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Author Topic: New Game Design  (Read 1201 times)

Spike

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New Game Design
« on: August 26, 2006, 05:14:24 PM »
I can remember as a wee nipper taking D&D (then the only game I knew) and attempting to create my own game from it. Naturally this 'new game' was hopelessly derivative and probably not much fun to play.

I hope to do better this time around.

First a little background. I have a setting that I have been writing in and tinkering with for four years now. Science Fiction with what I'd like to think of as it's own feel.  I won't really dwell on it much, this is about rules.

You see, as of last year I was talking to GoO about their imprint contracts. Now, I hardly felt that the existant Tri-Stat system was perfect for my needs, but it freed me from having to worry overly much about the 'small things'. Sadly, before I had the rest of the product set up, GoO has since went away.  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over that...

Now that I have to worry about the small things I find myself turning once more to consider them.  I won't bore you with the noisesome bits about 'publication', 'shipments', 'advertising'... these things can be addressed in due time.  Now, however, is the time to discuss Rules.

I only have a few basic ideas down.

Bother me not with your noxious 'Classes' or 'Levels'. I leave such filth to the wallowing hogs.

Having observed people for a few decades now I've come to the opinion that the differences between strengths are relatively minor and the same can be said of skills.  True extremes are rare, but do exist.  Likewise I have observed that overly detailed games tend to flounder under their own weight while more streamlined games tend to prosper.   Thus I propose to reduce attributes and skills to their bare essences, then convert those essences to numbers.

In other words you might have an 'intelligence' stat. One man is 'average' another man is 'smart'. Average has a modifier of zero, Smart provides a +1 when appropriate.  The overall range of abilities will be relatively small as well, with an exponential increase in costs between levels. So, for example, if we have a level of intelligence called 'Savant' above 'Genius' and 'really damn Smart', well you would have to pretty much dedicate your entire character to being a Savant as it would cost so damn much.

Since I've also observed that some players will refuse to touch a game where they cannot roll for their stats, an alternate character creation method, using Dice, can be included to increase potential customer pools.

Now, in practice, these stats are not typically rolled by themselves. No, when two people are facing off the more intelligent one will win out every time. Only when extreme contitions call for it (death is on the line) or when other factors are involved (comparative skill levels) would a roll be called for.  

The overall number of attributes would be kept to a minimum. In practice I hope to use every attribute in combat in some capacity.

Skills are to be handled in much the same way. You will have levels like 'Unskilled' 'Novice' 'Competent' 'expert' and 'master'. note that this is meant as a sampling, rather than actual catagories. Competent would represent our zero level, where the character is neither good nor bad.  Experts, being better than competent would roll (when necessary) at +1.

Where stats and skills collide: I have observed games where stats have no influence on skills and they seem marginalized as a result (older shadowrun), I have seen games where Stats are much more power full than skills, to which point a novice in a skill could regularly beat a master simply by being 'smarter' (Heavy Gear), and I have seen games where the Stat's are equal to the skills in potency but much more universal (New shadowrun, WoD games...).  None of these seem to be the right answer to me.

My solution is potentially two fold. First, higher stats reduce the cost of linked skills. A smart man grasps the principles of engineering faster than a stupid man. An athletic man can learn football easier than a couch potato.  The exact means of doing this is unclear as of yet, but reduced 'points cost' or 'training times' seems to be the obvious choice. Secondly, when two people of equal skill are competing then the smarter one has the advantage.  That is, being really fucking smart does not help you out engineer the Master Engineer UNLESS you also happen to be a Master Engineer.  


A third catagory of 'things' that will help define a character in game terms will be... call them 'facets' for the moment. I was toying with 'trainings' but that is somewhat limited. Consider these to be Advantages if you will. However, I expect these to be somewhat more universal than that.  Some will be innate abilities, others will be learned things.  I expect that as a character grows they will continuously add things.  I have not yet sat down to ponder exactly how many is appropriate or how to balance them yet.  I do know that attractiveness and social traits will fall here, rather than be Stats.

IF there are flaws or disadvantages they will be extremely limited. Say, ONE heroic flaw that defines you. I have yet to really think on these as I don't consider them important to the overall plan or play.

I expect there will be a list of 'universal modifiers' penalties and bonuses for play. Combat, for example will be a penalty modifier to all actions. This is a place where the 'Advantages' come into play, allowing one to offset penalties or gain bonuses for specific actions or conditions.   So a 'Combat Veteran' could ignore the 'In Combat' penalty for martial skills (shooting and melee, piloting, tactics)  While someone who was 'Fearless' could ignore it for any action, but might have penalties to certain defensive traits.

One univeral modifier would be 'rusty', that is a skill that hasn't been used for some time would be used at a penalty. Another would be 'superior equipment' to represent customized gear, really expensive tool sets and the like, and giving a bonus.  Both bonuses and penalties would be small, typically only a one except for extreme cases.

The basic mechanic is notionally a 2d6, with most rolls being opposed. Unopposed rolls would be against a 7 (with modifiers being applied to the target number in this case for ease of use).  

Combat: I am still putting together my ideas here. Obviously the idea is for players to try to stack the deck in their favor by gaining positive bonuses and forcing their opponents to suffer penalites. I am tempted to remove the 'take turns' style of play from the table. That is, in combat being faster than the other guy is an advantage, but all rolls for a given exchange happen at one time.

I expect to have two levels of defensive action. That is 'dodging' and 'evasive'. Dodging is something you apply to a known enemy, that is someone you see and are actively avoiding. This would be limited to a single person or a small group working in concert from a specific, narrow, area. It is more effective than Evasion, which is what would be applied to everyone else in combat with you, or an enemy you cannot see. Thus Dodging, following our guidelines about modifiers, could be a +2 (possibly better, but unlikely) while Evasion is a flat +1.  Evasion would be a movement action, thus applying a penalty to your own rolled actions.

Hmm... I see a potential conflict of intent here.  Okay: Defence is either an active or passive act.  If you are trying to shot the other guy, its passive, that is the enemy is rolling against a static target number based on your combat abilities and defensive modifiers (cover, evasion, darkness and so forth). Active Defense (dodging) is and opposed roll, with each side applying their modifiers to their own roll, but means you can't attack back. Note that if you are actively defending (dodging) and someone unexpected shoots at you, you'd still get to roll your evasion against them, but not your dodge.


Fleet battles and other abstracted combat:  My thought here is to run 'mass combat' much like character combat. The fleet of ships or the army of soldiers is stated out and modifiers are applied. For example a cadre of special forces, or a few ships of advanced design and construction apply modifiers to combat, being larger (more ships by tonnage, more troops) is a bonus while being superior (by training or technology) is a bonus. Intelligence would represent the strategic minds controlling the army/fleet.  Obviously I need to finish up the design of combat before I really focus on this.

Ship combat: as this is meant to be a Science fiction game, the possibility of player engaging in starship battles is very real. My concept here is very simple: to treat the ship and crew as a single character, with each player performing actions and rolling dice for their specific role in combat. I expect to include a teamwork aspect to this, though actually using it (or eveing realizing it is there) should be the work of the players alone. So, for example: the GM goes around the table asking each member of the crew for their action in that round. The Engineer decides, on his own, to repair a damaged coupling (attempting to fix a damage penalty), the pilot engages in a risky manuever, and the gunners shoot wildy.  Everyone rolls dice, the engineer fixes teh damage the pilot fails his roll and the gunners miss and hit alternatively. Combat continues. Alternatively the engineer could have boosted power to the engines, giving the pilot bonus to his roll instead. He could have also redirected computer time to the gunners (presuming a military ship without dedicated gunner comps) making them more accurate, but hurting the pilot, or he could have taken power from the engines to make the guns more powerful (notional, the actual weaponry preferred in the setting as written is FTL torpedos...)  If the crew coordinates their actions, they can earn bonuses to their various rolls, in other words.


Comments and insight, even general nitpicks are appreciated.  Playtesting will be pending further codification of the rules...
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Spike

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Just an update
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2006, 07:36:07 AM »
It occured to me that I have not yet begun to address issues like damage. Fair enough. I don't have an idea what I want to do, but I do have some ideas of what I don't want to do.

I don't want a pool of fluffy hit points, I don't want a 'death spiral'.  

I was considering an opposed check, damage vs. resiliance or some such thing, with armor being a factor (and a big one...). Pass the check and you are still 'injured' suffering a penalty for wounds, but not incapacitatingly so. And in theory you could suffer a nigh unto infinite number of these 'wounds' without ever dying or increasing your wounded penalty.

A minor failure, or one where the weapon is less lethal than yoru armor... the details are still vague, would result in a much more dangerous injury, one that nearly renders you combat incapable insome way (bigger penalty for mechanics, other penalites like 'incapable of walking' also levied by mechanism undetermined) while a horrible failure is one of those dead/dying situations.  Functionaly identical in Sci-fi as anything that doesn't destroy you outright is possibly undoable by miracle medicine if done fast enough.    

I've also toyed with a multipurpose resource idea.  Let us use the idea of poker chips for the moment, though I hate the idea of needing those to play.  You have as one of your combat traits a stack of chips. These represent, in a shout out to the Pundit, your protaganism. You can use these to avoid sniper shots you don't know about, deflect damage and the like, or you could use them to boost your attacks. You only have so many and you don't get more until, say the next game.  Burning them all is a powerful attack that leaves you defenceless, not using them offenisively leaves you being whittled down nothing eventually over more protracted fights.

This does solve an issue of needless player deaths, and it does add an interesting 'minigame' aspect to combat, but it does so by slowing things down a bit and making things more complex.  Further, I don't want a fixed pool of these things, so I have to then determine how characters get them.

Finally there is the issue of quickdraw situations.  I've pretty much decided that the basic 'opposed check' mechanism is sound enough to handle it. Quickdraw situations are not 'combat' as normally understood. You don't quickdraw on on someone in teh middle of a running battle, you don't have the focus, the pair up to handle that typically. If you do, you are likely getting shot by someone outside your little contest.  Other than a brief mention of the rules and applicability I don't feel a specific mechanism is needed to 'add' this element.

Feedback, as always, is appreciated.
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Xavier Lang

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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2006, 03:31:47 PM »
A few questions:

Is the "power" of a person internal or external in the game?
In many sci-fi games that I have seen, a person without gear, is helpless against many things.  To me, this is significant in the rules so you can determine where on the scale things should fall.  
Another way of phasing the question could be how much of a difference in equipment can the character hope to overcome via experience and or facets?  If the character is in say formal attire with maybe a concealed or scrounged melee weapon and the games equivalent of a swat team member assaults the character how bad is it?  Are they hopelessly outmatched and should surrender or die?  Do they have a chance if they make excellent use of tactics, better skills, i.e. there a chracter with lots of spent experience points?  Do they have a reasonable chance of being victorious if they built a combat character but are still at character creation or close to it?
 

Mcrow

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« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2006, 04:00:10 PM »
Ok, on my first read it seems like the system you are going for is goin to have a narrow result spread.

on 2d6 results of 2-12, plus or minus modifiers.

How many levels for each attribute?

If you have skills, for example it could looke like this:

skill levels:

unskilled=-2
dabbler= +0
trained= +1
Skilled= +2
Master=+3
Savant=+4

Then the possible outcomes are 0-16 still pretty tight range.  This works though if your game is not suposed to have a large spread in power levels between new characters and advanced ones.

How would your skill level be calculated? Are stats figured in @ all when considering skill level. I know that you are thinking that a High stat reduces costsf for buying skills.

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New Game Design
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2006, 04:42:42 PM »
@spike - are you cross posting this on your blog - or moving the discussion here permanently?
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Spike

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« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2006, 02:02:29 AM »
I am cross posting. This portion is going to be focusing on the rules, the relavant blog entries will be more about the status of getting the product to market.

There is indeed a very small amount of diffrence between skilled competent people and unskilled people. I am using a realistic model as much as I can.  While, if all factors are equal, Mike Tyson should beat every other boxer thrown at him (if we accept for the moment that his skill is obviously superior to all other. Conjecture for demonstration), Yet Mike Tyson can be beaten, and has been. Other factors proved more important (morale/determination of the other fighter, sloppy training habit by Mike, things like that).

Stats and skills are never added together for roles. Purely stat based rolls are rolled, skills are rolled as pure skill roles. The real advantage to having a higher stat, from a skill perspective is two fold: First an increase in learning speed, reflected in having a 'points break' on skills using that stat. Second, when faced with a contest against someone equally skilled, the person with the aptitude has an advantage (ie: instead of rolling skill contest, as they are evenly matched, the relavent attribute is rolled instead. This is Still conceptual work here. Alternatively, the difference between the relavent attributes could be added to the skill check but I'd rather keep the math simpler)

Internal and External power: In real life an unarmed man can take away a gun from an armed man. This is only likely to succeed if the unarmed man has superior training and a cooler head. In most circumstances the unarmed man is a target.  

The key is, for me, to ensure that the advantage of equipment is obvious, but not so much so as to overwhelm smart play, character ability and, well, gumption.

So: A housewife snatches up her husbands shotgun and holds it on the intruder in her house who she correctly belives to be an assassin. At best she is a novice with the shotgun (being at least familiar with the mechanism) and has absolutely no combat expirence at all, so her combat stress (her morale) is a big penalty, she's shaking like a leaf and not even sure she CAN shoot.  
The assassin is mildly pissed at having a simple housewife get the drop on him. His gun is on the floor and he's merely competent with hand to hand. On the other hand one of the advantages of being a sociopath is that he doesn't really feel fear, so he has no innate combat stress penalty, and may even earn a bonus for  noticing just how scared his opponent is.  While  the housewife is rolling at -3 or -4, the assassin is rolling straight dice or even +1 for knowing Mary Sue is terrified of him.  Now, even if Mary Sue has the advantage of being behind the assassin (say a +2) she still is at a disadvantage if he tried to take the gun.  The gun itself does not influence the attempt, only the outcome if Mary Sue shoots before the assassin acts.

By contrast a Swat Cop is both an expert, and probably has some measure of combat training, removing or reducing his Combat Stress penalty making it a much less sure thing.

In teh Real world cops are specfically trained how to avoid having their guns taken. I have no intention of trying to dwell on that specific tidbit, or others like it (or even teh various do's and don'ts... this much at least will be abstracted), but the GM could award a bonus to the cop against this specfic action (or the Swat guy could have a trait that covers such training, or it could simply be assumed that more skilled shooters learn this stuff automatically, making is simply a function of skill vs. skill).

That said, there are weapons that are powerful enough be instantly lethal to unarmored targets, naturally if you are HIT and are not wearing armor you are in trouble.

My intent is that the characters are assumed to be fully competent at their chosen professions and hobbies. The more they specialize the better they will be, but even the specialist should have a fairly wide variety of skills available.  Character growth is planned to be fairly slow, and offset by the tendancy for unused skills to grow 'rusty'.  This is offset by the standard conceit of extensive downtimes that are useful to study and train to learn new things.  Most interstellar games (hardly the universal conceit for game play) come built in with downtime as travel over lightyears of distance translates roughly to weeks of travel, plenty of time to pick up the basics of the local language, or what have you.


One thing that I have not addressed is Supernatural rules. They are more or less unimportant for the Sci-Fi setting, and would normally only be important if I wished to go into 'universal rules'... but for one thing. When considering the impact of the technological level on warfare it occured to me that certain types of equipment, and the people skilled in their use, could be best dealt with, and explained as if the stuff was treated very similar to magic.  

Similarly I have thought of adding very small bits of 'oddness' to the setting at various times. 'Evolved' humans with supernatural control over their bodies or minds, the potential for psychic aliens or humans.   This is still nebulous, but I do admit to enjoying Dune in part due to the bene geserit, for example.  People like 'weird stuff' in their sci-fi, they like the idea of even lasers in ghost stories, haunted ships.   I should not exclude them offhand due to some misplaced sense of 'reality'.  Besides, I like the idea of 'unexplained' stuff out there.

So far my only idea here is to treat each individual power as it's own microcosm. If I have the ability, bought as an expensive trait, that allows me to read minds, all I need to know about that power is written in the description of it.  This eliminates the need to flip through whole chapters to understand how to use this mindreading ability.

Something like a Nano-egg, which produces invisible swarms of microbots that can be used offensively or defensively (attacking hostile microbots or even attempting to diffuse incoming projectiles or gasses) would consist of a talent to represnt training in its use (or a skill instead) and they teh specific abilities of that nano-egg would be listed under the equipment.

The concern become balancing these 'super' traits against everyday traits so that people are not rushing out to make characters of superhumans, as my original conception of the traits portion of the character was not inclusive of 'supernatural abilities'.  I suspect it is a flexible enough idea to work.


I hope I covered your questions and inspired new ones. I was planning to lay out some concrete 'rules' to begin informal playtesting locally today but reality intervened.  By concrete I mean actually laying out my stat list, the 'range' of good to bad, a rough skills draft and some sample traits, then working out how people were to make their characters.  I also had hoped to begin working out just how stats influenced combat, as I already know how skills do (obviously, they are rolls for most actions).  

As far as character creation goes: I expect a pool of points (with an optional, but limited roll alternative to keep randomized fans happy) for Stats, with a similar, but seperate pool for skills and a final pool for traits.  I think the structured format will help newer and even expirenced gamers get more balanced, enjoyable characters with less fuss than trying to figure out 'how many points' are the minimum you can get away with in a given catagory.  I think providing a set of 'universal skills' that all players start with is a good idea as well. I think providing a 'zero cost' trait, to represnt your background and provide your list of automatic skills, is a good idea (with additional backgrounds being impossible or simply costly...). The idea is to have some cross pollination between each catagory of characterization. Stats influence skills costs, some freebie skills come from traits, some traits require prerequiste skills.
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Xavier Lang

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« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2006, 11:55:05 AM »
How specific are your skills going to be?  
When dealing with something like science, is there going to be a science skill, a life science vs physical science division?  Each branch of science its own skill?  Some sort of hybrid of general science with specialties?
A physicist and a biologist have widely different specialized knowledge and training.


In your answers section you mentioned gear would be reasonably important.  Geat is usually controlled by wealth and availability, not experience.  Have you thought about whether your going to attempt to control character "gear" growth vs. growth from things like experience points?  In some systems a character spending points into wealth can leverage that wealth into a more "powerful" character in terms of equipment bonuses than someone who bought similar bonuses directly with points.  Have you thought about how your going to handle this?


Do you have artificial systems, such as computers?  Can they assist with/replace skills in some areas?  Could a sophisticated system turn a dabbler + 0 into skilled +2 assuming you can get the subject to where the system can gather data?  Have you considered the ramifications of players attempting to buy, with money, skills via artificial systems since you have expressed a desire for slow skill growth?
 

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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2006, 01:06:11 PM »
Quote from: Mcrow
Ok, on my first read it seems like the system you are going for is goin to have a narrow result spread.

on 2d6 results of 2-12, plus or minus modifiers.

How many levels for each attribute?

If you have skills, for example it could looke like this:

skill levels:

unskilled=-2
dabbler= +0
trained= +1
Skilled= +2
Master=+3
Savant=+4

Then the possible outcomes are 0-16 still pretty tight range.  This works though if your game is not suposed to have a large spread in power levels between new characters and advanced ones.

How would your skill level be calculated? Are stats figured in @ all when considering skill level. I know that you are thinking that a High stat reduces costsf for buying skills.

If he ends up going with something like this, he might want to check out Chad U's PDQ system (which has the core rules offered as a free pdf download [680 KB]), a flexible system that comes pretty close to the result spread listed above.

Mcrow

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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2006, 01:11:46 PM »
Quote from: Zachary The First
If he ends up going with something like this, he might want to check out Chad U's PDQ system (which has the core rules offered as a free pdf download [680 KB]), a flexible system that comes pretty close to the result spread listed above.


I haven't see that system before, but yeah that is very close to what I think he is after.

Zachary The First

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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2006, 01:30:04 PM »
Quote from: Mcrow
I haven't see that system before, but yeah that is very close to what I think he is after.

Oh, it's good stuff.  Chad U is a great game designer.

Spike

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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2006, 03:17:41 PM »
Haven't see PDQ, though I am not surprised at possible similarities. Going with a 2d6 resolution system means only a few 'types' of games are going to come out. I hope that in the details that what I get is superior... or at least complex enough that it doesn't get boring, while still being fast and easy to learn.

I don't like the character growth through gear philosophy at all. I play shadowrun, but that was always a problem for me, that the guy with the best cyberwear was measurable 'better' than the guy without, but who had better skills.  

Power, in combat, comes from getting the edge over the other guy. Some of that edge is skill (which can't be taken away) some is gear (which can) but far superior to both are things like ambush, blindsidings and even willingness to kill and die. The best gun in the world is useless if you are afraid to use it.

The SWAT guy is objectively better than some gutter rat with a zip gun. He's better trained, with better gear. But if he isn't paying attention when that gutter rat comes at him from behind and puts a bullet behind his ear, he's going down. Objective fact.  That's why I'm trying to stress modifiers in combat, though I know they are going to slow the game down a little bit.


Computers are common, even necessary for some actions. Due to the possibility for FTL dogfights in the setting piloting and gunning, for example, are more a matter of knowing how to tell the ship's computer what to do.  A human being simply can not hope to react fast enough on his own, and without sensors could not even see the target. Likewise in purely military applications you have Microtanks which are again computer controlled but directed by the pilot, Nano-eggs, mentioned before, are military equipment. You can not hope to actually control several million robots the size of a dust mite, the computer does that. There will also be the potential for hacking, as in at least the case of one major faction cumputers are a prevalent as shoes, and viewed as roughly similar in importance to society.  Yes, using a computer with the proper software could provide a bonus for activities; this would count as 'having superior equipment' which would be one of the Universal Modifiers...

Skills are going to be grouped. That is each major branch of science is going to be dealt with as a single skill. Life sciences, say. There will be a Guns skill, rather than a dozen.  The practice of shooting is roughly similar regardless of what you are shooting. Yes, there is a significant difference between pistols and rifles, which is why you would have an unfamiliarity penalty. I think adding in a specialty system would be useful, though if handled poorly could be unbalancing. Hmm... rather than give a bonus for specialties, I think I'd rather allow the player to buy the skill at a discount and penalize non-speciality useses of the skill.
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Spike

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Another update:
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2006, 07:19:24 AM »
I want to start working on hard rules to take my concepts to the next level, so that I can begin playtesting.  As a part of that, not only do I want to have specific things to include, I also would like to cover character creation for that portion of the game.

For the moment let us consider stats.

I was thinking earlier about trying to be a bit non-traditional. I thought about maybe just having a stat that covered all the physical stuff, like 'Athletesism', which led to the same idea bout mental stuff... and to avoid having only two facets to a character that left me with...

Tristat. Oops. Literally, I wound up with three stats that mapped exactly to tristat's stats.  Did I mention that I've always found that part of tristat a little bit limited?  Sure, my implementation is significantly different, but still: If I don't like it, why include it in a game I'm designing?  

Being non-traditional is not a viable goal by itself, so pursuing that for it's own ends is pointless, so we will ignore that and see what we come up with.

Thinking about how 'physical' things are expressed we have two or three ways off dividing athletic prowess. You have the strong guy and you have the fast guy. Sometimes you get the tough guy, but most of the time the strong guy is also the tough guy and vice versa.  usually the fast guy is pretty fragile.  For the moment that means we will split it in two. Fast and Strong.

We'll do the same with our mental stat for evenness. Smarts can be divided into reasoning power and intuitive power (lets say), though I had thought to stick memory by itself, usually reason has more to do with applying known things, thus memory, so we'll leave it there for now.   So, we have Reason, and Intuition for brain power.

If we accept that there should be a third leg of our characterization in Stats, and I've stated that I plan to leave out social attributes, what does that leave us?
I like the idea of motivation and discipline, they'll map well to my psychological aspect of combat. On the other hand, they have fuck all to do with skills for the most part. Not only that, many people might think of them as redundant. One can encompass the other you might say. Technically, Motivation involves doing things for yourself, and discipline is more about doing things for reasons outside yourself (awkward way to talk about it, but essentially accurate), but yeah. And then there is the skill factor.

So, I can leave them as is and confuse or annoy people, I can make this last catagory a single stat or I could find another partner for my 'motivation' stat.  I'm rather partial, in that last case, to go with something like 'faith', in a non-religious sense. Again, i'm not sure what skills that would include.

I'll leave this alone pending feedback and/or further rules that might provide a solution/need.

So, we have five, maybe six stats. I decided, easily, to leave the default starting point of all stats at 'average', or +0. It is simpler and makes the option of buying down a stat a concious one, rather than a 'oops, I'm out of points and I left X out...' choice.  Now to determine points values.

I pretty much decided that whenever possible I should reduced the very least point value to one whenever feasable. Math is easier and character creation faster that way. Since our points for stats won't be migrating anywhere else, they only have to balance against themselves. Thus the point cost of one upgrade should be one point.  For G.P. let us consider that a fully averaged out character should be 'better than average' across the board, so five or six points total to buy with, meaning that the best upgrade needs to stay within that total.  So, our points costs go 1, 3, 6, with a maximum of +3 to any stat. Alternatively, I could make it 1, 2, 6 which I like better. On the other hand, I really would not mind having the top of the range be +4, though I can't articulate why that should be.   This isn't much in the way of points, and it sort of negates teh idea of rolling for them. More points equals more power and more variableness.

On the 1, 2, 6 spread, I like it because it sets aside the very best in any catagory as special, while still allowing very competent people to stand out from the crowd. I'd still like a bigger spread of stats, which would mean more starting points too, but I'd still like that extra gap in cost.  One idea is to make the last level of a stat only available with a trait, again going back to my idea of making the three parts of a character influence each other. To avoid backtracking, the trait would have to be stand alone, giving you the actual point as well. While I can see the logic in forcing them to spend the stat point as well, it does jam up the creation works, thus is not desireable.

Tell me what you think.


Post script: Thinking back to my Fast/Strong tough issue: Stereotypically fast people tend to have more endurance (think marathon runners, gymnasts), which means we can balance the use of toughness as a part of strength with endurance for fast, potentially. To make it stick, however, endurance needs to mean something.  Well, we've got a bit before I really need to hack out the combat rules so I've got a little time to think on this.
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Social Questions...
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2006, 09:26:34 PM »
It is not a mystery to me why I left out a social stat the other day. On the other hand, I realized that my answer to the missing stat, that is to put social 'traits' into the third part of character design, and again the 'social skills' thing was sort of haphazard.

The issue as I see it is one of balance. Your prettiness/socialbility should have no influence on your ability within your chosen feild.  Putting in social 'traits' alongside 'combat traits' means only that i've move the playing field a little bit.  I still think charisma and beauty belong in this area, but I've had to do some mental shuffling in how I approach it.

One thing I think I need to do is seperate 'innate' traits from 'learned traits'. I sort of like this, though it does make things a bit more complex.

I'm not talking about simply marking one trait as 'learned' and another as 'inate' but actually making them a part of character creation.

Essentially you would have a pool of 'innate' traits to start with. While there might be some overlap with learned traits, essentially these are only available at character creation.

For example you could start with 'Fearless' as an Innate trait, which would eliminate all combat stress modifiers (positive as well), but you could also draw upon learned traits like 'combat veteran' or what have you that accomplish the same thing (eliminating the penalty for combat stress..), either at character creation or later through character growth.

Beauty would be innate, as would basic charm/charisma, as would being ambidexterous.  Under limited circumstances you could gain one of these (surgery, say), but otherwise they are untouchable.

Now, also at character creation you have the rest of your trait pool to draw upon. You could possibly chose to buy extra innate abilities (to represent a prodigy or someone blessed with ability, but not expirence) or you could turn to the more flexible learned trait catagory, where your combat techniques might also fall.

Now: Social skills... without a specific Stat to apply to them what should I do? Obviously this isn't a horrid state of affairs, its not like they are crippled by not having a supporting 'stat', but I am sure that simply settign them ot one side will be unfair to 'social characters'. Having them work backwards from traits is confusing.

I can assign them to various other Stats. Intimidation is easier to do for big strong guys, so they don't have to work as hard to learn it.  Charm tends to be a memory function (remembering who is who, what they like, and so forth) though this is touch-and-go assignment.  

Or, I can go with the traits thing, leaving social stuff to be slightly weird, that is, certain traits (innate ones) work on social skills as high stat's do.


One idea I have is to treat Social ability much like i will combat, that is the Stat's don't directly influence most combat, but the way they interface does (derived social abilities), with an option for 'social combat' against NPC's.  Social combat is a hot button issue with some people, but leaving it to 'only against NPC's' strikes me as more functional than simply not having rules for it at all.

It does occur to me that I should fully resolve this issue before attempting to focus on Skills and traits more fully.
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Spike takes a quick look at combat...
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2006, 06:26:48 PM »
I was thinking back to my earlier post about having a 'multipurpose' pool of points for 'combat' that players could spend being heroic. I've not established them very well for you partly because I wasn't sure if they fitted into the game as it was developing.

I'd like to revist that concept again, taking into account everything that we've discussed here so far and possibly shaping up what was looking like a deadly dull, overly complex combat chapter (the antithesis of my fast and easy idea) into a lean mean combat machine.

First of all, I am very nervous about trying to sell a combat engine that uses something other than dice (in addition too, that is). I have yet to see a game that used counters really succeed. Deadlands maybe, but I think the current edition doesn't even use the 'fate chips'.  I don't know if this is because it's gamer tradition or because there is a fundamental flaw in asking people to maintain 'counters'.  

Of course, there is an option to have a 'combat slide counter' on the edge of the character sheet as an alternative.  But.. you want to hear how I think it will work first. Fair enough.


We've already established that I want to make realistic modifiers govern combat.  call it my catch-22, I want the game to be fast and simple, which precludes realistic combat modifiers, I want realistic combat modifiers which means I can't be fast and simple. Ugh.

To avoid massive lists of 'must be memorized' modifiers I have already considered a more generic list of 'minor' and 'major' modifiers. Having good cover is a minor, +1 to defence, etc.  You would have positive and negative modifiers and so on.   Of course, one major problem that I see is that you can collect a massive collection of potential modifiers, especially once you include skill.  Even if you split your mods up between offensive and defensive (which could be a mistake, defensive positions offer offensive benefits, not the least of which is confidence) you could still potentially break the 2d6 roll, ESPECIALLY with a high skill on top of things.

So, rather than have modifiers to the roll, instead we turn them into 'advantage points' for the fight. Characters will have a given starting number based on some arcane formula yet to be developed, then every positive modifier and negative penalty in the combat affects this. The pool does not refresh in the fight, but changes to the combat situation can affect it.

So, let's say that Bob, who has the high ground and good cover (among other things) has an advantage pool of 10. He spends 5 points in the fight shooting shit up, but the enemy has advanced up the nearby hill, removing his high ground, so he loses the point for that, taking him down to four.  Bob decides to hold onto his points for the moment. Later a flash fire sweeps through the enemy position, clearing away the scrub brush that made them hard to see, they not only have no cover, but are on open ground now! Bob's points go up to 6! Bob unleashes hell on them before they can move to safer ground. Note that if the enemy retreats from their hill, bob will also get back his high ground point.

Of course, in actual practice, the enemy (NPC's)... that is the GM would have a pool to draw on as well and so penalities are actually applied to that pool, not Bob's. (open ground, etc).  I'd like to keep just a pool for players, as that simplifies things a lot AND keeps the game moving faster, but then requires special rules for PvP or significant badguys who should have their own pools to be a real challenge.  The GM would normally track one pool for all NPC's in the fight.  

One thing I have in mind is this: If the combat pool drops below the inherent pool of the character during the fight, then his inherent pool is reduced for the rest of the game (or in game day?).  

Another thing: Running completely out of points is bad, really bad. Worse than just not having access to advantages. this is the 'overextended' or the suicidal option. Not bad as a fight finisher, but terrible when it's still going on.

So, just what are these 'advantages' used for? I'm glad you asked. Everything. They are used for extra attacks, extra accuracy, extra damage. They are used to avoid the unavoidable (sniper's bullets, artillery shells) at high cost, they are added to defense, used to absorb damage, everything.  

They are used even if the fight hasn't started yet. This is how players avoid being sniped and ambushed when NPC's catch death all around. (well, that and GM's not beign dicks, but that is outside the purview of the game designer).

This puts a radically different spin on combat than what I illustrated in my earlier posts, but the idea was always there in teh background waiting to fall into place.


What'cha think?
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And.... back to skills
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2006, 10:47:49 PM »
One thing that has me pondering weighty stuff is my 'skills list'.  I do not feel comfortable attempting to assign a 'points total' for skills developement without knowing what we are looking at.

Specificity is a big issue here.  How fine do I want to draw my lines?

Irony: this is a critical task, yet it is idiot simple; drawing up a list of skills that players will use.  

I know i don't want half a dozen 'gun' skills, or 'hit people skills' and so forth. Yet... is ONE gun skill really all I need? Is it?  What about 'piloting' or 'mechanical stuff' skills?  

I'm really tempted to sort things into 'professional' skills. No one learns to fix a starship engine without learning quite a bit about the various subsystems involved with said engine. Rather than treat these as seperate skills, make one 'starship mechanic' skill, or even just 'mechanic'.  On the other hand, if I reduce them down to far, it becomes a farce.  For ease of creation skills would be grouped according to stats, keeping in mind our intent to give a point break for exceptional stats.  

Again, there could be a mechanical advantage to taking a specialist skill instead.

Lets say that I use a general purpose 'combatives' skill to measure competence in melee combat with any weapon or none.   A player could opt instead to learn fencing which provides the same level of skill with a sword but at a significant point's break.  A competent Combative person is just as capable with a sword as a competent fencer in a fight, but would lose in a contest setting where they were limited to just swords. take the sword away and the fencer is suddenly nearly helpless.

Let's say I have specialist skills penalized by two levels outside of their focus. Let us suggest that 'competent' costs four points and Novice costs one. Competent specialists could cost two points, more than their non-feild level of skill, less than their unfocused skill competetors... does that sound about right?  


My other concern is 'additional benefits' from skills. I like this idea on the face of it, but I worry that it will hamper people from expanding on the basic skill list as needed.  But what do I mean?

Combat skills, for example provide a moral boost to offset combat stress penalties. They would also contribute to a combat 'advantage' pool.   Another skill might offer a 'reputation' at higher levels, or a social advantage.  

A pilot, for example, might also be at an advantage when shopping for a starship, as would a mechanic due to their familiarity with the equipment.
For you the day you found a minor error in a Post by Spike and forced him to admit it, it was the greatest day of your internet life.  For me it was... Tuesday.

For the curious: Apparently, in person, I sound exactly like the Youtube Character The Nostalgia Critic.   I have no words.

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