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Device Mechanic For Alchemy

Started by Eric J., October 13, 2005, 04:00:31 AM

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Eric J.

Okay, I've been working on a game for a few months now that I'm pretty excited about.

There's this anime I saw that made me go "Gosh, that would be one awesome roleplaying game if it was ever made into one."  I'd watch it over and over again and eventually I started making up characters and abilities with my mind.  Eventually it just rushed my head and I spent three days detailing a system.

It's been a few months and I've worked on it continuously over a long period of time.  However, there're a few things that I need to work out.  First, let me explain the premise:

You're an alchemist in an alternate world that parellels ours (but the year is about 1900).  Alchemy is a science that can do certain things but still follows rules directed by science.  It can add energy into a system, make chemical reactions happen, or change one element into another, or do various other things.

I think I've developed a system that is simple to use, allows for a huge amount of different alchemy things, is balanced, and simulates the original anime that inspired it.

Quick rundown:

It just uses D6s. 

For my mechanic I use a dice set.  Each D6 comes off with a distinct number and is part of the set.  If you have two of one number you can remove one of them and the number increases by one.

Okay, the sortof unique part of it is the alchemy system:

The alchemy system is designed so that you can create alchemic reactions.  To perform alchemy you have to use a transmutation circle.  This basically means that the character spends points to gain skill with a circle that they create themselves.

For example, a character can have a transmutation circle that creates a stone wall from a stone floor.  To do this the character would have to have a set skill in that kind of transmutation.  In the game, the components of the transmutation would influence a die set that the player would have to roll to use that alchemy.

To raise a stone wall for example:
Reactants: Stone (complexity: 3)
Process: Movement (complexity: 4)
Products: Stone (complexity: 3)

The player, to perform this act would have to roll a three, a four, and another three with their dice.  If they rolled-2,2,3, and a 4, that player could sacrafice their two 2's and make them into a single 3 and still succed at the act.

Performing alchemy is generally something you should succeed at fairly consistantly when you're good at it but it should still be very hard to make more complex transmutations.  That makes this system work very well. Transmutations are created by the player and can be anything they can think of given the materials and processes and their respective complexities.

The only problems that I run into is that the more complex the transmutation it is, the more consistant it is that a skilled alchemist can succeed at it.  For instance:  At 5 dice, an alchemist is liable to fail at something like 2,3,5.  However, at 8 dice, an alchemist is hardly liable to fail at something like 2,2,3,3,5,5.

So aside from all the alchemy giberish, I want to know about the mechanic itself.  Is a dice set mechanic (I've never heard of this kind of mechanic before so help me) good enough to use for general tasks?  Or should I switch to a 5's and 6's are success kind of thing for character versus environment.

If I have time this weekend, I'll convert all that I have into an alpha PDF.

May the wind be always at your back,



Full Metal Alchemist?  Anyway, without knowing too much about what you really want to accomplish with your game, I do have to say the mechanics themselves look just fine to me.  It seems like if your game has a kind of character advancement that adds a lot of dice to his pool, then things will unravel.  So I'd suggest having an advancement system (if you feel you honestly need one) that improves the charcter in other ways and/or gives him a different kind of bonus besides extra dice.  I am interested in your game, I hope to see some posts in Indie Design about it. 

Just one quick question, how do you set complexities in your game?




Very interesting. I lok forward to seeing the PDF.

Regarding dice probabilities, I'm not the one to ask, but if you don't mind an uninformed shot-in-the-dark: it seems to me that one solution to the problem you are having with more dice allowing the player to overcome more complexity is to ditch either the extra dice or the complexity levels.

If you ditch the extra dice, and give all players a specific handful to roll at all times, you can scale the complexity to account for the difficulty of the task, rather than trying to scale both the complexity and the number of dice.

If you ditch the complexity levels, by setting a standard complexity to match or beat (say 5 or 6, as you mentioned), then only the number of dice rolled by the player compared to the number of skills matters in determining how difficult the task ends up being, and it will be easy to judge how effective a given number of dice will be.

Here's something else to consider: a d6 has a very low range of numbers, so when you roll a whole bunch of them, you can match numbers fairly frequently. If, in the case of eight dice, the ability to match and raise is what is tipping the balance of the difficulty in the player's favor, then increasing the size of the die would help solve the problem because there would be fewer matches boosting up their roll.

I noticed the same thing in Sorcerer when I tried using d6's: many, many ties would be rolled. Less so when the die size being used was increased.

I hope that helps!
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Eric J.

Hm.... I've never considered D10s.  But thinking about it... there's really no reason not to.


May the wind be alwa