A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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    d20 Worlds Without Number

    I finally sat down to take an actual look at the game system in the big Worlds Without Number tome, and found it to be actually quite interesting.

    At it's core, it appears to be based on the 1981 Basic Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but with a considerable number of changes.
    Attribute modifiers are even lower, as they were originally in the first version of D&D, with 7 to 12 giving no modifier, and only a 3 and 18 giving a -2 or +2 respectively. This is how the "roll 3d6 six times in order" system was supposed to be used. Your modifiers might make some classes benefit more than others, but in the end all classes would work with almost any stats you randomly rolled. (OD&D and Basic also gave an XP bonus for having a high score in the main attribute for the character's class, but these were so small they made almost no difference. WWN has nothing of that kind.)

    Something very familiar to players of 3rd and 5th edition are the action types of Main, Movement, On Turn, and Istand Actions, which are just Standard, Movement, and Bonus Actions, and Reactions. It still keeps the group initiative system from Basic though, which I really like. (All PCs go together, saving the trouble of working out the initiative order for every fight, and speeding things up by having all players think about their move simultaneously instead of only starting when it's their individual turn.)

    The biggest change is classes. There's only three classes in WWN. Or 6. Or 7. Or 27, depending on how you want to count. The three primary classes are Expert, Mage, and Warrior, with mages having to pick one of five traditions. You can also choose to dual class, and you can even dual-class a mage/mage with two different traditions. Of note here is the Healer tradition, which can only be selected by dual-class characters and can't be the only class of a plain mage (because it doesn't have enough abilities).

    Characters have four saving throws. Evasion, Physical, Mental, and Luck. The base value for all four is the same, and the same for all characters, but the first three are modified by one of two attributes each, whichever of them is better. Luck always remains unmodified.

    Like Spears of the Dawn and Stars Without Number, this game has a skill system. Skills can have a rank from 0 to 4, which is added whenever you make a 2d6 roll to get something done that doesn't have other specific rules. Characters also add whatever attribute modifier is appropriate in the particular situation.
    if you don't have a skill trained, you get a -1 penalty to the roll instead of your skill rank.
    Very simple and easy and stays out of your hair. I like that.
    Very interesting are the Punch, Stab, and Shoot skills, which give you a bonus to attack rolls. Nice way to let players chose between investing in fighting or other abilities, which I think makes the game feel more like a universal system than just a dungeon crawler.

    There are also Foci, which I think are simply feats. But all of them have two levels, with the second level requiring that you got the first level earlier.

    Magic is also quite interesting: Spellcasters have a number of spells that they can prepare, and a number of spells they can cast per day. A bit like 5th edition, but they don't even care which level the slots are. (More like warlock spells in that regard.) Even a 10th level single class mage can only cast 12 spells per day, which can all be 5th level spells if you want to. (Lever really only limits when you can first learn a spell, I believe.)
    That's not a lot spells, which is where Arts come in. Arts are minor magical effects that don't use the daily limits for spells. Instead they are limited by effort. Spellcasters have one daily effort that returns with ever new day, and a scene effort, which returns every new scene. Such arts are a bit like daily or encounter powers, but you can only use one of your daily powers per day, even if you have multiple. Same with scenes. There's also indefinite effort which works basically like concentration.

    A very neat new concept is system strain. Several things can cause system strain, but most importantly magical healing. A character with the healing tradition can heal an unlimited number of times per day, but characters can not benefit from an indefinite amouny of healing. Every healing gives you one system strain, and once your strain is equal to your Constitution score, you no longer heal anymore. You do reduce your strain by 1 every day.
    At the start of an adventure, after having had a week or two of safe rest, character can laugh of much damage that isn't immediately fatal and just have it healed for free. But if you gor 12 healings in 2 days, you find yourself with a strain of 10 and might only be able to benefit from one or two more healings. Your hp migt be full, but if you take serious damage now, it might take quite a while to recover from that. I think this should quite change how hit point management comes into adventuring. It's not so much about how much damage enemies can deal, but how many days without injury you can get in. I'm really curious how that plays out in action and how it affects GM planning. A party that has one day of massive fighting once per month might have a very easy time, while a party that gets a little scraped every day could be in serious trouble.
    I think I saw a somewhat similar system a while back, but can't remember where.

    Another new innovation is shock damage, and I can't really get my head around what it's purpose would be. Most melee weapons have a shock value that makes them deal a small amount of damage even on a miss unless the target has a sufficiently high AC. This just seems really weird to me.

    There's a neat little Encumbrance system that I really like, because it's almost completely the same as the one I made for B/X. But I think Kevin Crawford just read the same peoples' ideas as I did. The difference is that in WWN, the maximum load is much smaller than what I planned.

    Though the game is a pretty hefty book, the rules themselves are only 90 pages. (The rest is campaign preparation tools.) Unfortunately, it could easily have been compressed down the 30. The writing here is extremely Gygaxian in a way that I did not notice in Red Tide and Spears of the Dawn. The signal to noise ratio is pretty horrible and our boy really should get off that thesaurus. The entire first page of the magic system does not actually seem to include a single rule. It's all noise sans signal. Pure fluff where we need a clear explanation of rules. And you can't tell if a paragraph includes anything relevant or is just flavor text until you read it.
    If you already know B/X well, I think it's not actually a big problem. But it would be nice to have a brutally plain 30 page document with just the rules for making characters and running the game. I know I'll be making one, as I am very much considering usng NNW in place of B/X in the campaign I am workng on.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    A very neat new concept is system strain. Several things can cause system strain, but most importantly magical healing. A character with the healing tradition can heal an unlimited number of times per day, but characters can not benefit from an indefinite amouny of healing.
    [...]
    Another new innovation is shock damage, and I can't really get my head around what it's purpose would be. Most melee weapons have a shock value that makes them deal a small amount of damage even on a miss unless the target has a sufficiently high AC. This just seems really weird to me.
    The first sounds like it works a bit like healing surges (except without people scaling their healing) and the second... reminds me of this reverse critical system in a shooter/RPG(/visual novel/dating sim) I played years ago. But to use a more general example its like saving for half damage except you can do well enough to make the damage go to zero (and the other side is rolling the dice). Do those sound about right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Another new innovation is shock damage, and I can't really get my head around what it's purpose would be. Most melee weapons have a shock value that makes them deal a small amount of damage even on a miss unless the target has a sufficiently high AC. This just seems really weird to me.
    Based on the name and what you describe, I would guess that this is trying to represent some amount of armor penetration. Like, if you miss someone in mail armor, that could represent your blow being deflected by the mail. So the shock damage represents that just the raw impact can still cause some damage through the armor.
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    Yeah, Strain sounds like Having Surges/Recoveries*, just spread over a much longer in game time. I suspect that affects the increase Strain or stop it recovering post a certain point are more common, I'd probably represent most minor illnesses in such a system via minimum Strain.

    So yeah, while healing limitations might not be new, I haven't seen it implemented like this before.

    I'm personally not a big fan of the *WN class system, it always feels to me like the games don't want one so much as a levelled classless system. But that also might be my dislike for generic classes talking.

    Yet again *WN comes out feeling like something solid but nothing special. Maybe I'd like it more if character options felt more tired to the setting?

    * From D&D4e and 13th Age (which is essentially 4e 2e).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    Default Re: Worlds Without Number

    Funny, I equated strain and shock with slower recovery forms of the endurance and stun stats from Champions (or a couple Traveller rules) being added to a D&D-like with minimum rules additions. I recall similar reason/goal rules from other systems and some Dragon magazine articles, pre-WotC. The D&D 4e stuff was a resource to use instead of a limit.

    Essentially you want in-battle healing and at least some effect for being rattled around by hits, but you don't want something that looks like long term injury or a second "health track" and you're unwilling to change the hit-armor-damage function. Seems teasonably elegant for a D&D style hack.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I'm personally not a big fan of the *WN class system, it always feels to me like the games don't want one so much as a levelled classless system. But that also might be my dislike for generic classes talking.
    Absolutely understandable and justified, but I think I know where it comes from. Very deep down, the system is inspired by OD&D and B/X as the starting point. And I've seen numerous games and people that think the Cleric class just doesn't fit into many types of fantasy styles, and that having separate classes for dwarves, elves, and halflings just isn't necessary. (And they also don't fit into many types of fantasy styles.) And then you're left with fighter, thief, and magic-user.

    At that point, having classes at all starts feeling kind of redundant. But the ease of use of the class structure is something lots of people very much appreciate about the underlying system, and I think going full classless would require going all the way back to square one and start building a new system from scratch. And the familiarity of the overall system is a large drawing factor for good parts of the audience.

    What's left of it in Worlds Without Number are three classes that are almost entirely cored out, leaving only the most basic framework of Hit Dice and attack bonus, and two abilities for Warriors and Experts each. (One of the Expert abilities being +1 skill point per level.) In games like AD&D and it's descendants, class is very much tied to a character's identity. Being a ranger or a bard is not just sets of abilities, but a role in the society of the world. WWN seems to deliberately have nothing of that kind, to make characters individuals of any kind, unrestrained by pre-existing roles.

    I personally like that, but in the end it's really just a matter of taste.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Another new innovation is shock damage, and I can't really get my head around what it's purpose would be. Most melee weapons have a shock value that makes them deal a small amount of damage even on a miss unless the target has a sufficiently high AC. This just seems really weird to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Thane of Fife View Post
    Based on the name and what you describe, I would guess that this is trying to represent some amount of armor penetration. Like, if you miss someone in mail armor, that could represent your blow being deflected by the mail. So the shock damage represents that just the raw impact can still cause some damage through the armor.
    Certainly things like daggers being able to do a little shock damage to even high-AC armors suggests a bit of the 'rondel dagger/get in the gaps' kind of armor penetration. A Reddit I saw with Crawford has suggested that some of it might have been inspired by real life knife fights that he studied and realized that, not matter what, even the victor was going to come out with more than a few defensive cuts and that no one should be able to completely escape damage. It is a thing one can focus on when creating a combat system, but not necessarily one I would have initially gone with (reach and zone-of-control and similar being one of my go-tos if you are going to demand a realism check on your rules).

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Yet again *WN comes out feeling like something solid but nothing special. Maybe I'd like it more if character options felt more tired to the setting?
    I really don't feel that the basic ruleset of the *WN games are the selling point. They are pretty basic OSR systems with a relatively rigorous skill system, and enough character-build options (through multiclassing and Foci) to appeal to any modern D&D/D20 gamer who isn't immediately put off by 3d6 down-the-line stats and a 1d6 (-1, +0, or +2) hp at 1st level. The selling point is always the rest of the book outside these 90 pages. WWN has great worldbuilding guides, faction-running rules, crafting rules, and all those things that that lots of DMs have trouble building on their own and/or copious gaming blogs have spent gallons of digital ink going over massively multiple times. The book is Crawford's equivalent to several dozen AngryGM or Alexandrian or Matthew Colville articles on top of a simple (if overly worded) basic game system which could easily be swapped out (with some adjustment for scale) with pretty much any other system. And for that purpose that other not-90 pages is really quite good.

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    Default Re: Worlds Without Number

    Is it worth picking up? I’ve Stars Without Number and I think it’s pretty cool.
    I have a LOT of Homebrew!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNAProductions View Post
    Is it worth picking up? I’ve Stars Without Number and I think it’s pretty cool.
    Honestly, it's just as free as Stars Without Number and has Worldbuilding tools that are probably even better. For that alone it's worth picking up, I'd say.

    A particular highlight for me are the Renown rules, which are a system that gives you explicit mechanics for how the PCs can sink money and effort into bringing about grand changes in the campaign world. It's an evolution on a mechanic that was already in Godbound, another game by Sine Nomine, and which I greatly enjoyed there.
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    Default Re: Worlds Without Number

    I'm usually not much of a fan of people's various ideas to improve B/X. But Worlds Without Number goes so far that it really becomes it's own game, and something I think is actually really solid.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I'm usually not much of a fan of people's various ideas to improve B/X. But Worlds Without Number goes so far that it really becomes it's own game, and something I think is actually really solid.
    It sounds like in many ways, WWN is to B/X what True20 was to D20. 3 base classes, filling out with skills and "feats", mix and match to taste.

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    Yeah, that's not completely off. There's some similar feel to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I'm personally not a big fan of the *WN class system, it always feels to me like the games don't want one so much as a levelled classless system. But that also might be my dislike for generic classes talking.
    I feel the same way every time I hear of the system. Warrior/rogue/mage, with rogue sometimes being "expert" is just a huge red flag for me. I've yet to see a system that used it that wouldn't be better off being classless. One possible exception being Shadow of the Demon Lord.
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    Default Re: Worlds Without Number

    What would classless mean in this context? Everyone gets all improvements (or can choose between all improvements)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    What would classless mean in this context? Everyone gets all improvements (or can choose between all improvements)?
    presumably any number of build-a-bear systems, where you choose how much of your build allotments go to skills, combat, spells, and/or base characters qualities like HP or saves (or the equivalents).

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    Which is actually why I would like more information. Saying it would have been better classless is kind of like saying your favourite colour is not blue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    What would classless mean in this context? Everyone gets all improvements (or can choose between all improvements)?
    Basically 'at level you get XYZ, spend as you like'. For *WN this would more likely be 'the same at every level' rather than 'specific boosts at specific levels'.

    An example would be every level giving one Skill point, two points to spend on Talents and/,or spells, and 1d6+CON hit points. Class features become Talents, although stuff like the Warrior's damage bonus would be hard to translate. This is, of course, just an example.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Basically 'at level you get XYZ, spend as you like'. For *WN this would more likely be 'the same at every level' rather than 'specific boosts at specific levels'.

    An example would be every level giving one Skill point, two points to spend on Talents and/,or spells, and 1d6+CON hit points. Class features become Talents, although stuff like the Warrior's damage bonus would be hard to translate. This is, of course, just an example.
    Okay, but what actual benefit would that bring?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
    Okay, but what actual benefit would that bring?
    More flexibility in character creation.

    What benefit does Warrior/Expert/Mage bring that going classless doesn't?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    It's faster and easier. What the three generic classes do is provide an easy too look up table that tells you on which levels you get spell access and foci, and what your character's hit point and attack bonus are. In other games also how many skill points you get and what your saving throws are.
    Making all of these things that you have to select individually every time the character advances creates considerable additional complexity to the whole process.

    Other games have ways to deal with those things, but when you're working on a D&D chassis, I think this approach is really the most convenient solution.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    More flexibility in character creation.

    What benefit does Warrior/Expert/Mage bring that going classless doesn't?
    In addition to the above; less decision paralysis, less balance concerns, and depending on how you define classless, more cohesive narrative.
    Last edited by Yunru; 2021-07-10 at 04:48 AM.

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    I can understand the appeal of classes in general, but they could have at least put some effort into it instead of falling back onto warrior/expert/mage.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    I can understand the appeal of classes in general, but they could have at least put some effort into it instead of falling back onto warrior/expert/mage.
    I mean, Warrior/Expert/Mage is also boring because it says nothing about your character really. Say what you like about dark Heresy classes, but they brought a lot of background.

    If I can take every class and give them the background of 'made explosions for the army' something is wrong. Oh, and if I can't make things go boom without spells something is very wrong (especially if I'm playing a gnome). Unless we're playing a game specifically designed to be about people who make explosions for the army, of course.
    Last edited by Anonymouswizard; 2021-07-15 at 04:21 PM.

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    I finally got what shock damage is for. This rule was the most odd looking to me, allowing attacks to deal small amount of damage even when an attack misses. Really wasn't a fan of that idea. But I now noticed that the Armor Class required to ignore shock damage is usually very low.
    AC 14 will let you ignore shock damage most creature attacks. light spears, and longswords, while AC 16 protects against everything but anti-armor weapons like maces and hammers. Light armor, a shield, and a Dexterity of 14 is enough to get your armor to 16, as is plain scale armor and nothing else. So the purpose of shock damage is to make going into a fight with no armor feel scary. Especially when your enemies do have armor. I love that!

    A similar mechanic made me fall in love with the grapple rules. Yes, a D&Desque game with a good grapple mechanic! Who'd thought we'd ever see that day? Not only is grappling easy to do and remember, it actually looks really quite effective against the right enemies. To start a grapple, you make an unarmed attack roll and on a hit both sides make opposed Strength checks (plus Punch skill). If the attacker wins, the defender is now being grappled. The only thing a defender can do when grappled is an unarmed attack, or trying another Strength/Punch check to break free. The attacker can also make unarmed attacks while maintaining the grapple, or end the grapple and attempt a 10 feet push or 5 feet throw with another Strength/Punch check. You can easily lock down spellcasters with this. And if you stand next to a ledge, or have a pit and another strong ally nearby, you can just throw enemies to their death. That's really easy.
    However, what makes the whole thing worthwhile, is for every round the defender does not get out of the grapple, he automatically takes unarmed damage from the attacker. Assuming a defender and attacker both deciding to just keep punching and strangling each other, and both land half of their unarmed attacks, the attacker will deal 3 times as often damage as the defender. And with one focus and a few skill ranks in Punch, you can increase your damage by a lot. Strangling people to death with your bare hands is not just doable, but might be a really quite effective way to kill your enemies.

    I'm amazed it took 20 years of OGL games and Retroclones for someone to come up with these. It's so simple, but looks so effective in addressing two very old complaints.

    As I am working on a WWN campaign, I wrote up a little rules introduction to quickly get players up to date what things they should know about that are different than other versions of D&D. For those who are curious, you can take a look yourself. It doesn't contain the rules and isn't 100% accurate, but I think it covers the things you'd have to explain to D&D players so they can jump into the game and don't have to read the whole 90 pages of small print themselves.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I mean, Warrior/Expert/Mage is also boring because it says nothing about your character really. Say what you like about dark Heresy classes, but they brought a lot of background.

    If I can take every class and give them the background of 'made explosions for the army' something is wrong. Oh, and if I can't make things go boom without spells something is very wrong (especially if I'm playing a gnome). Unless we're playing a game specifically designed to be about people who make explosions for the army, of course.
    To be fair, “class brings background “ is the exact opposite of the design intent. I mean, when so much of the universe is created by random tables, and Kevin’s said before that he usually doesn’t do setting books, you have to make up a lot of your own background. Although, there are “backgrounds” that give general descriptions and customizes your bonus skills.

    Classes could be dropped, the only major change would be you need to say how a character gets “permission” to be a magicuser. Class abilities boil down to lowering randomness for stuff you’re good at. Skill person gets skill rerolls, warrior person gets warrior rerolls, magic user gets to use magic. The other differences are relatively minor, but class is a good handle for declaring what your character is good at/what the player wants their character to encounter.

    The big character defining stuff would be Foci. No prereqs other than “take healer 1 before healer 2” type. About 7 foci picks total over a career, out of many options, and foci are powerful, meaningful choices. I mean, level 2 healer makes you a good healer, other foci let you “nope” some attacks couple times a day, one gets you skilled bodyguards, bunch of others that let you succeed without rolling couple times a day. Lots of ways to customize your character, in pretty extreme ways. If you wanted even more classless, you could make the class abilities a focus pick.

    Tldr, As a generic setting, classes are very general with customization elsewhere. Big changes from say B/X are giving players ways to lower d20 randomness to reflect character’s expertise.

    Personally what I like is the reduction of “whiff factor”, and how the system mostly stays out of the way during play. You get enough abilities to be interesting without having to flip through the book every 5 seconds.

    Ps Unique Gift and Special Origin I don’t remember being explicitly called out before. Interesting.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Orc in the Playground
    Join Date
    Aug 2011

    Default Re: Worlds Without Number

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Arts are minor magical effects that don't use the daily limits for spells. Instead they are limited by effort. Spellcasters have one daily effort that returns with ever new day, and a scene effort, which returns every new scene. Such arts are a bit like daily or encounter powers, but you can only use one of your daily powers per day, even if you have multiple. Same with scenes. There's also indefinite effort which works basically like concentration.
    Unless I missed something, no one addressed this: There are no separate types of effort, but a small pool of it that can be committed to an ongoing effect (which you can then turn off whenever and get the effort back), or for the scene or for the day for typically bigger instantaneous effects. You can use as many daily effort arts in a day as you have effort available, but that will leave you without any to spare for scene or indefinite effects.

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