View Full Version : [Manticore v.0.3] A New Generic RPG ready for alpha testing.

mabriss lethe
2012-07-26, 08:14 PM

For the past few months, I've been working on designing my own game system. I started with a few design precepts to help me stay on task when considering the core mechanics.

1.) The core rules set needs to be lightweight, consistent, and simple

2.) Character creation should be fast and intuitive.

3.) Conflict resolution should also be fast and intuitive.

4.) The system should allow for easy insertion of modular rules sets.

5.) The system should be capable of handling as wide a range of genres and character concepts as possible.

6.) The system should rely upon mechanics that require easily accessible materials.

From that point, I started parsing through my collection of pre-existing games and separating out what mechanics already fit the above criteria from the ones that didn't, or the ones that I just plain didn't like.

-D&D 3.5: While I like the system and all of its options, I really don’t see a lot in it that jibes with Manticore’s stated goals.

-Mutants and Masterminds: I love the game play. One d20 solves pretty much everything. However, character creation is far too involved and time consuming.

-Rifts/Palladium: No, Just No. No part of the system jibes with the sort of game I'm trying to design.

-World of Darkness: The dice mechanic is pretty quick, but the character creation can be a bit convoluted at times.

-Hollow Earth Expedition: Love the dice mechanics, and may adapt something along a similar line.

-Amber Diceless RPG: Character generation can be rather quick and I like the limited attributes and the item creation system. The Good Stuff/Bad Stuff rules are also a nice touch. Adopting similar systems might work out nicely. However, I want something with dice.

-Risus: It's the epitome of lightweight, but possibly too lightweight for more than casual gaming. However, the Cliche system is a fantastic alternative to skill and class based games.

-Gurps: Also no. Creation is convoluted and often times counter intuitive (at least to me.) So Gurps goes into the "what to avoid" pile along with Rifts.

-Legend of the Five Rings: A system I’ve always loved, Especially the Raise mechanic. Raises may be a decent way to deal with situations like called shots and other scenarios. The wound levels create a very nasty penalty to combat once the blood starts flying and might be adapted. The rest of the system is a little bulkier than I’d like.

-Tri-stat: I’m not terribly familiar with it, and it looks neat. There may be ideas I can take away from it, but I don’t know what they would be at the moment.

I've now got a list of objectives and I've compared existing systems to them. I've got a starting place to begin hammering out mechanics.

What do you need to play Manticore?

Manticore is meant to be an easily accessible system and shouldn’t require anything out of the ordinary for a role playing game. Here’s a list of materials you’ll need to play the game.

-Manticore rules set
-Scrap paper
-Approximately 10 dice of any size or type.

Once you have these at hand, you can easily begin play.

mabriss lethe
2012-07-26, 08:15 PM
Character Creation

There are 5 simple steps in the character creation process; Description, Assigning Traits, Assigning Attributes, Assigning Archetypes, and Assigning bonus character points (called Extras.)

Step 1: Description.
This is easy. Just briefly describe your character. Are you male, female, other? Human, alien, or elf? How tall are you? How do you dress? Are there any distinguishing features? Keep it short and to the point. It’s enough so that you could point the character out in a police lineup, but not so much that you have to carry around a novel’s worth of backstory. Your Game Master will do horrible and brilliant things with this (and any other) information. The more meat you give him, the better of a meal he can make of you… Er, the better game play experience he can craft.

Dan decides to play in Jim’s game. Jim told everyone it was a generic fantasy setting, so Dan has a pretty good idea about what he could play. Sure, his ray-gun toting cowboy isn’t going to pass muster, but he has been thinking about a burly beast of a half-orc. After a few mistakes with his phone’s auto-correct feature gives him some inspiration, Dan names his half orc Esnoi Droog. Mr. Droog is a big, tough, no-nonsense sort, covered in faded and poorly executed tattoos, a testament to his early days of petty crime. The one exception is the carefully executed tattoo of a jackal’s head that rests over his heart, that one a testament to his devotion to a jackal headed god of war.

Step 2: Traits
First off, What exactly constitutes a Trait in Manticore? A Trait is any one or two word phrase that describes the character. Every character has 3 traits. They can be physical descriptors, psychological, or whatever. Words like “Fast, Tall, Quiet.” Or whatever you like. These 3 phrases become your character’s Traits and actually have a mechanical component to them. In situations where one or more of those traits apply, they will help the Game Master to determine Advantage and Disadvantage and help to set relative difficulties for your character. (covered in the basic rules section later.)

Dan doesn’t see Droog as the typical green skinned orc barbarian. The character in his head is a lot more cerebral. No scholar, but someone quietly devoted to his faith. All of this bound up into a hulking monster capable of scaring the paint off of a wall. Dan’s original 3 Traits are “religious”, “soft-spoken” and “scary half orc” but after some thought he decides to explore Droog’s religious side more fully, saving it for an archetype. Jim also informs Dan that “Scary half orc” might best be divided into two separate Traits. Dan decides to merge the concepts of “religious” and “soft-spoken” into “contemplative” and split “scary half orc” into “Intimidating” and “half orc.”

Step 3: Attributes

Manticore uses a system of 3 core attributes to represent a PC’s basic characteristics. The 3 Attributes are Physical, Mental, and Social. Along with Archetypes (described in the next section), these Attributes will be the core around which a player character is built.

-Physical: The Physical Attribute represents the overall physical condition of a character. It encompasses strength, stamina, speed, and nearly any other concept linked directly to the health and functionality of the character’s body.

-Mental: The Mental Attribute is a combination of Intelligence, force of will, the ability to recall detailed information and quickness of wit.

-Social: The Social Attribute is a bit nebulous. It can represent force of personality, charismatic charm, good looks or good old fashioned animal magnetism. It describes a character’s natural proclivity for dealing with others.

Your character begins with 10 points to divide between these attributes. Each attribute must have at least 1 point allotted to it. No Attribute can be raised higher than 5 at creation.

Dan has a pretty solid image of Droog in his head now. He knows that Droog is a walking slab of beef, so is Physical Attribute will be high. Dan also sees his character as breaking a bit from the “thick witted orc” stereotype. Again, he doesn’t want to create Droog as a bookish scholar, Dan just sees him as being an average sort of fellow. He puts as many points as he can into Physical with plans to divide up the rest in the other two . That gives Droog starting Attributes of Physical 5, Mental 2, and Social 3. Dan isn’t terribly happy with only putting 2 points in Mental, but Jim assures him that there will be ways to improve it before character creation is finished.

Step 4: Archetypes

Next Question: Just what the heck is an Archetype? Dictionary.com defines an Archetype thusly:

ar·che·type [ahr-ki-tahyp]
the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.

(in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.

With these definitions in mind, Archetypes in Manticore are roughly analogous to both class and skill systems in other roleplaying games. It’s a concise label to explain in broad terms what a character can or should be able to do. If someone says “Barbarian” a mental image will spring to mind and it will probably be roughly identifiable with the same loincloth-sporting shaggy haired guy who’s cut like a body builder and swinging a big scary chunk of steel. It’s not hard to know the kinds of things that barbarian will be good at doing. That’s an example of an Archetype. It’s the same with “spy” or “knight” or” soldier.” When you hear the word, you have an immediate mental image.

Once you have your Archetypes (a character will have more than one.) you can begin to see the basics of how the rules work. If you want to your character to accomplish a task, you pick the most appropriate archetype from your character’s collection and roll a number of dice equal to that archetype plus the appropriate Attribute. There are no skills to keep track of in Manticore. If it’s a task that your character should know how to do , he can do it. The Game Master will be the final arbiter on the subject if there is any confusion.

A Character will begin with 10 points to spend on Archetypes and no more than 5 of these points may be spent on a single archetype during creation. The available Archetypes for a given game are the domain of the Game Master. There are 3 different levels of archetypes: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.

-Primary Archetypes represent the main focus of the character’s career or studies. Rolls involving a Primary Archetype gain a +1 bonus. Initiative rolls and rolls by surprised characters default to the Primary Archetype.
-Secondary Archetypes represent areas of lesser attention.
-Tertiary Archetypes are more along the lines of hobbies. Rolls involving a Tertiary Archetype gains a -1 penalty.

A character may have only one Primary and one Secondary Archetype. A character may have any number of Tertiary Archetypes.

Dan already a loose skeleton in the form of Attributes built to represent Droog, but now it’s time to flesh him out. Jim provided him with a short list of suggested Archetypes, so Dan takes a look. He’s already decided that Droog had a checkered past before finding religion on the battlefield, and decides that the three Archetypes that fit his concept are “mercenary”, “priest”, and “thief.” Dan isn’t completely happy with “thief” so he consults with Jim. Dan worries that “thief” might be a bit too specific. He doesn’t see Droog as making a living picking pockets or by being a nimble cat burglar. He sees Droog as having once been more of a generic hoodlum. Jim suggests “Criminal” as a less focused “thief.” He’ll still be able to jimmy a lock or know where the good fences are, but Droog will trade nimbleness and slight of hand for a better grip on the social aspect of the criminal world, as well as a broader understanding of con men, petty thugs, and less savory things.

Now that Dan has settled on his Archetypes, he allocates their importance. First and foremost, Droog is a mercenary soldier. Sleeping in armor with a weapon in his hand is second nature to him, so “Mercenary” becomes Droog’s primary archetype. As a devotee of the Jackal god, Droog’s Secondary Archetype is “Priest” while “Criminal” takes a back seat as a Tertiary Archetype, since his seedy past is long behind him. When he assigns Droog’s 10 points of Archetypes, Dan decides to split them a little more evenly than his Attributes, putting 4 points in Mercenary, and 3 each in Priest and Criminal.

Step 5: Extras

The Extras cover those finishing touches for your character. During creation, players get 10 points to pay for Extras. You can use these points in the following ways.
-improve an Attribute
-Improve or add an Archetype
-Purchase Good Kharma
-Purchase creatures or items from the Toybox (explained later.)

Using Extras points costs the same as it would using any other type of point. It’s a 1 for 1 arrangement. If a player still doesn’t have enough points for everything they want, he can buy more points at the cost of taking on an equal amount of Bad Kharma. (Good and Bad Kharma will be explained in a later section.) The Game Master may set any limit upon how much Bad Kharma a character can accrue, or no limit at all if he’s particularly vicious, though 10 points is a recommended cutoff point for most games.

Once Extra points have been spent and the PC is fleshed out, character creation is complete and the player is ready to begin.

5A: The Toybox and Kharma

Some parts of the Extras section require special mention and explanation; The Toybox and Kharma. Both are resources available to players during character creation.

The Toybox is a mechanic designed to streamline the creation process of both items and creatures that will be at the player character’s disposal. The Toybox functions in a manner similar to a stripped down and streamlined character.

Toybox creations begin with a description. What is it? What does it look like? What can it do? The biggest choice here is whether the toybox creation is an Item or a Creature. Rules apply differently to each. PCs use their own attributes when wielding Items. Creatures, however, have their own simplified Attribute (simply called “creature”) and act independently of the PC.

Next, assign points into any of the 4 Toybox categories. A Toybox creation can never have more than 10 points invested in it, and never more than 5 points in any one category. The categories are Creature, Weapon, Armor, and Power.
-Creature, as stated before, represents a simplified attribute system for creating a Toybox creature. Items do not possess points in this category.
-Weapon and Armor will be explained in full in the Combat section, but each adds successes to attack and defense rolls, respectively, equal to the points invested
-Power is sort of a simplified version of Archetype, and is used in rolls involving the item or creature’s special abilities as mentioned in the Description section. Items roll the wielder’s attribute + Item’s Power. Creatures roll their Creature rating + the Creature’s Power.

In most games, a good assortment of Toybox-like items can be available, either to purchase, acquire as loot or outright steal. Why spend points? Because the item becomes a part of your character when you spend points on it. That gives it a certain amount of protection from being destroyed or permanently lost in play. If it does get removed from play, a player can always find a way to get it back or replace it. (This is part of The Contract between Players and Game Masters, explained in depth in the Game Master’s section.)

Kharma is a Game Master’s tool that represents how much the universe at large likes a character. Good Kharma must be purchased while Bad Kharma can be traded for extra points. During creation, or at any character improvement session thereafter, a player can invest unspent points as Good Kharma or spend accumulated Good Kharma to improve a character in the usual ways. What does Good Kharma do, though? When there’s an event where random chance is involved, characters with Good Kharma will be more likely to receive better results. Ridiculous stunts will leave a Good Kharma character mostly unharmed. Explosions will leave him singed when he should be dead. A flight of arrows will fall all around him and striking his shield, but leaving him unscathed. Good Kharma is a friend indeed.

Conversely, a character can acquire more points to spend in other areas by going into a sort of Kharmic debt. Bad Kharma works in a manner similar to Good Kharma, though obviously its effects are going to have more of a negative impact on the character. Characters with points in Bad Kharma will find that they get the worst results in random events. Your character is more powerful, but there is going to be a constant price to pay for it. More enemies will single out the Bad Kharma character, when shrapnel flies, it will be more likely to hit them, strangers just won’t be as cooperative towards them, things like that.

Guidelines for making Kharma work in Manticore are explained in greater depth in the Game Master’s section.

Dan is almost finished. With his 10 points in extras he already knows he wants to boost his low Mental Attribute and maybe pick up some nice weapons and armor. Buying a point in Mental Attribute still leaves him with 9 points for other extras. He decides to spend another point to raise his Mercenary ranking to 5. Droog, being devout, has dedicated his trusty axe to the Jackal God and wears a breastplate that he looted off of a dead bodyguard a long time ago. His axe is just a regular weapon, so Dan only spends a point on the Weapon attribute. However, it’s now become a channel for the divine power of a god, so he invests it with 3 points of the “power” attribute. His weapon can now counter magical effects by swinging through them with its blade. Since it isn’t a creature, the axe still requires the use of Droog’s Attributes and actions.
He decides that his armor is solid, but nothing special, so only spends 2 points on the Armor Attribute for it. Dan isn’t sure what to do with the other 3 points he has, so he decides to save them for later. Those 3 extra points become Good Kharma and will hopefully keep a certain half orc mercenary out of trouble for a while. Dan has his character, so it’s time for him to play the game.

Wrapping it up.

That was a crash course in character creation. For a quick review, here’s what you do:
Step 1: Describe the Character
Step 2: Assign 3 Traits
Step 3: Assign 10 points in Attributes
Step 4: Assign 10 points in Archetypes
Step 5: Assign 10 points in Extras (including Toybox creations and Kharma.)
Step 6: Play the game.

mabriss lethe
2012-07-26, 08:16 PM
Core Game Mechanics

Manticore’s rules are straight forward. If a player wants their character to act in a way that requires a die roll, then the player will roll a number of dice equal to the appropriate Attribute for the task plus the appropriate Archetype. After the dice are rolled, the player counts the number of dice that rolled an even numbered result. Those dice are successes. Those successes are compared to a target number supplied by the Game Master. If the roll exceeds the target number, it succeeds. If it does not, it fails. The Target Number is based on the relative difficulty of the task that a character with a given archetype is attempting. An electronics expert will have a lower Target Number for fixing a computer than a florist. But that same electronics expert a much higher Target Number than the florist when trying to identify an exotic flower.

Table 1-1: Difficulty Scale
{table]# of successes needed | Relative Difficulty
1 | Trivial
2 | Simple
3 | Standard
4 | Slightly Difficult
5 | Moderately Difficult
6 | Difficult
7 | Very Difficult
8 | Extremely Difficult
9 | Legendary
10+ | Epic[/table]

There are two distinct types of rolls a player can make: static and contested. Static rolls are made for rolls that deal with a situation not directly involving another character. The GM give the player a number and they have to meet or beat it. Contested rolls are for actions made directly against another character. In these situations, both characters roll the appropriate attributes plus archetypes. Whomever gets the most successes wins.

Success and Failure, however, are not strict binary choices in Manticore. The degree by which a roll undershoots or exceeds a target number is just as important. Miss the mark slightly and there won’t be that much of a difference beyond succeeding or failing to act. Over or under-shoot by a wider margin and the results will be vastly different from what you expected. The table below is most applicable to non-combat rolls. Combat rolls to deal and resist damage are covered in the Combat Rules section.

Table 1-2:
{table]Successes: | Result:
-5 or Less | Critical Failure
-4 | Serious Failure
-3 | Major Failure
-2 | Moderate Failure
-1 | Minor Failure
0 | Standard Success
+1 | Minor Success
+2 | Moderate Success
+3 | Major Success
+4 | Serious Success
+5 or More | Critical Success[/table]

Standard Success: This is the baseline result. The character rolled just enough to succeed on his task. It goes off without a hitch, but that’s all it does.

Minor Success/Failure: The roll is either one success short or one higher than needed to succeed. If It’s a minor failure, it more than likely won’t have any immediate life threatening consequences other than the task simply not succeeding. Minor successes will give a slightly better result than anticipated. The task takes slightly less time, puts you in a slightly more advantageous position, or something of the kind.

Moderate Success/Failure: The roll is either two successes under or over the Target Number. Moderate Failures will come back to bite you in some small way. They’ll take too long, only to realize they don’t work. You’ll wind up spending valuable resources in the botched attempt. You might get s superficial injury (something like a -1 penalty on rolls for the remainder of the scene.) Moderate successes will be skewed about as much in your favor. You’ll get tasks done with time to spare, repairs might work better than you expected. A little bit of serendipity falls your way.

Major Success/Failure: When you roll three successes more or less than you need it will be a Major success or failure. Major failures hurt. In addition to the types of problems you encounter in a Moderate scenario, you have screwed up big. Your attempt at a given task not only fails, but you’ll have to undo your mess before you can begin again. There will be unforeseen and aggravating consequences for a Major failure. Major Successes will go off fantastically.

Serious Success/Failure: A four success difference nets a Serious Success or Failure. Serious failures are dangerous. You will very likely injure yourself or others in the process. The work will be wrecked and it will be a massive endeavor to fix what you’ve done. Serious Successes will be something akin to minor miracles.

Critical Success/Failure: When you have a difference of five or more successes between what you rolled and your Target Number, you have a Critical Situation. Critical Failures may or may not be fatal, but they will seriously screw you. This is the worst case scenario. If it can go wrong, it not only will go wrong, but already did. Critical Successes, however, look almost like acts of a benevolent god. The work will almost be done for you in the fraction of the time necessary.

Averaging Rolls:

With the current gaming architecture it’s possible for a player to be rolling fairly large numbers of dice. However, Manticore is designed with speed of play in mind. On any roll, a player may elect to average any even number of dice. Since the only results are Even or Odd, when a player averages a roll, he takes half the number of dice being averaged as automatic successes. As a default, Manticore is designed around the assumption that every batch of 10 dice will be averaged out to 5 successes. If a player should roll 13 dice, he would instead default to rolling 3 dice and add 5 automatic successes.

Boosting Rolls:

What if the dice you can normally roll aren’t enough? You can always attempt to boost your roll. A player character can attempt to boost rolls in two different ways. A character can boost himself, or, with GM approval and the proper Archetype, a character can boost others. A boost requires an action to accomplish, but can be split like any other action. (see below.) When a character boosts, he rolls an appropriate Attribute+Archetype for the type of boost involved. A barbarian probably won’t be boosting rolls dealing with the Social Attribute, for instance. There is no Target Number for this roll. You total all successes acquired. These successes become a pool that a character can draw from for appropriate rolls. When a character boosts themselves, they may only attempt it once per encounter and may add those successes to any appropriate roll during that encounter. When boosting others, a character may attempt it every round, but every ally in the area may draw from the boost pool.

Splitting Actions:

What do you do when you want to do two different things at once? The quick answer is “split your dice.” Splitting dice is as simple as it sounds. Decide on the actions you want to take. Decide which Attribute and Archetype you plan on using. Decide how many dice you want to roll for each action. Roll one normal attribute+archetype roll. Split your dice between the actions and calculate your successes normally for each action. How many extra actions should a player character be able to pull off in a turn? That’s a tricky question. A maximum of one extra action per turn for split actions is a pretty good benchmark that lets the game continue to flow at a good pace. If the GM decides that a scaling system is appropriate for the game, One extra action for every 10 dice rolled might be a good rule (2-10 dice would mean 2 actions total, 11-20 would allow a character to split dice into three actions per turn, etc.)

Bonuses and Penalties

All bonuses and penalties are measured in terms of successes, not dice, and are added or subtracted accordingly after the dice are rolled and tallied. This effectively means that every bonus success is equivalent to 2 extra dice rolled. In keeping with Manticore’s philosophy of streamlining the gaming experience, the rule for assessing bonuses and penalties exists in this way to minimize the number of dice rolled.

Advantage and Disadvantage:

Remember all those Traits and descriptions you wrote down in the first part of character creation. It turns out that they’re rather important to game mechanics. The GM will compare them to the other contestant in a contested roll. The character with the most appropriate selection of traits and other information gains Advantage (as determined by the GM, his word is final on this.) The character with Advantage will win in a tie.

Combat Rules

The basic rules cover most situations, but what about combat. In many RPGs there will come times when the blades are out and the blood flows on the stones. How do you handle it? This is Manticore, so it should come as no surprise that it will involve only a slight reinterpretation of the basics.

Surprise and Initiative:

Combat begins with Surprise and Initiative rolls. Surprise actions are actions taken against unprepared characters. Initiative determines the order in which PCs and NPCs take their actions.

Let’s start with Surprise situations. First, determine if a surprise round is appropriate for the encounter. Surprise encounters involve successful ambushes, traps, and the like. Characters roll Mental + Primary Archetype to detect an ambush. Characters who fail to notice these situations are Surprised. Surprised characters cannot roll for initiative and may only react defensively for the first round. Additionally, a surprised character uses only his Primary Archetype to act while surprised, regardless of the type of defensive action taken. Ambushers and characters that succeed on their check to detect the trap both roll initiative normally during a surprise round and may act without any restrictions.

The first thing a Player Character does when entering combat is roll initiative. All players roll initiative simultaneously. Initiative is a Mental +Primary Archetype roll. The number of successes determine initiative order. The next part may sound a little backwards at first, but it isn’t. Next, the GM calls for players to state their actions in reverse order, from the least successes to the most. Ties are handled by the Advantage rules. Why backwards? Because that way the faster characters have a better idea about what the slower ones are doing, and can adjust their plans accordingly. Once everyone declares their actions, then the round begins. Actions are taken in order of fastest to slowest. Player characters may opt to hold their action until any other point in the turn after their own. If the action is not used by the beginning of their next turn, the action is lost.

Attack, Damage, and Defense:
Attack rolls are handled in much the same way as a normal roll of any other kind. Attack rolls are made with an attribute appropriate to the encounter. A confrontation with weapons would be resolved with the Physical attribute, while more subtle forms of combat might require the Mental or even Social Attribute. After declaring the type of attack being attempted, the player rolls his chosen Attribute in conjunction with his most appropriate Archetype. Successes are calculated and then compared to the target’s Defense roll. Defense rolls are often made using the same Attribute and usually the Primary Archetype. If a defense roll meets or exceeds the number of successes generated by the attacker, then no damage is taken. If the Attack roll is higher than the defense, the defender takes a number of wound levels equal to the difference. Any item with an Armor or Weapon rating will modify the roll. Weapons add their rating as a success bonus to Attack rolls just as Armor adds to Defense rolls. Remember, these are bonuses to Successes, not dice rolled.

Once every player has had his turn, a new initiative pass begins. Initiative usually won’t have to be rerolled. One initiative roll per encounter is enough unless some new element drastically changes the situation. Just keep using the same initiative order until the end of the encounter.

Wounds and Penalties

Whenever a PC takes wounds, the player marks them down on a chart. Each wound level imposes a stacking -1 penalty to successes on all rolls. There are eight wound levels.

{table] 0|-1|-2|-3|-4|-5|Down|Out[/table]

At 0 wound level, a character is perfectly healthy and suffers no penalties, -1 through -5 impose their respective penalties upon all rolls. When a character enters the "Down" wound level, he is only capable of minor defensive actions. He's hurt, and hurt badly, unable to continue fighting, but still conscious and able to attempt to get out of harm's way. When a character reaches the "Out" wound level, he is no longer able to act at all and will require swift attention or face death. Manticore defaults to non-lethal combat, so there isn't a "Dead" wound level. "Out" characters can still be killed, but it requires a special combat action to finish them off after they're crippled.

Combat by Any Other Name

As mentioned earlier, protracted combat scenes needn’t be strictly physical confrontations. A battle of wills could be expressed as combat using the Mental Attribute. Courtiers could engage in bids to ruin each other’s reputation. That might take the form of a Social combat. From the perspective of the game mechanics, it still resolves the same way. A character can continue to fight up until he reaches the “out” wound penalty level. That can represent physical trauma, the breaking of a person’s will, or the destruction of their renown and reputation. It could be represented by three different scales of “health” one for each Attribute, or it could be represented by a single scale with all effects being cumulative.

Raises and Called Shots (optional rule)

Sometimes simply adding penalties to a roll doesn’t give the right feel for the task. That’s where the Raise mechanic comes in. This is great for called shots and other types of rolls where a Player Character wants to accomplish something very specific above and beyond a standard success. Say you want to perform a certain action, for example, a sniper trying for a head shot. The GM rules that a Head shot requires 3 raises to accomplish. To strike the fellow normally, you’d only need one success over the target in a contested roll. But with 3 raises, you’d need 4 successes over the target’s roll just to hit. However, if you do hit, The target has taken a headshot and probably not going anywhere any time soon.

Table 2-1: Raises and Suggested effects

{table]# of Raises made | Suggested effects
0 | No additional effect, normal results
1 | Target a general area of a body or act while doing something vigorous like moving at full speed or riding a horse
2 | Attempt to disarm or cripple a target or act while doing something strenuous
3 | Attempt to completely disable a target or act while doing something dangerous
4 | Instantly kill a target or act while doing something insane
5 | Deflect oncoming projectile while still hitting the mark. Or act while doing something thought impossible.[/table]

mabriss lethe
2012-07-26, 08:17 PM
Game Master's Guide

Getting Started:

First, what sort of game do you want to run? Manticore is capable of supporting any number of genres and currently does not include a default game setting. Do you want to play a traditional sword and sorcery style fantasy game? Are you looking to run a comic book style heroes game or a space opera? Do you want to use the Manticore rules within an existing RPG world instead of the standard rules? Any of these are possibilities. Once you have a handle on the game world, it’s time to move on to what could either be the hardest or easiest part, creating a list of suggested archetypes.

Suggesting Archetypes:

Archetypes are one of the key ingredients in the game. It’s also a realm of infinite complexity and subtle nuance. Should you cook up a list of archetypes to give to your players during creation, remember that they are just a place to begin. Any archetype reasonable for your game should be allowed. Archetypes can be specific or generic. More specific archetypes will be more focused on style of play. Reward them with lower difficulties for tasks within that narrow archetype. A broad archetype would be applicable for a wider array of situations, but would face slightly higher difficulties for attempting the same tasks as their more focused counterparts.

A quick way to come up with a starting list is to look through class systems in other RPGs that use similar genres.. That will give you a good starting place full of wizards and fighters or space pirates.

Again, I can’t stress it enough. Any Archetypes you give should be suggestions, not hard and fast limitations for your players. Let them get imaginative and surprise you. That being said, if something is completely out to lunch and might ruin the game for others, don’t hesitate to tell your player that you aren’t allowing that particular Archetype in your current game.

Character Creation and Extracting Tags:

Once your players have given you their character sheets, make a copy of it (or get your players to make two copies to begin with). Look over the character sheet and start pulling out one or two-word phrases that catch your eye as being important. It sounds very much like the 3 Traits used in character creation, doesn’t it. Good news, those Traits are automatically considered Tags, as are the PC’s Archetypes, Kharma, Toybox items, and anything that jumps out at you in the character’s brief description. You probably shouldn’t have more than 10 tags per character. List any Toybox creations as a separate entity under the character’s entry. that will probably bring you over 10 tags, but the Toybox tags won’t come into play as often. Don’t worry if the characters wind up with differing numbers of tags. Some characters are just going to be more involved than others. Make yourself a cheat sheet with all of your players and a short list of their tags written in like this:

-Esnoi Droog: [contemplative] [intimidating] [half-orc] [mercenary] [priest] [criminal] [good kharma] Toybox: Looted Armor [Armor 2] Axe of the Jackal: [item] [weapon 1] [power 3] [blessed] [magic negation]

We didn’t pull any tags from the Description this time around, because there really isn’t anything significant there that isn’t already covered in some other part of the character data. We’ve got enough to work with, so leave it at that.

What are you going to do with your cheat sheet? You’ll be looking at it a lot, trust me. Every time the character makes a contested roll, you’ll compare their Tags with the tags of their opponent.

[B]How to determine Advantage:

This is mostly a giant judgement call on the Game Master’s part. If a roll involves stealth or trickery, Droog’s criminal tag might net him an advantage. If it’s a social roll with the law, that same tag might force him to be Disadvantaged regardless of what archetype his player uses for the role. Any one Tag can sway the call either way. If a character has more than one relevant tag, don’t spend forever trying to figure advantage, simply pick the tag you feel is most appropriate and keep the game moving. In respect to static rolls, things have been simplified awarding automatic advantage to PCs. It’s built right in already. If a PC Rolls a number of successes equal to a task’s Difficulty, he succeeds. You only really need to worry about it with Contested Rolls.

OK, that’s Great. Now what does Advantage do?

Advantage really only comes into play as a tie breaker. Given the nature of the Manticore rules set, it’s inevitable that, from time to time, a PC will roll the exact same number of successes as an opponent. when that happens, instead of rolling again, the Game Master declares advantage for one party or another and gives that character a single bonus success for the roll. It’s much more fun if you don’t tell your players who has advantage or disadvantage in a conflict until a tie actually comes up.

Mooks, Mobs and Monster: A guide to creating Antagonists

Manticore is all about streamlining, and that includes the other side of the GM screen. What holds true for keeping player characters compact and rules light holds doubly true for a Game Master that has to keep track of a dozens of NPCs. It’s no surprise, then, that NPCs do not follow the same rules as player characters. They follow even more simplified rules. There are 3 basic types of NPCs: The Mook, The Monster, and The Mob. All of them follow stripped down character creation guidelines.

All antagonists possess a Threat Rank. The the Threat Rank (abbreviated TR) is almost a combination of Attribute and Archetype. The antagonist rolls a number of dice equal to its Threat Rank on all of its actions. Any armor, weapons or powers they might have are figured into their Threat Rank. When you create an Antagonist’s TR you also write a brief description of the creature and its abilities, then extract a small handful of tags just as if you were writing a PC. Only generate 3 to 5 tags at most, though.


Mook creation covers anything from innocent bystanders to cannon fodder. They are the rank and file of the RPG world. All a game master needs to do is write down a name for the mook, a quick description of abilities and then generate a Threat rank. They’re fragile, though, and do not possess a full wound penalty chart. mook wounds are 0, -1, Out. If a mook takes more than a minor wound, he’s out of the fight. When comparing tags, if there is no clear Advantage to be given, award advantage against Mooks to the PC in question.


A mob is a large gathering of Mooks. Instead of rolling for each mook, you treat the entire mob as a single creature, be it a flock of maddened birds or a disgruntled group of peasants. You calculate its Monster Rank as the Monster Rank of the base creature + the number of creatures in the mob. That means they can get pretty nasty pretty quickly. Mobs usually only have the simplest of actions available to them, usually a straight forward attack. As a mob, it may make a single attack roll against all foes it’s engaged with every round. Mobs have a normal wound chart with an extra 0 wound level for every 10 mooks in the mob. When a mob reaches the “down” wound level, it is in disarray, present, but unable to function as a cohesive whole. At “out” the mob disburses and retreats. Treat mobs as Mooks for determining Advantage.


These are the full fledged threats to your players. They follow the same rules for rolling dice as the Mook. They have a Monster rank indicating how many dice they roll for all actions and a brief summary of their abilities. the difference is that a Monster doesn’t go down as easy as a Mook. Monsters have a full wound chart, just like a PC. You can treat most Monsters as Mooks for the purpose of determining Advantage, but you may want to your major monster encounters differently. Give them default advantage on any roll where Advantage isn’t clear.

Monsters also have access to Perks. Think of a Perk, as an official GM cheat. A Perk can be nearly anything and not every monster needs a perk. In fact, perks should be reserved for special encounters. Basically, the perk is a gimmick or edge the monster possesses. Perks could be something like plot armor. If they possess that perk they can only be truly destroyed when certain criteria are met. A perk could be a bonus to a certain type of action or a special attack. The real limitation to the Perk system is that a monster should probably only have 1 perk, and that the PCs must have some way to overcome it.

Monsters don’t have to be ogres or dragons. A Monster is any creature, including regular humans made to be more of a threat to your players than a Mook.


Not all antagonists have to be creatures. A boobytrap can be treated just like a special subset of NPC, It can be treated as either a mook or a monster. Even something like a minefield could be treated like a mob where a clear path through is only found once the field reaches “out” . Give traps a Monster Rank just like any other antagonist. You could even give a trap an appropriate Perk if you’re feeling really nasty. The real difference is that a Trap’s actions are going to be very strictly defined and may only be good for one shot. One shot traps are considered “out” after they’ve been spent.

Can you create a more nuanced NPC that the Antagonist Rules allow? Certainly. Simply make the NPC using standard PC creation rules.

Assigning Experience

In Manticore, there are no variable costs. The idea behind it is that by keeping numeric components small and simple, it makes the game more accessible to all levels of play and lowers the learning curve. 1 point of experience will purchase an equivalent increase in any Attribute, Archetype, Kharma, or Toybox creation. When assigning experience, keep that in mind. The experience reward for an adventure should be kept low, a single point or perhaps 2 as a reward for truly excellent play on a short adventure, or perhaps 2-4 for a longer adventure. Don't be shy with handing out a point here and there during the course of an adventure either if it seems appropriate.

Players can assign their points during downtime designated by the Game Master as Character Improvement Time. Downtime should occur at the end of a given short adventure (where players could immediately spend what they've just earned.) For longer adventures, it might be more appropriate to have breaks in mid adventure to spend accumulated points if the players so desire.

mabriss lethe
2012-07-26, 08:18 PM
Manticore v.0.3 is Licensed under Creative Commons. This game may be copied and distributed freely as long as its creator is properly attributed. This game may not be copied or distributed for commercial use without prior consent of the creator.

GM's Section v.0.1 and Monster Builder v.0.1 are live.

Coming Soon! Archetype Guides and Magic Expansion

Feel free to explore and discuss the available material.

mabriss lethe
2012-07-28, 06:11 PM
The first draft is finished and everything current is live, so here's my bump. There will be more content (and, I'm certain, frequent revisions of existing content) as time permits over the next week or two. Feel free to take the system out for a test drive and see what you think. Feedback is always welcome.

2012-07-28, 07:24 PM
Initial thoughts? Averaging dice with a 50% success rate leads to characters being able to accomplish crazy things. At character creation, Droog (Physical 5, Mercenary 4) can always score a success on Slightly Difficult, and has a 50% chance to succeed on a Moderately Difficult task for him.

This causes a problem, since you also stated that Manticore scales difficulties to match the character's skill.

Without scaling difficulty, a character who starts to add more dice begins to succeed more often. With scaling difficulty and dice additions, each increase in a character's ability dramatically increases their chances for success. An example:

Bob is an accountant trying Archery. He has Physical 3, and no relevant Attributes.

Robin is an archer. He has Physical 4 and Professional Archer 3.

They're aiming at the bullseye of a target within reasonable range. For your average person (Bob) this is a Difficult shot, meaning he needs 6 successes.

On average, Bob scores 1.5 successes (4.5 successes below what he needed): the vast majority of the time, he ends up with a serious or even crippling complication.

Robin, on the other hand, knows what he's doing. This is standard stuff for him: he's a professional. But if it's standard for him, and he rolls 7 dice, he can average 3 of them: Robin cannot fail to hit the target. Is this reasonable? Unlikely. He should succeed often, yes. But averaging dice removes all chance of risk, especially when combined with scaling difficulties based on character skill.

A possible solutions might involve removing the ability to average under certain circumstances: opposed checks, or situations where something is at stake. Sure, Robin may hit the target so many times in practice that the few misses basically don't count...but with the pressure of a tournament on, he might mess up. Unlikely, but he might. Gary Kasparov will probably win all of his chess games...but every time he faces a living opponent, there's a chance that he'll flub. The bomb disposal unit is really great...but even on something he's practiced every day there's something about facing a ticking explosive that makes him realize the stakes are higher.

This means characters will reliably be able to perform well: stunt drivers will do stunts, computer experts will fix computers, and physicists will do complex math, but, respectively, car chases, de-activating security systems before they open fire on your allies, and rapidly trying to find a solution to stop the forming black hole will still give these experts a trying time.

2012-07-28, 07:39 PM
May I ask... are you familiar with FATE? It seems to share a few points with this system. Especially traits remind me a lot of it, but the difficulty scale and dice are also close, though FATE does 4 dice + skill value, isntead of a dice pool.

mabriss lethe
2012-07-28, 09:15 PM
So the forums just ate my initial reply. Let me try again.

@Djinn: Those are some good points. Something I will definitely consider while working on the v.0.4 revisions. Adding some sort of [pressured] tag would make a good deal of sense.

That said, I'll attempt to solve your dilemma within the current rules by changing the nature of the competition. The more freeform the system, the more careful a GM has to be when preparing, and I see that particular scenario as an error on the part of the GM. The contestants wouldn't be rolling against a static difficulty, but against each other. Bob the accountant would probably still hit the target...somewhere,maybe even in the stop behind it, though he may possibly wind up with a nasty bruise on his arm where the string slapped him. Not to mention being the target of ridicule by the community for the next few months for attempting a competition he had no business being at. (disasters don't always have to be physical) Whereas Robin would be hitting the bullseye. Say we add another competitor, Hank (his stats are irrelevant, saving that his Archetype is "Hunter" ) He rolls the exact same number of successes as Robin. Then the GM decides that Robin, as a professional archer has Advantage in a tournament. While both are dead on the bulls eye, Robin splits Hank's arrow down the center.

My first thought for scaling back the system is to reduce starting points for Attributes and Archetypes, but I want to get some hard data back from play testers first. 10 was a number I pulled out of thin air for initial benchmark purposes.

The automatic averaging feature really only comes into play when you're rolling more than 10 dice later on. The more dice you roll, the more likely you are to hit close to the average anyway. This rule acknowledges that and moves along.

@Eldan: I'm only vaguely familiar with FATE, aside from a quick glance at the SRD online. I can see that there are some similarities. I'll explore it sometime to see if I feel that it warrants me changing aspects of, or abandoning the project altogether. Though I doubt the latter.

EDIT: Also, because I'm a spazz, I think I forgot to add in the rules for character advancement. FIXED