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Author Topic: Thoughts on game mechanics  (Read 1658 times)
Absinthe
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« on: January 27, 2006, 08:18:41 PM »

Greetings
      I have recently taken up creating my own RPG in a middle age fantasy setting and I would like to share my mechanic system that I am using for all actions in the game. First, I am not a mathematician and have no skill in determining probabilities so I took a method that a felt was very straight forward and simple. 
     All attributes have a value between 1 and 25.  All skills or special abilities have the same values of 1-25. All actions are rolled on % dice and add the result to the attribute and skill/ability for a total value.  This value is compared to the difficulty of the action and if the modified roll equals or exceeds this it is successful, otherwise failure. 

Difficulty Chart:
Menial:              10%
Very Easy:        20%
Easy:                30%
Common:           40%
Focused:            50%
Difficult:              75%
Very Difficult:     100%
Near Impossible:125%
Impossible:        150%

   High scores in a Skill or Ability (not Attribute) drop the Difficulty Level for an action as follows; a score of 15 in a Skill or Ability lowers the Difficulty Level by 1 Difficulty Level, a score of 25 lowers an additional 1 Difficulty Level.  A naturally rolled value of 10% or less always fails and a naturally rolled value of 100% always succeeds.

        I use this chart for every action in the game including combat.  At maximum level (also 25) it leaves a 40% chance of failure for a maxed out character performing the hardest of tasks.  An example of this might be the master rogue attempting to climb the sheer smooth surface of a tower in the rain without a rope.  Most difficulty levels are between focused and difficult.
A first level character starts with no more than a 10 in their attributes and a 3 in a skill giving a starting % bonus maximum of 13 and attempting 90% of their skills/abilities at the common to focus difficulty.
     
     The main idea with the skill system is for the characters to enjoy equal levels of success in their actions of increasing difficulty as they progress.  Eventually the easy gets easier and the tough becomes possible.
 
     I have much more depth into this system than the chart above, including what happens if stats or abilities are over 25.  I'm intrested in the opinions of the readers here of whether or not this chart seems to fit realistic probabilities or if there is a big flaw I am missing.

Thanx for your time
Adam





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dindenver
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« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2006, 09:19:46 PM »

Hi!
  Well, I think 10% fumble only works if skill rolls are rare. Otherwise, you have a world filled with incompetent boobs who can't make 10 snowballs without screwing one up.
  That's the only ting that caught me as odd. Although if everything is a multiple of 10, why not use a d10. Have the abilities be 1-5, skills be 1-5. Then divide your diffs by 10 and add 2 or 3?
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Dave M
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Adam Cerling
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2006, 10:25:38 PM »

Hello, Adam, and welcome to the Forge!

The system you describe is complex. Let me see if I can pull out the salient points:

  • In your game, characters begin unskilled. Eventually they improve their skills.
  • Skilled characters facing high-difficulty situations have no different a chance of succeeding in their actions as do unskilled characters in low-difficulty situations.
  • Upon reaching certain thresholds of skill (15 and 25), characters undergo conspicuous leaps of improvement in their effectiveness.
  • No matter how skilled, a character fails at least 10% of the time.
  • No matter how unskilled, a character succeeds at least 1% of the time.

Now, is this "realistic"? That's the wrong question to ask. "Realistic" is a useless word that means completely different things to different people.

A better question to ask would be, "Will this mechanic create the kind of gameplay I will enjoy?" And for us to answer that, you have to tell us what kind of gameplay you enjoy.

Tell us about the most enjoyable game session you ever played in. Focus on what really made the rules work during that game.

Alternatively, tell us about a game session you really hated. I get the feeling that you designed this mechanic after becoming frustrated with the mechanic in some other fantasy game. Describe a moment in a game session when you realized that the skill system you were using really didn't accomplish what you wanted.
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
Absinthe
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2006, 11:19:32 PM »

First of all Thanx for the input.
     
No matter how skilled, a character fails at least 10% of the time.


      Ya, that is no good at all.  I just sorta picked 10% outta the blue and stuck with it.  I will be changing the auto success/failure to 1% each.  Honestly I'm not a big fan of auto success but I do believe anyone can get lucky at anything so I feel it should be there.

     As for not using a single D10 and changing the stats and skills to 1-5.

     I like a wide range of scores mainly to simulate a greater since of focus to a stat or skill.  Lower numbers requiring multiple points to increase each skill ends up with players just saving points so they can increase a certain skill another level.  I prefer to have single point increases for the small difference it makes everytime I level than no increase until I can save up for it.  I also believe it makes the players feel they are improving slowly as opposed to not at all.  Its never as fun to level when you don't increasing anything.

"Will this mechanic create the kind of gameplay I will enjoy?" And for us to answer that, you have to tell us what kind of gameplay you enjoy.

     I personally enjoy, and am trying to create, a style of play that allows the dice rolls to play the part of "Luck" in a ever present fashion.  No matter how good, or bad, you are you can always succeed wonderfully or fail miserably.  Some of the best times I've had playing RPG's has been when the dice made everything bad (or strangely good) and the situation that arises from it.

      A good example would be one time playing a rogue type character with a high charisma and bluff skills that needed to get a guard out of the way.  I convinced a a local baker that the guard was up to no good and needed to be "taken care of" so i could see what it was he was guarding.  I meant nuthing more than to put him to sleep but my superb roll on the bluff made this fellow think he needed to be poisoned. So off he goes telling me hes got just the thing to put in a cake.  Well after all is said and done I steel the loot split it as "reward money" with the baker then find out the guard is dead and the baker is in remorse.  Now to keep him form spilling the beans I had to impersonate a Priest and well..............   you get the idea.

      The bad rolls have created even more outlandish results.

     What I mean to get at however is that I want game play to be just as exciting at medium and high level as it is at 1st.  The biggest thing that I feel reduces that joy is when the dice mean so little because the stats and skills are so good.  Every action is met with success unless heavy modifiers are put into place with many games.  Will this type of game mechanic solve this? I'm not sure, but I am willing to give it a shot.

     I have a very large percentage of this game developed.  I have 3 races, weapons and armor, skills, spells, etc..  I have play tested it for about 15 hours as well and combat is almost smooth.  In a further post I will get into these things.

BTW as if no one can tell I've never been much of a forums poster and my thoughts can be a bit sporadic.  So thanx for putting up with less than quality writtings.  Also I'm not sure I did the quote highlights right so bear with me.

Adam
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Adam Cerling
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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2006, 08:39:31 AM »

Adam,

Thanks for the example of play. It reveals a lot! For example --

Quote
I meant nuthing more than to put him to sleep but my superb roll on the bluff made this fellow think he needed to be poisoned.

This tells me that what your system is missing right now is degrees of success and failure. The dice need to differentiate between success by the skin of your teeth and success above and beyond all expectations; the same for failure. Right now you just have a pass/fail system: either you beat the difficulty, or you don't.

Does it matter how much your roll surpasses the difficulty? Does your game give good guidance regarding what it means to barely succeed and what it means to superbly succeed?

Plus, notice this: high-level characters facing high difficulties cannot roll as high over their target number as low-level characters facing low difficulties can. However, high-level characters facing high difficulties can fail more spectacularly than low-level characters facing low difficulties. That means as I rise in level, my wins get less cool and my failures get more punishing.

Quote
What I mean to get at however is that I want game play to be just as exciting at medium and high level as it is at 1st.  The biggest thing that I feel reduces that joy is when the dice mean so little because the stats and skills are so good.  Every action is met with success unless heavy modifiers are put into place with many games.

But you are putting heavy modifiers into place: you're increasing the difficulty of actions as characters rise in level.

What would you think of a game in which characters do not rise in level? That way every game would stay exciting, because their skills never balloon far past their original numbers. Maybe instead of leveling up they simply change -- like, they've been talking more than fighting, so they lose points in Attack and gain points in Bluff. Maybe instead of gaining levels, they can gain land or titles or followers: so eventually you have a "first-level" level character who builds castles, rules empires and leads armies.

What I think would help you the most in designing your game right now is exposing yourself to other games. Every game faces the problem of keeping the game exciting and making sure the dice always mean something: you need to see how those other games do it. It sounds like you've had a lot of exposure to Dungeons & Dragons. What else have you played? What did you enjoy, and what did you dislike about those other games?

If you stick around here and read a lot of the threads in Actual Play and Indie Game Design, you'll see a lot of different takes on the same issue. I think they'll really help give you food for thought.
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
Absinthe
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2006, 12:23:27 PM »

Quote
But you are putting heavy modifiers into place: you're increasing the difficulty of actions as characters rise in level.

Well in theory I'm not doing this.  All actions have a preset difficulty of which at low levels is near impossible to accomplish with out getting an auto success.  The higher skill levels allows those actions to become very difficult to difficult instead of impossible.  Maybe I need to allow for a greater chance of auto success to better represent luck.  I do like the varying degree of success and will work on a way to implement that.  I do have that for combat actually due to the way damage is resolved (similar to White Wolfs system with a dice pool which I really like for damage and hate for skills).

Quote
What I think would help you the most in designing your game right now is exposing yourself to other games. Every game faces the problem of keeping the game exciting and making sure the dice always mean something: you need to see how those other games do it. It sounds like you've had a lot of exposure to Dungeons & Dragons. What else have you played? What did you enjoy, and what did you dislike about those other games?

I started RPGing in the late 80s with Gama World and 1st edition D&D and later moved to 90% GMing D&D 3.x In between Ive played allot of Cyberpunk, Vampire Battel Tech and 40k and a not to well know game World of Synnibarr. BTW after the first year or so of RPGing I'd day I've GM'd 90% or more of the games I've played.
 D&D is a great game but lately to commercial for my taste and the system is not really what I look for in abilities from players. Especially the magic system and its massive balancing issues.  I like all characters type useful at all levels and D&D don't cut the mustard there.
Synibarr on the other hand is the Power Gamers power game which is its main downfall I think.  Its skill system is pretty cool though and its combat system though very complex and daunting at first is fluid.  Its not my favorite combat system though as it is basically 1 attack roll folowed by 3-5+ defencive rolls and if they all fail your pathetic hitpoints mean nuthing verse the mega damage one takes and this is all regardless of your level.

BTW my main reason for developing my own system (other than the fun involved in doing it all MY way) is that though many systems are good none are just what i want.  I use what I am developing now because I love the % dice for skills and what not, and I really like the Dice Pool idea for damage.

So its clear Damage works like this:  All D 10.  Weapons have a Attribute that controls them Strength for melee weapons.  For every 5 points of strength 1 damage dice is added  to the Damage Dice of the weapon. So at 15 strength it would be 3 dice + say 6 dice for the sword. So 9 dice  Defence is endurance divided by 5 for dice and armor value of dice so say 15 endurance and armor protection of 3 would be 3+3=6 dice.  Now Offence rolls his dice pool and all values of 4 and greater = 1 wound.  Defence rolls and all values of 6 and greater = 1 wound endured. Subtract wounds endured form wounds received and thats the wounds taken.  It works better than I'm explaining  and my only problems are the correct balancing of weapon damage. This system of damage does allow for the Hard Hit to barley a nick do to the Endure Dice Pool.

Thax again for the response. You have no idea how much my thinking has changed on the many development issues I am using from reading these forums and your comments.

Adam
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Adam Cerling
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« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2006, 02:44:12 PM »

Adam --

Let me revisit that last quote again, because I think it really points to your goal:

Quote
What I mean to get at however is that I want game play to be just as exciting at medium and high level as it is at 1st.  The biggest thing that I feel reduces that joy is when the dice mean so little because the stats and skills are so good.  Every action is met with success unless heavy modifiers are put into place with many games.

If I understand you correctly --

  • You like the way that low-level play in D&D challenges you.
  • You dislike the way that mid- and high-level D&D play fails to challenge you.
  • Therefore, you are designing your system so that mid- and high-level play involves the same degree of challenge that low-level play does.

I think your focus on the skill system is misplaced. A different skill system will not achieve your goals. In D&D it doesn't matter if you are a level-one character facing a bugbear or a level-ten character facing a hill giant dire wereboar -- if your Attack Bonus is eleven points less than his Armor Class, you have the same 50% chance of hitting him whether you're level 1 or level 100.

Where high-level D&D characters really differ from low-level ones is in the number of options available to them. The level-ten character has a dozen more feats, spells, class abilities and magic items to use -- and that is why a similarly-scaled encounter is less challenging. Four or five high-level characters have so many options available to them that the GM has greater and greater difficulty creating challenges that those options won't easily address

So next you really need to think about what it means to "level up."

Does leveling up make challenges easier? It sounds like the answer you want is "no," because if it does, then you're back at square one. You don't want players to have it easier and easier as they get more and more skilled.

So if you don't want challenges to get easier as you level up, why should anyone level up? What does it gain you?

Regarding your game experience, I have a few suggestions of other games you could learn more about (hopefully by finding a place to play them!):

  • Iron Heroes: I haven't played this D&D 3.5 variant, but I've heard excellent things. Supposedly it has really focused on making all characters equally useful, be they fighters or theives or magic-users, at all levels.
  • Call of Chthulu by Chaosium: This is another system that uses percentile dice; maybe you'd find something worth considering.
  • The Riddle of Steel and Burning Wheel: I've also had little experience with these, but they tackle the tropes of fantasy games in ways you might find new and challenging.
  • The Shadow of Yesterday: this one is free on the internet as well as available in book form. Its predecessor Donjon is also worth a look, although it might just blow your mind!

To be honest, I myself have far less experience with these games than I wish I did. Maybe someone else could jump in here and compare and contrast the way they handle skills and "leveling up" to avoid the problem of challenges growing too easy through long-term play.
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
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