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Author Topic: Put my system through the ringer!  (Read 4166 times)

Posts: 12

« on: February 01, 2005, 12:35:19 AM »

This is my first post here, and If anyone has a free moment, perhaps you'd be kind enough to let me know if my rpg system is lacking.

Let me start off by saying that I have been inspired by the following games: Over the Edge, Nobilis, Unknown Armies, Donjon, Everway, Sketch, Call of Cthulhu, Marvel Supers (card version), Godlike, Feng Shui, and various others.

I've always wanted a system that would make it easy for me, the LAZY gm. I like planning out stories and plot seeds, I'm pretty good at adlibing a story, but I hate stopping to stat up NPCs. Usually, I give them one or two special qualities and that's it. I spend time on the character's backstory, especially if they're going to be important, but I don't like making a new character sheet everytime.

This dream system of mine would be geared towards how I run a game, but solid enough for anyone to use it. I would like to use it for different genres, as fits, but within MY style of play. If the GM isn't having fun, is anyone going to, in the long run?

I also want it to be simple enough for a non-roleplayer to understand and start playing. Keeping to the simplicity theme, I made it using just 1d6 for each player, or 1d6 that they could all share. The d6 is the most widely available die, so you can get it out of Monopoly in a pinch. Plus, weird dice may scare off newbies.

Enough intro, here's the breakdown.

Stats are rated from 1-6, or more specifically, 1,2,3,4,5, and 6. Depending on genre or setting, a 6 could represent godly power or just really good. The higher the number, the better. 1 represents the average of the setting, usually what the man on the street would have.

Each player, during character creation, would pick freeform abilities, skills, powers, etc. The player can't pick more than 5 different ones. Here's where it gets...different:

The character sheet has a list that looks like this:

1. "Name and Background"
2. "Ability"
3. "Ability"
4. "Ability"
5. "Ability"
6. "Ability"

Now, the player must pick abilities to put in each "slot". #1 is pretty easy, just the background of the character: how she grew up, education, homelife, people in her life, etc. For the rest, our player would create an ability to put in the rest of the slots. The ability can be placed at any level from 2 to 6, with exceptions. You can use the same ability in the same slot. Here is an example:

1. Jon Ronald, Bail Bondsman. Lives in San Francisco
2. Fisherman
3. Bail Bondsman
4. Bail Bondsman
5. Pretty good with a handgun
6. Sneaky Guy

Ok, before I go further, here's the die mechanic. Whenever a PC wants to do something that the GM requires a roll for, the player rolls 1d6. If an appropriate number is rolled, (shooting someone, player rolled a 5) then the PC suceeds. If something inappropriate comes up, (trying to catch a fish and rolling a 4) then the PC fails at the task. As long as the "average joe" has a chance of succeeding at the task, a rolled 1 is always a success. The higher numbers will have more of an impact than the smaller ones for successes. In contested actions, the higher successful number wins the contest. If there is still a tie between two successful roles, ( an "arm wrestling" of 5 vs. a "tough guy" of 5) the winner is the one who has the more specific ability for the situation. (The "arm wresling" of 5 would win if arm wrestling) In the case of 1's which have no specific ability, the winner would be the one who might have an edge because of background.

Ok, back to character generation.  

So, why would I choose a specific skill when I could pick something more broad? Well, the more specific abilities will win ties, and the broader, more useful abilities are more expensive. The better an ability is, the lower on the power list it will go. For each yes to the following questions, the ability loses a slot level. (Thanks to Godlike, Over the Edge, Everway, and Nobilis for this mechanic)

-Will the ability have a major effect on play or is it very useful? -1
-Is the ability versitile; can it do lots of different things? -1
-Is the ability used frequently; can you use it in and out of combat? -1
-Is the ability rare in this world or is it not quite in genre? -1

You can only answer each question once, so you wouldn't have a double major ability or a doubly rare one. This means an ability of "ice sorcery" in a low-magic medieval world would be -4 (the max) because it answers yes to all the questions. You then subtract the total (-4) from 6. (2) this will give you the highest slot number at which you can place this ability. So, the only place where we could put "ice sorcery" would be:

2. Ice Sorcery

Since 1 is for background. So if this player wants to magically freeze a lock with her ability, she would have to roll a 2, unless the GM rules this action too easy to need a roll. If an ability was a -2 it could be placed in slot 2,3, or 4. If you want to put the same ability in more than one slot, the duplicate can be placed in only the slot above or below, with a max of three slots. So ice sorcery could have a slot at 3, but only if the main one is at 2. If the ability was 4, then you could put a duplicate at 3 and/or 5. One duplicate ability represents an expert, and two duplicates (three slots of the same ability) would be obsessive or a master.

Limits may also be placed on abilities to increase the slot availability by 1 or two, depending on the severity of the limit.

one minor limit +1
two minor limits +2
one major limit +2

You can't add more than +2 in this way. Example: Ice sorceries must be chanted (minor +1) and cause chest colds to the caster (minor +1). This would enable the player to now put Ice sorcery in slots 2,3, or 4. Limits do not make abilities more specific for purposes of breaking ties.

One last bit.

The last mechanics I'll mention here are "bonuses" and "disadvantages". During the game a character can gain a bonus or a disadvantage. Bonuses can be items, experience, an ally, or basically anything good that would stay with the PC, like points. Each bonus can be used once a session to reroll any die (GM's or PC's) in a situation where the bonus would help the player. The player would then get the better of the two rolls. The PC couldn't use that bonus again until the next gaming session. Bonuses can also be used to raise similar stats or buy new abilities. I won't go into detail, but you would have to permanently lose the bonus if you spend it in this way. Also, if you want to use a bonus twice in one session, after the second time, you'd lose it for good.

Disadvantages are the opposite. They can be weaknesses, faults, wounds, or anything bad that the character could experience. The player must use each disadvantage at least once during each gaming session. The player may choose when to use it, when appropriate for the disadvantage. Example: "Roll to see if you jump the gap". "I'll use my 'bad leg' disadvantage here." The worst of the two rolls is then used. It may be used for either PC or GM rolls like bonuses. If a player doesn't use all of her disadvantages by the end of a gaming session, she loses 1 bonus permanently for each disadvantage she didn't use. Players can get rid of disadvantages through in-game play and by spending a permanent bonus. If they opt to spend a bonus, it must be appropriate to fixing the disadvantage and they must both be used or unused. (I can lose my "knows a doctor" bonus that I haven't used this session to remove my "poisoned" disadvantage that I haven't used as well.) or (I've already used my "golden elvish dagger" bonus this session, so I'll lose it to get rid of the "money problems" disadvantage that cause me problems earlier this evening.)

Characters can adjust and increase the abilites in the slots by spending bonuses as well. If one takes enough disadvantages, of an appropriate type, one can for example, go insane or even die.

There's a little more to it, mostly just guidelines, and sub-systems like combat, but that's about it.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks, and sorry about the length.

Looking for some gamers in Sacramento...
Selene Tan

Posts: 167

« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2005, 04:20:09 AM »

Hello, and welcome to the Forge! If you haven't already, you might want to check out the links in New to the Site.

Have you already checked out InSpectres? It's a great game for the lazy GM -- you can run it with almost zero prep.

It took me a couple of readings to understand your system, and I'm not sure if I have it right. Is this it?
* Characters have 6 levels of abilities, from average to incredible. Each level is given one slot on a d6
* The average (1) slot is taken by the character's background. The others are taken up by player-defined abilities. The same ability can be on more than one slot.
* Abilities that are more general are less powerful (or the character is less good at them). This means they must be placed in lower-numbered slots.
* For uncontested rolls, you try to roll an appropriate ability. The rank of the ability on the die is used to determine its impact.
* For uncontested rolls, both parties try to roll an appropriate ability. If both succeed, the side with the higher number wins. Question: Are you allowed to use very different abilities? e.g. for arm wrestling, what if the dice came up "tough guy" 3 vs. "cheater" 4?

Where do stats come in? At the moment, it sounds like you don't really need them.

I'm not sure I like the way success is based on applicability; it seems to me like there'll be a lot of failures. On the other hand, that will make bonuses more important, which may be what you want. How are bonuses acquired? Whenever the GM feels like it, or are there more specific rules?

When you say that "The player would then get the better of the two rolls," or "The worst of the two rolls is then used," do you mean better/worse for the player or the character? i.e., do you take the roll that is most advantageous to the player using the bonus, or to the player/GM whose die is being re-rolled?

I do like the system of bonuses and disadvantages, presuming that they're reasonably easy to get. Although I suppose it might work btter if there was soe way to get temporary bonuses, i.e. ones which you use once and which are then used up forever.

RPG Theory Wiki
UeberDice - Dice rolls and distribution statistics with pretty graphs
Doug Ruff

Posts: 445

« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2005, 10:40:57 AM »

Hi Vesirius, and welcome!

That's a pretty neat idea you've got there, I especially like the way that you can slot all of a character's abilities into a single 1-6 range.

A couple of thoughts:

1) I think that your example character may break the rules you have set for slotting abilities: "Sneaky guy" could be described as useful, versatile and usable in an out of combat, yet Jon has it at "6".

This isn't, IMHO, a problem: I'm going to suggest to you that there isn't a power-balancing problem with allowing players to choose broad or narrow abilities for their characters. This is because the choice of abilities should inform the story.

For example, if Jon's player has spent a whole slot on "Fisherman", you should expect this to be a feature in the story. If I create a character with 3 slots in "Art Critic" then I am sending a very strong message to the GM about the type of game I want to play - if that doesn't fit the setting, then I need to know before play starts.

2) Minor point: you may wish to consider allowing characters to roll 1-3 dice depending on how easy or hard the task is, rather than a default 1 die. This should help to avoid "whiff factor" (very loosely defined for this post as when characters are unable to complete even simple tasks because of an adverse resolution mechanic.)

3) I don't think you need a great deal more than this in order to have a functional system. The real beauty of your aproach is that it is so very simple, so please keep it that way and don't add a complicated combat system. If you haven't done this before, check out The Pool if you want to see what I'm talking about.

Hope this helps, please post more!

- Doug

'Come and see the violence inherent in the System.'

Posts: 12

« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2005, 12:37:40 AM »

Thanks for the advice, Selene and Doug. One thing I forgot to mention was that this system is very GM-controlled. What I mean is that depending on the GM, games could have lots of differences. Deciding whether or not to give out lots of permanent or temporary bonuses and disadvantages, exactly HOW to answer the four yes or no questions, and exactly when/how often to ask a player to roll are all things that will change from GM to GM obviously.

I have read and played the Pool (great system), and I loved the control it gave to players and the simplicity of the system. I just felt it was a little too vague on some aspects for my tastes. That leads me to a thought about player control, but more on that later.

Selene, you brought up a great point with the "tough guy" 3 vs. "cheater" 4. I was stewing over this all weekend. And you're mostly right. I don't really need the number stats of 3 and 4. It should just be "tough guy" vs. "cheater" without numbers. And I've already determined that the ability that is more specific should win, so our "tough guy" would win this arm wrestling match, and an "arm-wrestler" would beat him.

Now, I can still use the questions that rate how useful and broad the ability is, but now they can limit the amount of slots the ability could take. I love this because it makes more sense, and it makes it even simpler.

Selene, you asked about applicability, high difficulty, and bonuses. Well, as I was saying above, the GM only has to ask for a roll when he/she feels it is a critical roll for the story, if it doesn't matter as much, simply checking to see if the character has a relevant trait is good enough. I do want bonuses to be important. They are used in three ways:

1. If a player gets asked to roll for something, they may then choose, before rolling, to use one or more bonuses that would be appropriate. Then, the player would roll one extra time for each bonus used and choose the one they like. (Disadvantages work the same, except the GM would choose which roll to use. The player still decides when to use the disadvantage, though)

2. Bonuses can be saved and spent to pick new or better abilites in the slots. They act like experience that can be used in both a short term and long term. When you spend a bonus in this way, though, it is lost forever. Of course, keeping with the theme of the system, the bonuses spent must relate in some way to the new ability. This represents a more specific training than just character points or XP.

3. Bonuses can be spent to get rid of appropriate disadvantages. This is more of a narrative tool that will hopefully help players have some motivation to get the right "bonus" that will get rid of that annoying disadvantage that keeps coming up each session. Example: Our man Jon has a "bad leg" disadvantage. He recently made friends with a doctor, so the GM has given him a permanent bonus called "Friends with Doctor Bob". Now that's a good bonus, because he can call on the doctor to help him out each session, but Jon wants to fix his leg for once and for all. So he permanently drops his "Friends with Doctor" to drop his "bad leg". The doctor agrees to reset his leg, but since Jon doesn't have insurance, Doctor Bob says he can't treat Jon anymore without losing his license.

Doug, great point about the messages the player conveys to the GM in the character creation. Of course this is true with most RPGs, it really made me think about how and when to ask for rolls and including the players in the world creation. It would be interesting to make a "world" character sheet, (like Nobilis and Chancels) that would slightly alter the very mechanics of the game. This is another issue, but what possiblities!

I do want to keep the system as simple as possible, the less numbers on the character sheets, the better. So, changing the power of an ability from a rolled number and applicability to the number of slots it's taken and the applicability really does help cut down on the numbers for numbers sake.

Looking for some gamers in Sacramento...

Posts: 12

« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2005, 10:04:43 AM »

It looks like I'm slightly continuing the thread here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=14204 if anyone is interested to follow along.

Jesse Coombs

Looking for some gamers in Sacramento...

Posts: 12

« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2005, 02:57:25 AM »

Ok. I've been doing some severe thinking, (well for me) and I've worked out a system that seems to do what I envision while still being playable.

Each time you create an ability for a character, 6 questions will be applied to it. Everytime a "yes" is the answer to one of the questions, the "limit" of the ability is decreased. Example of Limits: If I have the ability of Telepathy and it's limit is 3, that means I can put it into slot 2, 3, or both. Not 1 because that's our catch-all ability for anything the player doesn't pick, but the PC could reasonably do. And, an ability with a limit of 5 could put it in 2,3,4,5 or all or some, but not 1 or 6.

If the questions reduce the limit to 1 or less, tough. That means that the ability is too powerful, or not appropriate for the game. Of course that player can apply one of the "positive" questions to raise that limit, but more on that later.

The questions would be:

Will the ability be frequently useful? -1
Is the ability versitile? -1
Could the ability have a major effect on the game? -1
Is it uncommon in the setting? -1
Is the ability inappropriate to the genre? -1
Is the ability a loophole or cheat that may disrupt the game or mechanics? -1

The first three questions deal with the ability itself as far as how "good" it would be for the character. The last three are there to help keep the characters close to the genre, and allow a metagame structure that helps to support the social contract that the players decide upon.

There are also three questions that may have a positive effect on the limit:

Does the ability have a restriction of some type? +1
If the ability in at least two slots? +1 (this may only be used once for +1, no +2 or +3, etc)
Does the ability help to connect the character in some way to another PC? +1

I'm only allowing +1 for a restriction because  if you're going to add more or bigger restrictions, you might as well change the whole ability to something less useful. The two slots +1 bonus rewards players who specialize their characters, and the character connect +1 bonus helps to forge relationships in the player group. (Finding reasons to get a group of characters is always a pain for me, so adding a bonus to players who already know each other made sense.

I'm getting ready to start playtesting, but if anyone would like to throw any questions, advice, or anything that you think I should change, let me know.

Looking for some gamers in Sacramento...

Posts: 12

« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2005, 02:59:27 AM »

Oh, I didn't mention that the limit of an ability would start at 6 before you applied the questions.

Looking for some gamers in Sacramento...
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