It is very educational releasing a game system. I have never done so before. Sword Noir was the first system I ever released. It was play-tested, and the editor—Chris Groff from the Accidental Survivors—is a famed game breaker. He has the mutant power to size up a system’s weaknesses and how they can be abused. Still, SEP is small. We have no permanent staff. We also don’t have the kind of budget necessary to have multiple editors. Some things got past us. I totally and freely admit that.
So far, we haven’t done too poorly, but there will be revisions coming, and I want to thank everyone who has been pointing out errors and weaknesses. Before the PoD is released, the game will have been improved.
It’s funny that one of the biggest changes is going to be based on the system cribbed from Sword Noir. The Sword’s Edge System is a free version of the rules for Sword Noir. It’s different than the Sword Noir system, but only slightly. Mostly, it is simplification. As one example, the number of Traits is reduced to three. Sword Noir, though, is going to remain with five.
The rules don’t totally support character specialization, which is part of the definition of Sword Noir. For some people, this is a feature, not a bug. For me, it’s problematic. I made choices to try to achieve this, but I don’t think that—mechanically—I totally succeeded.
The choice of five Traits was due to my intention to differentiate these Traits finely, but not have too many Traits. Five seemed manageable while remaining somewhat granular. Differentiating Traits was a stab at forcing some level of specialization.
You see, one can only use those Qualities together that share a Trait. Any player-created Quality is attached to a Trait, and is used in conjunction with that Trait. Qualities can be stacked, but only if they share the same Trait (the exception being certain Aspects which are not linked to Traits). Therefore, it behooves a players to create Qualities within the same Traits, specializing to some degree.
As I relate this, it’s actually making me think of the Ability-based classes of d20 Modern. Never thought of that before.
In any case, one aspect of the SES rules that will be part of the Sword Noir revision is for multiple opponents. Now, the existing Sword Noir rules for multiple opponents are available for free on this very website. There are about six or seven paragraphs total discussing multiple opponents in the rules. I’m going to be cutting that in half by using the rules from SES.
Shouldn’t this have come up in playtesting? Shouldn’t we have seen then that these other rules were superior? Here’s the thing—Sword Noir was done many months ago. I moved on to Kiss My Axe (also done, save for editing), and then I went to SES (done and out). SES is a culmination of thinking and changes through both Kiss My Axe and itself. The mechanics worked fine through playtesting Sword Noir, so it was not an issue. In fact, I really liked how the multiple opponents rule worked. The nature of it should be clearly illustrated in the combat example.
However, the new rules do almost the same, removing a certain level of complexity. It becomes somewhat advantageous for the PCs, given that now a limited number of opponents can gang up on a PC, but that only makes sense. Eight guys swinging sword at a single individual is not going to work. Those guys are certainly going to get in each other’s way, so I put a limit of five opponents against one, and any more actually incur a penalty.
The big difference is that it is no longer about the Qualities one has. That acted as a limit on the number of multiple opponents one could face, but it actually ended up ignoring the actual physics of fighting multiple opponents. In the end, the simpler system addressed both the mechanical aspect as well as the simulation of multiple opponents.
I’ll be redoing the combat example with the new system to give you a taste. For those of you who have bought Sword Noir, look for that revision email in your mailbox!