Kenoma Update 10
Further progress continues.
Most of the effort right now has been on getting more setting elements written out. I have a clear vision of where things are going, I just need to make it a reality by bringing everything out onto the page.
Right now I’ve been starting with the broad setting strokes.
Telling the Story
I want to have an in-universe history for the events that are going on, presented as a found document. This will complement the different factions’ accounts, which will be told through sidebars throughout their sections.
None of the factions are totally reliable narrators. Sometimes they’re wrong, other times they’ll be lying even to fellow faction members.
As a general rule, though, each has some domain of expertise.
The Heresiarchs are metaphorically correct about some things, wrong in a couple areas, and convey their knowledge through cryptic statements prone to adding error through misinterpretation.
Knight Limited relies on third-party accounts, but dots all their i’s and crosses all their t’s. Their information’s good, but highlighted with points for further clarification through field research.
Alcove Group doesn’t really care about anything but profit, so their sidebars feature history through the lens of their desire to maintain control (which, admittedly, does keep Alcove afloat).
One thing to keep in mind here is that there is a desired format to the core rulebook. As an organizational device, players only need to read four chapters (or sections, in case I wind up with other section dividers) of the book: the introduction, Alcove, their character’s faction section, and the rules.
This means that a book that will likely be pretty long can be handled as a matter of three or four hours’ worth of reading rather than several days’ worth, though I might be off on my estimation regarding the length/time investment factor.
The GM, of course, needs to read more, but they can still focus on just what they want to handle (e.g. they can choose the sections relevant to their game with just what they learned from the introduction, familiarizing themselves with players’ factions).
Specialization and Diversification
One question that I’d like to ask is whether people want to have an option for single-faction play. One idea that I’ve had is to consider expanding the player options to include a couple non-faction paths to making characters.
One thing is that as the game stands, a character is built in several layers.
The Attributes/Specializations layers were well-tested in Hammercalled, and the main issue is making sure that characters can get enough of a numerical range to distinguish themselves, Since the characters’ lowest attributes tend to be pretty low, this shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, characters feel more distinct than in Hammercalled, because the streamlining from 8 to 6 primary Attributes means that the lower-tier options are harder to assign places where they won’t come up.
Factions and Origins make this different, however, because your Origin gives bonuses to Attributes and sets default Specializations.
There is almost always some overlap; “I can fight” is the most common specialization and pretty much all characters are going to get it either as an Origin specialization or one of the free picks at character creation.
But there are also less options for diversification since Origins pre-assign their specializations. With four characters in a group, it’s hard to play a single faction because someone will be sharing Origins at the current rate.
I’ve thought about this at length, and 3-4 Origins per Faction seems to be the magic number. It’s about the point at which you could find equal “power levels” in the field-facing characters of a faction, and also lets me give an option for each of the pillars (combat, survival, intrigue) of Kenoma or clear role distinction (support, face, tank, skill monkey, nuke) depending on the lens you want to look at.
There are also attribute bonuses from Origins, but this is actually an anti-suck measure, since you can assign your attributes more freely when you’re not able to totally nerf your build’s focus.
Another place for specialization versus diversification is in talents, and here things get even weirder.
Each character starts with at least two automatic talents, one from Faction and one from Origin. Sometimes this gets a little more complicated, as is the case with the pariahs who get a generic Origin talent and a specific choice between generations, but there’s no hard-set rule.
One of the places where diversification is encouraged is through the opportunity to buy different types of talents.
There are generic talents, which anyone can buy. Some of these work a little differently, like cybernetics (which has an Acquisition cost for each talent), or Psionics (which require a minimum Psi Attribute that increases with each Talent purchased).
In addition to the generic talents, there are Faction and Origin-specific talents.
Each of these is available at an increased cost to those who are outside of the character’s Faction (though this requires Renown) or Origin, with a couple exceptions. Pariahs and Heresiarchs have exclusive abilities, and Knight Limited cybernetics have an Acquisition cost for outsiders (as opposed to those within the faction, who can get all Knight Limited cybernetics by just paying Talent points).
Gear in Kenoma is never faction-exclusive, but Origins have starting gear that lets characters stand out and the majority of Gear in Kenoma comes from the GM rather than player agency. Players can save up for something they want, but the mission profiles may change how things work.
This is, of course, a major reason not to go independent in Kenoma. Scavenging and living outside the Coalition’s borders is basically a death sentence, since characters will need to manage all their normal gear plus all their supplies.
The Encumbrance system works by letting characters carry up to a certain threshold, and going over that threshold merely inhibits combat and passive Flame regeneration, with some penalties that disappear at any point with the character setting aside what they’re not using. There’s a hard limit at twice the character’s Encumbrance, but since the core combat gear for a character usually is the worst burden that’s not a significant limiting factor in all cases.
But this is actually a bigger pain than one thinks. Resource management is a big deal, and since carrying supplies for days of operation outside civilization is hard, scavengers still need a support base. If players try to go truly on their own, they can succeed at some things, but getting the assistance of a faction is necessary to optimize play.
This is also a solution to the murderhobo problem. You can’t go it alone in Kenoma. Encumbrance is super-simple, but also means that things like looting can be more of a liability than it’s worth. Ammunition supplies that look good at the start of a campaign dwindle quickly, especially if I actually add the all-out attack option I’ve been thinking about (can’t aim or gain weapon accuracy bonus, though penalty still applies, +15 to hit, +2 to damage, 3x ammo consumption, can still use Auto and Rapid qualities).
However, more importantly, there’s some room for characters who might otherwise overlap quite a bit to have different stuff on their person. A spy can’t get every useful spy gadget, though they can probably get the thing they like the most. Another spy could have an entirely separate collection of gadgets.
A character built for long-range combat and a character built for short range combat are very different as well. You could have two characters with the exact same build, give one a long-distance rifle and the other a shotgun, and see very different results.
One thing that I’ve been thinking about is how much I want to have players customize their gear. Hammercalled was built on 100% customization, and Kenoma is not the same way. Characters fit molds, and the gear in the rulebook fits those molds.
All the same, I actually have a lot of playtesting on how tweaking things works.
One idea I had are weapon attachments, but I’m not sure how much I like them (especially if I want to keep the character sheet neat).
There could also be an XP-based system, where characters customize a favorite piece of gear with a particular boon, making it better in some way (e.g. giving it less weight, adding a property, making it slightly better, etc.).
I’m really not sure when the core rulebook will be done.
It’s coming along well, I just don’t want to over-commit and then not have stuff ready to go when I wanted it to be like happened with the Quickstart. I gave myself most of the day off today, but the other progress has been pretty solid, so we’ll see where it goes over the next few days and then I should have an idea. My goal is to get a basic outline up on itch.io once the character options are complete, but I haven’t prioritized working on them yet.