Refocusing and Trashing Mechanics

Main Topic

One of the most important parts of designing anything – whether its an RPG, a program, an essay, a machine, etc – is knowing what you need and what you don’t. Really focusing down on what your project is actually about.

For those of you who don’t know, my RPG is a game designed for West Marches type games – expansive games, often times for large, rotating groups. They are typically based around exploring the wilderness, discovering secrets of the world, etc. So, I’ve been doing a bit of thinking re: where my mechanics are going.

I thought it would be really cool to have subthemes about fate/destiny running through the game, but I think my focus on that was too large, so I decided to scrap it. While I think that karma type resolution mechanics are cool and are seriously underutilized, I’m not that they’re great for this game. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to fit every cool mechanic into your game –  you can always make more games later!

So, I’ve decided to scrap the idea of the karma mechanics system  and just go with a typical fortune resolution mechanic – roll d10’s, see if they are over a certain threshold, and compare the number of successes to some score. Getting rid of the fate/destiny subthemes will help me refocus my mechanics on the exploration/place themes of the game.

Right now, the character creation mechanics are about half and half generic/thematic – attributes, the threat hex, and the health mechanics are fairly generic – but the skills and mythoses are both created as part of the character’s Journeys – a semi-lifepath system based on where the character has visited – the Thieves’ Guild Headquarters, the Wizard’s Academy, the Lair of the Dragon Vizzerdarizill, etc. These Journeys build the characters skills – essentially free bonus dice – as well as their Mythos – the collection of special abilities every character has.

Character Creation

At this point, I mostly have the character creation system down.

  • Characters first set their Impulses: their Desire for coming to the place they are in – revenge, greed, family, whatever; their Fear of what the Wilderness holds; and their Nobility – what drives them to be good people. (I’m considering adding in a 4th – Rage, what drives them to anger, but I’m not sure yet.)
  • Characters then set their 6 Journeys. Journeys do one of two things – grant Skills of some variety – probably something like +3/-1/-1; +2/-1; +1/+1/-1; etc; or they grant a Mythos. Mythos are abilities that are beyond the pale of a ‘normal’ human. Mythos can range from being a Weretiger to knowing magic spells to receiving visions of the future. They can also be things like being an Elf or Dwarf, being a Prince of the Realm, or any other such possibility the character could want. Mythos of this variety grant some number of Boons and Curses, which are minor yet important things like seeing in the dark, eternal life, royal connections, or so on and so forth.
  • One note about boons and curses – things like the above may SEEM like huge deals, but they really aren’t, not for where the characters are typically going to be  – in the forest, fighting bears. Sure, never aging is great, but it doesn’t stop that bear from crushing your skull.
  • Characters receive 36 attribute points to put into their attributes, with the ‘average’ being 6 per attribute. Characters have a maximum of 12 and a minimum of 3.
  • Characters place each of the six Threats in the Threat Hex, and then cross-Threats must equal 14, with a max of 10 and a minimum of 4.
  • Characters then divide 60 points between their Stamina, Health and Will, with Stamina being 1 for 1, Will 2 for 1, and Health 3 for 1.

That’s all I have for now. Join me next time, when I’ll be discussing my next steps in the road towards finalizing character stats, and I’ll also be talking about encounter and test mechanics!

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Pinning Down Mechanics

The hardest part of making anything is pinning down exactly what you are trying to do. It’s really easy to come up with broad, brush-stroke themes, but translating those themes into mechanics that are both easy to grok and mesh together in a simplistic and flowing manner is hard. That said, I’ve been doing a lot of work on my mechanics, and I think I’ve got the basics down.

So, here goes:

Characters have six attributes: WitsCharmInstinctResolveSmarts, and Soul. 

  • Wits is the character’s ability to think quickly on their feet. Wits are rolled when a character has a little less time than they need.
  • Charm is the character’s ability to interact with people in a manner conducive to the character’s wants. Roll Charm when the character is interacting with friendlies.
  • Instinct is the character’s ability to interact on a second-by-second level. Roll Instinct when the character has barely any time to react.
  • Resolve is the character’s ability to march on despite the hardships they endure. Roll Resolve when a character has to persevere.
  • Smarts  is the ability for characters to think when they have all the time in the world. Roll Smarts can think with all the time they need.
  • Soul is the character’s ability to interact with worlds that are not our own. Roll Wits when the character is casting or afflicted by magic.

The next level of character stats is the Threat Hex. There are six threats: Combat, Social, Wilderness, Magic, Knowledge, and Traps. Threats are arrayed in the Threat Hex across from each other, so that each threat is paired with another threat. Those two threats are then assigned levels, which must add up to equal 14. So, a threat pair may be assigned as 6 and 8, or 4 and 10, or whatever the player wants, as long as they equal 14.

Specialties are the next part of stats. Specialties are simple: they are added to stat values or pools whenever the specialty would be relevant. Specialties can be anything: ‘cow herding’ or ‘knife fighting’ or ‘halfing sex practices’, as long as they are narrow enough. ‘Fights with weapons’ is NOT a good specialty.

Lastly, every character has a Background. Backgrounds may be anything: ‘farmer’ or ‘soldier’ or ‘king’. Backgrounds reduce the level of a threat by 1 whenever they would be relevant.

As stated in the post before this one, attributes+relevant specialties are typically simply compared to a value, the Obstacle Level. If the character’s attribute is greater than the OL, then the character succeeds. If the character’s attribute is less than the OL, then the character fails. However, if the character fails, they may choose to ‘defy fate’ and roll dice.

To roll, the character gains a number of dice in their dice pool equal to their relevant stat + any relevant specialties, and then they roll. Any dice that come up greater than the relevant Threat is a success! All dice that come up as a 10 explode – i.e. you take that success and roll another die!

There are a few other parts of characters that I’ve been planning out, but I haven’t fully thought out those mechanics, so I’ll come back to that later!

Thank you for reading!