Stealth Mod Developer Journal #7

Hello everyone and welcome to our seventh dev journal about the Stealth Mod we are making for the Sigil System.

In our previous five journal we showed a quick example of the Stealth Mod rules in action and so today we are just going to wrap everything up. As such it should be fairly short blog today.

What changed

Overall, not a lot.

There were two big issues that folks brought up about the system. The first was that leaving the reduction of Awareness Levels mostly to time elapsing didn’t give the players a lot of agency. While there are the “narrative actions” that players can also take to reduce the Awareness Level, these are unknown variables that are completely contextual and so could not be planned for ahead of time. So we had a think about it and decided to use our current meta-currency (the Sigils) to help with this issue. So now along with time and narrative actions, you can also spend a Sigil to reduce the Awareness Level by 1 step. This solves the player agency problem, and it will also mean that players use (and therefore run out of) Sigils more often which allows for more GM-intrusions in the game, making everything a tad more exciting.

The other issue brought to our attention was one of granularity. For some readers, having ten steps on the Awareness Scale was a bit too much and they would have preferred a simpler and more vague approach. The Sigil System is all about granularity and working with things in groups of 10s so we couldn’t quite change the Stealth Mod to accommodate this, but there is a compromise to be had: the GLYPH system. GLYPH is already a scaled down and simplified version of the Sigil System and so we decided that we can just port over the Stealth Mod to GLYPH as well when we release it. GLYPH is a faster paced game so a 5 step Awareness Scale would go well with it. And, of course, we do enjoy having our cake and eating it too.

In short

So, to sum up the Stealth Mod: It all revolves around the Awareness Scale which is a reflection of the mood of the compound you are in. The higher the Awareness Level on the Scale, the worse it is for you and the NPCs in the compound will react to it and you. Failed Stealth Skill Checks and narrative actions make the Awareness Level go up; and time, narrative actions and spent Sigils (or Glyphs for GLYPH) make the Awareness Level go down. If the compound you are in is too big to handle, you can chop it up into manageable zones and any zone the players are not in will simply play catch up to the Awareness Level to the zone they are in.

And that’s it!

All we need to do now is rewrite all of these journals into something coherent, tidy and tart it all up and then we’ll have it up on DriveThruRPG for you absolutely free.

Until then, why not have a look at the campaign book we just released this week which takes place in The Runed Age, where the Sigil System comes from. Just click on the picture and enjoy!

Stealth Mod Developer Journal #6

Hello everyone and welcome to our sixth dev journal about the Stealth Mod we are making for the Sigil System.

In our previous five journal we have covered all the important mechanics in the Stealth Mod and so this journal will give an example of play using these rules.

Stealth in Action

The Scenario

It’s the roaring twenties and, on the upper east coast of the USA, the Italian mafia has its claws sunk into anything and everything they can get their hands on, including booze. Two young and brave entrepreneurial lads (Jack and Bucky) have decided to break into one of the mafia’s warehouse and steal some crates to sell and make themselves a tidy profit. The warehouse is guarded, however, and these mafia thugs aren’t liable to play nice with anyone they find snooping around.

The Game

It’s the dead of night and Jack and Bucky, dressed all in black (or as close as makes no difference) and with scarves around their faces, have decided tonight is the night they get rich. They’ve circled around the warehouse and have seen that there are only two entrances: the larger doors at the front where trucks pull up to load and unload and a small side door near the rear of the building, both of which have mafia goons hanging around. There are windows, but they are small and almost touching the roof, so it will be a long climb to get up there, and anyone can walk by and look up.

Jack decides that a distraction is their best bet. More dangerous, but if they keep quiet it should all work out well. So while Bucky waits around the corner from the warehouse’s side door, Jack skulks towards a car a street over, uses a knife to jimmy open the gas tank’s cover, rips a bit of his shirt off, stuffs it in there, and then he uses his lighter to make sure it catches fire.

The GM all lets this happen since it’s far enough away from the warehouse to not have been perceptible by the mafia thugs, and it’s too late at night for anyone to be wandering about this neighbourhood. He does however make Jack roll athletics to see if he can get back to Bucky before the flame reaches the gas in the car, which Jack succeeds on.

Jack just reaches Bucky before the car explodes and lights up the night. Exclamations are heard from the thugs and the thieves hear one of them tell the others to go find out what’s going on. Three thugs, including the two at the side door leaves to investigate. The GM tells the players that the Awareness Level is now at Level 3.

The door is open and the players slip into the darkened warehouse, succeeding on an easy Stealth Skill Check to see if they are noticed.

The only light inside is coming through the windows and so the warehouse is streaked with shadows. The players hear more thugs inside and a successful Perception Skill Check tells them that they just broke up a poker game on the far side of the warehouse with their explosion. The thugs are now on foot and restless.

Around the players are just cases of beer, cheap stuff that won’t make them much of a profit. They need to go hunt for the strong liquors in here. They decide to split up and both roll Investigation Skill Checks. Neither succeeds, it seems their eyes haven’t adjusted to the dark quite yet, but there is more warehouse still left to search. However, they aren’t the only ones here, so the GM has them do a Stealth Skill Check to make sure they haven’t been spotted. Unfortunately for Bucky, he failed by 16 and so he was seen for just a second by one of the goons walking around.

After a “hey, who’s there” and “who the hell are you talking to, Jim” and a “I just saw someone over there”, the goons are now properly on edge. This is not the night they were expecting. The GM says the the Awareness Level is now at Level 4.

The players know what this means: Paranoia. They know that it will take a good 20 odd minutes to subside. For their characters, they feel the tension in the air and can hear this paranoia in their voices and know it’s suddenly not safe anymore. They decide to hide, but 20 minutes is a long time and a lot can happen, so Jack spends a Sigil to lower the Awareness by 1 Level. Level 3 is easier to deal with and only 10 minutes long.

Jack and Bucky hear a goon say “you’re seeing ghosts again, Jim” and “I’m not, I swear I saw someone” and finally “well then go look yourself, we’ll right here, you meathead”. A Perception Skill Check reveals to them that the rest of the goons have gone back to their poker game, but Jim is determined to see what’s what. Jack and Bucky regroup and try to find their liquor once again. Both were successful on their Stealth Skill Checks from Jim, and on their Investigation Skill Checks.

They found a heavy case of liquor, but now they have to get it out. The GM tells them the Awareness Level has dropped to Level 2 and Jim has decided to set up post where he heard Bucky last. The players are feeling confident so they each spend another Sigil to drop the Awareness Level to 0. Jim goes back to his poker game shamefaced and everything outside becomes quiet. The players decide to take their time with the heavy case and move as slowly as possible with it back to the side door.

An easy Skill Check later and they are back at the side door with the poker players none the wiser. The only problem now is that they are hearing voices on the other side of the door. The players had forgotten that with the Awareness dropping back to Level 0, they guards would naturally return to their posts after having sorted out their concerns. They are now stuck in the warehouse.

But this is America and Bucky has always enjoyed the vague wording of the second amendment. He pulls out a revolver and the players decide that they’ll simply shoot the guards and make a run for it. Either that or wait here. Jack rolls a Stealth Skill Check to open the door slowly and quietly for Bucky (ready and aiming), but fails miserably and the squeaking reverberates through warehouse, raising the Awareness to Level 3 again. The door opens and Bucky at the goons locks eyes before Bucky fires, hitting him the in the gut and the other goon in the arm as he tries to dodge.

It takes all six rounds in quick succession before the two goons are no more, but by then Jack and Bucky can already here every other thug in and around the warehouse running towards them, shouting and presumably drawing their own weapons. They make a run for it, but with the heavy case between them, the penalties on their Athletic Skill Checks are too severe and they don’t even make it a 100 yards before they hear gun shots behind them and see the ricochets off the cars, building and streets ahead of them.

There are far more goons than they can handle, especially now that Bucky is out of ammo. They come to the unfortunate conclusion that this isn’t a fight they can win, so they drop the case of liquor and run away as fast as they can. They walk away empty handed tonight, but at least they are alive. But the mafia will now be looking for two thieves around here, and who knows, perhaps they’ll run into the goons again one day.

Next time

And that’s all folks! The entire Stealth Mod done. Next time we’ll just do a wrap up, talk about the things that did indeed change over the course of these journals (like using Sigils to lower Awareness) and answer any questions you throw at us between now and then.

Stealth Mod Developer Journal #5

Hello everyone and welcome to our fifth dev journal about the Stealth Mod we are making for the Sigil System.

Thus far in our dev journals we have shown you what “compound stealth” is, what the Awareness Scale is and how it works, and how to increase and decrease your Awareness Levels.

So there is really only one thing left. This dev journal will talk all about Zones.

Compounds

All the way back in our first dev journal we talked about what a compound is and how this Stealth Mod and the Awareness Scale is completely focused on the compound and how it reacts to your presence rather than the individuals within it. Failing on a Stealth Skill Check against an individual enemy does not necessarily mean that the compound’s Awareness Level will increase, and similarly succeeding on a Stealth Skill Check against an individual enemy does not necessarily mean that the compound’s Awareness Level won’t increase.

In our second dev journal, we mentioned that a compound can be of any size that the GM wants, and while this is true there is a stark difference in how your actions affect the mood, perception and awareness of enemies inside a single, simple three bedroom house and a spacefaring battleship 1km across. Having the same actions create the same effect on both of these compounds’ Awareness Levels is more than just a bit unrealistic.

For that then, we have zones!

Zones

Zones are simple: they are compounds within compounds. They are how you can split up your large compounds in manageable bits so you don’t have to worry about how someone 200 meters is reacting your players’ actions.

Let’s say that you have an entire royal castle, or 20 story skyscraper, or the aforementioned spacefaring battleship as your compound that your players will skulk through. Each is too large to be manageable, so instead for the royal castle you could have each level, wing and tower be its own zone, for the skyscraper each floor could be its own zone and each section of the battleship could be its own section.

While this may at first seem like a lot of bookwork and keeping notes, you can easily handle it by just keeping a rough idea in your head of the zones immediately surrounding the one the players are currently in. The players won’t be able to directly influence any zone they are not currently in, so you only really need to keep score of the zone they are in and from that you can infer the Awareness Level of the surrounding zones.

And speaking of that:

Increasing and decreasing Awareness in non-active Zones

It’s a mouthful of a subheading, but that’s because this section will be easy and quick. Non-active zones, ie. zones that the players are not currently in, increase and decrease their Awareness Levels based on the zone that the players are currently in. Over time, non-active zones will acclimate to the Awareness Level of those nearer to where the players is.

Decreasing Awareness is easy, it ticks down over time just like normal until it reaches the Awareness Level of the zone the players are currently in.

Increasing Awareness in non-active zones also works through time as the players do not have any direct effect in those zones. To increase non-active zones’ Awareness Level, simply flip the time table from last time’s dev journal upside down and that’s the time it takes for them to tick up to the Awareness Level of the players’ zone. The only difference here is that the time it takes to go up an Awareness Level does not stack. So to get to Level 3, it doesn’t first take 10 hours to get to Level 1, 5 hours to get to Level 2 and then 3 hours to Level 3. You can skip straight to Level 3. So if the players get their zone up to Level 10, it only takes 1 minute for adjacent zones to rocket all the way up there.

The reason for this inversed time tracker is that it simulates how at lower levels, there is not a lot of concrete proof that there is anything amiss. It is mostly just a feeling and so the adjacent zones might not be overly troubled, or even hear about, activity that could be dozens of metres away from them through several stout walls. It will take awhile for word to reach them, or for the general feeling of unease to spread to them. At higher levels of course, there is much more activity in the zones and thus word of what is happening will spread more quickly.

Now you might be thinking “what if the Awareness Level of the active zone increases midway through the adjacent zones’ time to increase has passed?” Well that’s simple, if for example the Awareness in the active zone goes from Level 1 to 2 while there is only 1 hour left for the non-active zones to get to Level 1, they don’t take an additional 8 hours to increase. You simply use whichever time is less.

The narrative caveat

Another reason why you don’t have to worry too much about keeping score about every single zone is because a single narrative action by the players could upset the entire compound and all its zones. They could place a bomb in one zone and it could explode while they are ten zones over. The players might be in a compound with video surveillance and so the security knows what is going on in every zone and they all increase by the same amount, or you might have an important NPC as an enemy and he is just too cowardly and runs off an tells everyone in the compound about the players.

The smallest narrative action can change everything, so keep an eye on the time of the adjacent zones, but don’t worry about an area that might as well be a million miles away.

And that’s it folks, that’s all the mechanics for the Stealth Mod! Next time we will take you through an example of playing in the Stealth Mod! So stay tuned.

Stealth Mod Developer Journal #4

Hello everyone and welcome to our fourth dev journal about the Stealth Mod we are making for the Sigil System.

Last time we talked all about how your characters can increase the Levels on the Awareness Scale, both through the use of Stealth Skill Checks as well as through narrative actions.

This time we’ll be talking about quite the opposite. This dev journal is all about decreasing your Awareness Level and keeping yourself hidden.

Time

The most important factor when it comes to lowering your characters’ Awareness Level is time, pure and simple. When you have aroused the suspicion, paranoia or rage within someone then the best thing to do is just to wait until it passes. Other than the narrative actions outlined below, this will be the main way of keeping yourself hidden in the Stealth Mod. Each Level of Awareness comes with its own time limit that needs to pass before the Awareness Scale will lower a Level.

Bear in mind that the time is cumulative, meaning that the time shown above for each level pertains only to that level. This means that if your Awareness Level is at Level 6, you will need to wait 1 hour for it to drop to Level 5, then wait 30 minutes for it to drop to Level 4, and so on and so forth. This may seem like an excessive amount of time, but remember that by Level 5 the compound knows you are there and by Level 6 they are actively hunting for you. They won’t just stop after five minutes and forget all about you and think the arrow through their head was just the wind. They will look and hunt and search and only after they have made sure you aren’t around will they relax.

Thresholds

To make things even more difficult for you, certain narrative actions that increase the Awareness Levels will come with a time threshold that will need to pass before that Level’s timer starts ticking down. What actions cause these thresholds will mostly be up to your GM but they will involve a response from the enemy NPCs that will need to be handled before things can continue. For instance, should an enemy disappear and the compounds radios him to check on things, they will become suspicious that he isn’t answering. Other than the 2 level bump in Awareness, this action will come with a 30 minute threshold that will simulate the enemies looking for this vanished guard and seeing what happened.

The longer the response will be from the compound, the longer the time threshold will be.

Narrative Actions

While you can always wait for the time to tick by until the compound has forgotten all about you, you can be proactive and help them along. This is the most vague of sections as there is no way to predict, or write rules for, all the inventive and creative actions that players will come up to decrease the awareness.

However, in saying that, what we can put to paper is that you can use the narrative actions to reverse the narrative actions that led to an increase in Awareness. By fixing what went wrong, you can immediately lower the Awareness Level to what it was before. This won’t work for everything, but you will be surprised what you can get away with.

To use the example for above: a guard went missing and the compound knows about this. This would cause the Awareness Scale to increase by 2 Levels and if you are Level 3 already this isn’t good news. So you think quickly, strip the guard down, put on his clothes and try your best to impersonate him. When the higher ups come calling, you are successful in your Deception Skill Checks and they believe your excuse that your radio’s batteries died. Immediately the Awareness Level went back to Level 3 from 5 without waiting for the Threshold or for time to pass.

And there you have it, everything you need to keep yourself hidden and continue skulking around where you shouldn’t be.

Next week in our Developer Journal we will talk about Zones and how you can chop up large compounds to make things more manageable for your players.

Stealth Mod Developer Journal #3

Hello everyone and welcome to our third dev journal about the Stealth Mod we are making for the Sigil System.

Last time we showed you the Awareness Scale, the central mechanic around which the entire Stealth Mod revolves and which governs all of its actions. It’s a simple scale from 0-10 with the notice and then aggression of the compound increasing with the scale.

This time we are going to talk about the ways you can increase that scale, whether by design or accident.

Stealth Skill Checks

This being a Stealth Mod, the Stealth Skill would always have been front and centre among the ways to increase the Awareness Level.

When you roll a Stealth Skill Check for the compound (not the individual like we talked about in the first dev journal) and you fail, the Awareness Level will rise. It’s as simple as that. By failing that Skill Check, you have alerted the compound to your presence and as such they are now more Aware of you.

The way this works is that you take the first digit of the number by which you failed your Stealth Check and that is the number of Levels that the Awareness increase by. To put it another way: Let’s say you had to beat your Stealth Skill Level of 50 but you rolled a 75. This means that you failed your Stealth Skill Check by 25, the first digit of which is 2. Thereby the Awareness Level increases by 2.

How this happens is up to the narrative control of your GM and will depend on a thousand and one different contextual clues such as the genre, the setting, the compound and the enemies.

Stealth Skill Checks might be the easiest way to keep track of how the Awareness Levels are increasing, but there is more to life than Skill Checks.

Narrative Actions

There is a world of things you can do to raise the Awareness Level of the compound, narratively speaking, that simply can’t fall under the purview of a Skill Check. This can range from the good old fashioned turning off the ray shields, to making enemies disappear or even leaving bodies lying around for the rest to find. Some actions will be intentional, others accidental, but all will serve to influence the awareness scale.

When we publish the Stealth Mod we will provide a (non-exclusive) list of actions that will increase the Awareness and by how much, but in general your GM will be able to look at the Scale and whatever it is that you just did to determine by how much the Levels increase.

For example, should the enemies find a suspicious corpse lying about this would raise the Levels by 8! Should you start at Level 0, this would immediately send the compound into lockdown, which from a narrative standpoint is quite reasonable.

In contrast, a simple distraction like throwing a coin to distract several enemies and make them move after it will only increase the Level by 1.

Level Limits

Various actions that cause only a few bumps in the Awareness Scale will have an upper limit to which they can affect the Awareness Levels. You can’t throw a coin ten times to distract guards and end up with them tearing the compound to pieces and declaring war on everyone they see. After a while, they will know you are in the compound and then it won’t do any good.

As such, this sort of action will only ever increase the Awareness Level up to Level 3 and not beyond it. Other actions will have other Limits that will prevent accidentally ruining your plans and allowing the narrative to continue.

So there you have it, everything you need to know how to increase Awareness.

However, increasing Awareness is often the last thing you want. You want that Level as close to 0 as possible. So…

Next week in our Developer Journal we will discuss everything you can do to keep the Awareness Level to a minimum and keep yourself hidden.

Stealth Mod Developer Journal #2

Hello everyone and welcome to our second dev journal about the Stealth Mod we are making for the Sigil System.

Last time we talked about the difference between Individual Stealth and Compound Stealth, and the different stealth-based actions you can take while skulking around and what their effects are upon each other.

This time we will be talking about the central mechanic of the Stealth Mod: The Awareness Scale.

The Awareness Scale is to the Stealth Mod as the Difficulty Modifiers are to the Sigil System. This Scale will be the central mechanic that all the rest of the Stealth Mod will be based around. Everything that you do while stealthing around a compound will, directly or indirectly, affect the Awareness Scale.

Whatever you will be doing, you will either be increasing your mark along the scale or decreasing it. It really is as simple as that. Both narrative actions and mechanical Skill Check results will contribute to raising or lowering your Awareness Level, so you won’t need to worry about different rules for different actions you can take.

The Awareness Scale works very simply: it describes the mood of the compound and the higher the level, the worse the mood is.

Two things to remember. Firstly, as with last week’s dev journal, remember the difference between Individual Stealth and Compound Stealth. The Awareness Scale is all about the compound and not about the individual. So while individual enemies might know that you are in the compound and be actively searching for you, if they don’t report this to the compound at large, then the scale won’t ever go up. Only when the compound as a whole (or at least at a most) knows something is amiss is when the Awareness Level increases.

Secondly, a compound is only as large as a GM wants it to be. It could be a single house or perhaps even a whole tower-apartment block or castle or star destroyer. However big the GM wants the compound to be is how big it is. This means that each compound does present a different challenge as Armed Patrolling (for example) is a much different scenario on a star destroyer than in a three bedroom house. In later dev journal we will be exploring and discussing the concept of “zones” and how a GM can chop up a compound in various zones. If and when that happens, each zone will have its own Awareness Scale that you will have to worry about, but at least it will all come in manageable chunks.

So there you have it: one simple scale that is all you need to concern yourself with as you sneak around enemy compounds.

Next week in our Developer Journal we will start looking at all the actions you can take to increase and decrease the Awareness Levels on the Scale.

Stealth Mod Developer Journal #1

Hello everyone and welcome to our very first developer journal ever, for anything really. Before we set up the website and our social media, we had already completed 99% of the work on The Runed Age, and the Sigil System was a quick transcriptional job.

But here we are going to work with you through the steps of creating the very first Mod for the Sigil System. The Sigil System is made to be modded and we would love for you to come up with your own mods for it, but first here is our very first official mod for the Sigil System:

The Stealth Mod is exactly what it says on the box: a mod for the Sigil System that enhances and extends the mechanics for more stealth-based gameplay. While there is the Stealth Skill in the Sigil System, it is just one of 20 skills (barring the potential 100 specialisations) and so it doesn’t quite stand out from the crowd. That is what we aim to change.

Of course, as with any mod for any sort of game, these rules will be entirely optional, so don’t feel constrained by them, rather add them to your games if and when you want that extra stealthy flavour.

Compound vs Individual Stealth

So let’s get started with it! The Stealth Mod is meant more as a narrative and Skill challenge than a simply Skill Check. Much like the Social Combat rules already Present in the Sigil System, the Stealth Mod rules are meant for lengthy scenes where being stealthy is paramount throughout it. It is more than a simple Check as narrative actions itself will affect the grander situation.

To give an example: to simple sneak past a couple of sentries into a secured building requires only a Stealth Skill Check and falls under the Individual Stealth heading, because once that specific Skill Check is over (success or failure) that “Stealth Scene” is over and done with. Compound Stealth is once you have gotten into that secured building and you have to be continuously stealthy throughout your time there in everything you do or you will either set off the alarm, alert the patrolling guards, get caught on surveillance or all three. Almost all your actions inside that secured building (whether they come with a Stealth Skill Check, other type of Skill Check, or no Check at all) will have an effect on how well you are hidden and you (if at all) you are perceived by your antagonists.

That is Compound Stealth and that is what the Stealth Mod is all about.

Stealth Actions

Mentioned in the Sigil System is the use of Skill Check results as positive or negative modifiers for further Skill Checks. In this mod we will emphasise all the modifiers that you can wring out of your Stealth Skill and its specialisations and vice versa.

In any stealth based game, outright combat is always considered as a last resort as the noise of a simple fight could wake a neighbourhood and then there goes your plans. Instead, silently taking down opponents with the element of surprise is what you want, and this is where the Skill Check As Modifier comes in handy. As you approach you opponent unseen, you would roll a Stealth Skill Check to determine whether or not he perceives your approach. The success or failure of this Skill Check would then be applied as a modifier to your next Fight Skill Check to take that opponent down. Let’s say you rolled 20 points below your Skill Level for the Stealth Skill Check, this would mean you gain a Modifier of +20 to your Fight Skill Check (on top of all other Modifiers your GM would put on that Skill Check). This means that the better your Stealth Skill Check, the more confident you can be your other actions.

The reverse can also be down. Let’s say you are a nimble chap in good health but you’ve never really been all that good at sneaking around; climbing walls though, that you can do with ease. So when you roll your Athletics Skill Check to climb the wall of the secured building, the result of that Skill Check would then applied as a modifier to your Stealth Skill Check to see if anyone saw or heard your climb. The better you are at climbing, the less effort and noise it will take to climb a wall and thus the more stealthy it would be.

In the Stealth Mod, all (or close to all as makes no difference) the actions you will take will have an effect on yourself, your surroundings and/or your opponents that in turn will effect how stealthy you are.

Next week in our Developer Journal we will have a look at the Awareness Scale that is the central mechanic behind the Stealth Mod and determines just how stealthy you are.