ambience of the Conversation, but they can now ramp up cumulatively over time, making it possible for the Imagination-aligned Heroes to more significantly affect the outcome.
Clarifying rules have been added for Conversations in which multiple NPCs are involved or listening to the Heroes.
We're pretty excited about these changes, which are exactly what we always hope will come out of playtesting - adjustments that make the whole concept better and that let us see things working in action. Conversations have as a whole performed very well, so hopefully these tweaks finally get it to its best and final form!
Oh, so SUDDENLY I have to CARE about peoples' LIVES?
Goals are essentially big-picture motivational ideas for Heroes; they all have one, which they choose at character creation, and it helps guide them toward avoiding doing things that they are philosophically opposed to. But we found during testing that it was difficult for every player to remember their Goal in addition to their Archetypes, and that depending on how many Heroes there are in the group and how different their Archetypes and Goals are, it was difficult for Destiny to keep track of at times, too. So the Goals have been overhauled into a new simpler and more positive system!
Instead of each Hero having their own Goal, the group has a single Goal they all share as a whole, automatically chosen based on their Archetypes. (For example, if you have a whole lot of Companions and Jesters on your team, the group's Goal is probably Connection, but if you have a bunch of Saviors and Rulers, it's probably Order.)
Goals now give the entire group a bonus as long as they are successful at them, ranging from making NPCs like the Heroes more to having access to more resources to being better at their Reserves to gaining access to more powers.
Goals no longer levy any penalties on the Heroes for breaking them - they now interact with the Archetype track instead so that there aren't multiple systems doing similar things.
The group Goal can now change during the course of play where it couldn't before, although this is very rare and requires Contention.
This will take a little testing to make sure it works the way we want it to, but we're very excited about removing some overcomplexity and having a mechanic that applies to the entire group as a whole as well as the individual mechanics of the Archetypes. (Plus, it's just always nice to have mechanics that give the Heroes nice bonuses along with the ones that slap their wrists for misbehaving.)
Us making good decisions about which problems to just cut dear god we're so tired
We have a few exciting things coming up in August!
Another new playtest is beginning, being run by one of our backers! We don't have many details yet since they're still getting off the ground, but we'll plug them if they stream and tell you about their mighty exploits if they don't!
One of the existing playtest teams, Triple Threat, is gaining a new member this month to help us test some resource and timespan stuff in 3 vs. 4 player situations. Goodbye to T3 - hello, Golden Girls! Aadhya, chosen Hero of Durga, should have had her first appearance last night on Twitch!
We have some playtest feedback to tinker with for Archetypes, Flashback Episodes, and Domains, and then we'll be back on the last of the "bigger" outstanding items.