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RPG building...

I've been thinking about building our own RPG systems. Last time we tried this, it got off track, and didn't go anywhere, but I've been tossing around ideas since then.

In particular, I'm trying to work out a fantasy RPG.

I'm starting off with a few concepts; I want it to be diceless, and I want advancement t obe a key part of chcarcter development. I do want it to have some mechanics, because I find that keeps conflict interesting.

I'm leaning towards a resource based system, so there will be a limited pool of points that charcters can use to exceed thier basic abilities; this is the substitute for the randomness of dice.

I'm looking at characters as divided into three levels; attributes, powers and skills. I want to keep these as light as I can while still making sure they reflect a range and depth of character concepts.

One of the things I want is to have all the attributes "balanced"; I am going to try to avoid the situation that Amber has where Endurance is a second-rate stat. Conceptually, I want attributes to represent raw natural ability, not skill or training.

I'm still trying to decide if I want to have attribute levels (like Nobilis), point values (like Amber) or something closer to a D&D style attirubte, albeit bought with points instead of rolled with dice.

My first thoughts on attributes are :

  • Brawn: This covers strength and endurance duties

  • Agility: This covers dexterity, speed, etc.

  • Mind: This covers intelligence, wit and willpower

  • Spirit: This is raw mystic ability, and will primarily be used with powers. I want this seperated from Mind because it allows for the strong-willed warriors with no magic in them fighting off the evil wizard's mind whammy.

Powers will be applications of attributes, and will cover allowing people to do things they normally wouldn't be able to do; e.g., psionics, sorcery of various stripes, shapeshifting, etc. I'll have to put together guidelines for pricing these, but I'm imagining them as similar to Amber powers, where you buy the power, and use it as you want. There will be a limited number of levels to powers; at most three, most should only have one. Getting more juice for powers should mostly come from the Spirit attribute, though I can envison powers based on other attributes as well. Tying powers to attirbutes is important, because I'm planning on linking the resource points to attributes.

I'm not certain about this last point on powers; maybe there should be different "levels" of powers to indicate levels of skill. Alternatively, the power could just be the "spark"; so, for a sorceror, the raw talent would be Spirit. The ability to do magic would be the sorcery power. The level of facility with sorcery would be a Skill. This would have the side-effect of making skills an important factor for all PCs...

I want to keep skills simple. I'm willing to leave it up to the PC to decide if they can ride a horse or read and write without spending points, unless the PC wants to be an expert horseman that can put a Mongol horde to shame, or a scholar known in church halls across the continent. The hardest part, here is going to be determining costs, and how much effect skills should have on combat.

Horse-riding and literacy are obvious skill sets, but how does one deal with the warrior form the "mysterious East" that has a special way of hand fighting, or the man who's spent the past 15 years studying fencing? How do I keep combat skills thematically appropriate? For example, the hulking barbarian probably hasn't spent any special time studying the art of bladework, so for him to have a "swordsmanship" skill like the fencer doesn't seem to make sense. Yet, I want to keep charcters balanced so that the fencer doesn't automatically make mincemeat of charcters who haven't bought a similar skill. Amber gets around this with the warfare attribute, and Nobilis just ignores the concept altogether, but these are relatively skill-less systems.

One idea I'm working with is specialization; so, the barbarian might have "melee combat" as a skill, but the fencer would have, well, "fencing"; so, when they meet with swords, the fencer, all other things being equal, would have the advantage, but his fencing skill won't help in a bar room brawl, or with slaying dragons with scales too think to cut with a rapier.

I'm concerned about making any skill a "must-have" for every single PC, but on the other hand, warrior types don't usually have powers, and so should spend more points on skills for various kinds of fighting than other character types...

The last question about skills is, as with attributes, how to handle degree; a loose topless range of points, or a fixed rate of levels? I'm leaning more towards levels, to keep things more structured.

Most fanatsy novels take lowly farmboys/apprentices/etc and see them grow into great heroes. So, I'm going to try to hold to that; PCs will start out with a relatively low number of poitns, but advancemnet will be significant. To keep players from trying to direct thier playing to maximize experience points, I'm going to use a fixed advancement rate; every session, everyone gets X number of points, no matter what you did that session. Even if you didn't show up that session. This will, I think prevent the problem of a player who starts out uncertain of the rules or thier character, ending up weaker than other more comfortable PCs as the game progresses.

What do people think of all this? Comments? Criticisms? Advice?


Jul. 14th, 2003 02:24 pm (UTC)
Sorcery as a power is the ability to cast spells. It's pretty much a yes/no thing, which is what I'm shooting for with powers. Sorcery as a skill (which should porbably have a better name, like MageCraft or something) is your level of ability with casting spells; so, how much effect you can get with it, etc.

On the advancement issue, I'm specifically trying to keep advancement and rewards seperate. The guy that played baseball doesn't get to see any of his goals realised, and misses out on key plot points. But if missing a session means his character is now weaker than those of the people that did show up, why show up next time? He'll always be behind now...

Also, advancement is a huge part of the fantasy genre. D&D deals with this by contriving to have the PCs slaughter racks and racks of monsters. I want fast advancement, and I don't want it tied to player performance.

A player who pursues his/her character goals and/or the plot's goals will be rewarded with stuff related to those goals, instead of power-ups... This is a particular pet theory of mine. I've yet to try it out, but it's something I'm going to keep pushing for until I see conclusive proof that it causes problems...

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