Playing with Scale: CHUNKS, meet BLOCS


#1

Thinking about how a single PC scales to a Tie Fighter (ie Hearts to Chunks), I’ve been noodling on how I’d adapt Hankerin’s framework to scale a Tie Fighter to a Star Destroyer. (This would be Chunks to Blocs).

Whereas Hearts scale effort is 1/2 as effective against Chunk scale, Chunks scale would be 1/10 as effective against Blocs. By extension Hearts scale effort would be 1/20 as effective against Bloc scale. (Poetic, right?)

Or—
Bloc effort x10 = Chunk effort
Chunk effort x2 = Heart effort

An individual person would have to cause 20 points of Effort to even scratch the paint on a Star Destroyer… but a Star Destroyer rolling a d6 for weapons could easily make paste of an individual, (if it came to that) with up to 120 points of damage, after x20 conversion.

A single Tie Fighter made of Chunks wouldn’t fare much better, as the Star Destroyer could one shot an entire Chunk or possibly the whole craft… but that Tie Fighter needs to do 10 points Chunk Effort to plink away a single point of a Bloc.

Like Chunks, Blocs would also be divided into packets of either 5 or 10 points. Where 5 point Chunks are for Battle Armor and 10 point Chunks are for major “1000 pound” functional sections (or buildings within a town using GM Grizzly’s awesome add on), Blocs could be similarly broken down into 5 point Blocs for Star Destroyers and 10 point Blocs for a Death Star. Or 5 point Blocs for literal blocs of Cities and Towns and 10 point Blocs for entire Realms or Cultures. (I don’t think there’s a need to be all painstakingly exact in making the 5 or 10 point distinction, as long as you are consistent within a game session.)

More ETA Consider here, how it would look if a Star Destroyer with 3 Blocs of 5 points went all Rogue One against another Star Destroyer, or what if one decided to go toe to toe with 5 Blocs of 10 worth of Death Star?

The Bloc level of scale would also be handy for those moments when there’s an interest in playing out really big events, like at the National/Truly Epic scale. (Battle of Pellenor Fields, I’m looking at you.)

Like, say, 5 point Blocs for a Brigade or powerful Guild and 10 point for a field army or continent-spanning organized religious movement.

Or 5 point Blocs for a multinational corporation or small kingdom or a Herald of Galactus and 10 point for a consortium or Empire/Federation or Galactus His Own Self.

Anyway, got to thinking about how elegant the Chunks system is in its simplicity and functionality, and wanted to share this thought experiment with you all about how to keep it simple and functional at the REALLY GINORMOUS Scale.

All of this has me thinking about some of the neat ways people have modded and converted PbtA or Fate to play at those bigger levels. It’s not something I would want to do on the regular, but I could see doing something fun like having a pack of Alfhiem PCs who have reached super high levels of power spend a session in between campaigns playing as FACTIONS representing the legacy they left behind… maybe working on a Time Scale of Decades/ Centuries/ Millenia and then next session have them build new characters to populate the next campaign in a Far Future Alfhiem with all the changes they just played out.

Thoughts? How would you create something at the Bloc scale? What kind of abilities per Bloc?

ETA Another neat application of Blocs combined with Decades / Centuries / Millenia would be to go all World of Darkness and play as Vamps, Lycan, Hunters, Mages (and why not? Grey Aliens too!) over the span of Human History. Bouncing in and out of PC and FACTION mode as needs be

Yet another ETA and if you really want to ride this crazy train all the way to the last stop… what if each Bloc could be loosely translated conceptually into an entire Room? Kinda puts a new wrinkle on that 3 Bloc Star Destroyer and 5 Bloc Death Star I mentioned up above, dunnit? And what about those other types of Blocs I was using as examples? What if each Bloc could be loosely translated into something you’d spend a Session or Arc dealing with, like a Faction, Dungeon, or Realm? :exploding_head:


#2

As a less experienced GM, I dont have much to add other than my excitement for the discussion to come!


#3

Welcome to the shield wall!


#4

Aw, man! I’m workin’ on ship to ship combat! Was gonna call it Decks!


#5

There’s plenty of room in this DIY sea for both of us! “Do what thou wilt” shall be the whole of the law!

That said, one of the greatest design lessons I’ve really appreciated learning from Hankerin’s tutelage is the importance of loose, simple, fast-playing, low cognitive load rules that can be applied effectively in lots of situations so the GM can improvise in a flash without breaking the action to go flipping through a book to find the rule for making a standing broad jump on Tuesday when it’s raining and you are a mountain dwarf who learned a Feat from a circus clown last time you leveled up. (Not to throw shade at
the systems created with a “make ‘em keep buying more stuff” marketing strategy or anything.)

If I was to do Ship to Ship Combat using this idea of Blocs, THE ACTUAL INFRASTRUCTURE RULES would look so similar as to be virtually indistinguishable from how it’s done at Chunk or Heart Level… but each unit could still feel as unique as I wanted, based on what SPECIFIC EFFECTS I gave each specific Bloc or Chunk of each unit.

(And as a side benefit, those players who are not quibbling simulationism purists will be comfortable with the internal consistency of the game engine and thus able to quickly accept rulings and keep the story moving. Nothing wrong with quibbling simulation purism—if that’s your kink—but I suspect folks who get their itch scratched that way are so invested in their bookshelves full of itemized rules and realism that they are unlikely to give ICRPG much of a chance to start with. Unless, like me, they prefer to get that particular flavor of fun from big box boardgames and deeply detailed computer games and let ICRPG be where the fun of Epic Shared Storytelling lives.)


#6

Agreed. I wasn’t going for detailed and hyper-realistic. My main inspiration was the Fate RPG Diaspora-the ship combat there maps pretty well to the banana!

Mostly I’m frustrated with myself. I create, but I create…slow. I’m just frustrated that by the time I have something workable to share, all that untouched creative space I saw will be filled.

Not giving up, mind you. Still some aces up my sleeve…

…with very sharp edges…

…and they itch.


#7

So just repeating for my own understanding…

Say I wanted to include the Death Star in my own game. Using Blocs, I would probably specify 5-8 specific major functions on the station, each of which would typically have 5 or 10 points of Bloc HP.

Those would be things like:

  • Tractor Beam | 5 Bloc HP | Pull one ship into Hangar Bay in 1d4 ROUNDS
  • Ultimate Weapon | 10 Bloc HP | Roll ULTIMATE damage on a single target. Recharge in 1d4 ROUNDS
  • Interplanetary Ion Cannon | 5 Bloc HP | Deal WEAPON damage
  • Interplanetary Ion Cannon | 5 Bloc HP | Deal WEAPON damage
  • Hangar Bay | 10 Bloc HP | Spawn 1d4 Tie Fighters every ROUND
  • Shield Projector | 5 Bloc HP | First to take damage when attacked
  • Shield Projector | 5 Block HP | First to take damage when attacked
  • Two-meter Exhaust Vent | 1 Bloc HP | HARD to hit and if destroyed, destroy Death Star

With the Blocs set, you would then be in a position where the Rebel Alliance might come flying down your trench, looking for trouble.

If I were dealing damage to a single X-Wing with my Ion Cannon, I would roll against their ship’s armor, and if successful roll a 1d6 for Weapon Damage x10, potentially dealing up to 60 points of damage.

Now if Luke Skywalker decided that maybe instead of flying an X-Wing along the trench, and he’d rather pull out a spacesuit and just walk along the whole thing, then I’d have an opportunity to shoot him with an Ion Cannon against his armor. If I was successful there, I’d roll Weapon Damage x 20, potentially dealing up to 120 points of damage.

On the flip side, as a player, I come flying in to try and take out those Shield Projectors. Well, in my piddly X-Wing whenever I land a successful hit against the Shield Projector, I would be rolling WEAPON damage against a Bloc which is 50 points of Chunk Effort. I’d be better off calling in a strike from a battle cruiser which would could deal damage on a 1 to 1 effort basis and I definitely wouldn’t want to shoot it with my hand blaster, because I would be faced with 500 points of Heart Effort.

With that said, I think I’ve implemented everything you’ve suggested, right?

Conclusion (if I understood everything correctly):
This is an awesome setup, @Lon! I really enjoy the logic behind it and it isn’t a strain to think through. There is a nice sense of thematics to match mechanics and I would feel very comfortable inserting this into my own ICRPG play.


#8

Take it from me, you cannot view creating as a zero sum game. At least not without the creation and the creator both needlessly suffering as a result.

Just keep chiseling away little by little removing the parts that aren’t your vision, and when the time is right you will know that a particular creation is ready to be unleashed, freeing up your Now more practiced energies to focus on the next project that grabs at your soul. Don’t rush it, definitely don’t give up!


#9

There are many ways to peel an onion, and depending on your taste and table that would probably be a perfect implementation of how I see Blocs. If I was doing a pure space battle session I’d probably steal it as you spelled it out!

(Though one tactical point I’d clarify is that Bloc level things are of such scale they rarely target Heart scaled individuals… but such individuals in the wrong place and time like piloting the wrong Chunky X Wing will still suffer plenty, as you indicated.)

In my own prep at home I have quite a bit simpler version of a Planet Killer That does its dirty work by Dropping a ton of Xenos to overrun the planet. Knowing that there’s going to be a lot going on in the session, and that the space battle outside will be Chunks vs Chunks and Blocs, while inside the PK it’ll be PC Hearts vs Hearts of enemies and Effort to handle business, I just have Three 10 point Blocs: Offense, Defense, Support, and gave each two abilities. Basically Statted it like a terrifying Bloc Monster with two actions per GM turn. If I wanted to Death Star it with a trench, I’d gamify a weakness that could be unlocked. I’ll post details of my version tonight At some point.


#10

Holy cow man, the scaling on this seems pretty awesome… math is definitely not my strong suit, but this seems like a pretty easy way to simplify so even a lumpy head of my caliber can understand :slight_smile:


#11

Nice work. I remember this type of scaling from old palladium Robotech RPGs. I think they referred to it as mega-damage.

I wonder if I still have the books…


#12

This is definitely the best way to represent scaling such as in your (awesome) exapmples for ICRPG that I’ve ever come accross. Very well done!

It seems like a lot of us eventually come to a place in an RPG where we need to sort this type of thing out and this totally works for me.


#13

I would approach it a bit differently but not really. Chunks I would have as x5 and blocks on the x10.

But targeting would be +5 chunk vs individuals, block +10 to target individuals. Where as individuals vs a chunk is +5 and blocks +10…hitting the broad side of a barn.

Magic effort would be same for chunk, block or individuals.

I would also threshold 5 chunks and 10 for blocks. (Subtract 5 damage from individuals effort vs chunks, subtract 10 damage from individuals vs blocks.)

Depending on technology level. You want to adjust.

You can also adjust near and far based on size.

It seems different, but is the same. Just seeing the use of 5 and 10 in a slightly more elegant way, across the board.


#14

Paxx I actually don’t even understand what you wrote, so it might be simple in your head but less so on paper. Either that or my comprehension is terrible this morning


#15

Lol. It’s me. Not you :yum:

Normal characters: 1 heart =10 hp

Chunk: 1 heart = 50 hp (character HP) or 5 chunk HP

Block: 1 heart = 100 hp (character HP) or 10 chunk HP

When a block weapon targets a normal character, (plasma cannon) it is at -10 to hit the normal character, but it’s damage is probably Area if effect…

When a chunk weapon targets a normal character it is -5 to hit.

When a normal character targets a chunk vehicle…it is + 5 to hit

When a normal character targets a block structure it is +10 to hit…

But being that character tools are less effective against chunks and blocks, the damage of a normal broad sword vs my chunk battle armor is D6 -5. And I have to do 5 points of damage for it to register as 1hp of chunk lost.

When we get to a block…the character with the broad sword is doing D6 -10 effort…and must do 10 damage to register 1 block HP off the block.

Soooo…a star destroyer made up of 10 heart blocks = 1000 character hp. And very difficult for an individual to damage even 1hp (100 character HP).

However the tie fighter made of 3 hear chunks (150 character HP) can take damage from the broad sword and damage the star destroyer. Just not very effectively unless there are special effects on the weapons.

Broad sword of contraption slaying (+10 effort vs chunks and blocks).

Space bomb (+20 effort vs block ) 3 ammo.


#16

Easier option is just 10/10/10.
1 block = 10 chunks
1 chunk = 10 character hearts
1 heart = 10 hp

1 block= 10 chunks=100 hearts=1000 hp

When a chunk weapon does D6 against a character it is D6 hearts.

When a block main weapon does D6 against a chunk it is D6 chunks.

But I was focused on all 3 playing in the same sandbox.

Tie fighter vs star destroyer… one shoting the tie fighter is the normal result. But it’s not fun playing the tie fighter.

But if playing on a block scale, it is a squadron of tie fighters that together make up 1 block.

If player chunk scale, the star destroyer has 40 or 50 chunks. While the tie fighter has 2 or 3.

The point defenses of the star destroyer are attacking the tie fighters, not their main guns. So damage would be in D6 heart scale damage, not D6 chunks.

But to have all 3 scales play at the same time, in the same world, you need to be more involved, more granular.

Interesting factoid, this is turning HP on its original head. HP represented squad strength/numbers. Later it was applied to individuals as single character RPGs.

But applying hearts, chunks, blocks and their level of effort and scale to everything, would work fine…as long as your focus was at the correct scale.

My playing a big adventures guild vs the Assassins guild for control of the city. Would be Block level…or 2 city states warring each other.

My party of adventurers vs another’s party of adventurers would be chunk level.

My character vs another players character would be heart level.


#17

While simple math it just scales way too much. Chunks are for vehicles and it shouldn’t be that hard to damage a vehicle.
Hank has it at 2x Regular Effort and by definition vehicles have multiple chunks by definitions. theoretically that means the minimum a hp a vehicle can have is 40 hp when expressed as regular . That is already a pretty decent amount of rolls. (7 full strength weapons roles). Anything Ng higher than that would just slow down the game or mean regular people can’t effectively damage vehicles at all.

That’s my opinion anyway.

As for blocks I’d probably try using the same formula.

  • Multiple Chunks make up a block (not always)
  • multiple blocks form the full hp of the entity/thing.
  • The normal chunk rules allow vehicles to make block damage as a whole, but I’d suggest people can only damage specific chunks which in turn does effort to blocks.
    (No man is punching a star destroyer to death but can damage sub systems.)
  • I’d probably even just stick to the 2x theme making it at minimum 40 effort required at the vehicle/chunk level to destroy this thing made of blocks.
  • this would mean 80 regular effort (minimum) but as stated above they would need to be running around the castle/spaceship/planet in order to damage specific chunks. Which while the effort seems low time is Taking place in moving around etc. and we want our characters doing heroic things right :slight_smile:

#18

You bring up good points @Abodi. However In the initial examples given by the OP, we were seeing a spectrum from ground troop to Death Star. So the huge range of power works for me considering that flavor.

That said, I agree with you that it scales way too much in other settings. Different settings require different scope. Similair to the a Vigilante City character not working well in Alfheim.


#19

I guess we are talking scale here. I view chunks as tanks and combat helicopters.

Blocks as naval vessels. Can a super cobra destroy a Navy destroyer? Yes.

Special load out, but not if loaded out for close air support.

Can an infantry soldier shoot down a supercobra? Yes

Can an infantry soldier destroy a subsystem on a naval destroyer? Incredibly unlikely.

Can a SuperCobra survive a single infantry mans emptying his magazine at it…yes, and most likely will do so with not much more than cosmetic damage.

Can a SuperCobra survive a heavy infantry squad unloading on it…things get really interesting there.

Can the SuperCobra survive a single hit from a naval destroyers main weapon? Nope. Not a chance.

Now, for game mechanics…do whatever you want. But the 10/10/10 scale works if you want to run a big battle. Naval ship to ship combat…or ship to vehicle combat or vehicle vs personnel combat. It’s simple and easy…to gameify it so it is PC level friendly, sure, go for it, but it’s going to have to be much more granular in order to not hit upon the suspension of disbelief threshold.


#20

@Paxx I see what you’re trying to do, but the part where you’re adding and minusing “to hit” would drive me nuts. Way too much mental clutter added (when compared to EASY/TARGET/HARD) for an illusory bit of Simulationist realism that doesn’t trip that many triggers in my group.

Let me explain:
I don’t see a “to hit” roll as modeling whether you literally hit or not, but rather at my table it’s a way of determining whether the Actor is able to change the game state in their favor in some meaningful way.

Calling for a d20 roll vs EASY/Target/HARD at my table is basically saying “Right now, it’s X% difficult to change game state in your favor on purpose. And the uniqueness of this particular external situation maybe makes it 15% easier or 15% harder. Roll a d20, and add any of your personal advantages to that roll.

Rolling Effort then is a measure of how much you change game state, with either simple effort or Hearts/chunks/blocks as the easy math gold standard, it normalizes the amount of Change across different actions.

So when I say roll Effort, the question being asked is not so much “how well did I succeed?” As it is “How much did I change the game state in my intended direction, relative to the basic unit of effort, a (heart)?

Bear in mind, These nuances aren’t the only way to play or frame the game. But they are crucial to creating the flavor of the game experience I want to deliver. As a Narrativist gamer I generally prefer “story logic” to “replication of reality” (Simulationist) or “solving logic puzzles with interesting applications of a clearly defined and fixed rule set” (Gamist—incidentally my secondary preference).

So the other key part of your adaptation—The scaling by 5s/10s thing—is cleaner mathematically for sure, and looks A whole lot better better on paper from a Gamist brain perspective. I’d totally respect and understand if a GM ran it that way… but, that said, part of my design criteria was about achieving a scale that reflects “adventure story truths” of a Narrativist.

In long adventure stories or series, as in myth, (and as in most video games) you usually see three levels of difficulty as things heat up. I’m going to number these like my Scale goes:

Level 1: (Hearts) The Average Human dealing with Act 1 problems.

Level 2: (Chunks) Has a Real Advantage over the Average Human, so A Real PITA to deal with, but doable with the right Team, Edge, Plan, and Luck. And maybe some Chunks of your own.

Level 20: (Blocs) “We’re gonna need a whole lot of Chunks!” So far out of the league of the Average Human as to be pointless to try. It will take some real awesomesauce to do this. At this level, mechanically, who cares whether the percentage of how impossible it is is correct down to the gnats ass? If you ever played the Old DC Heroes game, that did some crazy logarithmic stuff with their game engine, you might see a hint of that flavor in the decision to use 1/2/20 as opposed to 1/5/10 or 1/10/100 or even 1/2/4.

So anyway, that’s kind of my rationale for doing it the way I did. It was never about Verisimilitude for me, and only about the rules to the extent that it was quick and easy to run and Feels like a Good Story.

Ok I’ve blathered too long! Gotta head to grocery!