Sunday, June 27, 2021

Δ Discipline Redux

This is based on my old troublesome Discipline delta tree.


Anyone can learn the disciplines. All it takes, fittingly, is discipline.

Each discipline has requirements: complete the requirements, and you can perform the discipline. Requirements are in italics.

These disciplines are numbered: you must have all disciplines from the previous rank to learn a discipline of the next. Other than that, no requirements: any class, any level, any person.


(0) Meditation
Every day, meditate for ten minutes at one of the following times: sunrise, sunset, high noon, or midnight. If you fail to do this, you cannot use any other disciplines until you do.
You can feel every inch of your body in sharper focus and greater detail. With a moment, you can regulate your breathing from any variations. If you spend a minute focusing on your breathing, you can soothe your mind to an even calm.

(1) Limber
Spend an hour every day practicing calisthenics in complete silence. If you speak or make other noise, begin again.
You know how to do all of the basic athletic and acrobatic moves required of you: climbs, rolls, vaults, leaps, hurdles, handstands, handsprings, somersaults, flips, and so on. You can't do them perfectly every time, but you know the foundations. 

(2) Strikes
Find somewhere stony and barren, where no plants grow. Spend a full day meditating there in silence, from your chosen meditation time all the way to that same chosen meditation time.
Provided you have meditated today, you can strike with your hands, feet, elbows, and knees with the power and might of clubs and stones—and you can do it without breaking your bones. 

While clubs and stones are not as strong as axes and arrows, they are certainly stronger than ordinary fists.

(2) Weave
Wear nothing but threadbare rags: no shoes, no gloves, no proper clothing. Just wraps and shifts and robes, enough to provide for decency's necessities.
If you keep your hands in front of you and regulate your breathing, you can avoid the strikes and blows from a single foe.  If you move your hands (like to hit them), or if your breathing gets out of whack (like to sprint away), or if you can't see them, this doesn't work. But: keep your hands up, keep breathing, and keep your eyes on them, and they can never hit you.

This doesn't work against multiple foes. It also doesn't work against non-physical-attack-ish attacks, like dragon's breath or magic lightning.

(2) Concentration
Meditate with your eyes closed. Adorn yourself in at least a couple tattoos, scars, or brands.
While you meditate, your mind cannot be unduly influenced: charms, possessions, and their similar ilk cannot affect you. 

So long as you meditate at least an hour per day, the long-term damaging effects of loneliness, isolation, and routine cannot effect you. 

(3) Rest
Sleep on uncompromising stone or wood or earth, and carry a pebble in each of your pockets.
You can meditate and sleep anywhere—atop sharp sticks, on jagged rocks, in bitter snow, half-submerged in stagnant water, and the like—like it was a soft feather pillow.

You decide exactly when you want to fall asleep, how long you want to sleep for, whether you can be roused from your sleep, and whether or not you wish to dream.

(3) Fall
Find a mountaintop where you can see nothing higher. Meditate there for a full day, from chosen time to chosen time.
If you fall and shed some external piece of clothing as you land—like a cloak, hat, scarf, sash, and so on—you suffer no harm from the fall, regardless of height.

(3) Leap
Touch solid earth with bare skin, or touch something permanently affixed to solid earth, like a tree.
With a length of something loose and light in your hands—a scarf, a whip, a rope, and so on—you can leap as far and as high as a mountain lion. Critically, though, you only travel as fast as a normal human jump; this might leave you in the air for several seconds. 

(4) Haste
Using only your bare hands, chase after and catch a squirrel, a hawk, and a carp.
With empty hands and bare feet, you can run as fast as a horse canters. For every ten minutes you've spent meditating today, you can run for an hour without growing over-tired. 

(4) Throws
Carry a pack at least half-full of rocks.
If you hit someone with a kick or punch and have two limbs squarely planted on the ground, you can launch them backwards. If they're small, they get launched far; if they're large, it's not quite as much distance.

(4) Tranquility
Touch no metal. Wood, stone, and bone are fine, as is metal wrapped in leather or cloth, but you cannot touch metal with bare skin.
While meditating and unarmed, you appear harmless; foes will be put off-guard, and enemies hunting for you will likely not mark you down as anyone of import. It takes someone of great will and passion to attack a person harmlessly meditating.

(5) Balance
Spend an entire day with only your hands touching the ground, never your feet.
As long as one hand or foot is touching a solid surface, you never lose your balance. You might sway and bob and tilt, but you'll never fall over. This includes handstands, meditative poses, odd martial maneuvers, and that kind of thing. 

That said, if something hits you hard enough to literally lift you off the ground, this probably won't work.

(5) Coordination
Shave all the hair off the top of your head. Adorn yourself in at least a few scars, tattoos, or brands.
While your breath is held, you always know exactly how close to you everything is, and if it's moving, how close it will be. This means, for example, you know precisely where a falling raindrop will land on you, or where an enemy's arrow-point will pierce your body.

With difficulty, you can move to avoid or interact with such moving objects: brush arrows to redirect their course, catch enemy blades mid-swing, or avoid oncoming falling raindrops.

(5) Empath
Do not speak.
If you observe a living thing for fifty of their heartbeats, you can feel their basic emotions: anger, fear, joy, hunger, and so on. If you touch them, skin to skin, this only takes three heartbeats.

This lasts as long as you can hear them and you do not speak. You can feel the emotions of multiple living things at once.

(6) Iron Hand
Forge a weapon with your own two hands. Then, hang it on a wall within easy reach, and never use it.
When you wield a weapon, you can feel every inch of it as if it was the skin on your hand; just as you do not have to think to ball your fist or take a step, you do not have to think to cut or thrust with the weapon. 

As long as you aren't holding up something else with the weapon, it is as if the weapon is an empty hand. This works for Weave, Haste, Balance, and so on. 

If the weapon intentionally leaves your hand, you can still feel it until you lose control: for example, if you toss a club in the air and then catch it, you feel it for the duration; if you toss a club in the air and let it fall, you feel it until you no longer could have caught it. 

(6) Whirlwind
Hold your breath for ten consecutive minutes.
While your breath is held: when others strike, you strike twice; if a foe misses you, you can strike them instantaneously; you can draw and stow your weapons in a flicker of an eye.

(6) Prediction
Blindfold yourself, unable to see.
When you speak someone's true name, you know exactly what they're going to do, moments before they do it: where they'll strike, where they'll move, how they'll next maneuver. If you name someone new, your predictions transfer.

(7) Awareness
Engage in no vices.
Your senses no longer require their organs to function: you can see with your eyes closed, hear with ears muffled, smell with your nose filled, taste with your tongue gagged, and feel with your skin numbed.

(7) Truth
Omit nothing relevant. Spread no rumors. Tell no lies. 
If you can detect a person in any way, you know when they're lying, when they're hiding something, and when they're going to betray you.

If they meditate with you for an hour, you can compel them to tell you the truth.

(7) Paralyze
Spend a full day without moving a muscle. A full chosen-time-cycle where, other than your breath, you may not move. If you move, begin again.
When you strike a foe, you can choose to inflict no harm. If you strike them in this way once for every sense they have (for most creatures, this is five), you can paralyze them, leaving their body rigid and their muscles locked. 

They remain paralyzed for fifty heartbeats (your heart, not theirs). If you begin meditating during that minute, they stay paralyzed for as long as you meditate.

(8) Synchrony
Wear no finery, indulge no pleasures, possess no wealth.
Every hour you spend meditating feeds you like a full meal, and refreshes you like sleeping for two hours. If you spend six hours of a day meditating, you do not age that day.

(8) Improvise
Choose a weapon: it must never leave your side, it must be used in your meditations, and you must never fight with it.
You master a weapon. Once mastered, you can wield any item at all similar in place of it. For example, once you have a mastered the sword, you can wield a stick with the same power and efficacy as a blade of the finest steel.

(8) Quiver
Only one foot may touch the ground at a time.
With your eyes closed and your breath held, you can Weave against as many opponents as you have limbs. 

With Iron Hand, you can increase this number beyond your natural four (if you can juggle weapons, this number can get very high indeed).

(9) Emptiness
You must stand atop a cricket, an ant, a beetle, a fly, and a preying mantis, each in turn, without crushing any of them. If any of them are harmed, begin again.
At your choosing, you can compel your body to weigh as little as an insect, but maintain the strength and size of your regular form. This means you can leap huge distances, run up walls, walk across the surface of water, glide on a strong wind, balance atop thin reeds, and otherwise remain near-weightless. 

Whenever you choose, you can return to your normal weight.

(9) Rend
Kill no living thing: not animals, not plants, not people. 
When you strike a foe, you can choose to inflict no harm. If you strike them in this way once for every year they have been alive, and are not struck once in turn, you mark them.

Within a year and a day of a foe being marked, you can, with a twitch of your finger, cause their spirit to leave their body. 

After rending a foe in this way, you can never perform this discipline again.

(9) Wisdom
Meditate for one hour for a year and a day.
Once per month, while in meditation, you learn the true answer to any one question you might have.

(10) Mastery
Learn every other discipline, and meditate for a decade.
You can fly.


The original Discipline had serious issues because it involved mountains and mountains of "do X task for Y amount of time"—people rightfully joked that it would take a spreadsheet to keep track of all. 

This redux solves that by essentially making any previous ability that followed that system into a modal ability: if you perform some specific task or follow a specific rule, you get the perk. Otherwise, you don't. 

This does lead to a slightly odd scenario where actually unlocking abilities is very straightforward—the challenge is then in maintaining them. You'll have to spend some time before an encounter thinking through which of your abilities you want to active and when.

The other big change I made is that now you have to have all three Disciplines from a rank before you go to the next one. I did this because 1) each level has about one non-modal ability (e.g. complete a task, get a permanent benefit) and it helps to slow the otherwise-possibly-rapid bursts through the modal ranks, and 2) because I feel like Discipline is about proving yourself every step of the way; pyromancy or whatever can be more loose and fluid, but here, you gotta put in the work to reap the benefits.

But yeah. There are still some "complete a one-day task" requirements and a couple later ones that involve very long stretches of time, but I hope this version of Discipline is much more usable.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Big Wet Six: Bloody Ballistics

Continued from quite a while ago
c/w for violence and gore

I've spent a fair bit of time mulling over how to gun combat in the Big Wet. Here's what I want the system to do:
  1. Feel extremely fucking dangerous; a huge commitment. In my view, the Big Wet's not about violence itself so much as it is about the continual threat of violence. It's about tension, slowly building and then releasing all at once. 
  2. Feel messy and unpredictable. Things should go wrong in a fight, frequently. I like my apocalyptic games gory, both in literal terms and in the "gory details" sense—a kind of, like, old-school tactility. I want players to feel the fight.
  3. Be reasonably tactical: players' moment-to-moment tactics should matter (do I shoot? do I go for cover?) as well as their bigger strategic decisions (which weapons should I bring? how many bullets do I spend?). I don't need full wargame here, but I'd like a layer of depth to it.
  4. Not be monstrously crunchy. Ideally, I'd like a single turn of combat—one volley / exchange / shot / etc.—to just take a single dice roll. 

I'm not sure this is all achievable, frankly, but that's not going to stop me trying. Boot Hill, from what I know of it, hits points 1-3 but not 4. Base Mothership hits 1, 3, and 4, but not 2. Apocalypse World hits 1(ish), 2 (assuming you use the harm moves), and 4, but not really 3. 

Here's what I got:


This assuming combat's begun and now it's your turn. Here's how it works:
  1. Roll your dice to attack: 1d100 under the appropriate stat, plus any skills, but over your Wet score. As normal. Lungs for melee, Nerves for range; Fighting applies to both, CQC to melee and firearms to guns. 
  2. If you succeed on the attack, look up the result of your 1d100 attack roll on the wounds table: this is what you do to your opponent. Go look at that chart right now—it will help explain what's actually going on here.
  3. The target's Wet score increases by the result of the units die. This is "damage." 

Some modifiers to this:
  1. Weapons have long, medium, and close ranges: long gives disadvantage, close gives advantage. Simple, really.
  2. Cover blocks the parts of your body that it would actually block. So if your legs are covered and your opponent gets an 06, you simply take no damage. If it's really thin cover like plywood or something, then, I dunno, they get disadvantage on the units die or something.

And here's how different "weapon types" work:
  1. Automatic weapons roll one tens die, but then get to roll as many units dice as bullets they fired. Decide how many bullets you're firing before you roll. Each of the results apply on the wounds table, and all of the units get added together to increase the Wet score. This means, basically, that you might still just whiff, but you're much more likely to do lots of serious damage. 
  2. Shotguns roll one tens die, then get to roll ~4 units dice, which explode. This means if you get a 10 on one of those unit dice, it goes higher—which makes you more likely to miss with a pellet (as you might over your skill limit), but also means you tend to deal big damage if you roll low.
  3. Sniper rifles and their ilk get to roll extra unit dice, and get to pick their favorite. "Extra" is probably based on the amount of time you spend aiming down your scope. Means they tend to deal big damage, and also not miss.

That's combat in a nutshell, I think. (Yes, this requires throwing out the Mosh-esque guns I had before and coming up with some modified versions. A cost I'm willing to live with.)


Here's the wounds chart:
  1. Leg: calf gets scratched, basically harmless.
  2. Leg: shin gets grazed.
  3. Leg: toe gets blown off.
  4. Leg: ankle is sprained, possibly dislocated.
  5. Leg: thigh takes a bullet in the side.
  6. Leg: middle of the foot catches a bullet.
  7. Leg: shin is cracked, right in the center.
  8. Leg: ankle is shattered. Bone shards everywhere.
  9. Leg: knee explodes. Leg may need amputation.
  10. Leg: bullet pierces femoral artery. Severe blood loss. Death in minutes.
  11. Arm: forearm is grazed, minimal damage.
  12. Arm: shoulder is scratched.
  13. Arm: pinky or ring finger gets blown off.
  14. Arm: elbow gets hit, likely dislocated and sprained.
  15. Arm: hand takes a bullet, clean through.
  16. Arm: upper arm eats a bullet head-on, right in the beach muscles.
  17. Arm: wrist is broken in several places.
  18. Arm: index finger and thumb are destroyed.
  19. Arm: elbow detonates in a shower of bone.
  20. Arm: shoulder and blade shatter. Arm is useless.
  21. Torso: waist gets scratched.
  22. Torso: an exterior rib is grazed. 
  23. Torso: heavy bruising on lower back.
  24. Torso: gut wound, shallow but bleeding.
  25. Torso: one rib cracks.
  26. Torso: liver catches a direct hit.
  27. Torso: bullet rips through the ribs and out the other side.
  28. Torso: sternum cracks in two.
  29. Torso: stomach punctured. Foul smells emerge.
  30. Torso: kidneys pierced. Internal bleeding.
  31. Torso: multiple broken ribs. Some jut.
  32. Torso: spine breaks. Paralysis likely.
  33. Torso: lower-torso organs ripped to pieces. 
  34. Torso: an aorta is pierced. Death in minutes.
  35. Torso: digestive tract riddled with lacerations. Death in minutes.
  36. Torso: lungs punctured in a dozen places. Death in less than a minute.
  37. Torso: spinal column bursts. Death in less than a minute.
  38. Torso: sternum splinters, ribs shatter. Death in seconds.
  39. Torso: guts ripped open. Innards spill out. Death in seconds.
  40. Torso: heart is torn asunder. Instant death.
  41. Head: ear blown off entirely.
  42. Head: nose, front teeth shatter. 
  43. Head: lower jaw entirely destroyed. 
  44. Head: throat hit. Windpipe collapses. Death in minutes.
  45. Head: blow to the back of the head. Death in minutes.
  46. Head: eye gouged out. Death in less than a minute.
  47. Head: jugular spills everywhere. Death in less than a minute.
  48. Head: spinal cord detonates. Death in seconds.
  49. Head: frontal lobe hit directly. Death in seconds.
  50. Head: skull explodes, brain ripped to pieces. Instant death.
  51. Dealer's choice. On a 51 or higher, the attacker chooses any lower option above their Wet score.
Very nasty. Lots of options mean death very soon, lots more options mean long slow death instead. Getting hit in combat is very bad.

If you have two of something (ears/eyes/limbs), evens is the right, odd is the left. If you lose your right ear and then get the same result again, now it's the left ear. If you lose both ears then, hey, lucky day, you don't take any new damage.


Jacobs, a PC, is shooting at an enemy scavenger: Jacobs has an SMG, and is currently at medium range; the scavenger has a shotgun, and is currently at far range. For the sake of convenience, neither is in cover.

Jacobs has a 29 in Nerves (about average), but also has the Firearms skill; her Wet score is currently a 6, as she's spent a few hours tromping through the marshes. This means she needs to roll under a 45 and over a 6—good odds, all things considered. For ease of use, the scavenger has a general Combat score of 30 (good, but not amazing).

Jacobs decides to fire three bullets with her SMG: she rolls the tens die, and gets a 30; she rolls her three units dice, and gets a 3, a 6, and a 7. Her bullets hit the scavenger: their intestines get shredded, their lungs are punctured, and their spine splits in two. The scavenger collapses, instantly out of action, and will be dead in less than a minute. After a few minutes of no shots being exchanged, Jacobs goes to investigate, and finds them dead in the mud. 


Lets imagine for a second that Jacobs had made the same decisions, then rolled and gotten a 00, instead of a 30: her 3 and 6 would've missed, due to her Wet score (her fingers, reddened from the cold, were shaking). The 7 would've cracked the scavenger's shin, making it difficult for them to walk.

The scavenger, limping, blasts their shotgun back. They roll with disadvantage due to far range, and get a 20 and a 10—unlucky for Jacobs! 10 being the worst result, the scavenger rolls their four units dice, getting a 4, 7, 8, and 10. The 10 explodes, turning into an 18 (and thus a 28 on the wounds chart): Jacobs' right elbow is dislocated and bent oddly, her left wrist gets cracked, her right thumb and trigger finger get spattered, and her sternum cracks after being hit with buckshot. 4, 7, 8, and 18 added together comes out to 37, bringing Jacobs' Wet score to 43. 

Jacobs collapses: not dead yet, but severely injured, and in so much shock and panic that she's unable to function properly for hours or days. The scavenger hobbles over and, with a nearby lump of rebar, finishes her off. 

If we imagine for a second that the scavenger left her there for dead instead, she might have a slim chance of being able to stagger back to camp, clinging to life. More likely, though, the blood loss would've killed her, or she might've slipped and fallen into the mire, or run afoul of some other danger and been unable to handle it. If she had comrades nearby who could help her, though, to apply first aid and help lug her out, she might have a decent chance of surviving.


In the first scenario, Jacobs got reasonably lucky and ended the fight fast. In the second, she was less lucky, and the scavenger had a stroke of good fortune—ending Jacobs' career then and there. There are lots of other ways this fight could've gone: if the scavenger hadn't had a shotgun, if they'd missed, if there was cover, if Jacobs had only fired one shot, and so on.

Just for reference, the first fight was one attack roll. The second was two. A lot goes into and out of those rolls, but it's still just the one roll.


There are a few different Weird Things going on here that help smooth this whole process out:
  1. Wounds are almost entirely non-mechanized. I, Sam the designer, trust that you, the GM and players, will be able to come up with interesting consequences for "your liver is punctured" or "your knee's been shattered." This means that the consequences flow diegetically—rather than try to nail down stat mods for every conceivable injury, the pieces just fall where they fall, and it's up to the table to figure out exactly what those mean.

  2. Wet score increase is a kind of "pseudo-damage." In my mind, a PC's Wet score going up isn't literal damage—we see the literal damage firsthand, from the wounds table. The Wet score going up is shock, panic, loss of focus, dissociation, horror: it's all of the psychological bad shit that goes down after experiencing trauma. Critically, though, it still has an impact: for most PCs, if their Wet score breaks 30, they're hosed. Equally critically, though, is that a high Wet score on its own doesn't actually do anything—it makes checks basically impossible, but checks can be avoided. Likewise, your Wet score's not that hard to get down: even if it hits 100 and literally everything but walking is impossible for you, it only takes a few days to get back to normal. Shock, like moisture, isn't permanent.

  3. Wounds and Wet come from the same sources, but aren't inherently linked. My Wet score can drop in a matter of hours or days: healing wounds happens slowly, diegetically. Because wounds don't have any fixed mechanics are just relying on players' know-how of real world injuries, it avoids the "you go to sleep and are totally fine the next morning" issue: Wet score recovers, because Wet from is mostly psychological (and Wet from being literally damp is easily solved), so it heals quickly. Wounds, however, are much more permanent.

  4. The to-hit roll and the death & dismemberment roll are the same thing. This skips Boot Hill's weird d6 roll for "severity of hit" or whatever and just boils down the whole thing: a good roll does a ton of damage, a bad roll does shit. 

  5. The major downside here, obviously, is that you have to look up the damn wound table every time. My future solution for this is to just print it everywhere I can: on the inside cover of the zine, on the back of the character sheets, maybe even on some kind of handy-dandy player cheat sheet. It also divides nicely (0-10 is legs, 11-20 is arms, 21-40 is torso, 41-50 is head; higher numbers are always better), so even if you don't know the exact gory result, you can get the gist with a look.

  6. Due to sandwich rolls work, two oddities emerge:
    1. PCs with poor combat skills can't land headshots. On the one hand, this feels silly: why shouldn't they be able to? On the other hand, it's an extremely convenient way to seriously knock down less-combative PC's combat power, and has a certain amount of sense to it once you think about actual firearms training—headshots are difficult to hit, especially on moving targets. (A possible solution here is to say that doubles are a critical, and thus inflict a severe "death in minutes"-esque wound no matter what, if you really wanna keep crits.)
    2. As a PC's Wet score goes up, they are less likely to hit, but the hits they land are more likely to be dangerous. Think about it: if my shooting score is 40 and my Wet is 30, I only hit on a 30-40, but 30-40 does a ton of damage. This is weirdest interaction that comes out of this, but I think I can live with it. There's a certain cinematic quality to it, maybe? "The wounded hero fires once, then twice, missing both! But then the third shot hits the blackhat squarely in the chest, toppling them to the ground!" I dunno. I can't find an easy way around this without making everything crunchier, so I'm resolved to live with it.

  7. Caliber and "big guns do more" doesn't really happen. Like, by these rules as written currently, a .22 pistol and a .45 magnum do the same amount of damage because they're both just rolling their units die, and obviously a .45'll do a hell of a lot more than a .22. Possible solutions to this include:
    1. Give bigger guns advantage on their units rolls. So, a .45 rolls 2d10 for its units and takes the highest. This does make them more likely to miss, but it does do more damage. Not a terrible solution? But gets kind of squirrelly if you already have advantage on the overall to-hit roll.
    2. Just give them a flat bonus on the to-hit roll but not the associated combat score. Big guns get +5 to-hit; huge guns gets +10. I kind of like this one because it means big guns will always do more, but also will miss way more. If you've got the training (and thus the fat combat scores), they're always worth it: if you don't know what you're doing, you should stick to smaller stuff. Again, crunchy, but interesting.

  8. I don't really know how melee should work. Like, in theory, this all basically works the exact same way (other than the references to bullets in the wound table), but it feels sort of... weird? Like, I feel like I should get more control over where my knife goes compared to my bullet. And it feels like my opponent should be able to defend themselves, somehow. Not sure.
But yeah! Big Wet Guns! They sort-of-kind-of hit all 4 of my criteria!