View Full Version : BRC creates an RPG: The Maltese Dragon (PEACH)

2011-05-25, 11:24 PM
It was a slow day at work, so I had an idea. To create an RPG based around a fusion of some of my favorite fictional elements and motifs. The result is something based on Film Noir and mobster movies with heavy doses of Fantasy and Mad-science steampunk that I call the Maltese Dragon. I imagine a setting where tommy-gun wielding zombie gangsters have gunfights with minotaur police officers while hardboiled detectives and femme-fatale sorceresses scour the streets trying to find a mad scientist's escaped experiment.

These rules were typed up over the course of a single evening, numbers were chosen more or less at random and systems were based on whatever my deranged mind thought up while hiding from tornadoes, I tried my best to explain the rules in a way that was understandable to somebody who did not invent them (i.e Me), and this is a project that has been barely started. Either way, without further ado, let's get started.

Basic Gameplay

The Basic mechanic is as follows. D20+ Training Bonus+ Aspect Bonus+ Item Bonus+ Attribute Bonus vs DC. These terms will all make sense later.

Maltese Dragon is not meant to be realistic, as such these attributes are based more on archetypes than on relation between the skills they govern. It should be noted that, unlike most systems, Attributes here are not generated independently, they are created based on the Skills and Archetypes the player has chosen.
There are Five Attributes
Might (needs a better name): Might covers all the skills related to combat.
Intellect: This attribute covers knowledge skills, along with the skills needed to use and create the powerful and dangerous devices known as Madtech.
Will: In addition to the Mental Defense skill, Will is the attribute that governs the use of magic.
Charm: Charm covers all social skills, everything from bluffing your way past a guard to knowing the right people.
Talent: Basically every skill that does not fall into one of the above catagories gets lumped under “Talent”.

Buying Skills
There are two ways to upgrade your skills: training or items, both are purchased at the following rates, with the price doubling for every 4 ranks the training or item provides.
Simple (S): 2 Points.
Basic (B): 4 Points
Advanced (A): 6 points
Complex(C): 8 Points.
It is important to note that, for the purpose of rates doubling, training and Item bonuses are tracked separately. For example, a +8 training bonus to a Basic skill would cost 48 points, while a +4 training bonus, coupled with a +4 Item bonus would only cost 32. You may also receive skill bonuses from Aspects.
A Training bonus represents a character’s expertise with the skill. Provided a character has the appropriate tools, they will be able to use their training bonus (you need a pistol to use your pistols skill). In addition, training bonuses also work to increase their associated attribute. An attribute increases by 1 for every 5 trained ranks the character possesses in associated skills. Attributes may also be increased by Aspects.
An Item bonus represents and especially high-quality item the character possesses, such as a well-made sword, magical foci, or well-made set of tools. An Item bonus could be anything from a set of lockpicks hidden in a boot to a large workshop. At the GM’s discretion, Extremely cumbersome items may provide an additional bonus for less cost. An Item bonus only applies when the character is actually using the Item in question, in addition, they do not count for meeting Aspect prerequisites or improving attributes. Items may possess other traits in addition to the skill bonus they provide.
It is assumed that characters can acquire basic items for the skills they use, these items provide no additional bonuses to the skill. In Maltese Dragon, money exists only as an abstract.
Defensive Item bonuses may be represented by armor, while a detailed ledger of names and favors owed may represent a Connection bonus. You may use another character’s Item, but you take a -4 penalty on all actions with it unless you spend the points to use it yourself (GM’s discretion on how to apply this) . You may negate this penalty by treating the item as a basic item of whatever type it is, ignoring both the bonus and the penalty.

Ranged Defense (s)
Melee Defense (s)
Unarmed (b)
Knives (s)
Medium Edgeds (Swords) (a)

Medium Blunt (Clubs) (b)
Example weapons: Hatchet, Billy Club, Baseball Bat, Tire Iron
Large Edged (a)
Example Weapons: Greatsword
Large Blunt (b)
Example Weapons: Sledgehammer
Grenades (b)
Thrown (a)
Pistols (b)
Shotguns (b)
Rifles (a)
Machineguns (a)
Convince: Convince somebody to agree with your view on a specific subject. (b)
Bluff: Lie to somebody. (b)
Barter: Make a deal with somebody. (a)
Read: Detect lies and gauge a person’s attitude. (s)
Question: Extract information from somebody. (a)
Befriend: Improve somebody’s opinion of you. (b)
Connection: The Connection skill must be taken to refer to a specific society, or community. (a)
Disguise: (a)
Command: Your ability to get others to follow and obey you through force of personality. (a)
Performance. (b)

Vehicle (b)
Stealth (b)
Perception (s)
Lockpicking (a)
First Aid (b)
Medicine (a)
Surgery (c )
Build/Repair (b).
Forgery (a)
Search (b)
Knowledge (b)
Research (b)
Mental Defense: Used to defend yourself against Mental attacks, Automatons and Undead are immune. (s)
Evocation (c ): The art of directly applying magical energy in brief bursts.
Energy Blast: Blasts a foe with dangerous energy, acts as a ranged attack DC=(Attack Bonus+Damage Bonus)x number of targets.
Energy Barrier: Creates a Barrier that prevents passage, Dc=5xlengthxheight+DC to destroy.
Enchantment (c ): The art of changing the nature of things over the long-term.
Empower Item: Enchant an Item so it grants a bonus on its use (You could enchant a set of lockpicks to give a bonus on opening locks, but not on forging a document).
Empower Person: Grant a person a boost to one attribute, DC=8xamount of boostx duration in rounds.
Divination (c ): Detecting and Communicating magically.
Conjuration (c ): Using magic to create or transport physical things.
Heal: Remove Wounds from the subject, DC= 3xminor wounds+4x serious wounds+8xcrippling wounds+12xdire wounds.
Conjure Object: Create a basic object, with the DC determined by the complexity. Unless you succeed by 5 or more, the object is crude and slightly misshapen, giving a -2 to anybody attempting to use it.
NOTE: Each Magical skill has two basic applications. Magical Aspects may provide additional applications of these four skills (see the Occult Investigator aspect for an example).

What is an Aspect
An Aspect can be considered a “package” of bonuses and abilities. Aspects are what differentiates your character from a simple collection of skills and attributes, consider each aspect as something that helps describe your character.
Aspects are purchased with Character Points like anything else, though you may only purchase an aspect once, some aspects let you spend additional points to enhance their abilities.
Note: an Aspect need not be currently applicable. A character who left the police force to become a private eye could still have the “Police Officer” Aspect. However, the GM may modify the aspect to reflect the actual conditions, if the character was kicked off the force in disgrace, the GM may take away the aspect’s bonus to Connection (Police).
It should be noted that players never need to buy an aspect, no matter how well it fits their character. A character can be a police officer without taking the Police Officer aspect. In addition do not forget the roleplaying implications of Aspects, many aspects open up new options to characters that are not represented by simple mechanics.
Aspects can represent a race, a profession, an ancestry, an interest, a specialty, or even just a distinguishing trait. It should be noted that some aspects are exclusive, you cannot be both a Mafioso and a police officer (You could be a policeman working for the mafia, but not a full-time member of said mob.)
Player Created Aspects
Players are encouraged to create their own aspects, however, preferably they should not assign point costs. Instead, the player should present the aspect to the GM, who evaluates it and either rejects it or assigns a point cost to it.
Sample Aspects:
Thug: 12 Points
You are skilled in the art of brutal street fighting, what you lack in skill, you make up for in brutality.
+1 Might
+1 Clubs.
+1 Pistols
+1 Knives
Special: every time you deal damage with a melee attack you inflict one minor momentary wound in addition to your normal damage. You may spend 3 points to increase the number of minor momentary wounds dealt by 1.
Marksman: 9 points.
You are able to use ranged weapons with deadly precision.
Requires a combined score of at least 6 with firearms.
+2 Ranged Defense
+2 Pistols
+2 Rifles.
Special: You may spend 1 action to take careful aim with a ranged weapon, providing a +2 bonus on the attack roll. You may do this a number of times equal to your skill with the weapon. This bonus is lost after you take any action besides continuing to aim.

Mafioso: 10 points.
You are part of an organized, well-established crime family, one based upon ties of honor, loyalty, and respect.
+1 Charm.
+3 Connections (Organized Crime).
+2 Intimidation
+2 Bargaining
Made Man: 15 points.
You are under the personal protection of a powerful, well-established crime family.
Prerequisites: Mafioso, 4 trained ranks in Connections (Organized Crime)
+3 Connections (Organized Crime)
+3 Intimidation.
+3 Bargaining.
Special: Enemies who are aware of your status will be very reluctant to harm you in anything but self-defense.
Knife Fighter 5 Points.
You are capable of wielding a knife with deadly skill and precision.
Prerequisites: 4 trained ranks in Knife.
+2 Knife
+2 Thrown Weapons.
Special: You deal an additional 2 damage with Knives.
Special: When using a knife to defend yourself you may take a -4 penalty on the roll to prepare a counterattack. If your defensive roll beats the attack roll, you may act as though you had attacked, treating your opponent’s attack roll as a defense, and your defensive roll as an attack, dealing damage as normal.
Salesman, 6 points.
You are skilled at buying and trading goods.
Prerequisites: 4 Trained ranks in Bargain.
+1 Charm.
+3 Bargain.
+1 Convince.
+2 Read.
Occult Investigator. 12 Points
You are skilled at using your magic to investigate events and locate people.
Prerequisites: Will 2, 4 trained ranks in Divination.
+2 Divination.
Special: If you have a focus (Such as a photograph or lock of hair), you may use it to locate an individual. The item will glow, move, or otherwise indicate the general direction of the individual. The DC starts at 10, and a new check must be made each minute the spell is maintained, with the DC increasing by 4 each time.
Special: You may make a divination check to get a brief snapshot of an event. You must stand in the location where the event occurred, and have a basic description of the specific event (If you are investigating a murder scene, for example, you may use the spell to determine how the killer entered the room or the murder itself, but not both). The DC is equal to 8x the number of hours that have passed since the event occurred, even if you do not know exactly how long it has been. The event is then acted out before your eyes, with all individuals or objects no longer present being represented as anonymous grey silhouettes. At the DM’s discretion you may increase the DC in order to see greater detail.
Burglar 8 Points
You are skilled at getting in and out of secure locations.
Prerequisites: Stealth 3 ranks, Lockpicking 3 ranks.
Stealth +2
Lockpicking +2
Search +3.
Special: You receive a +4 bonus on checks to notice routes in or out of a building or other secure area.
Police Officer: 8 Points.
You are a member of the city police force.
Pistols +1
Clubs +1
Perception +2.
Search +1.
Connections (Police) +2.

Zombie: 10 points.
Whether by science or magic, you are a reanimated corpse, you are stronger than most, though less sociable. You feel no pain and are unaffected by minor injuries, however you are more vulnerable than most to serious damage.
+1 Melee Damage.
-1 Charm.
Zombies cannot take Momentary or Nonlethal damage. Zombies do not take Minor or Moderate wounds, however they take Crippling wounds at 8 damage, Dire wounds at 12 damage, and Fatal Wounds at 18 damage.
Automaton, 15 points
You are an Automaton, an artificial being made of gears and metal, given the spark of intelligence by Madtech. Though stronger than most, you have trouble connecting with people and are completely incapable of doing Magic. In addition, while your metal skin is difficult to penetrate, the mechanisms it protects are very fragile and prone to failure if damaged.
Might +2.
Charm -2.
Will-5, cannot use magic.
Immune to Momentary and Nonlethal damage.
+6 to both Ranged and Melee Defense.
Automatons take a Minor Wound at 2 damage, a moderate wound a 6, a crippling wound at 10, and a dire wound at 15.

Combat is handled with opposed rolls, the attacker rolling against the defender’s associated defense skill. In melee combat, a defender wielding a melee weapon may use their skill with that weapon in place of their melee defense skill.
Combat works in two phases; first, the attacker and defender each roll a D20 and add their appropriate skill. If the attacker wins, they deal damage equal to the difference plus their weapon’s damage, plus any other modifiers.
Damage is applied in the form of Wounds, wounds come in three forms: Momentary, Nonlethal, And Lethal. Momentary wounds last until the character’s next round, nonlethal wounds can be healed if the character can remain undisturbed for a few minutes of recovery. Lethal wounds will remain until healed in one form or another.
The amount of damage needed to incur a wound varies depending on the race, unless stated otherwise, use the following numbers.
Minor Wound: 4 damage, a Minor Wound provides a -1 penalty to defense rolls.
Moderate Wound: 8 Damage, a Moderate wound provides a -3 penalty to defense rolls and a -1 penalty to all other rolls.
Crippling Wound: 12 damage, a crippling wound provides a -6 penalty to defense rolls, a -3 penalty to all other rolls, and may incur additional penalties (see table).
Dire Wound: 20 damage, a Dire Wound means that the character is still alive, but can only move at one square a round and takes a -15 penalty on all rolls.
Fatal Wound: 25 Damage. The character is dead (or Unconscious, for Nonlethal damage). A Fatal Wound may also be delievered via Coup-de-Grace.
Actions in Combat
The standard individual receives 2 Combat Actions per round. An action may be used to do the following.
Move 30 feet.
Reload a weapon.
Make an attack.
Use a quick skill.
Gain a +4 bonus on defense rolls.
Perform a similar simple action (Such as opening a door).

System for Madtech
System for Magic (especially penalties for failing a spell).
Stats for specific equipment.
The actual setting.
__________________________________________________ _________________

So, Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Feedback? Contributions? Pineapples? (Keep the pineapples, I don't really like pineapples?

2011-05-26, 02:45 AM
So you're creating a game? Alright, lets ask the big three.
1. What is your game about?
And by that I mean, How is it about that? So the genre is a mix of High Fantasy and Film Noir. Okay, so how do you emulate that?
Lets look at them individually.
I love Film Noir. It is by name, dark. A noir story should be one filled with uncertainty and malice. Noir stories often end in tragedy or at the very lest, leaves troubling questions behind. The players should go in knowing full well that they are going to get their teeth kicked in at some point, and no one is badass enough to avoid that. Firearms can only do three things; miss, kill instantly, or cause a debilitating wound. Though the mortally wounded sometimes get to turn the tables one last time before fading away.
I like High Fantasy. You've got magic that opens up the possibility for anything, grand vistas, strange creatures, and the opportunity to play the part of a person from a foreign culture without feeling/looking like a bigot, because there are no actual elves to complain about being misrepresented.
So what does a combination like that look like?

I'd like to direct you to go watch Cast a Deadly Spell, but that would be cruel as it is stupidly hard to find. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cast_a_Deadly_Spell
Just to get the ball rolling, here's what comes to my mind.
The game should be built around mystery stories. Players should be able to work, at once, together and against each other. Each campaign should be short (max three sessions maybe?) with a big sorting out at the end that, quiet simply, not everyone is going to survive.
So the mechanics are going to need to be able to encourage a lot of trust between both players and GM. Suffering on the part of the PCs will need to be rewarded somehow, and there's got to be a mechanic for piecing together (or making up as you go) a mystery, because nothing is more annoying then trying to solve a puzzle with only one real answer in an RPG.

As for the setting; Choose your favorite dangerous 1930's American metropolis and start replacing things with fantasy analogs. Ex: New Avalon, Los Archanos, Shikago. Humans are merely the largest minority, nobody stays in Dwarftown longer then they have to, all the cops are elves, the southside is overrun with orc gangsters and the zombies that arise from overdosed junkies ect..

The appeal of RPGs is infinite freedom of choice, so your rules should prefer guidance over restriction. In this way, game design is like mind control. So before coming up a stats (Attributes and bonuses) first you need to determine two things.

First: How does the die effect the game?
Is the result binary? Meaning it only tells you if you succeeded or not? Or should it give a scale of results? I'll go ahead and assume you want to go with just strait "GM determines the nature of your success or failure", through there are a lot of systems where the dice determine how much direct control the player can take over the story.
I'd recommend Warhammer Fantasy approach. It's percentile, so your odds are clear. Being a dark game, which is what I think you're after, your highest base odds of success cap at about 50%. In order to go higher, people have to take every possible advantage of a given situation, resorting to mean, low, dirty tricks. The only relevant numbers are the base stats. You either have a skill or you don't, and if you don't have the skill, you stat is consider halved.
Also, violence is inherent, so no need for weapon proficiencies, because anyone might kill you.

Second: What does your stat list communicate?
At a base level this can be just how you name things, like using period slang terms. Pizazz instead of charm, or moxy/hutzpa/nerve in pace of will/fortitude. But the content of a skill/attribute list creates certain expectations about what the players should damn well expect to have the opportunity to do during a game. For example, if you have 4 different skills breaking down different parts of stealth (shadowing, hiding, palming, skulking, blah, blah) you communicate that you have to be a specialist to be any good at it. If you have "Gorilla Master" as an option, the first thing players are going to say is, "I can have my own gorilla?! Hell yes!". And you'd better have that gorilla ready for them, because if you don't you're a liar, you've got it right there in the skill list.
If you made "Jump" as skill, you are saying that jumping is not a thing everyone should be able to do, not even if you're otherwise athletically commitment. Is a lot of jumping going to be happening? Who needs to jump more then others, and how is fun gameplay improved by the distinction?
Figure out a list of basic things that people do in a noir moive. Avoid listing things that are not done, or at least not often.

Now you need to determine the structure of play. Remember that noir is less about open violence and more about atmosphere, and the ever present promise of impending violence. In fact, combat should be actively discourage. There is little "combat" in noir, as the word implies excitement, glory, and a bunch of other ideals very much foreign to the cruel realities of city life. There is only hot and cold running brutal murder. The system for determining violence should be slim, abstract, and feel almost certain to kill you, as it shouldn't be a big focus of the game.
Most fights should begin and end with "A dark silhouette moves in behind you. You feel the sting of a blackjack. You awaken, tied to a chair."

So you should find a good system for social combat. I'd recommend looking to FATE, or Burning Wheel. Just about everything else solves social conflict by making it basically amount to psychic mind control.

Another problem; either Sam Spade is now somehow 3 to 5 separate people, all perusing their own leads on the same case, OR Someone is the Detective, someone is the Suspicious Dame, Someone is the Crimeboss, Someone is the Lacky who's more then he lets on, Some is the Cop, and Someone is the Giant Thug. Either way, there's going to be a lot of splitting the party. You'll have to let players be able to slip in and out of the shoes of various NPCs from time to time while their character-proper is off screen.

Lastly, the mystery. There are a LOT of ways to handle this, and my post is to way to long so far already. I might go into it in a later post, but here are some existing systems...

I feel that every new RPG should feature some kind of focused active reward system. By that I mean, the rewards are immediate instead of at the end of session, and the rewards should be tied to specific things (written on the character sheet) not abstracts like, "Good RP" or "Did something 'cool'"

Speaking of detective RPGs, Dresdenfiles does this rather well. FATE points are used to mod rolls and make success more likely. At the start of a session, players have very few, but get more every time their aspects cause them grief and create conflict. So at the beginning of the game, everyone has fun getting kicked in the teeth, because they know by end they'll be doing the kicking.

I hope you can take something from all that.

2011-05-26, 06:54 PM
Good thoughts (little actual feedback though). I'm going to take two real points from it that I want to address.

1) Combat, tweaking damage and playtesting is going to be the only way to determine the proper level of lethality. I'm hoping to come up with a good system for getting the drop on people, making the element of surprise incredibly important. . I like the idea of combat's coming in two forms, Nasty, Brutish, and Short (Guy bursts through door and plugs two goons with his pistol), and extended firefights where both parties are ready. There is a question of how powerful to make firearms. Make them too powerful and you limit the number of effective character options (though perhaps you just say that's what people get for bringing a knife to a gunfight). Make them too weak and you lose a good portion of the feel of film-noir. It's hardly noir if people can shrug off bullets.

2) Encouraging characters. You mention the Dresden Files RPG's system of "Aspects" , I personally want to shy away from using that (From what I remember of it). If a Character is stealthy, that should be represented by their skill with stealth, not an aspect.
However, I like the general idea, so I've cooked up something somewhat similar. Heres what I have so far.
Goals and Ambitions

Characters receive (Making up a number here) eight points to spend on Goals and Ambitions. They should have at least one goal and one ambition, but they can have more of either. The more points put into a goal or ambition, the more that is a driving force in the character’s life.
A Goal is something specific that the character wants to achieve, they may gain a bonus, equal to the goal’s value, on actions that help them achieve that goal, and a penalty on actions that take them farther away from that goal. A Goal may be to protect somebody, get revenge, achieve a certain rank, acquire a specific object, ect.
An Ambition is more general, less of a plan and more of an intention, a way the character lives their lives. Like with a goal, an Ambition provides bonuses on actions that work towards that ambition and penalties on actions that work against it.
Let’s take an example.
Detective Raster has the two-point ambition Enforce the Law, and the three-point goal Bring Down the Cariza Crime Family. Raster is investigating the murder of one of the Cariza’s enemies. Since he is both Enforcing the Law (by bringing a murderer to justice) and working to Bring Down the Carizas (Since he believes they are the ones responsible), he receives a +5 bonus on actions during the investigation. However, when he comes across evidence that the Carizas are not responsible, his goal and his ambition come into conflict. If he ignores the new evidence and continues to prosecute the Carizas, he takes a -2 Penalty (Since he is deliberately failing to properly uphold the law), and a +3 bonus from his goal, for a total bonus of +1 to continue framing the Carizas. If, however, Raster follows the new evidence, he gains a +2 bonus (From sticking to his guns and upholding the law), with a -3 penalty (Since he is protecting the Carizas), for a -1 penalty on rolls to continue the investigation.

The system isn’t perfect right now, I need some way to limit how often a person can apply such a bonus. I don’t want players to pick, say, “Advance my Career” as an Ambition, then get the bonus on everything they do (Since basically any success could be considered working towards advancing their career).

While I appreciate the general advice, any feedback/ideas about the system itself?

2011-05-27, 12:44 AM
My thoughts on your system so far; The longer version…

The Roll Mechanic
Why d20? I could go into all the reasons why not, but I want to hear your case for it.
There are better choices I think. I’m going to go ahead and suggest 2d6. Beyond the fact that their evocative of your setting (players calling out results like “Boxcars!”, “lucky 7”, and “snake eyes”) they’re less random, with a bell curve of outcomes.

Attributes & Skills
I have two major problems here.
1. This communicates nothing about the game. Stealth, Perception, Lockpicking, Forgery, and Search, a few of the most noir skill you could ask for are all tucked quietly away under what you’ve damn near openly described as The Miscellaneous Attribute, along with a few other random odds and ends like driving, medicine and auto-mechanics. It comes together to form just another generic any-system.
Think critically. How is Noir distinct from other genres? Think about what kinds of characters appear in a noir story, imagine each as a piece of a larger whole. What is their function in the environment, how do they fulfill that? How do you allow the player to do those things, and discourage them from doing otherwise?

2. What purpose is severed by having skill selection be this convoluted? You opened up with, “Maltese Dragon is not meant to be realistic” so why toss in GURPS’s learning difficulty nonsense? This slows char-gen to a painful crawl, opens the door for cheesy twink shenanigans, and pushes away potential non-calculation inclined players.
What is gained?

Purpose: “[differentiate] your character from a simple collection of skills and attributes”
Effect: Enlarge the numbers written next to some of your skills and attributes, sometimes adding a new wrinkle to the standard combat rules.

Even more twink butter. What you have here is discount skill bonuses with Feats hidden in them. Players are going to look at this, pick whatever makes their combat build better, and toss everything else out as ‘inefficient’, wasting your good sweet time in having written them down.

I’d recommend tossing out the stat bonuses altogether and focus on creating distinct abilities that change the game (as a whole, not just combat) in interesting ways. I suspect that you’re probably worried about maintaining game balance, but I’m going to let you in on a secrete about game design.

It does not matter what the players CAN do, only what they WILL do.

Figure out how to twist their motivations instead of just their stat blocks.

It’s alright for a tactical combat simulation, but again, this does not serve your game.

Goals and Ambitions
So every character gets more awesome when they’re doing what they want to do, and sucky when they are going against what they want to do?
Also, what’s the real difference between Goals and Ambitions? It’s not clear, other then the opportunity to slow the game down with more math.
Before you create a game mechanic, ask yourself;
1. What is my goal?
2. How does this achieve that goal?

In reply to your second post,

1. If you're concerned about making characters less distinct by abstracting combat, then here’s a simple fix… Make a player character mean something more then what they do in a fight.

Additionally, lethality only needs a lot of play testing if you’re thinking inside the box when it comes to how murder is resolved. Here’s an example: [If you make a successful attack roll with a fire arm, the target is dead. If they have any remaining luck points, they may spend one to reduce the effect to a debilitating wound, or two points to fling themselves out of harms way and (if possible) into cover, thus dropping whatever they where doing. The End]
Though there are also other considerations to lethality. How do you handle introducing a replacement character? How long is char-gen for the replacement going to take? Which interesting plot thread have just up and died along with them? These are hidden mechanical considerations that must be taken into account.

2. On Dresden, and failure
Here’s how it works. If a characters is stealthy, they have the Stealth Skill among their highest. They are also likely to have an Aspect or two that relates to their stealth.
But all Aspects (ideally) are dual natured. They can aid a character or hinder a character. However, in most systems (including yours) the player is punished whenever one of their disadvantages comes up. Thus, the player will do everything they can to avoid or conveniently forget the disadvantage. This is negative reinforcement.
FATE rewards players for following through with their chosen flaws. So much so, that players tend to SEEK opportunities for them to come up. Which is amazing because Aspects don’t cause penalties, they play for keeps. When you accept a compel from one of your negative Aspects, you are choosing to simply fail. No ifs, ands, buts, or saving throws, if the aspect says “no”, the answer is just “no”.

It is important, because setbacks and complications are important to telling good stories. If your game only rewards success then players will only seek success, and whine when things don’t go their way.

So, in conclusion…
My thoughts on your system so far; The short version…
Don't get discouraged, but you should probably start over with a second draft. It happens to everyone who's ever written anything ever.

But before you do, I think you should read this article by Jared Sorensen. It talks about the Big Three Questions of game design a hell of a lot more coherently then I can.

From the Vault: Design (2006... possibly earlier?)
Game Elements
Die mechanics and task resolution is the meat and drink of the amateur game designer. Go to any discussion board and check out the game design threads. The majority of them are going to sound like this:

"Should I use die pools in my game?"
"I'm thinking of going with a combination of percentile dice and use polyhedra for damage."
"Should I use a roll-over or a roll-under system?"
"How can I make my game more lethal?"
All this is fine and good and warrants some thought, but most people seem to start out with these questions in mind rather than what I consider to be the real issues at hand. Don't confuse Game Elements with Game Systems. And don't confuse Game Systems with Rules.

Game Elements: dice, miniatures, character sheets, character creation rules, spell lists...in short, everything in the game. Even GM's and players! Note that a Game System is just another element of the game.

Game Systems: a laid-out set of rules on how game elements interact with a complement one another. The System is not the The Rules. The Rules tell you how to play the game...how to use the various systems in the game.

The First Law of RPG Design (formerly known as "Ebert's First Law" as applied to games rather than film)
"A game is not about what it is about, but how it is about it."

The Big Three Questions
The Big Three Questions all pertain to the First Law and all contribute to the focus of the game before pen is even set to paper. If you can't answer these three questions, then your game is not going to turn out well.

If you write a D&D clone, your game is not about "adventuring in a medieval fantasy world." Your game is about characters advancing in efficacy in order to meet greater and greater challenges. Do not confuse the genre, setting or color details with what's most important: the premise and structure of the game.

If you're designing that D&D clone and you put in a lifepath system as part of character creation, what does that accomplish? In order to fufill the requirements set my the first question, you must "put your money where your mouth is" with the discrete game elements. If that lifepath is purely cosmetic and doesn't affect the character's abilities or the game mechanics, then why is it in there?

The obvious game element to focus on as a "reward" is some kind of character advancement system. But this can go the other way as well; what behaviors does the game punish and/or discourage? If the ultimate goal of Call of Cthulhu is to die or go insane, does the game encourage this? Do insane characters get special abilities? Or is running/fighting rewarded and encouraged (as it is in Dungeons & Dragons)?

The Rule of Jared (coined by Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer)
Only roll the dice when it's important.

The Mearls Paradox
A roleplaying game that is "complete" (meaning no further explanation, rules or interpretation is required) is not a roleplaying game at all.

Jared's Rule of Combat
Fight scenes have to be exciting. Combat doesn't have to be.

If you want to play a game that encourages interesting fight scenes, play a game that encourages interesting fight scenes. Either one emphasizing style over tactics (octaNe, Wushu) or one where "a fight" is interesting because the mechanics make you feel engaged (Riddle of Steel, Burning Wheel).

If physical conflict is just an obstacle to be overcome somehow (Dungeons & Dragons), then the emphasis is in overcoming that obstacle and finding out what lies beyond it -- be it temporal reward (treasure, XP's, magic items) or a story-related reward (you resuce the princess or vanquish the Lich Lord). Combat is seen as a challenge, a kind of visceral puzzle, one that rewards strategic thinking and problem solving ability. Play the game you want to play!

Jared A. Sorensen

Good god this is a long post....:smalleek:

2011-05-27, 01:15 AM
As I said before, everything above was the work of basically one afternoon/evening, most of the mechanics there are just things I thought up with the logic of "My it would be nifty if", then I typed up the parts I remembered when I got home. I don't have such a high opinion of myself that I think I can get bored at work and come back with a great RPG. I'm not especially attached to each mechanic here, but I don't feel like throwing out my mechanics yet, I came up with them. I'm going to look at them, maybe test them out with my friends and see how they work together, but I wouldn't be surprised if most of them get thrown out and replaced with tried-and-true mechanics from other games.

I mean technically I could just buckle down, learn my way around the Dresden Files RPG (I did buy the PDF's after all), then adapt them for a classic Noir setting instead of a modern one. It would probably work just as well, if not better, than trying to build my own system.

But it's the summer, I need a project, and this is fun.
I'll try to address some more of your post in the morning, but for now, two things off the top of my head that don't need much thought.

1: I like your idea about using 2d6 instead of a d20, I'll have to rethink the numbers I use, but I pulled the above numbers out of thin air anyway.

2: The Goal and Ambition system is something I'm actually quite happy with. The difference between Goals and Ambitions is that a Goal is a specific task you wish to achieve , an Ambition is just part of a character's personality.
A Goal would be "Buy a car". It's a specific goal, once the character has bought a car they have achieved that goal and must select another (Which could just be "Buy another car". An Ambition would be "Acquire Wealth". The character could have enough money to buy an entire city, but they would still have that ambition. In order to change that, something about their personality would have to change to make them no longer desire additional wealth.
Or to put it another way, a goal is primarily external, there is something about the world that the character wants to change. An Ambition is internal, there is somebody about the character that makes them act the way they do.