I Created a Dragon!

It takes a lot to make me resort to creating a house rule.

That said, I tend to make my own rules all the time.

Come again?

I am not sure if it is my experience starting with Basic D&D, or if it is just another inexplicable element of my character, but I have noticed that if a rule exists for something I will use it, and if no rule exists, I will apply common sense/make something up and move on. For me, a house rule is one which alters or replaces an existing rule.

In my experience, house rules are often seen as the set of rules and optional rules a particular group uses, and this typically includes unique rules devised or borrowed by that group to replace printed rules that caused problems. I know that my perception of a house rule is rather narrow, but let’s ignore that terrible failing on my part and move on to other things.

The Hateful ‘Game X does Y waaaaay better’ Syndrome

As a GM and as a Player, one frustrating thing which playing a new game usually brings is knee-jerk reactions to rules, and the resulting suggestions to craft a house rule or graft something from somewhere else onto the rules to ‘fix’ them. This typically takes place before the game has really been explored and understood. Perhaps I am in the minority, but I have found that usually what needs fixing is the group’s understanding of the rules.

I do not think it is too much to ask to try a game on for size for a while to test it out, and see what it can and cannot do; keeping in mind what it was intended to do and how it was intended to do it. Once that level of familiarity with a game has been reached, I feel a group has earned the right to meddle with a game. Before that point, the group can only meddle with their perception of the game.

One of the reasons why I have been so enthusiastic about Ubiquity is that it really has not given me any of the headaches a new game system tends to bring to the table, and was pretty willingly embraced by my group of players.

I will summon up a Dragon!

This past weekend during our Desolation session my character’s use of Sorcery gave me a good opportunity to witness a GM suddenly needing to rule on something not expressly laid out in the rules. I felt bad to have been the source of this need, and did my best to help out, but at the same time it was nice to be an observer of this process rather than the arbitrator for a change. This situation was interesting for me, because although I have been experimenting with Ubiquity for about a year now, and our group has been using it for most of 2011, we have only been playing Desolation for 4 sessions. We know the underlying system quite well, but do not have a strong connection to its implementation in this setting, yet. As I watched the process going on in the GM’s seat, I enjoyed asking myself if we really knew enough to make a rule of our own to cover this situation.

The situation

In the game, just before a very serious encounter, I decided that the time had come to go for a truly big effect using my character’s abilities as a Sorceror, and summoned an Energy Beast in the form of a Dragon. What we suddenly realized is that no guidance on providing statistics for creatures created in this way had been provided. Lots of options were floated, and from the array of ideas ranging from complex to simple, the GM made a sound decision to stick with Ubiquity’s underlying principles of common sense and speed, and chose to treat the Energy Beast as the actual beast in whose likeness it had been created. We were all fine with that, and returned to play. The other options presented are useful now in a more academic sense of looking at the process of ruling on the fly.

The options:

  • Use the Spell Potency for Primary Attributes and calculate the Secondary Attributes, allowing extra successes to be spent to enhance whichever areas the caster desired.
  • Use a scale similar to the other guidelines for spell effects in Desolation, where specified Attribute Levels (like those laid out for Followers/Lackeys) could be had for a raise in Difficulty.
  • Use the printed stats of the real creature (primarily to avoid Vorpal Rabbits)
  • Use just two traits for created creatures (Attack & Defense) and base it on the Spell Potency plus extra successes as assigned by the caster.

Each of these solutions has merit in its own way, and none of them would really tip the scale even further in the Sorceror’s favor or have too restrictive an effect on their potency, but each has a distinct approach and flavour which – if chosen – will colour how the game is played and conceived from that point on.

Had this decision been mine to make, I suspect I would have been torn between using the printed statistics of the real beasts, and using the Lackeys chart. In the end, particularly as I am going to be running the game After the Night of Fire, I suspect I would have gone with the latter choice as it will produce less predictable effects and require greater risk on the part of the players. Conceptually, I like this one as it also represents to me the Sorceror carefully shaping the beast with their mind from the raw energy of the Weave and giving it final form with their will. Unfortunately, it would also require more work – essentially creating the need to produce a set of stats from scratch each time a beast is created this way.

Kyrei’s solution of using the printed stats obviates all the work involved in creating the creature, and keeps the complexity of magic down. Conceptually, it brings an interesting twist of Sorcerors perhaps pulling archetypal images of beasts from the Weave and giving them shape on a more primal and subconscious level. This has a distinctly different feel from what I propose above, and is also very cool.

The other two solutions entail heading into territory of a much more freeform nature, but as a result do not give us any sort of gauge on what to expect. Using Potency as a default for each trait will produce fairly powerful creatures with no relationship to the shape chosen for them. Using a simple Attack and Defense trait will certainly be the fastest solution, and does have some conceptual advantages of a different sort, as the creature created is manifested for a specific purpose and can be shaped for such, but will further abstract the process, and I feel may actually work against roleplay over time. That is never a good thing.

I would love to hear what others would have chosen in this situation~ 

4 Responses to “I Created a Dragon!”
  1. I will now summon up a finger of Old Pulteney!

  2. Kyrei says:

    Well, it has taken me quite a while to comment on this wonderful post about… me! Not to take away from the summoning of an (ethereal) dragon or anything but… just sayin’. As has been noted elsewhere, this is the first time I have taken the reins as a GM in 25+ years and in a game that none of us had played yet. It was a challenge and I, quite honestly, feel that Runeslinger is being more than a little generous in his praise. As I read and re-read the rules, I see so many missed opportunities for things we could have done in these situations, and it also glaringly apparent that Desolation was *never* meant to be played in the Before.

    As for the situation at hand, I chose to give the beast the attributes of the real-life beast it resembled, thus allowing Odinrak to kick my “Don’t f*** with me” NPC’s ass in the ensuing fight. In retrospect though, I think this is not really the best option. I do not have access to the “lackeys” table that Runeslinger is referring to, but a short search on the interwebs gave me an idea of what it entails. That too, doesn’t sit with me well.

    Here is what I now think should have been the way this played out, after thinking “logically” about magic. This is an Energy Beast of pure Sorcerous magic. I don’t care what form the beast takes, it is still essentially the same thing. It is the product of a Very Hard (Diff 5) spell and thus by its very nature is a potent creation. Thus I think the best way to handle this is to use the Spell Potency element (with extra successes added if so chosen) as the basis for it’s Attack/Defense/Health and let it go at that. The Energy Beast can take the form of a dragon, a lion, a hummingbird, or a mosquito; it makes no difference — it is still the same amount of energy involved. That, to me, makes the effort to create such a thing worthwhile and as a GM, easiest to deal with.

    Now to take that a step further: Odinrak creates his ethereal dragon (Diff 5, with 8 successes rolled). He pumps the extra successes into Spell Potency to create a beast with Attack 8 / Defense 8 / Health 8. This may not be the most devastating of attacks, but there is a very good defense rating and health rating. This Energy Beast can be used as a buffer in close quarters combat, or be sent out to do his bidding?

    I am now faced with these other lingering questions: can the EB stray far from the castor, and if so, how far (maybe that is a Range modifier that can eat up a success); is the EB an independant entity that attacks or defends of its own accord (no, it is a manifestation of the Sorcerer’s working of the Weave), and if not, then does it take up an action for the Sorcerer to ‘guide’ it (I am thinking this, as a mental command, would be a Reflexive action an thus not eat up the Sorcerer’s actions in Combat)…? What say you to this?

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