Chimera Number Five

The 5th version of my thoughts, which are mine

I’ve been working steadily on the 5th printing of Chimera Basic. In the process, I’ve gained a better appreciation for what belongs in the (free) Basic volume, and what needs to be added to the (pay-for) Core (this is code for I’ve completed the outline for the Core Rules).

Mostly, I’ve taken a look at Chimera’s playability. While it's essentially where I want it, there are a few areas that have been nagging at me.

My plan is for the 5th printing of Chimera Basic to be the last and final update. Ignoring the fact that I’ve just jinxed myself, “last and final update” means that now’s the time to purge the canon of those few nagging bits.

Target Numbers

I discussed Target Numbers last week, but here’s a recap: Target Numbers are now based on action difficulty, not character skill. This means that the Target Number represents how hard an action is to pull off. Any external factor—character skill, environmental conditions, special gear, whatever—is applied as an modifier to the Action Roll itself.

This means that (1) there will be negative Action Roll modifiers, (2) Abilities will be noted with their AR modifier instead of their Target Number (e.g., “Fight +2” instead of “Fight/14”), and (3) it’ll be easier for the GM to assign TNs and for players to apply modifiers.

Not earth-shattering, but probably a measure of consistency that I should have adopted from the start. Prior to this, Chimera didn’t clarify whether to adjust AR or TN to reflect difficulty—now it’s fixed.

Parry

Chimera Basic combat divides an attack into two pieces: hitting a target and damaging a target. These are separate and distinct elements, meaning that hitting your foe does not guarantee damaging your foe.

sword parry

Defence in action

This is because Chimera places the responsibility for a successful attack on the attacker, and the work of avoiding damage on the defender. Without getting too deep into apologetics, the idea is that an attacker’s skill in hitting things already assumes that his target is trying not to be hit. When a target is hit, his Defence (DF) reduces the damage inflicted by the attacker. It’s possible for damage to be reduced to zero.

This is a high-level abstraction designed to make things fast—not capture every detail of a target’s effort to avoid being struck. Subsequently, Defence represents anything that blocks, absorbs, deflects, or otherwise reduces the impact of the blow. That could be armour, it could be physical constitution, or it might be mind-over-matter. It could also be a parrying move made with a shield, a weapon, a clever feign to the right, or knocking aside a thrust in Bruce Lee style.

Still, some folks would prefer a way to reduce being hit in the first place. So I offer the (optional) Parry stat, which is added to the attacker’s Target Number.

Parry starts at zero, but you can increase it with a shield (Parry +1), certain weapons (e.g., a quarterstaff gives Parry +2), certain Perks (Nimble), and maybe some new Sperks (like one that lets Veterans increase Parry by their Fight AR). Consider:

Bolaf (axe +2) attacks Griggurd, who wears leather armour (DF +1) and carries a shield (Parry +1). Bolaf's base Fight TN is 12; but his axe +2 combined with Giggurd’s Parry +1 adjust this to TN 11.

You’ll note that the defender doesn’t roll a “Parry die.” That would be a mistake, I think: aside from the fact that an extra die roll makes it more cumbersome during play, I don't like the idea of using parry to negate an attack that's already succeeded (and, despite the fact that Defence could absorb all damage, a hit is still a hit, which could have other, non-damaging effects—like a touch attack or falling from shaky ground, for example).

Being optional, Parry can be added to the target’s Defence if you want to keep things the way they are. Consider:

  • With Parry: Griggurd wears leather armour (DF +1) and shield (Parry +1); the shield makes him harder to hit, but when he's struck, his leather doesn't absorb as much damage.
  • Without Parry: Griggurd wears leather armour (DF +1) and shield (DF +1); the shield grants a total DF +2, so he's hit a little more often, but when he's struck, he absorbs more damage.

Advancement

Turns out that I can’t stand Experience Points. I didn’t know this, but it’s true.

As a player, I hate keeping track of them. As a GM, I hate trying to figure out how many to dole out. Plus, XP can get infinitely granular—is it rewarded on a per adventure basis, or per session? do you give XP for treasure? magic? monsters killed? what about monsters captured? what if you sell a magic item? Ugh. On and on.

So I came up with another approach, based on Lord Kilgore’s Roll to Advance method. Here’s how it works:

Determine your character’s Advancement Cost normally (i.e., tally the AdCost for race and class(es) as before). After each adventure, roll 1d20 and subtract your character’s current level. If the modified d20 result equals or exceeds your AdCost, you advance and get a number of Improvement Points equal to your current level, as per the Basic rules for advancement.

Benefits? The higher your level, the harder it is to advance. Likewise, the higher your AdCost, the harder it is to advance (this helps curb players who insist on “front-loading “ their characters, so it’s now more important to make smart decisions about race and class combinations). This also creates an effective level cap, which works well in Chimera (wherein you can level-up or improve capabilities on separate tracks): eventually, you’ll achieve maximum level, which for characters already burdened with high AdCost values, makes a sort of “balanced” sense. [1] The final benefit? No Experience Points. Huzzah!

Final Words

These are the biggest changes. There are other bits, like no more monster classes (monster class abilities are better as Adaptations), powers now have a TN to Wield (instead of a level), unarmed combat is handled via the Athletics Ability, and (of course) there are many clarifications and typo fixes (a pestilence on typos, for all time, even).

Thoughts? Concerns? Suggestions? Let them be known in the Comments section.

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1. Essentially, this is an Action Roll whose Target Number is your Adcost, penalised by your current level. Consider a Normal Human Veteran with 2 Sperks (AdCost 11). At 1st-level, he needs a 12 on the d20 to advance. At 2nd-level, he needs a 13; at 3rd-level, a 14; etc. This progression means that your highest level is (20 - AdCost). When the character attains maximum level, the GM has two choices: he might rule that the character cannot advance any further or, (and this is preferred) he may rule that a natural “20” on the Advancement roll lets him advance, but “Level-Up” is no longer an option—this at least lets the character improve his Abilities, Perks, powers, etc.

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