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GameNerd: Diceless Design part 3

Design Decisions; Applying Components

So, I have Attributes, Powers and Accessories, a list of goals, and two settings.


Originally a D&D campaign world, I tossed the D&Disms out when I started writing microfic in it.

It's high fantasy, so there's magic, swords, knights, elves and the sort of tropes one expects there. I want character generation flexible, so no classes, and while a character has to pick a species, that will mostly affect the powers zie ends up with.


We have warriors, wizards, thugs, nobles, peasants, etc. What can these people all do that's interesting to compare?

Firstly, I want to borrow from Amber again; I'm going to have Attributes include associated skill; the higher the Attribute, the more associated knowledge you have to go with it.

Influence controls social status, ability to manipulate NPCs, find allies, etc. Nobles and Royalty often have high influence, but even a poor farmer's son can be a charming trickster. This is sort of like "Charisma", but it's much broader. A high Influence character might simply be a Princess, whom people listen to because she's royalty. An Influence conflict might include spreading rumours about someone, finding a group of people to back you up, or charming your way past someone. If you rank low in Influence, you have little effect on people socially.

I just like the idea of having a Social Stat (and have for some time; see that link for a longer exploration of the idea).

How do I want to handle things like sword fighting and archery? I want to be able to simulate the big dangerous brute and the lithe swordsman. I could do a simple warfare stat like Amber does, but I think that would oversimplify things, and to a certain extent bend the idea of having Attributes as something everyone has; not everyone has combat training, but everyone has strength and agility.

I'll go with Strength and Agility as attributes here. For most people, combat comes down to using one of them. The brute uses Strength while the nimble acrobat uses Agility. For those characters with specific training in a particular mode of combat, a power comes into play (more on that later). There are some areas where they don't overlap; you can't aim acrossbow with Strength, and you can't toss a caber with Agility. High Agility characters will be assumed to have skills like tight-rope walking, tumbling and will be naturals at things like dancing. High Strength characters more about heavy lifting and brawling than others do.

How about toughness? How can I tell how much of a beating a character can take, how long she can run or who she can outdrink? I think that's important enough to have it's own Attribute too, at least in a fantasy setting.

What about magic? What drives your strength with the powers you have? How does a normal guy resist magic? I'm looting Amber yet again and snagging Psyche. I could just have easily called it "spirit" or "soul", but I'll leave it at Psyche for the moment.

What about intelligence? I don't expect education and science to play a big role in the game, so I'm going to leave it out.

Perception? It depends, I think, on what you're percieving. Psyche will cover a fair bit of it, but in some cases, the other Attributes will come into play. It doesn't need it's own Attribute either.

That gives us Influence, Agility, Strength, Toughness and Psyche as our attributes for this setting.


Some of the "powers" in Caecern will be actual magic abilities, some will be racial features, and some will be the result of special training.

I think I'm going to go the route of having powers as pools; any amount of points can be spent, but there will be milestones that buy certain abilities/subpowers.

Example magic powers:

  • High Wizardry

  • Elven Greensong

  • Nereni Witchcraft (must pick a specialty)

  • Kitharim Shapeshifting

  • Gethlyn Mindspeak

Example racial abilities:

  • Dwarven poison immunity

  • Troll hypersentive sense of smell

  • Claws

  • Nightvision

Example skills based powers:

  • Trained swordsman: points in this skill get added in with a multiplier to the narrow category applied

  • Woodcraft (tracking, herb lore etc.)

  • Blacksmithing

  • Thief (or just "pick pocket")


Swords, magic pets, cloaks and the like.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 5th, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
your bang on with your three physical attributes being str, agi/dex and toughness.

i would make number of hits based on toughness.

for a realistic magic system i like atunement. then you can divie up the atunement to the various diferent types of magic. the more intune you are, the more you can do, but then the more your also under the sway of said mystic powers and their ultimate goals. (if you want to get into that kind of theme)
(which would make your empiriolist thamturgic mage thats big into math and the steam and the what what completly blind to lets say nature atunement.)

perception should be a 6th sense, psychometry, spirit sence or other medium esq powers.

replace intelligence with knowledges. then its a quick check if you have x rank in y knowledge you know z stuff. quick and easy.

if you want to include a creative side of intelligence then i would add a stat like inspiration, which again you can check x stat against y chart and you can make/create/invent z types of equipment.
Mar. 5th, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
Nah, it's diceless, no tracking of hit points; just a general feel for how beat up a character is, compared to their toughness score.

For magic, I'm going for a specific feel from the microfic.

The 6th sense idea is wrapped up into the big ball that is Psyche.
Mar. 5th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
Okay, I mostly want to reply to the Social Stat thing, but let me get my other thoughts in order first (and damn you and your long text things that make me type more long text things)

Ahem. I do tend to use stats for physical stuff. I like Perception, and always have, because it's so important in noticing, say, that the hatpin looks like it's a little sharper than it should be, or those snow-covered footprints leading away from the burning village. It's automatic, or should be.

The line between attributes and skills is a strange one; you can learn chemistry, but your underlying intelligence doesn't really change.(how quickly you can learn something, whether you are a "book learner" or a "hands-on" learner... anyway intelligence is a problematic theme, esp. for a teacher....) But strength, agility, perception, etc. can all be trained.... it';s problematic, and having wrestled this one for years I'm going to declare no solution is perfect.

One thought Steve & I discussed was the use of Finesse vs Power (esp. for psyche) Can you just bust into someone's brain and ransack it for what you want? Or slip in sideways, take them out for a drink and perform your mindrape so subtly that they never know their mind's been violated? Which is harder? It works for magic too: you might be a apprentice with little skill but a huge reserve of power (which comes out suddenly in a stressful situation). And can a club-wielding ogre [I had typed ogre-wielding first, which is more impressive] defeat a whoopsie Italian fencer? Well, probably. But the finesse vs power thing has to do with style, I think. Food for thought.

Mar. 5th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
If ever you want to playtest it, I'd be happy to play.
Mar. 5th, 2008 01:46 pm (UTC)
I'm probably going to start up a game some time in April, so I'll be looking for players then.
Mar. 5th, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
this is penalty for making me read
Okay, so I'm torn on the Influence thing. One the one hand, how notorious/rich/powerful you are is a huge factor. But what if you're travelling incognito? Does a Princess of Finland have any clout in Arabia? At that point I'm inclined to say that the seductive vixen from the streets of Paris is going to have a lot more Influence than the ice princess. I think so much depends on context that any mechanics are going to have to be very complex.

On the other hand, some people *are* naturally empathetic, or charming, or persuasive. You end up playing *their* game, even if you didn't want to. I do have a stat called "Will", but I usually use that for things like Mind Control and Torture, etc, but it has leadership qualities as well. Maybe "Leadership" is the idea you're after?
Mar. 5th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC)
Re: this is penalty for making me read
The original idea for Influence was to have a stat that Florimel could be first in. Leadership is definitely part of it, but so is the ability to make social connections and exploit interpersonal dynamics; "politics" is part of it, too. Someone with a high Influence in a place they're established will have a lot of existing allies. Put them somewhere new, and they'll be able to make new connections much faster than someone else.
Mar. 5th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
I think its rather unfortunate giving a smelly race a heightened sense of smell.

That is all.

Mar. 5th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)
yeah, that's what I thought when I saw D&D gave the Troll the "scent" natural ability...
Mar. 6th, 2008 11:17 am (UTC)
On my first skim through this I saw one of the powers as "Elven Greasing".

I think that you should make that change.
Mar. 6th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC)
In my game, Elves are the most highly cultured and scientifically advanced. The clearest evidence of this is the fact that they are the only race to have mastered mass production and distribution of astroglide...
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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