Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mechanics Spoiler: Travel Episodes

All right, how about we do a mechanics spoiler today? Basically I love this mechanic and I've been dying to share it forever anyway. It's one of my favorite things to do in HJ, and generally gets us about the mix of "hey, neat!" and "oh god not again" we're always looking for from players.

As we've mentioned before, there are several units of narrative time in HJ, and the smallest one of these is the Episode, which usually describes a specific event or situation that the Heroes are managing. But there are several different kinds of Episodes, and different Episode types have their own specific rules about what can happen inside them and how they affect the Heroes' adventures.

One of these is the Travel Episode, which is designed to allow games to model mythic journeys and pilgrimages. Long journeys are super important to a lot of mythic stories; traveling toward a specific goal or other important destination is a frequent hallmark of a Hero's story, and whether it's Rama journeying to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita, Isis' wanderings in the wilderness as she avoids Set's search for her, or Odysseus' famous decades-long attempt to successfully get back to the kingdom of Ithaca, the journey itself and the things that happen on it are at least as important to the story (if not more important!) than the final destination and success or failure of the Hero when they get there. Fairy tales especially love the journey or travel narrative; we've all read the repeated pattern of "someone's son goes on a journey to retrieve something lost/find the love of their life/escape an evil antagonist" or "someone goes on a journey to find knowledge or happiness somewhere that they couldn't in their home location or state". Some mythologies almost exclusively tell stories about journeys and travels; others include travel as one mythic part of a larger cycle.

Anyway, journeys are super important to a great deal of mythology, which presents us with an interesting problem in an RPG. For most games, travel tends to get dropped by the wayside, becoming a sort of non-thing that gets handwaved away. Players say, "Okay, so I'll just drive to the neighboring city to grab that missing part we need for our machine," and often the GM says, "Okay, that'll take five hours, so five hours later..." and the story completely skips the travel as unimportant. Or, the GM may have specific events planned somewhere, but not for the players getting to those events, leading to descriptions like, "So five hours of fruitlessly wandering the jungle later, you finally arrive at the thing I've planned..."

Of course, there's nothing wrong with this. Every moment of time or unimportant wandering around doesn't need to be thoroughly documented and played through, and sometimes it's dramatically appropriate to say that a lot of time full of nothing went by before anything happened, or to skip ahead to more interesting stuff instead of making the players trudge through unimportant trips that would interfere with the narrative. But the tendency to handwave away travel, especially if it's unexpected or the players are very goal-focused, can sometimes make it hard for a game to do any of those mythically important travel things that lots of Heroes in other stories do. How much neat stuff would we have missed out on if, say, the story of Theseus had said, "and then Theseus journeyed to Athens" and skipped all the encounters with characters like Periphetes and Procrustes that showed his prowess as a Hero? How much would the story of Ishtar's journey into the underworld have changed if it had just skipped straight to "so Ishtar went to the underworld and confronted Ereshkigal" without the journey in between giving the story the opportunity to carry information to Ereshkigal and strip Ishtar gradually of her powers?

So: Travel Episodes. The idea is that when Heroes decide to start traveling anywhere for a non-negligible period of time or reason (going to the store for a snack is not a Travel Episode; going a town over in search of an informant might be!), a Travel Episode is triggered, which has its own rules. Travel Episodes are "longer", in terms of in-game time, than most other Episodes, and they contain a number of odyssey events, which are the sorts of mythic encounters that you see in travel stories here and there. Odyssey events could be anything appropriate to the current story; they definitely could be "a wandering monster appears", a la traditional dungeon crawls, but they could also be "you discover an important clue", "an NPC is encountered who could be important to the rest of the story", "a storm occurs and everyone has to deal with environmental problems and dangers", or even "you stumble across a cache of useful items that will help you continue". Travel Episodes essentially "contain" or trigger other Episodes, so that travel itself becomes a part of the story that can affect other events.

The exact list of odyssey events is chosen by the GM based on where the Heroes are and what sort of tale they're involved in, and is rolled on randomly as they head out onto the open road (don't worry, there are sample odyssey events in the book, too, so you can pull from those if you're GMing but not sure you can always come up with ten useful possibilities if the players suddenly strike out through the woods without warning). Some events might be good, some bad; some might delay the Heroes or force them to overcome obstacles, others might give them helpful new tools and allies. Some might do nothing at all except give the Heroes a chance to test their relationships with each other and their responses to stress. Others might drastically affect how the story ahead plays out.

Obviously, there's a lot of room to tailor this mechanic to make it work for your story. GMs have full ability to decide that a given instance of travel isn't important enough to cause a Travel Episode - maybe because the Heroes aren't going far, are covering very familiar territory, or because other things are already happening and it would be redundant or interfere too much. GMs also get to decide what odyssey events are in play for any given Travel Episode, so they can insert NPCs that they already wanted the players to possibly encounter, make sure obstacles match the theme of the overall story, and so on and so forth. They're supposed to make the Saga more coherent and mythic, not more of a pain in the butt, so hopefully they have the flexibility needed to make that work out.

Travel Episodes in playtests have been a lot of fun. Sometimes they're hilarious, on account of the players somehow thinking that running off into the wilderness will solve/reset their problems and not being ready for there to be things happening there, too. Sometimes they're super neat and helpful, such as in the case when a group managed to stumble across a hidden oracular shrine and get some predictions about their coming future problems while they were still on their way to them. Either way, though, they've made expending effort to get from point A to point B much more interesting than it might otherwise have been.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mechanics Talk: Ghosts of Mechanics Past

So, we were going to have a post this week about the Egyptian version of the Devotional Domain, but then we got a giant winter storm slam-dunked on our area and lost power for a bit and a bunch of other semi-exciting messes, and it fell by the wayside. I'll get that post to you folks later, but while I still have laptop battery, how about a quick look into some past failures during the design process? These are things that we realized weren't working in a large, major enough way that we had to totally redo some of the system itself, and they might shed a little light on the process while we're at it.

Failure #1: Combat Episodes.

We mentioned in last week's post that there are different types of Episodes in HJ, and that they have different mechanical frameworks and effects. You'll hear some more about at least one of them next week, but one of them, back in the day, was the Combat Episode, which was automatically triggered as soon as hostilities broke out during the Heroes' adventures. Combat Episodes had specific rules about how to get out of or end them, as well as about character movements and actions within them, all of which were designed to help make sure that combat was streamlined and clear, and that rules from other types of Episodes that might have gotten in the way were replaced with better ones.

This all sounds totally great... except that it completely did not work. Not because the ideas of all that weren't sound, but because combat triggering a new Episode in the midst of whatever else was going on didn't work in the larger context of the game's resource system. HJ uses resources based on narrative chunks of time, including the Episode... which meant that all the Heroes immediately regained all their Episode-based resources the second combat started. Which sounded great if you were a fighter, because you were always completely topped off and ready to rumble the second things got rough, but wasn't fair to all the other character types possible. Characters that were about, say, social interactions, or intelligence-based puzzle solving, had to be vigilant about their resources and spend them wisely, knowing that they might overspend them and run out at a crucial moment, but fighters knew that they could pretty much screw around constantly since anything they really needed their resources for would come with a fresh new helping of them right away.

Also, and most glaringly, if people ran out of resources, they could just go punch someone in the face, especially someone they knew they could take out easily, and then get all their resources back immediately. And then as soon as the fight was over, a new Episode would start again, and again everyone would be at full, even if they spent resources on the combat itself. Complete design failure.

We turned them around and upside down for a while, but in the end, we just ended up writing Combat Episodes completely out of the game. Combat now occurs as an event within Episodes, not as a separate Episode in and of itself, which makes combat-oriented characters need to manage their resources just as carefully as everyone else, and removes the instant-refill button of starting a bar brawl from the equation. A combat situation still triggers a lot of the old specialized rules from the Combat Episodes of old - movement works differently when you're in combat, for example - but now nested within the greater Episode architecture.

Failure #2: Sphere Roll Bonuses.

As you've seen in the webs, there are a lot of bonuses to be picked up to various Talent rolls. A savvy web-traveler can find some bonus successes to, say, Streetwise or Art, to add to their rolls, making it possible to super-specialize in their favorite stats. Spheres don't have these bonuses the way Talents do, mostly because you don't roll Spheres in order to take actions over the normal course of your adventures, just when you use their specific powers.

Unfortunately, awesome though this is, we realized partway through the process that this caused a fundamental mechanical imbalance: you couldn't get a bonus to your Sphere rolls, but the people you wanted to use your Sphere powers on could get bonuses to their resistance stats. This meant that if other PCs stacked their resists, they could become literally completely immune to their fellows trying to use any Sphere powers on them that involved a resist, which was not exactly the balanced universe we were hoping for. (Being really good at resisting stuff because you invested in it, sure! Being literally unstoppable, not quite as great in a big-picture sense.)

We talked about fixing this problem by reworking the Talent webs to add Sphere bonuses... but oh my god, that was so much potential work, and so many numbers that had to be updated and changed and redone and rebalanced. John almost cried a little at the idea - not that he couldn't do it, but that the current setup had been so carefully calibrated for mathematical balance that starting over felt super bad. So instead, we looked at what Spheres were even doing, and how they could be balanced without the problem of heads-up roll vs. resist imbalances making them sub-par. Sphere powers were rewritten to have effects that didn't rely on resistance rolls (although they still do rely on various other stats and attributes of other characters, so they don't go back the other way into being unbalanced).

This actually turned out to be a good thing overall, because it helped us develop a distinct difference in the flavor of Talent Blessings vs. Sphere Blessings, without making resistances any less important to the average character. So a silver lining on that one!

Failure #3: Pain Penalties.

This one was an example of design realities not living up to the conceptual ideas that we wanted them to be based on. We're a big fan of interesting consequences and effects in combat, and one of those is the idea that being in severe pain and/or heavily injured takes its toll on a character. To that end, we designed a system of pain penalties, in which how much damage a character had taken could affect them, levying penalties on them when they began to sustain serious injury.

This was a neat idea in theory, but it broke down completely in practice. Based on the amount of health a character could get, the averages for each level of character, and the damage amounts and types that they could or might sustain in combat, John worked out that the correct distribution would be for a Hero to sustain a one-success penalty to their rolls for approximately every four damage that they suffered. I'm sure everyone reading that sentence immediately sees the flaw in that plan; making players keep track of their current damage divided by four to get a penalty number, and then watching that penalty number constantly change based on damage taken or healed, was a complete nightmare. We tested it out for good measure, even after realizing this, but it was exactly as obnoxious and unwieldy in practice as we thought it would be. No one could ever remember to do it, it slowed everything down to a hellaciously pitiful pace, and anything we might have gained in terms of a feeling of mythic desperation in combat was way overwhelmed by the difficulty and frustration it caused.

Obviously, that got scrapped pretty early on, and we replaced it with various other more simplified system to play with the idea of injuries affecting combatants, the current iteration of which (a single injury penalty that kicks in when the Hero is below half their total amount of health) is still in testing. But jeez, what a total garbage mechanic that was. The best-laid plans.

These aren't the only times we've designed something only to realize later that it totally didn't work; a whole game system is a big thing, and sometimes something that we built that made sense in a self-contained context didn't work in the larger game framework, or something that sounded brilliant in a certain situation was totally torpedoed by another one. But these are some of the most memorable failures - just, the WOW, these were designed by CLOWNS failures. We've had less hilarious or important ones that get noticed and fixed along the way, but I think I've shared enough to embarrass us for now.

Next time, we'll talk about things that do work. In the meantime, stay warm, everybody!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Army of the Gods: Cooperative Gameplay in Hero's Journey

Today at the Hero's Journey nerve center, we're going to do a detour from all the mechanics and powers and dice-rolling real quick to talk about some of the bones on the other side of the game's skeleton. That is, the playstyle of the game: how it's designed to work at the table, what the players do, and how the game encourages behavior to model mythic stories.

At its heart, Hero's Journey is a cooperative game. Most RPGs are, to a certain extent - you expect multiple players to get together and at least nominally work together to handle problems they otherwise couldn't manage on their own - but there's definitely a spectrum of cooperation in different games, from games that require a carefully-knit group of players who all constantly support each other to games that encourage the players to actively fight one another as much as they do outside dangers. Some games are like the FATE system, where players are actively trying to make one another look good and contribute to each others' characters and deeds (in some games based on FATE, even character creation is done cooperatively, such as in Spirit of the Century). Other games are like Paranoia or Vampire: The Requiem, where characters are encouraged or even required to be suspicious of each other and/or backstab each other for personal gain. Most of the "big" games are somewhere in between, or leave enough room for players to make that call themselves - games like Dungeons & Dragons or Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, for example, present challenges where players will have an easier time if they work together, but nothing stops them from being buttheads to each other, either.

So where on this spectrum does Hero's Journey fall? The quick answer is that it leans toward co-op play, although it still has room for players to make their own calls when it comes to cooperation. Let's go through what that means!

What's the mythological basis for co-op RPG play?

Mythology is full of cooperative groups of Heroes, fighting enemies, solving crimes, and harassing one another all simultaneously. In the first place, there are lots of classic heroic bands running around in the great mythic past, including (but not limited to) big groups like the Argonauts, the Pandavas, or the Aesir army facing Ragnarok, or smaller groups like Gilgamesh & Enkidu or the adventures of the Egyptian deity royal family. There are solo heroes, of course, but there are also plenty of heroes who need their groups to function, or who can do things on their own but work better with friends.

These groups are fun to watch in action because they exist so that people with holes in their skillsets - in essence, their "character sheets" - can help cover for one another. Thor and Loki, for example, are a great example, since both of them are much less hilariously inept when they can fill in the gaps in each others' skillsets. Loki isn't great at murdering enemies or intimidating the crap out of potential problems, but Thor is there to do that for him; and likewise, Thor is hot garbage at cunning plans or approaches that don't involve breaking something, and he needs Loki whenever finesse is called for. On a larger scale over in Greek mythology, the many Heroes involved in the Trojan War are another great example of this, which explains why they went to such great lengths to get complainers like Odysseus and Achilles to show up whether they wanted to or not - every Hero has different skills, which means that everything doesn't grind to a shrieking halt as soon as a single tactic stymies them.

Mythological heroes also often function as community figures, meaning that they represent and fight for their communities (often their ethnic people, regional people, or religion's people). This gives a lot of Heroes an additional cooperative flavor and tone that helps bind them to other characters in their myths; they might fight alongside an army of their people, work with the finest minds of their fellow citizens to invent something important, or direct teams that accomplish great things. In these cases, those other people aren't important or singular enough to be characters in their own right, but the Hero still benefits directly and importantly from cooperating with others. Examples of this kind of cooperation might include Hephaestus marshaling the cyclopes to help him build the weapons of the gods, or the many vanara of Hindu mythology supporting and fighting with Rama and Hanuman, but not all being directly named or singled out in the process.

Not that there aren't solo heroes in mythology, of course, or that heroes who usually have a backup team don't go solo once in a while. But mythological stories often have a strong angle of teamwork, and in an RPG setting, it makes sense to play that up and make it work for the game!

What HJ mechanics are designed around co-op play?

Hero's Journey seeks to emphasize not just the ability for players to cooperate, but to provide them with extra tools that directly make cooperating beneficial. They don't have to use them, of course, but they make the whole group more effective and successful, hopefully, and make it useful that most RPG groups involve multiple players, instead of just a random accident that several PCs are all hanging out together.

Certain Aspects that Heroes can take automatically grant them powers that must be used on other players. Leaders and Lovers, especially, are already built around affecting other people as their core purpose, so they have special systems designed to get results by empowering others, either by inspiring and directing them or making them feel and experience things, so that they're helpful and effective on the Hero's behalf. These don't work on the Hero themself (at least not without very specialized help), since it's a lot harder to act as an authority figure or love interest for oneself than someone else, so players who take them are investing directly in their teammates, and making sure that they can help push each other to success just as much as strive on their own.

There are also larger mechanics that all players have a hand in that affect the team as a whole; the most major of these is a particular type of Episode, which can only happen when all the players decide together (out of character) by consensus that it should. This is one of our favorite things, because it basically allows the players to decide when beneficial things happen for them based on their own timetables, and lets them bypass the GM's usual control over the game's structure for a moment. This Episode has effects that make it usually a good thing, so players probably won't refuse a reasonable suggestion to do it unless they're literally terrible Spite Creatures from the Planet No, but it lets players have a conversation about when the best moment for it might be and whether or not everyone will be able to benefit from it if they do it. (Which encourages the players to work cooperatively as well as the characters, which we think is a fun part of the experience!)

And, of course, as in almost all RPGs, there are plenty of directed Blessings that specifically work on other people, which means that there are lots of tools for helping your friends out as well as for helping yourself. Either of them are good choices, and a mix of both will probably end up being the case for most Heroes!

So why do it this way from a player perspective?

There may be mythological reasons for lots of co-op play in HJ, but mythological reasons alone aren't enough to make the game good. So what are the reasons for this from a player perspective?

Partly, this is a direct design choice. We had to choose, way back at the beginning of the process, whether we wanted this to be a game that prioritizes teamwork, solo choices, or something in between, and each of those is a valid playstyle choice, so it was an interesting conversation. In the end, we wanted something that would model mythology pretty well (because that's what we're all here for, right?), and something that would hopefully be usable by the largest possible number of players. Let's face it - Paranoia is a great game, but constant stressful conflict with the other players isn't everyone's cup of tea, and neither is a game on the other end of the spectrum where other players have so much input into your character that they're basically community property. There's nothing wrong with those styles at all (in fact, we like playing them from time to time!), but we decided to make HJ sit in the middle where it would be as mythological as possible: cooperation is good for the players and the game, but there's room for individual skill and decision as well.

Cooperative play options are good, from a game perspective, because they allow for a lot of flexibility in different group makeups, which lets players explore more different characters and not have to choose certain makeups because they're the only ones that keep them alive. Co-op skills let the Heroes support one another when necessary and give everyone a chance to use the skills they enjoy without having to worry that doing so means they're letting down the team, and they let people be able to contribute even when they don't have the stats they might otherwise need to participate. One of the issues of a lot of RPGs is that they have what players refer to as "support classes", meaning character types that aren't good by themselves and are instead only useful to support the "essential" characters, and hopefully HJ's co-op powers and mechanics help every type of character support every other type.

(Of course, it's always possible for some character types to be "support" depending on what the Saga is about and what kinds of things the Heroes are trying to do, but we're hoping that none of them will be less than primary from a basic perspective. That's the design dream.)

Also, as we mentioned above, RPGs often have a bunch of players altogether as a matter of course... so mechanics that make that matter to the game get to add a neat new dimension beyond just "well, we're all doing the same thing so I guess we have to tolerate each other while we do". Mechanics that directly apply to, benefit, or target other characters (usually beneficially, although there are a few that are less friendly) make the presence of other players an active part of the game, and you get to interact mechanically with them (outside of the normal ways you can do that in a less co-op way, like punching them) while moving toward success.

Wait, what if I hate co-op play?

Obviously, cool though mechanics that apply only to other characters might be in the sense of encouraging player cooperation and giving you more options for rich game interaction, they won't always be the best for everyone. Some folks play single-player games, in which those mechanics don't have anyone to apply to and are no more interesting at best, useless at worst; and some people just don't like co-op that much, and might be looking for a more antagonistic gameplay experience with a like-minded group.

If you're not into the whole cooperative game scene, you can still play HJ without choosing those skills and mechanics for the most part, or by using them sparingly and only for your own benefit if you do. You aren't required to take any of the Blessings or specific stats that provide those co-op powers, and while there are a few things that remain in play whether you choose them or not, for the most part they don't require in-character cooperation unless you feel like it. We're not here to tell you what to play or how you like your games to go, so feel free to continue trying to stab your fellow players in the leg and take their things in the night, as some mythological heroes are wont to do.

For those who play single-player games, we're pondering other alternatives. While at the moment there aren't any extra rules for those who play those games and might not want certain areas locked off by virtue of not having multiple players, we're discussing whether or not we might include some optional rules for those folks, either in the core book or a future release. The vast majority of the game is still perfectly usable for a single player, so it's not like the whole thing falls to pieces or anything, but it would still be nice for single players not to feel like it was a waste to take Leader because they only got three useful Talents out of it instead of the four they could have gotten from Creator or Warrior or Sage.

In the end, Hero's Journey is a cooperative group game, which emphasizes Heroes working together to achieve things that would have been more difficult alone; you can go it alone, you can shine as a single player and have your moments, but the game wants you to work together for greater awesomeness. Think of your group like Marvel's Avengers, with a bunch of individually great superheroes being even better together. That's the idea here, and we hope when you see all the rest of the co-op mechanics, you'll have all the tools you need to make it work.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Mechanics Spoilers: New Aspect Endowments

Hey, everyone! As we mentioned in our end-of-the-year update, the Aspect Endowment subsystems have metamorphosed a little bit, and I'm here to tell you about some of them today! Hunter's replacement system still hasn't made it off the drawing board, but for those of you looking forward to being Creators and/or Warriors, I have a glimpse into your future.

Creator: Empowerment

Empowerment, back in the original spoilers post, was the most vaguely explained, which was probably a clue that even then we were starting to see that it wasn't working super well. The concept of Empowerment hasn't changed - it's still about Creators using their burgeoning energies to do awesome things with their powers that others can't - but we had to work on how that was happening mechanically, and adjust for player problems that were cropping up in testing.

The initial version of Empowerment involved it granting Creators access to two "versions" of their Creator Blessings: one that was the normal one everybody can use, and one that had an additional cost but was a supercharged, better and fancier edition. This was definitely cool, and players liked the idea of having SuperSpellsTM in theory, but it had a lot of problems in actual execution. For one thing, it required us to write TWICE AS MANY Creator Blessings as we originally had to, with the additional bonus difficulty level of having to make them have the same base mechanics and theme as other Blessings, which was exactly as much of a bad, time-sucking idea as it sounds like, and we got really tired of that really quickly. And the problem wasn't just on our side - it also forced Creator players to have to memorize two Blessings for every one they bought, as opposed to other specialties, which caused a good amount of confusion in the ranks.

Really, what ended up happening in playtesting was that players weren't sure on the fly what powers they even had access to or what they did, and thus forgot to use Empowered Blessings all that much, and when they did there was too much time lost for everyone to go double-check on what was even supposed to be happening. Not exactly a pulse-pounding good time.

A second draft of Empowerment came around not long after the original post, in which we'd cut it down to only specific Blessings being able to be Empowered, instead of all Creator Blessings. This fixed the problem of players having trouble remembering all the possibilities, and it was less writing for us, but it added the new issue of Empowerment now only being useful to people who wanted those specific Blessings, and garbage for everyone else. We worked to spread the love around and make sure some core Blessings in different specialties were always included, but that couldn't fix the fundamental problem of this version of Empowerment being more useful to some players than others, which felt super bad.

So finally, we ended up with Empowerment Mk. III, now significantly improved, which stopped trying to be so specific and super-powery and instead focuses on flexibility and universal application. We decided to move away from the idea of Creators having additional powers inaccessible by others, and instead focus on the idea of Creators as the source of energies that they can control and focus better than anyone else. Instead of trying to have different versions of Blessings, with all the headaches that entails, Empowerment now allows Heroes to use Blessings that have a certain cost instantaneously, even though they would normally require an active turn. This means that, depending on their specialties and powers, Creators might be able to suddenly defend themselves with illusions and misdirections even when it isn't their turn, pull magically created items out of their pockets on the spur of the moment, manage to heal a flagging comrade in the nick of time who otherwise would have gone down, and so on.

This is admittedly less cool than "totally separate, extra superpower" was, but the majority of the test players responded with something along the lines of "oh thank god", so they seem to feel that the tradeoff is a good one so far.

Warrior: Innervation

The Warrior Endowment changed so much that it had to be actually renamed; now no longer about being more brawny and capable of feats of strength, it's about having the energy and will to go on Warrioring at key moments. Those of you who saw the original post might remember that the old Warrior Endowment, Overextension, allowed them to briefly become so strong that they could do things even other Warriors normally couldn't, reaching out to perform incredible acts of muscle and power beyond their normal level.

And this was all well and good, but there were valid criticisms about it, which eventually ended up outweighing its good points. For one thing, it was, for lack of a kinder word, boring; yeah, being able to lift even more weight than you could before is nice, but it's not exciting in the way that the other Endowments, each allowing you to do something you couldn't already do, were. For another thing, it was too narrowly focused to be relevant to all Warrior archetypes; while it was great for Warriors who wanted to be juggernauts of destruction, those aren't the only mythic warriors out there, and players who wanted to be, say, a hyper-athletic gymnast, or a wise old martial arts master, or a swashbuckling swordsmistress, were not excited about a subsystem that obviously wasn't designed for them.

In the end, several players in discussions pointed out that Overextension felt a lot more like a Blessing than it did a full Endowment, and they were right. So you'll see it again, over in Blessings-Land, and we went back to the drawing board on how to let Warriors of every type be more amazing thanks to their mad warriorly skills.

Innervation, which replaced Overextension, now allows Warriors who find themselves in a pinch to draw upon reserves of determination and physical power to do things that they should really be too exhausted to even attempt; in essence, it restores a big old dump of resources to them all at once, making them suddenly resurge in the middle of a long, hard fight, or be able to pull off an expensive combo move that might have been out of their reach. The catch is that these resources can only be used to do Warrior stuff, and vanish if they aren't used by the end of the Episode - so literally, Warriors that innervate themselves get to do that middle-of-the-fight sudden power-up that so many fighters in story and legend do, and bend all that energy toward whatever form of mayhem they wreak best.

Initial playtesting has so far achieved a consensus of "this is super cool, I'm gonna kill everything," "oh god I hate it when characters do that in shows, I hope to god the one we're fighting can't do that", and "so what you're saying is I can literally use seven instant-speed Blessings at once a few times per Saga", and everyone seems pretty pleased about it. Also, it strikes a nice balance where no matter what kind of Warrior you are or what powers you use, you can use it to apply to your particular character type directly.

We'll be continuing to keep an eye on these in playtesting as we work on finishing up other things, but so far they're testing well. Now if only Hunter would cooperate...!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Quick Note from the Tech Department

A quick note on tech stuff, which we meant to include in the last update and forgot!

Thanks to all of you folks who let us know about the forums and contact links going down last week. According to our webmaster, Stephen, our hoster decided to perform a surprise database update on the 23rd (perfect timing for all of us out of town for the holidays here in the US!), which caused the outage since we needed to take some steps to respond on our end.

Stephen, who is a badass without peer, actually fixed the issue on Christmas morning after receiving our confused text messages in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, so huge thanks to him for taking a second out of his holiday celebrations with his family to get us up and running again!

He also wanted me to let all of you know that we're aware that the spammers are at it again on the forums, so in addition to being more conscientious about responding to reports faster, he's working on seeing if we can get a security audit and/or a software upgrade in place to try to cut down on the number of times you come to the site looking for mythology and leave with an ad for sneakers.