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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 70 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [soacs] Skimpy RPG  (Read 3019 times)
John Kirk
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« on: September 16, 2007, 02:40:45 PM »


In this thread, migo issued a challenge:

Make a character sheet for a new system, that anyone familiar with RPG conventions could pick it up, write a character and be able to play the system. There shouldn't be any rules explanations outside of the character sheet, and explanations on the sheet shouldn't be anything beyond a clarification, and perhaps an explanation of what the resolution mechanic is.

The idea caught my imagination, so I entered the contest.  Migo PM'ed me, and was complimentary on the design.  However, his description of what he understood the game rules to be didn't exactly match what I had in mind.  There are obvious similarities, and what he understood sounded quite interesting.  In fact, I can see that some of the original graphics ended up being misleading, although I obviously didn't realize it when I first created the character sheet.  Consequently, I've made some modifications to the original sheet and I'd like some feedback on what you think the game rules are.

Here is my modified Skimpy RPG

What I would like to know are answers to the following questions:

1) What genre, if any, does the game promote?
2) What dice are rolled?
3) How do you know if you succeeded in winning a contest and what are the repercussions?
4) What is/are the reward system(s)?
5) Can characters advance?  If so, how?
6) How do players take turns?
7) When do scenes end?
Cool How do you know when the game is over?
9) What role, if any, does the GM play?

I am going to avoid answering "correct" or "wrong" to any responses, so that I can get as much unbiased feedback as possible.

Incidentally, we playtested Skimpy yesterday with 8 players.  The system worked exactly as I had hoped.  So, I am not looking for advice on how to make the game better at present, only to see if you can understand the rules as they appear on the page.  Also, I would appreciate any advice on how to retain the rules explanations while reducing the amount of text.

Thanks in advance.
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John Kirk

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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2007, 09:30:39 PM »

I've gotta say, your sheet certainly meets my interpretation of Migo's brief.

It looks like a sheet for a full and comprehensive system. I think my difficulty with the sheet lies in it's semiotics.

You've used quite a few symbols as shorthand for explicit rulings, which is pretty cool.

I get the distinct impression that d6's are used for the game, and poker chips, but how these are applied in the context of actual play is a bit more confusing.

1.
I can see that all players start without wounds, and they have both offense and defense scores of four. So I'm guessing this is represented by 4 poker chips on each respective mark on the character sheet. The symbolism to the left of the sheet showing a shadowed version of the traits and coins/chips indicates that you can spend poker chips to boost your traits, but is this a flat increase (1 chip for one rank, 2 chips for two ranks, etc) or cumulative (1 chip for one rank, 1+2 chips for two ranks, 1+2+3 chips for 3 ranks...) I'm tending toward the second option based on the way the diagram is depicted.

2.
It seems that initiative isn't important in the system and is fairly arbitrary. With "Player One" always going first in a conflict, followed by "Player Two", then "Player Three" who gets two successive turns as they end the sequence of round 1 then starts the sequence of round 2.

Or, more logically, but still based on the diagram, the GM goes first, then "Player 1", "Player 2", "Player 3", before the GM then starts the next round followed in turn by "Player 3", "Player 2", then 'Player 1". 

3.
All references that I can see indicate that the game runs off a dice pool system. As indicated on the left where a trait rank of two seems to give two additional d6s to a given roll.

I could delve into the symbolism deeper, but before I go too much further, I'll try to answer the questions posed.

1) What genre, if any, does the game promote?
The game seems tailored toward a combat oriented setting. While offense and defense could easily be applied to the concepts of awareness and stealth, the references to wounds seem to imply that this is the primary goal of the game.

2) What dice are rolled?
d6s, as per the diagrams.

3) How do you know if you succeeded in winning a contest and what are the repercussions?
It seem that you succeed by meeting a target number that is based on your opponents offense/defense + some trait that reflects their skills (up to a maximum of 6). They use the same mechanic to determine their target number and dice pool. Whoever meets the target number the most times wins the conflict. It seems to cost you offense or defence chips if you want to add a bit more effort to a pool. These pools only replenish whenyou lose a conflict using the relevant pool.

4) What is/are the reward system(s)?
The reward seems to be gained only through losing conflicts. In this case, you gain chips in your offense/defense pool which seems to naturally boost your opponents difficulty, while expending these points to get a bit more short term bonus give you a lowered resistance in the future. The other reward for players seems to be simply defeating the opponents thrown at you, and reducing the number of future opponents the GM has up their sleeve.
 
5) Can characters advance?  If so, how?
As described above, characters seem to learn from their mistakes and gain benefit from failing tasks, but I can't see a way for a permanent statistic or trait increase.

6) How do players take turns?
I described my interpreation of this above in point 2.

7) When do scenes end?
Scenes seem to end when the recurring villain has taken two wounds and there are no remaining minions in the scene (minions only need to take one wound to be wiped out in a scene).

Cool How do you know when the game is over?
The game ends once the recurring villain has taken seven wounds, though the recurring villain seems to regain a wound level each scene in much the same way that the players do. Presumably, like most sterotypical villains, they will not come out to fight the PCs directly until all their minions have been slain.
 
9) What role, if any, does the GM play?
The GM controls the villain and their minions against the onslaught of the PCs.

Those are my answers.

The only immediate questions would be...

a) Do players automatically start with traits that describe their skills and abilities? If so, how many?

b) How do wounds work? I can see there is something about target numbers at the bottom of the sheet, so maybe I'm missing something.

c) The formula is written "Margin > Foe's Wounds --> +1 to Foe's Wounds

Let's say the recurring villain is sitting on 6 wounds, and I roll my dice pool. Do I need to get seven more successes than the GM in order to score that final killing blow? How would I remotely do this with a dice pool of one to six dice? Even with seven to nine dice in my pool, this is getting pretty hard.

In general, the system looks interesting, but I think I'm missing something.

V
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John Kirk
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« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2007, 06:43:31 PM »

V,

Thanks for the excellent feedback!  I'm itching to tell you what you got right and wrong, but I'm going to resist that temptation.

In response to your post, I've made a few tweaks to try and clarify things a bit.

For anyone that's interested, you can download the latest version of Skimpy RPG here.
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John Kirk

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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2007, 07:34:17 PM »

Who'd have thought that a single line...

"Once purchased, trait ranks are permanent."

...would change my perception of the game so much.

It certainly clarifies some things, though whether the focus of my clarity aligns with your intentions...I guess that's another discussion.

V

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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2007, 11:14:44 AM »

The sheet is interesting. I didn't expect that it's actually possible to design anything non-traditional in this challenge, given the restrictions (whether it fully fits the spirit of the challenge I'm unable to say, however). It seems the system is effectively contained on the sheet, though, and doesn't require the group to come up with a lot of stuff on their own or to rely heavily on GM's fiat.

I'll give my answers to your questions based on the third version, posted in the other thread.

1) What genre, if any, does the game promote?

My initial impression is that it's a superhero game. However, the only thing that suggests this to me is the "recurring villain" thing and it could just as well fit action-adventure in general.

2) What dice are rolled?

Six-sided dice, in pools equal to current number of chips on Offense/Defense plus Trait rating, if one is used.

3) How do you know if you succeeded in winning a contest and what are the repercussions?

You count your successes (dice showing results equal to or higher than the relevant target number are successes) and compare them with the opponent's. If your margin is high enough, you wound the opponent. This brings you closer to finishing the scene. You re-roll all ties, increasing the target numbers. Given that failure increases the relevant stack of chips, the characters effectively draw strenght under pressure and stand up after the beating (it seems to reinforce the genre). I don't suppose wounds have to be actual physical wounds. Other than that there doesn't seem to be any way or need to mechanically resolve situations that don't pit the character against a villain or a minion, so I guess it would be an irrelevant color.

4) What is/are the reward system(s)?

The game seems to reward smart resource management. Also, it seems to encourage gradually fleshing out the character, revealing his strengths under pressure.

Since there doesn't seem to be any reward for winning, it seems to be a reward in itself (i.e. you're getting closer to the endgame). Basically, I think proving one's tactical acumen is the main reward.

5) Can characters advance? If so, how?

Basically, the player accumulates chips when his offensive and defensive actions fail, and it reduces his effectiveness in the other area. E.g. after failing a lot of attacks character's defense is hampered - so the player needs to burn some offense chips and buy a trait to succesfully defend again. There's apparently a need to balance tactical needs of the moment and long-term advancement strategy.

Looks like an interesting economy.

6) How do players take turns?

I think that during the scene they start each round from the GM and act in clockwise order (during odd rounds) or counter-clockwise order (in even rounds).

It's not clear how many actions players and GM can take. I'd guess that it's one action per character, villain or minion, but it's not obvious enough.

It's not explained how many minions does the GM control, exactly. Looks like a gaping hole in the system to me, given the apparent adversarial role of the GM. Also, it's not obvious how to stat NPCs. (I can only guess that each villain and minion gets his own character sheet, and later functions and advances like a PC. And I could make wild assumption that the GM has as many sheets as there are players, villain included. Nothing on the sheet itself supports such ideas, though.)

7) When do scenes end?

It's not perfectly clear. My initial impression was that they end when the villain sustains two wounds and flees. However, maybe they end when there are no more active opponents in the scene? Hard to say, both options make sense to me.

It's also not obvious how the scenes start. I can guess they are framed by the GM, but I base this assumption on absolutely nothing.

Cool How do you know when the game is over?

When the villain reaches seven wounds, the game ends.

9) What role, if any, does the GM play?

It's clearly adversarial.

Basically, I don't think it's possible to reduce the amount of text and still retain clarity. I'd say the game could use some extra clarifications, as above (probably just a few sentences would be enough, and there seems to be enough free space to fit them). By contrast, the first version of the sheet was almost unintelligible to me system-wise.
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John Kirk
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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2007, 09:38:23 PM »

I see no reason to refrain from commenting on interpretations any more.  I've posted my final entry, and the stated final deadline has passed.

Filip,

You nailed it.  Even in the areas where you made guesses based on "nothing at all", you nailed it.  Even in the areas where you said that the game had gaps, you nailed it.

Well, except for the superhero part.  That never even entered my mind.  It is a system designed for action/adventure focused on combat, though.  And, I think it would work well for superheros too.

My primary philosophy in determining what rules should be spelled out was that I would implicitly adopt a GM role similar to that of the traditional D&D Dungeon Master.  Anything in line with that didn't need stating.  Anything that deviated from that needed to be explicit.  So, I didn't explicitly state that the GM framed scenes, since I adopted that stance implicitly.  I understand that many people wouldn't automatically take that interpretation and would consequently find some things confusing.  But, I also thought that if I didn't do this, I wouldn't have any hope of meeting the challenge.  After having gone through the exercise, though, I think you're right in that I could probably have added a few more sentences and made the GM role a lot more explicit.

As far as the "how many minions does the GM control" issue goes, I understand where you're coming from.  In my original entry, I had something on the sheet stating that the GM has exactly as many NPC's as there are PC's.  But, in playtesting, I discovered that it really didn't matter all that much, so GM fiat is just fine.  I was the GM in the playtest, and had 8 player characters competing against only 3 NPC's.  At first, the 8 PC's started tromping my NPC's through sheer numbers.  But, the failure rewards in the game were strong enough that by the end of the first scene, my 3 NPC's were virtually on-par with the combined might of the 8 PC's.  I have little doubt that if I had hit the PC's with 20 NPC's, that the effects would have been reversed and that an equilibrium between players and GM would have been quickly struck.  My main concern, in fact, is that the balance may happen too quickly.  While I don't think I would have provided much of a challenge with just a single NPC, I think I could have been almost as competitive with just two.

And, yes, NPC's use the same character sheet and progress in the same way as PC's.

As far as ending scenes goes, I wavered a lot here (as can be seen in the various draft entries I posted).  I finally settled on a Last Man Standing technique, since that was most traditional and seemed like the default (i.e. implicit) rule to me.

By contrast, the first version of the sheet was almost unintelligible to me system-wise.

You should have seen the one before it.  Originally, I tried creating a "lite" version of another RPG I'm working on (very similar in structure to Gnostigmata).  It had four primary attributes: Action, Dialog, Defense, and Agony.  Action conflicted with Dialog, Dialog conflicted with Defense, and Defense conflicted with Action.  Try explaining that on a one-page Character Sheet :-)  After showing it to some very confused friends, I decided to strip everything down to its bare-bones (which is why I decided to call it "Skimpy") and focus it on a topic that everyone understands: combat.  The feedback I received from migo and Michael really helped me out in fixing the remaining problems.

Michael,

Thanks again for your input.  You are right in that it becomes more and more difficult to inflict damage as Wounds increases because the rules require greater and greater margins to do so.  This is somewhat counteracted by the natural death-spiral effect any trauma gauge has (i.e. the higher Wounds becomes, the harder it is to succeed on any roll, so the more often you will fail Defense rolls.)  I think you may be right, though, in that it might be too difficult to inflict the 4th or 5th wound on your opponent.  I even considered adding a narrative reward to the game to help players boost their dice pools (i.e. The GM could award an additional 0 to 4 dice depending on how much he felt a player's narration deserved).  In the end, though, I decided that would just be one more thing I would have to explain on the sheet.  And, since the name of the game is Skimpy, I decided to leave it out.
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John Kirk

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