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Author Topic: Spirit-Touched: The Iron World and game mechanics  (Read 3138 times)
AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« on: July 12, 2006, 07:56:10 PM »

So I'm creating a new RPG, and so far have just over 170 pages written for it.  The gist of it is that the characters are beings that are basically humans that were infused by a powerful spirit into something more than human.  Demigods, and nephilim are some of the beings that can result from this process.  It takes place in a epic high fantasy (albeit somewhat dark) alternate earth, which is strongly inspired by myth, fairy-tail and fantasy genre rather, more so than by history (it's not a historic setting though it shares many similarities to the real world). 
So I'm having some trouble with the system, mainly so far it's a variation of D20, but I'm trying to make it so significantly different from Wizards D20 that there will be no issues with copyright.  Now I know that Wizard's D20 is open gaming content anyways, but the explanation of how that works is confusing.  So maybe I should just make the system D10, or D6 instead....oh but there's all ready a bunch of RPGs using systems based on that to, so how can I be sure mine is not too similar to anyone else's?  Anyways any advice as far as what to be careful of when creating a gaming system is appreciated, I really want to avoid stepping on any company's toes.
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Eliahad
Registree

Posts: 3


« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2006, 12:10:22 AM »

I believe it works this way:

You can't copyright mechanics.

You can, however, copyright the way mechanics are explained.

So don't worry so much about how the dice are used in someone else's system.  Instead, think of how the dice are going to be used to reinforce the ideas of your world.  You may find that dice don't really fit at all, and that's cool too.
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AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2006, 02:26:49 AM »

That's really a relief to hear, thanks.
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Filip Luszczyk
Member

Posts: 746

roll-player


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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2006, 04:57:12 AM »

Somehow, I anticipate that Ron Edwards will soon visit this thread and explain you that you shouldn't really feel relief and instead check real legal sites or contact professional lawyer instead of hearing to internet gossip. Also, reading the stickies on each forum is probably a good idea, since you'll find some useful links there.

Now, I'm not an expert in the field, but as far as I know if you want to use any part of d20 system and release the game under d20 license, you can't include rules for character creation (you can include character components like classes, skills and feats) nor character advancement, and you can't change some protected stuff from the list provided by WotC (like most of conditions rules). You can take anything included in the SRD and add almost anything besides character creation and advancement rules, and publish it under d20 license, but then the game must require at least PHB to use. It's better explained in the document that you can find on WotC site. In fact, you should read carefully every document concerning licenses that you can find there - apart from those incomprehensible licenses there are some things actually written in English.

Now, another option is publishing under OGL license, that let's you use stuff from SRD however you want and add anything from yourself (including your own character creation and advancement rules). You can't put d20 sign on the book if you use only OGL licence, but you probably don't want that anyway. For examples of things people do under OGL license you can check Mutants & Masterminds or True20. I'd say that releasing under OGL licence just for case is the safest thing you can do.

Of course, you shouldn't really rely on my words and I can't guarantee that I'm right. Consult someone who actually has some legal knowledge.

And welcome to the forums ;)
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AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2006, 11:12:07 AM »

I've been planning on checking real legal sites on the issue, but wasn't sure where to start, I've read some of the stickies but not all yet.  However once again I want to make this D20, but not too much like Wizard's D20.  My character creation process is extremely different than Wizards for one, so is my magic system, also I have a system of merits and flaws and quirks, that are similar to what you'd find in GURPS, WOD, or Shadowrun.  However there are a few similarities (such as it using a D20 at all, and the basic idea of rolling a D20 and then adding modifiers) that's where I was worried I might be stepping on Wizard's toes.  There are a few other similarities as well, but more differences. I definately have no desire to publish this with the D20 logo on it.  Anyhow I will look for those links you were mentioning.  Thanks for the advice.
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AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2006, 01:26:41 PM »

Anyways I guess this section of the forums wasn't really the right one  for me to pose questions about copyright issues anyhow.  So I will change the subject, and post a little bit more about what I've come up with for my game as far as character creation system.  I'm a big fan of point buy systems because of the customizability they allow for.  Here's just a basic list of the process (which I'm working on thoroughly detailing at the moment).

Step One: Decide your race, and write down your automatic domain if any. (domains are part of the magic system, they are basically like schools of magic.)
Step Two: Distribute points among your attributes
Step Three: Mana, and Hit Points.  Mana is equal to your charisma score, and hit points are equal to twice your vitality score.
Step Four: Distribute 20 points among your skills, and points equal to twice your intelligence among your knowledge and language skills.
Step Five: Decide your level of wealth, and decide your merits, flaws, and quirks.
Step Six: If you are creating a Spiritkin, design your spiritual form. (a spiritual form is an alternate form that spiritkin can take in addition to their human one)
Step Seven: Spend your bonus points. Spiritkin start with 20, ordinary humans start with 25.  Spend them as you would experience.
Step Eight: Spend your wealth to gain your starting equipment.

Ok so the question is, for the sake of allowing for even more customizability should I offer some alternate choices for character creation? Like say the player wants more attributes, but less skill points.  I could perhaps instead make some sort of prioritizing system to allow for that sort of thing.  I'm kinda torn on this.  I've even considered just giving players a bunch of points to spend however they want.  But to me that almost passes into the area of potentially allowing for insane amounts of min maxing, and I kinda would like to some extent to avoid that (a little bit is ok).  Because of this I've put some limits on how high a character's attributes, skills etc can start out, and I've put big limits on starting magic.  I'm hoping something like this is enough to keep characters from getting too insanely min maxed, and might make the "spend this many points on anything" option viable.
 

 
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greyorm
Member

Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


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« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2006, 10:03:16 PM »

Ok so the question is, for the sake of allowing for even more customizability should I offer some alternate choices for character creation?

The question is: How would that help you achieve your design goals for actual play of the game? Would it steer play in the direction (style/mood/behavior) intended? Because for the moment, we can't answer the question you have posed without a lot more information about your game.

If you aren't certain why this is, imagine this: you have come to a group of engineers and said, "I want to build something. Would using a hammer be a good idea?" Of course no one knows if a hammer is a good idea because no one knows what it is you are trying to build precisely, nor what task in that effort you think you need a hammer to accomplish.

So, to help us out, can you post an example of what the players would do, what would happen, in your ideal session of this game?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Quixotica
Member

Posts: 14


« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2006, 10:45:45 PM »

Sounds interesting. I am stuck as well on my mechanics for my RPG I am creating. Understand the dilemma and I do not have the money to hire a lawyer to find all the copyright rules concerning it. Keep us posted.
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AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2006, 01:24:48 AM »

Mainly what I want is to allow for players to have very diverse character types they can build, though not so diverse that it would be breaking theme (with the restriction that they still need to be character types that can fit within a fantasy setting, and do need to be driven to become heroes (or possibly villains) leading a normal life should be difficult).  A class system for example would not be appropriate for this game, sure classes allow for some customizability of character generally, but they are to a big degree prepackaged, in fact that is part of the point of having classes, they give your character specific niches to fill and define those niches for you.  I want players to have to define what their character type would have, not to pick a class which would to a large degree decide that for them. 
At the same time I don't want players to ridiculously min max things, for example from the very begining putting so much into magic that everything else is really neglected.

To give a bit of an idea as far as the basic feel of this game I will post a part of the write up I'm working on for one of the races.  Note the references to the Heroic Age in the write up, the Ages of the World, which are much like those in Greek myth are an important part of the game's setting.
Much of this game will involve adventuring typically.  It will also involve the character coping with being an outsider, whether one is worshiped, or hated as a result, and trying to find your place in the world, and understand what they have become, and why (something created by a powerful spirit, often with a specific intent).  Also temptation to abuse power will be a theme, and I'm thinking that their should maybe even be some sort of system to reinforce this.  However I'm not sure how such a system should work, or if it should just be something that players are encouraged to role play. 

God-Born (partial race write up)

When Pandora’s Box was opened, suffering and death entered the world, but one thing remained within; hope.  When humanity fell and the world began its long descent into darkness, the race of God-born would be born.  These hybrids of man and god would be a sign that the gods had not given up on mankind, they would be lights even in the darkest of nights. But hope can also be a curse, hope can be misplaced.  The world has only descended deeper into darkness, while its heroes lament their failure to stop it, or continue to fight to save the world, clinging desperately to whatever remaining hope they can muster up.  The lights are ever fewer.   
   The God-born were given great power along with often great flaws. Some would become great heroes while others would become villains, trying to “save” the world, by reshaping it in their own vision of a paradise. The heroic struggles of the God-born would be well remembered in myth, but so would their short comings. Hercules would be blessed with great strength, and become a hero, but also be cursed with madness, and murder his own wife and children in a fit of insanity.  Much like Hercules many God-born suffer from some horrible flaw. 
   In the Heroic Age more God-born would live than in any other time.  The God-born are more and more few, a sign that perhaps the gods have really started to give up on humanity. The Heroic Age has faded away, leaving the world a broken place, where people persecute the very heroes they so desperately need.

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greyorm
Member

Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


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« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2006, 10:08:01 AM »

Ok, you keep telling us WHAT you want and wondering if it is a good choice, but not WHY you want it. "I don't want people to min-max" is not an answer. Why is it a problem if they do so? What about it "breaks the game"? What, specifically and exactly, breaks?

This is why I asked for a write-up of what the players would do in your ideal session of this game. So sit down, write out an imaginary session of play, as though you had sat down with a group and played it. But make it up, and write it as an ideal of what you see players doing IN the game. Don't tell me ideas about what you want them to do -- oh, I'd like them to be brave heroes and fight monsters -- but tell what is said at the table, what situations are encountered, what choices are actually made by the players in play.

Much of this game will involve adventuring typically.  It will also involve the character coping with being an outsider, whether one is worshiped, or hated as a result, and trying to find your place in the world, and understand what they have become, and why (something created by a powerful spirit, often with a specific intent).  Also temptation to abuse power will be a theme, and I'm thinking that their should maybe even be some sort of system to reinforce this.  However I'm not sure how such a system should work, or if it should just be something that players are encouraged to role play.

Ok, this is something we can work with, and yes! You should make such a system to reinforce it, because relying on role-playing alone won't do it and will not create the game you have described above. Not having such rules is like designing a board game and stating, "Monopoly is about earning money, but we haven't written any rules for that, just for moving around the pieces around the board."

Take your write up of the imaginary session and the above "this is what the characters are and what the game is about" and write the rules around that. Use rules to highlight how the characters are outsiders searching for identity and fighting against their own worst natures. Read and play some games that use the rules to enforce this kind of idea. Try Sorcerer. Try Riddle of Steel. Try My Life with Master. Class-or-skill-based, min-maxing, and all that stuff isn't even on the table: worrying about that stuff will not help you design any of this.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2006, 05:20:34 PM »

Well here it goes I haven’t tried something like this before really

This imaginary game session involves just one player character, and her name is Cassia.
Cassia is a God-born of phoenix.  Her metamorphosis (which is what the process of a spirikin’s powers awakening, and their first transformation into their alternate form is called) was particularly tragic.  When her power awakened she burst into flames which killed her family.  Cassia carries a great sense of guilt over the death of her family, and has started wandering, hoping for a chance to redeem herself.

GM:
The sun is beginning to set, and you see a small hamlet ahead.  This hamlet is surrounded by an agricultural area, mostly grape vines, and some fields of sunflowers and orchards of olive trees as well.  You see a single very large nice plantation home where the land owners live and little shacks for the farmers themselves.  There are a few smaller farms as well. There is also a river coming down from the mountains and flowing through the area, which makes this place really ideal for agriculture.  There is no other civilization for miles, and you feel tired from a long day of traveling. 

Player: 
I’m going to travel towards the town, and hopefully find a place to stay.

GM: 
You eventually reach town.  There is no one on the street short of somebody keeping watch in a guard tower. People have all pretty much gone in for the night.  This town is really small, there probably aren’t even 1000 people living here, and there’s not a single inn.  Clearly these people don’t expect to have many visitors.  The plantation home you saw earlier was the largest and nicest in this area, the homes in this town are small and simple.  However there is a small tavern called the Dancing Fawn, and it is the only place still open.

Player:
I go in the tavern.

GM:
The bar tender is a tired looking overweight middle aged woman. There are only two other customers, two older men whom look very well weathered and muscular, their clothes are dusty.  They quietly drink some cheap wine.  They don’t seem to notice you.

Player:  I make an insight roll to see if they really don’t notice me.

GM: You think they do notice you, but are trying to ignore you, and are even a bit uneasy of your presence.

Player:  I approach the bartender.

GM:
She looks up at you warily and says in a surprisingly soft voice for someone of her bulky stature
“I haven’t seen you around here before, and we don’t get many travelers. Anyways what can I do for you?”

Player:
“I’ll have what those two fellows are having over there” Pointing towards them, “and some bread”.

GM:
The woman pulls out some bread, slices it and puts it on a plate, and pours a small amount of olive oil next to it.  She gets out some wine and pours a small glass.
“The only travelers we get here are businessmen and traders that mostly deal with the Tiberius family up in the old plantation home.”

Player:
“Is there anywhere I could stay around here?”

GM:
The woman looks slightly frustrated and worried.
“No, look, there really isn’t unless you are here on business, and if you were you’d have connections, but clearly you don’t.  I don’t mean any offense but we don’t really like wanderers just coming through here for no apparent reason.  We have a nice peaceful town, and outsiders just, well they tend to stir up trouble ok.  I really don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

Player:
Maybe I could rent a room from you, just for a night? 

GM:
With some reluctance in her voice the bartender answers.
“Well, I suppose I can’t very well just let you sleep outside. We have an old barn I suppose I could let you stay there, but just tonight.  And tomorrow I suggest you be on your way.  By the way my name is Vita”

Player:
I hand Vita the money I owe her.
 “Thank you Vita, my name is Cassia”.

GM: you notice the two other customers leave, and Vita starts cleaning up for the night.

Player:
I say to Vita “you mentioned wanderers stirring up trouble, did someone else come through town recently”.

GM:
Vita answers “It was nobody really I’m really not in the mood to talk about it right now”
Vita starts to clean up, and then lets you know it’s time to go.  She gets out a lantern, lights it up and leads you to her home, which is just under a mile away.  Behind it is an old worn barn in a small pasture.  There’s a donkey fast asleep in the pasture, and a chicken coup.

Player:
I go in the barn and look for a place to sleep.

GM:
There’s some old farming equipment, much of it now rusted, and the most comfortable place to sleep is unfortunately the hard bare ground.

Player:
I take out my bed roll and go to sleep.

GM:
As you sleep you begin to have a dream, no, it’s more like a vision.
It is night time, but the moon is full, and mist hangs low over the ground.  You are in some ancient ruins, definately a temple.  You feel that some force is calling you inside, and you obey it.  Inside you see a statue of what looks like a large vicious canine creature. A hooded figure stands before the statue.  The figure has an androgynous look you can just barely tell that this being is actually male.  It has angular facial features and long white hair its eyes are pure crystal blue with no pupils, around the figure mists began to gather.  You hear snarling all around you, and see that you are suddenly surrounded by several large black dogs.  You can sense an aura of spiritual energy emanating from this figure, and realize that he is something similar to what you are.
“Oh Cassia, you have done nothing but run away, now it is time to stop running.  What you have become Cassia is something wonderful not something to be feared, and yet you fear your power just like the humans do, and you are better them, you must know this. You must seek me out Cassia.” 

You are awakened by what sounds like a struggle outside.  The sound of hoofs, and what sounds like a large snarling dog. 

Player:
I quickly get up, draw my weapon, and run outside.

GM: 
Before you even get outside the noises stop, and there is complete silence.  When you get outside you see the chicken coup torn up, feathers are everywhere, and the donkey is sprawled out and mutilated.  You can tell that it is about an hour away from sunrise.
You hear a sudden scream in the distance, and a terrible howl.  Then silence falls again.

Player: I try to pinpoint where the sound is coming from.

GM:  You can tell about where the sound came from.

Player:  I hurry to that location.

GM:  You make it there, and aren’t the only one.  The sound woke up a lot of other people as well, and they are standing around looking horrified at the mutilated corpse of a woman.  The townspeople, and there are about 20 of them, notice you.

Player:  I ask them what happened.

GM: One of the men, a guard tells you that the wild animals in the area had been acting mad ever since about a week ago, he looks at you with a face suddenly contorted by anger. 
“But things had seemed to have returned to normal until tonight, when you showed up. You have some explaining to do stranger, why are you here?  It’s a bit strange to see a woman traveling on her own.”

Player:
 “My mother just died, I’m on my way to tell my older sister, whom moved away when she married.  I was the only one that could make the journey, as my father passed away some time ago.”

GM:
The guard is still slightly suspicious, but seems willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Player:
“So do you have any idea why wild animals are acting so oddly?”

GM:
“They started acting strangely a few days after we had another visitor.  I didn’t like the look of him from the very first time I saw him.  I found out he had been asking around about some ruins just north of here.  No one goes to those ruins, and I think he might have awakened something there.  There was something wrong with that fellow, and I think he wasn’t human, you know, touched by the Devil.  You wouldn’t happen to have some sort of interest in those ruins to?”

Player:
“No but maybe I could help you with your wild animal problem.”

GM:
“But I thought you had somewhere to be, you aren’t lying to me are you now? Maybe you are one of “them” too.”

Player:
“I’m not interested in the ruins, but I think I could find out more about what’s going on, and perhaps help you.”

GM:
The guard hesitantly agrees to let you help.  He tells you about where the ruins are located.
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AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2006, 09:32:55 PM »

oh, I looked up a few games you mentioned (just on google, I haven't had a chance to go and look for them anywhere), Sorcerer, and the Riddle of Steel.  It looks like at least Riddle of Steel has a system mainly to make characters reluctant to use their power (magic possibly causing aging in this case), what I need is something that makes abusing power very tempting, at least initially, so that characters will have a reason to want to do so. 
Then after they have been abusing their power enough bad things should result. 
One thought I've had is that I could perhaps use something similar to Ravenloft's power check when they use magic, leaving the potential for the characters to really become monsters.  Part of becoming a monster could actually be beneficial, like attribute bonuses, and new powers start manifesting, with the negative aspects of becoming a monster only starting to show up further on (I think derangements would work pretty well, as power slowly drives the character insane).
Coincidently it sounds like Riddle of Steel actually has a somewhat similar magic system to what I'm using. 
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Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


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« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2006, 11:03:50 PM »

Good write up of an ideal actual play!

I'm detecting an initial mode of play which might be called 'mysterious loose end creation'. Like the wanderers stiring up trouble.

It's funny. In my case I would enjoy Vita being all 'not gunna tell ya' about the wanderers, if I was in a 'build up the mystery' mode. However, I would be pissed off if I was in a 'solve the mystery' mode and she gets to just say 'nah, don't feel like answering and I don't even have to roll or anything'.

That's just me. But if you think it might be important to play, then you might want to formalise what the players should be doing at that point in play.
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
AsuraDemon
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2006, 11:27:30 PM »

I'm glad someone likes it, I actually have only game mastered once, and well, I can't say I was very good at it.  I've pretty much always been a player rather than GM or equivalent. 
I do however really enjoy stories that are set up so that there is a bit of an element of mystery.  Of course how much the character found out from the NPCs they dealt with in a situation like the above would come down to a mix of how much the GM wants them to know, and how high they roll on their diplomacy skill.  The above example of Vita not wanting to give out much information is an example of rolling somewhat low.  I definately plan to give more of a formula to what happens during game play, I'm currently working on that actually.  But I find that wanderers stiring up trouble can be a good start for adventures, and there are some good books that have started off that way.
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