Fate of the Norns

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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 5:38 pm 
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So, my lunch time FOTN game wrapped up. I don't currently have a FOTN game being played. Why did I wrap it up? It was very hard to do a FOTN game in the timespan of lunch. There was a lot of setup and it is a relatively alien system. If you have players that aren't reading between sessions, and they only touch it for an hour a week, it kind of fails.

That having been said, I'd like to do it again on our Friday game, which is longer, steadier crowd, and more experienced gamers. Some of the group who did FOTN is in the friday game as well. I'd also do my own thing rather than run Fafnir's and Egil's like I did. I felt like I did a reasonable job with them, but I think I followed the book a bit much. I am thinking now that I will continue where my 13th age game left off, as they started Ragnarok in that. I have at least 2 players that are pro that, and I think another 2 are willing.

Some random thoughts/criticisms/kudos about it are below.
  • I like the playmats. My players like the playmats. For the player, it works very well - they are relatively static, they don't need a lot of stats on the sheet. Once they learn their powers, it actually flows very smoothly. Even fun. The rune economy is quite interesting and engaging. It reminds me a bit of Puerto Rico in it's resource management. I think this is actually a fairly major selling point for the game - it could bridge the way from board game to RPG for some folks. The mini-game with the runes also really satisfies the crunch-lovers out there.
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  • I think 40mm x 30mm (my homemade ones) work well on an 11x17 mat and are a good size to actually play with. 11x17 is a BIG mat though. The standard mat is 8x11, and that is very small for doing any reasonable set of runes, certainly if they are over an inch tall. Runes under an inch tall are somewhat hard to read/manipulate. Because of these things, I tend to think the Norn style (sideways) is a better fit on a table, and in the larger 11x17 format. 11x17 sideways (I think that's A3 in rest-of-the-world sizes) is good because a) it doesn't extend more than a foot into the table and b) a person is going to get more than 17" of table space wide (standard chair is ~18", add 6 so you don't bump each other). I highly recommend it, and would love to see a high resolution PDF of a SINGLE norn mat put out for player use like this.
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  • One of my players pointed out that it is HIGHLY unlikely that the Norn is going to be changing damage tracks for the players in the middle of a game, or in the middle of a combat. Thus, the need for multiple damage tracks seems kinda small. I agree with this. I might do it on MY end, but I probably won't on the player end. Thus, I don't think the playmats need them and should save the space for something else, like the few single stats that a player might need from his main sheet (PF, movement, DF, evade, etc)
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  • I LOVE the app for iPad as a Norn. However, it is somewhat game slowing if you have Mental damage. The player can't decide which pile he's going to target without you passing over the iPad. With a physical mat, that's relatively easy to see. Still, I really like the app and highly recommend it for new Norns. Being able to handle 6 mats + runes + saveability from game to game, not to mention pre-prepping encounters is very nice. In fact, if the app had a way to save multiple encounters (save on thursday night when you are prepping, load on friday when you are starting it) it would be an AMAZING DM prep tool. I would have loved to have had 3-4 whole encounters (4-6 boards each) ready to go for my game. With an Apple TV or other projector tech, I could easily project the board and alleviate the "gotta see it to target it" mental damage issue I mentioned.
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  • From the player end, I don't think it is as handy, although all my guys got it. It was good for a lunch game because it remembered state if we had to end in the middle. It was also nice because it was a set of runes they could buy for $3 and get instant gratification. From the Norn perspective here, I don't like it, because I can't see their stuff. Thus, when I run it next, I'm going to insist on physical mats.
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  • I don't like the Norn monster creation. Building up monsters seems like fun, but it's the same process as players, and that moves very slow. It requires a lot of prep, and is not conducive to "just pull some runes and go with it" which is implied in the main book. I get the goal of it, and I do like the fact that one monster board can make quite the range of guys. However, it's not very Norn-friendly, timewise. I would like pre-gens - perhaps not with the colors pre-drawn, but rather "1st red power = power attack. 2nd red power add in raging assault. 3rd red power add in backstab" sort of setup. I should be able to have 2-3 "cards" with 1 monster each and have them out for reference. then pull runes out of the bags when I play. Said card might be "Sneaky mugger" and have "sneaky" powers vs a "desperate mugger" and have powers that are "desperate", or "high priest zealot" and have powers related to that.
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  • Norns could easily get by with a set of small rectangular gems/beads/tokens for their "runes". Like $5 on amazon. Building around this notion makes things go much faster, IME.
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  • A related point of this - some mook rules would be good. I started putting together some - essentially, 1 rune per mook, they have one power, they never defend. It plays much like a single monster, but with less complexity. "Ganging up" would be adding metas. So, if you have 5 desperate bandits, they get red runes, say. One of then power attacks (their only power) and the rest move into attack someone, each gets to add his red rune on to amplify. If the player attacks, he removes one rune per hit. Thus, you can get some truly epic hordes being taken on (hello, mr 125 point blacksmith, here is a small army to attack) and get that really mythic viking feel. Healing could be handled with summoning new/reinforcements, etc. You could even do something like "limit 6 runes applied to any one player" so as to give it some limitations/feeling that you have controlled the crowd a bit.
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  • Players learning powers was surprisingly hard. I've expressed this in other places, but there are a lot of new parts to the system, and some wordings that could be redone a little better. I suspect that there was some abbreviated review/reviewers that were quite familiar with the system and "tribal knowledge" was assumed. Understandable, but I wouldn't be the first, second, third, fourth, or 50th to go wtf on some parts of the system, although Denizens helps a lot here. It is somewhat difficult to overstate how important Denizens is to the system. Indeed, I would cut some sections of the core book (immortals, for example) and put in more Denizens material (most of the norn section, classes). I get why it happened that way, but I would seriously consider round 2 of it at some point. So much of denizens has important information and lessons learned from the core book and new players. Even the history section is far better fitted to the core book, IMO. It gives the context needed to build the character from the ground up, and leaves out the parts they probably aren't going to interact with right away.
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  • I honestly love the feel of the game, once you understand how it's supposed to work. It feels quite epic, with a scope that you could really run with. The fact that the nine worlds are bleeding through is good stuff. I think that the second age is a great place to be playing in - a lot of conflict, only the strong are around. It's a good place for heroes.
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  • Hexes - love and hate. Hate because there is so much stuff that is NOT hex, and I had to scrounge to find hex stuff. Love because I think it works well with the system and the ticky-tacky of it. Personal preference i suppose. I almost converted to squares because of the availability. I also wanted to buy an awful lot of Heroscape for terrain because I love terrain.

Anyhow, this is much longer than I expected, and I imagine that if you got me over a mug of mead, I would have more to say that I forgot here. Despite many criticisms, I do like it quite a lot. we're kinda gearing up for Runequest here shortly, so it might be a few months before I get to, but we'll get to it.


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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 7:21 pm 
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Additional random thought:

The barrier to entry is quite high. Lets consider for a moment what you have to do as a player -

  • have a set of runes - perhaps it can be shared, but these are not cheap. One can cut out from the printout in the book, but honestly $25 for a set of wood runes is a high barrier, let alone the $65 set. Sure, you can share that, for a bit, but once you get past level 12 or so, it gets to be a matter of you having a full set if your own really. $6 will get you a set of dice from amazon - good ones too. This is not to say at all that the price is unfair, but it is a barrier. My group is fortunate that I took the time to make our own. The app really helps here.
  • learn a dozen powers - even the starters in Denizens have 4 active powers with some fairly complex mechanics. This is pretty high for starting off. then add in 4 passives.
  • completely new mechanics. It doesn't really compare to anything else out there. It's not bad, but it is a barrier. There is no context from RPGs.

Now consider the Norn
  • a set of runes - as above. the app mitigates this, but you will want 2-3 sets. I made the assumption early on that I needed a set of regular runes for the Norn. It wasn't until later that I realized no, no I didn't.
  • learn a lot more powers
  • denizen creation. Consider for a moment that D&D 4e monster stat block is less than a half page and done up for you. each FOTN one is done by hand. This is a big barrier to running the game.

This is on top of the books, and ignores things like playmats, hex maps, etc.

I don't know that I have any good solutions for this. Encouraging the app would be good to help. I've tossed around a few character sheet formats. Power cards probably would help, but it's another cost. Honestly, a Roll20 template would go a long way, but it's past my abilities.

quite honestly, a user study would probably be good, but that's likely out of the realm of a small publishing company.


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PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2015 1:18 pm 
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Raleel, THANK YOU for taking the time to catalogue your feedback so meticulously. This is a treasure trove of intel for me. I especially need to hear from groups which are "self taught", rather than learning hands on at a convention.

As I roll out the rest of the Ragnarok books, I have some leverage on re-shaping the rules to a certain degree. I will take any and all valuable feedback and roll it into the rules/content evolution in The Illuminated Edda, Lords of the Ash, The War of Shadow, and the Saga quadrilogy (1 book per age, all of them tying together in a massive story arc). It won't be sudden or shocking, but more of a subtle shift, without contradicting the Core Rulebook. Once all of those books have been released, I am ready to create RGS 3.0 and that could be a big evolution for the runes.

Somewhere in there I have to release Vigridr and the FOTN boardgame. LOL Pendelhaven's bottom line needs the capital.

Now URGS is still in my mind, and in the works. I am looking at it for the possible god rules in a campaign world where you play the gods/jotuns/dvergar. Chris (author of Seith and Sword) has also put forth some interesting ideas for it, so maybe it will show up sooner rather than later, and offer a different but equally interesting use of the runes.

Now to address your statements and ask questions of my own:

Quote:
The barrier to entry is quite high


Agreed on all points! One of the things we wanted to do with Vanagard (this project may be pushed to 2016) is to produce inexpensive punch out cardboard runes which could sell for under $5. Since it's pushed, I think this will be a very good stretch goal for The Illuminated Edda.

I plan to release a mini card deck of runes for $10 (current rune deck is $15 I think) and wood is $25 and metal is $40.

Quote:
Norn challenges


Do you feel that a Monster Manual would help the Norn immensely? On a scale of 1 to 10?

How about those power cards?

Also if a player feels like they are overwhelmed with the number of abilities at starter levels (8-12), have they tried focusing on using runes for generic/cinematic actions instead of worrying about powers? How has that worked? If they didn't, why not?

Off the top of my head for those really overwhelmed by the number of abilities: A rather drastic house rule change could be that you only get powers every few Essence levels.

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Friday night game


I'd be very curious how your more veteran players fate with a longer play window.

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it is somewhat game slowing if you have Mental damage. The player can't decide which pile he's going to target without you passing over the iPad.


Actually it's not meant to be open, players shouldn't see your playmats. They should remain hidden behind your Norn screen or on your iPad. they should make their best guesses based on info like "denizen X has a maintained spellsong and has just drawn his runes and hasn't played yet".

Quote:
Online game


If you guys setup a roll20, and want me to run a 1-shot of Fafnir to compare to your home game, I would be happy to do that. :)

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PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2015 3:46 pm 
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andrew wrote:
Raleel, THANK YOU for taking the time to catalogue your feedback so meticulously. This is a treasure trove of intel for me. I especially need to hear from groups which are "self taught", rather than learning hands on at a convention.


no sweat. really felt that i needed to think about it for a while and put it out there.

Quote:
Agreed on all points! One of the things we wanted to do with Vanagard (this project may be pushed to 2016) is to produce inexpensive punch out cardboard runes which could sell for under $5. Since it's pushed, I think this will be a very good stretch goal for The Illuminated Edda.

I plan to release a mini card deck of runes for $10 (current rune deck is $15 I think) and wood is $25 and metal is $40.


this will be a good thing. a sheet or two of those would make quite a difference in the entry point.

Quote:
Do you feel that a Monster Manual would help the Norn immensely? On a scale of 1 to 10?


maybe an 8. I LIKE the boards... don't get me wrong. but it's very intensive. It's hard to store and put together, etc. It's fun, but not good for Norn prep time. I guess ultimately, dwellers just don't need the same power sets as players. You can do quite well with a small set of easily flavored powers and a relatively small set of metas.

Quote:
How about those power cards?


as a norn, probably like a 6. as a player I think it's higher. This is due to in small part because I read everything and I'm a sponge for it. Some of my players are not so much. It's time consuming to reference your powers through a couple of books. Much easier to have your set right there and understand them.

I also am somewhat concerned about the player being focused on "this is all I can do" when he looks at the cards, but I think the out of combat effects help that a bit.

Quote:
Also if a player feels like they are overwhelmed with the number of abilities at starter levels (8-12), have they tried focusing on using runes for generic/cinematic actions instead of worrying about powers? How has that worked? If they didn't, why not?


so, this is a thing that I've been fighting in relatively high crunch systems for a while now. If you have a bunch of things defined, the tendency with a particular set of people (maybe of them gamers) is for that to be the full scope of all your options. In effect, turning the RPG into a board game. So they don't do generic actions because they don't think of them as something they can do to do random X that is not listed on your sheet.

I tried to encourage it, but it's hard to encourage. it. It also doesn't help that generic actions kind of rely on you trusting your GM is going to rule the way you think it will work. that doesn't work as well as I'd like. We had a discussion at our game last friday specifically about this. It's not a small problem.

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I'd be very curious how your more veteran players fare with a longer play window.


yea, i'm forming a plan with that. we have some other things already planned, so we'll see.

Quote:
it is somewhat game slowing if you have Mental damage. The player can't decide which pile he's going to target without you passing over the iPad.


Quote:
Actually it's not meant to be open, players shouldn't see your playmats. They should remain hidden behind your Norn screen or on your iPad. they should make their best guesses based on info like "denizen X has a maintained spellsong and has just drawn his runes and hasn't played yet".


that will give many howls from my players, and I don't think I blame them on that. that is quite lopsided towards the Norn, in a place where I can already be pretty lopsided if I desire :)

I posted it to some of my players - one immediately responded back with his displeasure, feeling the entire attack would be wasted. I reminded him that it still did damage, and was still mental. but i get where they are coming from.

Quote:
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If you guys setup a roll20, and want me to run a 1-shot of Fafnir to compare to your home game, I would be happy to do that. :)


thanks! I may take you up on that.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 12:44 pm 
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Additional postmortem bit I was thinking about today.

Mental damage - one of of my players (and one of my most experienced RPGers) really did not like mental damage. he found it to be disproportionately powerful. Now, I will admit that this particular player is kind of sensitive to having actions removed, but I do think he has a point.

Even at half damage pretty much across the whole system, it's still extremely effective. Mental defense is quite rare (evade is hard to get, most parry actions like swords and shields aren't involving any mental defense, you have to match a trait), and it doesn't have to do much damage to have a big impact (before your turn, if they can hit your In Hand, damage = essence is enough to deny you a turn mostly, after your turn, it takes little to knock out powers). A base level Sunder Mind will almost definitely do enough damage to knock out an Essence 3 (lower level characters) denying them all non-void actions - including defends.

I think the big issue with this is action denial. While it has been traditionally a part of many games, it can be very not fun for the people being subjected to it. It also makes the player disengage from the game. Those things are not good at my table.

My current thinking is something like this:
Quote:
Mental damage works similarly to physical damage with some exceptions. Upon taking mental damage, the person applying the damage chooses a pile - either In Hand, Contingency, or In Play. The defender then flips over runes of his choice, one per point of damage, until there are no more runes to flip in that pile. Any runes being used for Metas are immediately removed from the Base power, but remain in that pile on the playmat. Once all the runes in that pile are flipped, damage is applied as per physical damage, starting from the lowest pile in wounds and moving up.

Flipped runes are Unbound. They are considered to have no color, and are not associated with the rune character, an active power or a skill. They can still be used for anything that doesn't require a colored rune or a rune character, but nothing else. Thus, Unbound runes cannot be used to activate active powers, gain heightened levels of success on skill checks during combat, or be used as Meta runes. They can be used to make Generic actions that don't require a colored rune - like attacks with weapons that are of smaller size than the dweller or moves.

At Cleanup, Unbound runes are moved into essence as per normal, and return to their normal state (i.e. they can be used for active powers, metas, etc).


the goal on this is to stunt effectiveness without obliterating all ability to do anything. I like my guys to remain somewhat effective, even if it's getting the horses or something.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 2:31 pm 
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Bro I like your idea, but it does add more complexity to the rules. When you start out it does seem pretty unforgiving until you find ways to counter.

Have your players tried splitting their runes during upkeep into contingency? Most players with some experience are going to split their runes In-Hand. This reduces the impact of mental damage unless it comes from a maintained power during upkeep.

Ragnarok is pretty good at applying traditional "stun". This is one of the places that RGS kicks ass. Rather than making someone lose a turn, they lose actions, never losing the Void.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 3:22 pm 
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theRajjj wrote:
Bro I like your idea, but it does add more complexity to the rules. When you start out it does seem pretty unforgiving until you find ways to counter.

Have your players tried splitting their runes during upkeep into contingency? Most players with some experience are going to split their runes In-Hand. This reduces the impact of mental damage unless it comes from a maintained power during upkeep.

Ragnarok is pretty good at applying traditional "stun". This is one of the places that RGS kicks ass. Rather than making someone lose a turn, they lose actions, never losing the Void.

PAX


well, relatively few runes to split does impact them at their low levels, and they didn't have a lot of ways to counter either. I personally have less of an issue with it as the Norn, and I felt the pinch from the Skald, but I can see how that would be irritating. I didn't think I would like restrict myself from using mental damage denizens until later, but I was also aware that this particular player really dislikes being restricted like this. I have other players who have said "stun is no fun" in other systems.

I'm formulating another thing to do to help out for my own table, but it's not specifically to address stun. I'll post that in a bit.

I personally don't think it adds any real complexity. It sort of puts a virtual would pile in the middle before it gets moved to essence - the "flipped over" pile. I can see how folks might not like that though.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2015 8:31 pm 
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mhm, it's a pretty long write-up, but basically once you lose runes to mind dmg, you can still use them for generic actions this combat round. Sounds good and in spirit it's not really more complicated than the base rules. Like it, thanks for sharing.

@raleel: In our crusade to change the system from 1-2 rounds for a battle to 3-7 rounds we even changed Mind dmg to a simple "works like physical dmg but the attacker can choose any Rune from the defender in Hand, Contingency or in-play pile that must soak the dmg".

It's simple, elegant, and addresses 2 main problems of Mind dmg (going first or Upkeep-M-dmg = win, while going last = sux -- and scalability: you don't need to Amplify to even kill the hardest opponents which leads to boring gameplay).
It also makes low-lvl ppl "just" lose 1-2 runes (like parrying/defending) instead of a "you don't play with us anymore, grab your chips and watch tv while we finish this round", but as the attacker can choose the rune now, it's still reaaally useful to use. But more of a precision instrument instead of a blunt hammer.
Basically, it's no longer: "play 1-2 runes with free Area meta from being a skald to let a group of 3 dwellers lose 3x5 Runes, thus instantly winning the battle as your party members mop the now-helpless bodies up" --- but more a "I get to precisely choose that I want to kill that certain maintained rune-chain or make sure that our opponent does not Power-attack/Mauling/Versatile/Troll Smash/etc. this round".

So far it works and also scales well with higher levels (25+). And Amplifying is actually useful now.
So I can see your houserule working well as well.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 1:26 pm 
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Cool try it out and let me know how it works. I'm always compiling RGS improvements for the inevitable v3. So far on the list:
1) Unified metas for Actives and Skills
2) Seamless in/out of combat (no jarring initiative)

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:41 am 
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I know this thread is really old, but I'd love to follow up on a couple of points if possible.

Quote:
I wouldn't be the first, second, third, fourth, or 50th to go wtf on some parts of the system, although Denizens helps a lot here. It is somewhat difficult to overstate how important Denizens is to the system... So much of denizens has important information and lessons learned from the core book and new players.


I am finally getting around to reading the Fate of the Norns Core Rules.

Can anyone address (with specific page numbers, if possible) what elements of Denizens of the North I should make sure to go read immediately upon finishing the core rules.

I'm honestly finding the rules as they stand compelling as all hell. (Though, yes, I can see there is a steep system mastery curve. All the pieces look like they'll work wonderfully well together -- once a player understand how the pieces work together!) But once I wrap them up I'd love to jump to whatever pages are going help me get on with understand the rules at the greatest pace.

Thanks!


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