Some Questions Answered

Some Questions Answered

An FAQ in becoming.

If you have other questions, ask them below. The electronic aide will purge them as they are answered.


2. Level & Life & Hero Dice

Starting Level: UVG 1E had PCs start at level 3, UVG 2E has them start at level 1. Doesn’t this unbalance the game?

I’d say it changes it, not unbalances it. Gaining those first levels tends to be very fast by default, but it also makes some of the early lower level encounters more challenging and encourages players to role-play, talk, sneak, and scheme more than just going straight to battle. If this isn’t to your taste, certainly, level them up.

A major reason for the change is pure simplicity: starting at 1st level is easier than at 3rd level.

There isn’t a single right way to do it. Sometimes I’ll start games with more powerful PCs, sometimes weaker.

Regaining Hero Dice: When ERK mentions that characters regain one hero die “every couple of hours” – is that intended to be in-game or out-game hours?

Out-game, real-time – as you’re playing. The hero dice represents the daemon player’s divine influence. A way to think of the hero dice is that it’s like the gods in the Illiad coming down on the PC and giving them “a pep”.

You can also come up with other techniques for regaining hero dice, like the “inspiration” mechanic in DnD 5E.

4. Skills

Skills and Traits: Why do you mix these terms?

I’m human and a little inconsistent.

Skills are a subset of traits. That is to say, not every trait implies an associated skill (a character with a glowing head (trait) wouldn’t necessarily be skilled at anything because of that trait). In the UVG, with the characters starting out a bit less weird than in ERK, they start with two skills (which are both traits). In ERK, a character starts with a one life (a previous life they remember, whether falsely or not, that works as a skill) and a trait (which may or may not imply additional skills).

That said, with a trait like Escapist (trickster list), I would definitely let the player apply a skill bonus where it made sense – like getting out of traps, bindings, shackles, etc. Possibly, if they argued well, I’d also give them a bonus to figuring out how to escape out of a prison using the air ducts or something.

Traits: How many traits do I start with?

I’d give a 0th level character two traits. One of them is their past life (Lives), which is something like a background profession and gives a broad swath of things where they would apply a skill bonus. The other would be one of the traits from the wizard, trickster, fighter list.

Pleasant Trait: The trait “Pleasant” is worded with “skilled at getting people to like you”, suggesting it can be improved to Expert and Master? Yet +3 is already an overwhelming bonus to the 2d6 reaction rolls. Is the intention to let it be upgraded? If not, I’d stay away from using “skilled” there.

A fair point, that wording is ambiguous! I should revise it.

The base rule is that the transition of skilled > expert > master only increases the bonus to skill rolls (e.g. a d20 roll to, say, successfully host a gathering) not to a reaction roll.

Of course, an individual trait could overrule that. For example, a very combat specialized trait might give a skilled character +3 damage with, say, maces, an expert +6, and a master +9.

In this case, – even with reaction rolls – piled on modifiers wouldn’t be too world-shattering because reaction rolls are a group roll, so a different player should roll every time. Though, as I mentioned above, I wouldn’t 3>6>9 the reaction roll modifier.

Skilled > Expert > Master Trait Slots: Why does increasing my skill from one tier to the next require a new trait slot?

Two reasons: (1) game balance and (2) because getting really good at one thing takes away time from learning another thing.

6. Defense

Defenses: “Which one is true?

UVG2e, The System (One-Page):
Defense = 10 + Agility + Armor

SDM, The System (Regular Size):
Defense = 7 + ability (agility) + bonus (if skill applies) + armor

me thinks:
Defense = 7 + Agility + Armor”

In fact, the UVG2e Defense score assumes that every character is moderately skilled at defense—after all, they’re heading off into the vast and strange west.

The SDM Defense score unpacks that and presents 7 as the starting defense for a regular person who’s never had to have any combat training. A city slicker, a village villain, an urban herbalist, or some such.

Another way to put it:

If you have even one trait that might be interpreted as implying you know how to fight: 7 + bonus (usually +3 when skilled) + ability (usually agility) + armor.

If you are a UVG traveler 10 + ability (usually agility) + armor because you’re no schmuck.

If you’re an average civilian: 7 + ability (usually agility) + armor.

Defenses: Can they go over 19? Wasn’t there a rule limiting numbers and bonuses in Seacat?

There was indeed such a core mechanic in Seacat:

Hard Limits • The maximum level a hero can reach is 9. The greatest sum (stat + skill) ever added to a test is +13. The highest target number a hero can ever possess or set is 19—this includes defence. Sidekicks and pets may have lower limits. Antagonists and obstacles set by the TC can (rarely) exceed these limits.”

This would still largely work with SDM, but I have decided to make it an optional mechanic, rather than core. This is because most PCs are unlikely to hit this limit early in their career, so front-loading a restriction for players to remember feels like asking them to remember a rule they will simply forget 10 sessions in.

Further, this is a rule a referee would better introduce after discussion with their players: as a way to encourage diversification rather than continued specialisation after a certain point in the game.

The origin of this mechanical restriction is rather … umm … mechanical. Essentially, once a modifier exceeds a little more than the average roll of a die (10.5 in the case of a d20), the importance of the die roll itself begins to decrease and rolling dice becomes irrelevant.

13. Inventory

Inventory size: Why is the inventory so small? Just 7 traits and 7 items! I want my character to own more stuff.

The character can own as much stuff as they want – they just can’t have all of it with them at all times. The inventory represents a reasonable number of things the character can take along on an adventure, a dungeon delve, or what have you. They can keep more stuff in their camp or their caravan or their castle, etc.

The size of the inventory is purposely small to force players to make choices: for example, when extricating from a dungeon, do they drop extra weapons and ammo to carry more loot?

Note also that carrying a 10 stone sack in their burden inventory is a penalty of -10 … but it takes barely any time to drop that sack if combat starts. Of course, if you get surprised while thus burdened, that might give a bonus to the attackers …

Also note that quickly dropping a sack full of rare porcelains may damage said porcelains.

Pets & Sidekicks: Just wanted to confirm regarding the inventory rules the intent : Pets and sidekicks serving the same daemon Player as yourself also occupy inventory slots.
But these two are not specified under matter or mind.
Where would you put set pets and sidekicks? I guess under hallmark if they can be leveled up and MATTER if they do not?

Each pet and sidekick occupies a PC’s inventory slot. Which one, is entirely up to the player.

I imagine it this way: if a pet occupies a trait slot, it’s because the PC has to “keep them in mind” ~ Where has that durned dog got to now? If it occupies an inventory slot, it’s because the PC has keeps them on a leash somehow for control.

Hallmarks: Are hallmarks a separate category of inventory?

The original intent was that no, these are ordinary items (for example, a sword) or traits (for example a permanent magic spell a character knows) or pets (for example a red panda warrior) or sidekicks (for example the butler) which occupy one of the standard inventories.

However, that is a very interesting variant: that hallmark items do not occupy regular inventory space. For a longer campaign, this would definitely incentivize players to invest xp in their characters’ equipment and traits, while also providing a very balanced way of increasing inventory.

I would certainly entertain it as a default variant for a game that lasted more than 3 sessions!

14. Powers

Spells: Are they missing? Why is Fireball mentioned but not described? What about spell levels?

No, they are not missing. Only six are listed in SDM because it is a zine, not a book. More will come soon. The author is converting roughly a hundred from SEACAT to SDM for the Our Golden Age book.

Fireball (and some other spells) are mentioned as typical D&D examples of spells that can be ported into the system with relatively little effort (convert hp to life, adjust the affected stats, use a smidgeon of improvisation). Levels are mentioned because each typical OSE or BX spell level converts directly to a spell power of 2. SDM doesn’t use spell levels, but listing them aids conversion.

16. Varieties & Backgrounds

Variates: Are these classes? Do I only get traits from the one I choose?

No. I just grouped traits into three varieties (wizard, trickster, fighter) for convenience. You can pick whichever trait you like when you level up — or roll randomly if you prefer.

Variates: Do I get all six traits when I pick one of these?

I mean, if that’s the game you want, go for it. In my home game, I’d give a 0th level character one of these traits. They can choose more as the level up.


If you have other questions, ask them below. The electronic aide will purge them as they are answered.

Comments

8 responses to “Some Questions Answered”

  1. Jared J Boles Avatar

    I know a license is in progress, but would you mind at all-/have any requests pursuant to- my putting a little trifold of the ERK-Troika! hack I’ll be using to solo-journal through the Lastlands and Vastlands?

    Intended to use the templates you’ve provided in the past, but also happy not to if you’d prefer I keep the work stylistically distinct as possible.

    Thanks as always for your incredible work.

    1. Blue Skull Avatar

      Just put a link to syntheticdreammachine.com and say something like “This completely unauthorized but heartily applauded work builds on SDM, UVG, etc. Find more here: http://www.syntheticdreammachine.com. If you want to buy the physical book of the UVG, visit Exalted Funeral.” etc. etc.

      So long as there’s a clear link / attribution, I think hacks and mods are a crucial part of a thriving rpg hobby!

  2. debava Avatar
    debava

    which one is true?

    UVG2e, The System (One-Page):
    Defense = 10 + Agility + Armor

    The System (Regular Size):
    Defense = 7 + ability (agility) + bonus (if skill applies) + armor

    me thinks:
    Defense = 7 + Agility + Armor

    thx!

    1. Blue Skull Avatar

      Great question, and well spotted. I need to explain that difference.

      In fact, the UVG2e Defense score assumes that every character is moderately skilled at defense—after all, they’re heading off into the vast and strange west.

      The SDM Defense score unpacks that and presents 7 as the starting defense for a regular person who’s never had to have any combat training. A city slicker, a village villain, an urban herbalist, or some such.

      Another way to put it:

      If you have even one trait that might be interpreted as implying you know how to fight: 7 + bonus (usually +3 when skilled) + ability (usually agility) + armor.

      If you are a UVG traveler 10 + ability (usually agility) + armor because you’re no schmuck.

      If you’re an average civilian: 7 + ability (usually agility) + armor.

      1. debava Avatar
        debava

        Thanks for your explanation! Does it follow that a character can have a defense above 20? For example 10 + Surface battlesuit (+8) + Shield (+2) + agility (with agility > 0). I thought I had read somewhere that there can be no target values above 20. Was that UVG1e/SEACAT? Also in the table for NPCs defense is limited to 20. Again, thx!

        1. Blue Skull Avatar

          Yes. It follows that it can go above 20. I did indeed have a rule in seacat about limited numbers, where no defense values over 19 were possible.

          It’s actually a rule I think is useful, but works better as an array of optional rules and adjustments. With any system, players already have to remember so much, that adding “exceptions” as a default makes it a little harder than necessary.

  3. Evilawn Avatar
    Evilawn

    Just wanted to confirm regarding the inventory rules the intent : Pets and sidekicks serving the same daemon Player as yourself also occupy inventory slots.
    But these two are not specified under matter or mind.
    Where would you put set pets and sidekicks? I guess under hallmark if they can be leveled up and MATTER if they do not?

    Thanks for answering those questions! :D

    1. Blue Skull Avatar

      Yes – that is correct. A pet or sidekick also takes up an inventory slot to represent the character “keeping them in mind”.

      Which inventory – mind (trait) or matter (item) is not specified, no. It’s left up to the player. In my mind it’s rather up to the story – is the a secondary character one they have to keep in mind? (then a trait) or one they have to keep on a leash (then an item).

      I would also see it as a very good trait to design for a ranger / beast-master type character that they get a bonus inventory for their pets. Perhaps an inventory equal to their charisma+aura.

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