View Full Version : Brainstorming - basic crunch and design goals

2012-03-14, 09:49 PM
Okay, so I'm once again having a bout of temporary insanity and have decided to give a shot in making my own RPG. My biggest inspirations for the game are LotFP, Basic ed. D&D, Praedor, Decipher's CODA and a few CRPGs, notably, Exile and ADoM. Here's a layout of my broad concepts and design goals:

Overall content:
I aspire to create rules for players, and a crude outline of a campaign world and rules to run it for the GM. The game will be accompanied by a tutorial for players new to RPGs, two or three sample adventures, and a map and rough encounter notes for the larger setting.

Once completed, the rules text will be available in PDF format. After they've seen a little use and I've errata'd obvious flaws based on feedback, I'm thinking of a small print run of boxed sets, illustrated by one of my friends, with the tutorial, player's book, DM's book and each of the adventures being separate booklets.

This is a long time from happening, but hey, aim for the moon and all that jazz. :smalltongue:

Core mechanics:

Conflict resolution will use 2d12 roll plus modifiers against set target number.
Other die rolls will see use in specific occasions, such as weapon damage, random encounter rolls and character attributes.
There will be degrees of success based on how the roll compares to target number.
Double 1s are always one degree worse, double 12s one degree better; this replaces auto-success and auto-failure.
Other mechanics for doubles will also exist.
Bonuses over +20 will be hard to consistently have so that the RNG stays relevant throughout the game.
Bonuses and penalties to the roll will come from character qualities and equipment. Bonuses and penalties from outside factors (f. ex. environment) are instead added or subtracted from the target number.

Character mechanics:

Caste and level based. Caste broadly defines which archetypes your character can be/improve in. Levels from 1 to 10 are mostly focused on improving your initial caste abilities. Levels higher than 10 open up new abilities, but improve numbers less.
There will be a number of different playable species. Character species determines available castes and has a drastic impact on character abilities. Species-exclusive options become available through leveling.
Character improvement and customization will mostly be done through a feat-like system. Caste and species determine which choices are open.
Characters will have six main attributes: Brawn, Dexterity, Vitality, Learning, Willpower and Perception.

Secondary attributes ("saving throws") yet to be decided upon. Will be folded into the skill mechanic.

Heavy emphasis on randomness in attribute generation; no point-buy available.
Character durability is measured by three mechanics: Fatigue, Guts and Health. Fatigue acrues by character actions, and imposes general penalties on all actions. Fatigue recovers quickly by rest. Guts acts as a buffer for Health against damage, and can be easily restored, but zero Guts still means loss. Lost Health recovers very slowly and imposes general penalties on all actions.
Broadly defined point-based skill system. Caste defines which skills are open. Attributes add to skills, but what attribute applies is decided by circumstance, instead of hard-and-fast rule.

Item mechanics:

Inventory mechanics will be abstracted and game like: encumberance is tallied by item slots and points, instead of real-world weight units.
Emphasis and detail will be put into non-magical gear and tools - they are intended to stay relevant throughout the game.
Emphasis on travel mechanics and mundane resource management (light sources, water, food, vehicles and beasts of burden).
Item costs and character wealth that are in proportion to each other (ie., costs of mundane items aren't trivialized.)
Alchemy and special materials will see a lot of love.
Enhanced items can be created by PCs, but almost never bought. They can be acquired as treasure or rewards, though.
Magic usually enhances intended function of an item. Magic items that allow for completely new functions are rare.
Simple and abstracted rules for finance.

Magic mechanics:

Four kinds of magic are available to PCs: Necromancy, Psionics, Totemism and Arcane.
Arcane magic revolves largely around creating potions, scrolls, wands and other limited-use items. Powerful and versatile, but costly in terms of money and time. Finding ingredients can be adventure to its own.
Psionics focuses on traditional mental powers, such as telepathy, divination and telekinesis. Limited by daily power reserve.
Totemism focuses on channeling and assuming aspects of other creatures. Also involves summoning of magical arms and armor. Limited by item slots.
Necromancy revolves around communing with dead spirits and creation and control of undead. Limited by Fatigue. Finding proper spirit or corpse can be adventure to its own.
Magic meant to replicate mundane functions (such as opening locks) will usually boost a relevant skill, but not by enough to eclipse devoted non-magical characters.
Functions unique to magic are mostly a bonus - characters will seldom run into problems that can be solved solely by magic. Usually, encountering such problems requires invoking magic from their part.
Magical movement modes will be designed so they're better than natural ones only at very specific circumstances.
Alchemy will not be considered magical and is available to non-magical characters.

Combat mechanics:

Combat isn't intended to be obligatory.
Several well-defined attack maneuvers for both close and ranged combat available for all characters (to remove "I just hit it again").
Warrior caste will obviously have better access and to more of these.
Warrior caste gets more in-combat actions than other castes.
Non-magical weapons will consist the largest threat.
Active defenses possible.
Defense makes you harder to hit, Armor reduces damage. It's possible to be impervious to damage while being easy to hit.
Room for tactics.
Access to more win conditions than just damage through non-magical combat.
Different weapons and techniques for them will see a lot of love.

Environment (GM) mechanics:

GM is neutral arbiter - neither for or against PCs.
Heavy emphasis on randomness.
Relevant random encounters.
Encouragement towards exploration heavy "sandbox" playstyle.
Goal and character-driven instead if script-driven; plot is an emergent feature rather than what the game is for.
Players are supposed to decide goals for their characters.
Characters have no "plot armor" or default role; encouragement towards a game world which lives and breathes even outside PC intervention.
Non-scaling opposition - opposition is decided according to what is setting-approriate, not according to PC ability to deal with it.
A reasonable amount of pre-made monsters and NPC organizations, and guidelines for creating more.
Guidelines for rapidly creating adventure locations.

Verisimilitude principles:

Non-magical options will make up majority of all options, and stay relevant throughout the game.
Leeway for using natural means against supernatural opponents (f.ex. garlic against vampires and so forth).
Non-magical options will be allowed to be superhuman (ie., warriors cleaving stone or jumping over buildings).
Castes and species are in-game things and it's shown what this means in the default setting.


Phew. That's a lot of things to tackle.

The order in which I tackle these is open, but I think I will start with core mechanics, then core character traits and what they mean, then inventory subsystem, then skills and equipment relevant to skills. At that point, I think I'll already have a playable skeleton of a game.

For the setting, I think I'll be expanding on this torso (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=224614), but mostly devote my time for the 3rd planet.

For the time being, I'll probably doodle my work-in-progress here. I'll stay away from tables, because they're a bitch to make here. I'll use Excell for them.


Core mechanic:

Whenever a character attempts something with unsure success, their player throws 2d12, adds appropriate modifiers, and compares the result to target number (TN) set by the GM. If the character is opposed by another character, the opposing character also rolls and his result becomes the TN.

If the total exceeds TN, the attempt succeeds. The character achieves his goal in expected time.

If the total exceeds TN by at least 6, the attempt is a major success. It takes only 3/4 time, or receives some other boon.

If the total exceeds TN by at least 12, the attempt is an extraordinary success. It takes only 2/3 of time, or receives some other boon.

If the total ties with TN, another roll is made with even chance for marginal success or failure. Throw one d12. 1 to 6 are marginal failure - the character fails, but gets +3 bonus for next try or to protect himself from consequences of failure. 7 to 12 is are marginal success - the character succeeds, but suffers a -3 penalty on next throw due to wasted time.

If the total is less than TN, the attempt fails, and time used for the attempt is squandered. Retry is possible, but in case of static opposition, the character must rethink his approach for a day or suffer a cumulative -2 penalty.

If the totals falls short of TN by at least 6, it's a major failure. It takes 1 1/2 as much time and may cause additional misfortune. In most cases, it also prevents further retries.

If the total falls short of TN by at least 12, it's an extraordinary failure. It takes twice as much time and may case additional misfortune. It almost alwats prevents further retries.

Double 1s always make an attempt one degree of success worse, regardless of the roll total. Double 12s always make an attempt on degree of success better, regardless of the roll total.

Extraordinary Failure ---> Major Failure ---> Failure ---> Marginal Failure / Marginal Success ---> Success ---> Major Success ---> Extraordinary Success.

Roll Modifiers

As a die roll represents a character's effort, modifiers to a roll come from a character's traits or possessions. Here are the most common types. Unless otherwise specified, modifiers from a similar source don't stack - use the highest one.

Attribute modifier: proper attribute mod is always added to a roll. These usually range from -5 to +5.

Equipment modifier: Bonus or penalty for having tools for the job, or lacking them alltogether. Bonuses and penalties from different pieces of equipment are added together when applicable, but out of two similar pieces of equipment, only the better one is used, unless the player wishes otherwise. Equipment modifiers are capped at -5 and +5.

Skill ranks: A character gets a bonus equal to their skill ranks to appropriate rolls.

Specialty bonus: In addition to skill ranks, a character gets a further +2 bonus to attempts which fall under his skill specialty.

Skill synergy: If a character has 6 or more ranks in a related skill, they can get a +1 bonus when appropriate.

Off-hand penalty: When using your weak hand for something which requires manual dexterity, you suffer a -4 penalty.

Helping hands: Co-operating characters can give up to +3 bonus to an attempt. However, poor help can also cause up to -3 penalty.

Supernatural modifiers: Result from being blessed, cursed, or just being very lucky. Add highest supernatural bonus and penalty together, then apply the result.

Fatigue penalty: For having a Fatigue level worse than Brisk, you suffer a general penalty to all rolls. These start from -1 at Winded and cap at -9 at Exhausted.

Fear penalty: You suffer a -2 general penalty to all rolls if you are Afraid.

Wound Penalty: You suffer a cumulative -2 penalty to all rolls for each quarter of your Health lost, up to -8 when Incapacitated.

TN Difficulty Modifiers

Environmental factors and other outside influences usually affect TN instead. In case of opposed rolls, they are added to either character's roll as approriate.

Difficulty for tasks is usually as follows:

TN 6: Easy. Only very inept person will usually screw these.
TN 12: Routine. An unskilled person person will succeed roughly half of the time. Skilled persons usually succeed.
TN 18: Difficult. Takes even a skilled person some preparation and proper tools. Unskilled persons shouldn't bother.
TN 24: Hard. Requires good amount of skill and proper tools to succeed with any frequency. Unskilled persons have very slim chance of success.
TN 30: Unforgiving. Impossible without great skill and proper circumstances.
TN 36: Daunting. Best of the best need to take care to have a chance.
TN 42: Near-impossible. You can do your all and still fail horribly most of the time.
TN 48: Once-in-a-lifetime. How'd you get modifiers to roll this high anyway?

A table of different environmental conditions to come... (actually have it made, but it's in Finnish, so...)


Character attributes

Each character has six basic attributes, from which character abilities and secondary attributes are drawn. These are Brawn, Dexterity, Vitality, Learning, Willpower and Perception. Your attribute modifier is added to all rolls that pertain to that attribute.

Brawn (Br) represents your physical might. A character with low Brawn is weak and light of frame, while one with high Brawn is burly and strong. Brawn modifier adds to your Health and damage you do in combat. Brawn is used for things like lifting, swimming, climbing, jumping, building and sprinting.

Dexterity (Dx) tells how nimble and agile you are. A character with low Dexterity has butterfingers and trips on his own feet, while one with high dexterity is graceful and handy. Dexterity modifier adds to your defense and movement speed. Dexterity is used for things like acrobatics, tinkering, sewing, sneaking, dancing and playing instruments.

Vitality (Vi) represents your physical condition and will to live. One with low Vitality is sickly and depressed, while one with high Vitality is brisk and positive. Your Health is your Vitality score plus your Brawn modifier. Your Vitality also adds to the distance you can walk daily. Vitality is used for things like endurance running, skiing, singing and diving.

Learning (Le) represents your ability to absorb and remember new information. Someone with low learning is a slow thinker and disinterested in the world around, while one with high learning is curious and eager to try new things. Your Learning modifier adds to skillpoints you get during levels 1 to 10. Learning is used for things like reading, linguistics and academics.

Willpower (Wp) represents your determination and force of personality. Someone with low Willpower is meek and easily gives up, while someone with high Willpower goes on and prevails when others would've quit. Your Willpower modifier adds to Guts you get during levels 1 to 10. Willpower is used for things like concentration, intimidation, persuasion and interrogation.

Perception (Pe) tells how keen your senses are. Someone with low perception is absent-minded and of poor sight and hearing, while one with high perception is alert and has eyes of a hawk. Your Perception modifier adds to your Initiative. Perception is used for things like spotting, inquiring, appraising, searching and mimicking.

At character creation, determine each attribute by throwing 3d6 in order, and adjust your modifiers according to your character's species. If your total modifiers after this are less than 0, you may reroll.

{table=head]Attr. score | Modifier
3 | -3
4 - 5 | -2
6 - 8 | -1
9 - 12 | 0
13 - 15 | +1
16 - 17 | +2
18 | +3

You also have following secondary attributes:

Health is your Vitality score plus your Brawn modifier, representing your physical condition. Certain traits and Caste abilities allow you to add to this. When you get injured, your Health lowers, which also imposes a cumulative -2 penalty for each quarter of your Health you lose. At 0 Health, you are incapacitated, and at negative health, dying or dead.

Guts is a random number you roll with die appropriate to your case, representing your fighting spirit. For levels 1 through 10, you also add your Wp modifier to each roll. As long as you have Guts, you don't suffer damage to your Health from ordinary hits. When your Guts drops to zero, you lose your will to fight and must surrender or flee.

Defense is 12 plus your Dx modifier. It represents your basic ability to evade injury, and serves as TN for your opponents to hit you if you don't actively protect yourself. Several traits and Caste abilities add to this.

Iniative is your Pe modifier. It determines who acts first in surprising situations. For details, see Combat and Skill sections.

Skillpoints are used to buy skill ranks (see Skills section). You get (6 + Le mod) skillpoints each level from level 1 to 10.

Armor is substracted from all damage you take. It is usually independent of your basic attributes, but some traits and Caste abilities change this.

You also have following tertiary attributes. These are not directly tied to any primary attributes, and increase or decrease based on other things.

Reputation: tells how famous you are in the game world. The higher your reputation grows, the easier it is for other characters to recognize you.

Karma: there are two kinds, good and bad. Barring certain background options, you start with zero in both. By committing remarkable and virtuous deeds, you accumulate good Karma. Good Karma sways you towards enlightment and makes NPCs more likely to react favorably towards you. You may also spend a point of good Karma to save your character from misfortune. By committing remarkable unvirtuous deeds, you accumulate bad Karma. This sways you towards damnation and may make NPCs act unfriendly or terrified of you. Your GM may also spend a point of your bad Karma to make your character fail at a critical moment.



Skill rolls can be roughly divided in three broad categories. Based on following guidelines, decide type of the roll and use it to assign proper Attr mod and TN modifiers to the test.

Physical tests are those relying primarily on physical effort even if the skill relies more on knowledge of a subject (Learning) than Brawn, Dexterity or Vitality. These kinds of rolls are most affected by physical obstacles and conditions.

Social tests are about interacting with other characters. They're mostly affected by difference in language and mentality.

Mental tests are those pertaining to thinking or knowledge of a subject. They're less affected by physical conditions.

Skill ranks: ranks are bought by skill points. Amount of ranks is added as a bonus to all rolls made using that skill. A character can have (level + 2) ranks in a skill at any given moment (with expection of National skills), up to maximum of 11 at level 10 and beyond. Character with at least 1 rank in a skill is consider trained in that skill. Character without ranks is consider untrained in those skills.

Caste skills: Caste skills are favored skills gained by virtue of belonging to a certain caste. At character creation, a character gains one free specialty of his choice in all Caste skills he trains.

National skills: each character gets two extra favored skills based on where they live, and six free ranks to both. These can be chosen from any Languages spoken in the nation, and Lore skills pertaining to folks of that nation.

Favored Vs. Unfavored skills: Favored skills are granted by Caste, traits and abilities, nationality and species. Ranks in favored skills cost less skill points than ranks in unfavored ones. At character creation, if a character gains same favored skill from both Caste and species, he gets one free rank in that skill.

Natural Vs. Nurtured skills: Natural skills are those one can attempt to use simply by the virtue of being alive and healthy - character can try to use them untrained. Nurtured skills, on the other hand, have limited function or can't be used at all by a character who hasn't trained in them.

Specialty: a character can specialize in some are of any skill you've trained. You get a further +2 to all rolls that pertain to your specialty.

{table=head]Item | Cost in skillpoints
One rank in favored skill | 1
New specialty in favored skill | 1
One rank in unfavored skill | 2
New specialty in unfavored skill | 2
First point in previously untrained unfavored skill | 3


Items and encumberance

A character's carrying capacity is limited by item slots and encumberance. Each character has (5 + brawn modifier) item slots they can fill before acruing first point of encumberance. After this, each five additional slots filled add one more point of encumberance.

Encumberance affects movement speed and use of several skills. In some cases, encumberance might prevent use of a skill alltogether - these cases are noted in skill descriptions.

0 to 1 points of encumberance means a character in unburdened. They suffer no penalties to movement or skills.
2 points mean a character is burdened. He moves at three-quartes his normal speed and suffers a -1 penalty to all physical rolls.
3 points mean a character is strained. He moves at half his normal speed and suffers -2 penalty to all physical rolls.
4 points mean a character is very strained. He moves at quarter his normal speed and suffers -3 penalty to all physical rolls.
5 or more points mean a character is overburdened. He can't move at all and suffers a -4 penalty to all physical rolls.

For beasts of burden, double the number of encumberance points needed for each level. Each rider who is of the same size or one size smaller counts as one Large item. Riders two sizes smaller counts as equipment. Creatures larger than the beast of burden can't ride it at all, but may be dragged in a cart or sleigh - they add two points of encumberance. Encumberance points of the rider or driver are also added to the encumberance of the beast. In case of multiple beasts carrying or dragging the same load, divide encumberance evenly among them.

Items can be divided to roughly four categories. These are fairly abstract, and are best defined by examples:

Worn items: This category includes things like clothes (boots, shirts, trousers, cloaks, hats etc.) and armor (mail, gauntlets, leggins, helmets). These items don't take up item slots, but directly add encumberance points if heavy enough. Normal clothing or Light armor adds 0 points; Medium armor adds 1 point; Heavy armor adds 2 points. Items that can be worn have an asterisk * after them on equipment lists.

Large items: These items are very heavy or unwieldy to carry. Examples include atreasure chest, a crowbar, a pike or other two-handed weapon, a 3-meter pole, or a ladder. On item lists, these items are bolded. Each large item adds one point of encumberance in addition to taking up an item slot.

Equipment: These are items or stacks of items that aren't very heavy or hard to carry on their own, but add up so a character can't carry a limitless amount of them. Examples include travel rations, lanterns, flasks of oil or water, a pouch full of coins, shields, a quiver of arrows etc. Each piece of equipment takes up one item slot. In case of stacking items, a number is given in parentheses () to tell how many of that item can fit in one item slot.

Pocket items: these are tiny items with negligible weight. Examples include accessories such as rings or necklaces, a pouch of herbs or spices, singular coins or jewels, pebles etc. On item lists, these items are italicized. These do not take up item slots or add to encumberance. Instead, a character is limited to as many pocket items as he can scribble in the bracket reserved for them on his character sheet.

2012-03-26, 11:12 AM
List of Skills

Name of skill |
Nurtured or natural? |
Usual Category |
Suggested Attribute |

Acrobatics | Nat | Physical | Dx | Balance, Tumble, Jumb
Agriculture | Nur | Physical | Le | Farming, Breeding, Animal-handling
Appraisal | Nur | Academic | Le | Weapons, jewelry, livestock etc.
Armed Combat | Nat | Physical | Dx | By weapon (Dagger, longsword, sabre etc.)
Armor Use | Nur | Physical | Dx | Chainmail, platemail etc.
Athletics | Nat | Physical | Br / Vi | Climb, Run, Skiing, Stamina
Concentration | Nat | Mental | Wp | Meditation
Construction | Nur | Physical | Br | By material (wood, stone) or subject (bridges, houses, carts etc.)
Craft (Alchemy) | Nur | Physical | Le | Poisons, Solvents, Glues
Craft (Cooking) | Nur | Physical | Le | By ingredients (fish, beef, vegetables) or by type of dish (desserts, main courses, travel rations etc.)
Craft (Jewelry) | Nur | Physical | Dx | Rings, Necklaces, Piercings
Craft (Leatherworking) | Nur | Physical | Dx | Vests, trousers, boots
Craft (Painting) | Nur | Physical | Dx | Portraits, Scenery, Schematics, Abstract
Craft (Tailoring) | Nur | Physical | Dx | Shirts, Dresses, Pants, Skirts
Craft (Woodcrafting) | Nur | Physical | Dx | Utensils, Clocks, Desks etc.
Disguise | Nur | Social | Le | By specific species or peoples.
Healing | Nur | Physical | Le | Midwifing, Poisonings, Illnesses, Surgery
Inquire | Nat | Social | Pe | Interrogation, Conversing, Torture
Insight | Nat | Mental | Pe | Lies, Illusion, Motives, Feelings
Language | Nur | Social / Mental | Pe | Reading, Writing, Uncommon Dialects
Legerdemain | Nur | Physical | Dx | Jugglery, Lockpicking, Pickpocketing
Lore (Arithmetics & Mechanics) | Nur | Mental | Le | Engineering, Statistics
Lore (Astrology) | Nur | Mental | Le | Starsigns, Planets, Comets
Lore (Beasts & Plants) | Nur | Mental | Le | By groups of species (Canines, Felines etc.)
Lore (History & Politics) | Nur | Mental | Le | By nations
Lore (Home Nation)* | Nur | Mental | Le | People of Import, Places of Trade, Folklore
Lore (Lands & Climate) | Nur | Mental | Le | By nations
Lore (Magic & Monsters) | Nur | Mental | Le | By type of magic (Necromancy, Totemism) or type of monster (Asura, Deva, Undead etc.)
Lore (Religion & Culture) | Nur | Mental | Le | By religion or culture
Mimicry | Nur | Social | Le | By species
Perform (Acting) | Nat | Social / Physical | Vi | Comedy, Tragedy, Melodrama
Perform (Dancing) | Nat | Social / Physical | Dx | Ballet, Waltz, Jenka etc.
Perform (Play [instrument]) | Nur | Social / Physical | Dx |
Perform (Poetry) | Nat | Social / Physical | Vi |
Perform (Singing) | Nat | Social / Physical | Vi |
Persuade | Nat | Social | Wp | Debate, Lie, Seduce, Intimidate
Ranged Combat | Nat | Physical | Dx | By type of weapon (Sling, Shortbow, Longbow, Crossbow, Javelin etc.)
Riding | Nat | Physical | Vi | By type of steed
Ropecraft | Nat | Physical | Dx |
Seacraft | Nur | Physical | Dx | By type of vessel (Raft, Canoe, Sailboat)
Smithcraft | Nur | Physical | Br | Weaponry, Farming tools, Utensils, Armor
Spot | Nat | Physical | Pe | Sight, Smell, Hearing, Taste, Feeling
Stealth | Nat | Physical | Dx | Sneaking, Hiding, Concealing
Survival (Caverns) | Nur | Physical | Le | Tracking, Finding water, Finding shelter, Fire-starting
Survival (Deserts) | Nur | Physical | Le | - " -
Survival (Forests) | Nur | Physical | Le | - " -
Survival (Glaciers & Tundra) | Nur | Physical | Le | - " -
Survival (Mountains) | Nur | Physical | Le | - " -
Survival (Ocean) | Nur | Physical | Le | - " -
Survival (Plains) | Nur | Physical | Le | - " -
Swimming | Nat | Physical | Br | Diving, Sprinting, Long-distance Swimming
Teamster | Nur | Physical / Social | Le | By type of vehicle driven (Cart, Sleigh)
Unarmed Combat | Nat | Physical | Br | Grappling, Punching, Kicking, Biting, Clawing
Warcraft | Nur | Mental | Le | Logistics, Strategy
Weather-sense | Nat | Mental | Pe | By type of weather (Rain, Sunshine, Storm etc.)