View Full Version : Help design a system that is actually simple.

2014-01-09, 06:55 PM
I have long looked but only once found an actual rules light system. One of my other problems is that they a mechanically copy each other. I would rather have a new medieval system than D&D in space. So now I get to the actuall idea wich I will tell you after I list the goals. If anyone would like to help me out I'd be happy.

•Simple first and foremost, as in there isn't much difference between a swimming check and an accuracy check.

•Perferably either very class based with lose classes or with a skill tree of some ilk.

•When I say I want balance it takes precedence over coolness (but let's get as much as possible)

Now for the actual ideas, I was thinking instead of Health and magic and energy we could have stamina as the fuel for magic, character durability, and energy for special moves. I was thinking of defining magic by its effect instead of specific spells, you would have acid sphere be a 2d6 plus lasting damage, but so would fireball. Maybe there would be no difference between the rangers fire arrow, the warlocks fireball, and the rouges explosives. Also if possible I would like to use the d6 as the only die so you wouldn't halve to spend money to play.

2014-01-09, 07:11 PM
Critically important question: what RPG systems are you familiar with? (As in, have read the book entirely or, better yet, played more than a few games in.)

Corollary: Which systems do you consider simple or rules-light? Definitions vary enormously. (E.g. I consider any B/X or OD&D retroclone simple, and most rules-light.)

2014-01-09, 07:17 PM
A couple of important points: What sort of questions do you want the system to ask of the players? What sort of questions do you want the system to answer?

To give you an example with respect to something like D&D of what I mean:

- D&D asks the player to combine system elements to make a functional character; a large amount of the challenge to the player is involved in the character building stage. Secondarily, D&D asks the player to decide what resources to spend and when, to make tactical positioning choices, etc.

- D&D generally tries to answer the question of the outcome-to-completion (as in, retreat is uncommon) of a violent confrontation between various forces. To a lesser extent, it provides pass/fail style answers with respect to specific tasks/challenges (skill checks vs DC or opposed skill checks).

So what are the design goals of this 'simple system'? What kinds of questions or scenarios do you see the system modelling, versus what is left to narration and free-form style play? What aspects of the game involve the player's skill/abilities, and what parts are abstracted away as character ability?

2014-01-09, 08:22 PM
When I mean rules light I mean warrior, rogue, mage (great system, it's also been used for a pulp fiction variant). In that system their are 3 attributes and their is no mechanical difference between shooting a goblin and swinging acrossed vines besides consequences. As to what conflicts I expect to resolve, I was thinking having more of an emphasis on one chimera instead of 20 skeletons. Also I want terrain, hazards, and traps to be more important.

2014-01-09, 08:28 PM
One of my ideas was having a few simple stats such as might, intellect, personality, and agility along with the stamina idea. Also my idea for the classes was for less using of basic attacks or spells repeatedly and more special manuvers, spells, or attacks. Perhaps each class (this would allow us to have a bunch) shoud have a few basic specials and some bonuses, with leveling up as a stat, stamina, and mabye class ability upgrade.

2014-01-09, 09:08 PM
The actual stats you go with don't matter so much. I think the key thing is to start with how you expect a standard 'scene' in this system to play out. Highlight what parts of the scene require the player to think carefully or be clever, and what parts are more reflexive/descriptive/etc. Think about what elements of the system are responsible for tension at each point.

So for example, you want terrain and hazards to be important. A good place to start then would be to think of a scenario in which they may come into play, and then work on how to make it essential to take advantage of those details in order to succeed in that scenario - e.g. make them central rather than an afterthought.

For a rules-lite system, you don't have very much space to focus on lots of details, so every detail you include is going to have to be much more important to the overall game. So e.g. a terrain feature that gives +5% success rate on a roll is fine for a rules heavy game where there's lots of stuff like that, but if you only have 5 rules in your game, you don't want to dedicate one of them to something nearly un-noticeable.

What I might do, for example, is associate different environments or terrain types with 'descriptors' that cover broad classes of difficulty. A given terrain or environment might, for example, obscure perception - you could call this Veil (regardless of whether its from smoke or dust or darkness or mist or whatever). Another environment might present constant unbalancing distractions - the heaving deck of a ship in a storm, a collapsing building, etc; call this Hazard.

You would then let character abilities take advantage of environmental tags (e.g. 'use this when the enemy is in Veil'), help prevent those tags from being used against the character, create those tags, remove those tags, etc. It would be good if each tag actually did something fairly significant independent of abilities - for example, Veil means that you can't use ranged attacks perhaps, or see more than 3 squares away; Hazard means you can't use certain skills, etc.

The thing though is to keep extensive lists minimal, if you're going for rules-lite. This may go against your desire to have things be based on skills or abilities - those tend to lead to long lists of the various skills/abilities a person can pick.

2014-01-09, 11:26 PM
I meant a smaller probably stronger skill list, as in a barbarian gaining a large damage buff but at an accuracy decrease. In keeping with the rules light idea, your suggestion with the veil is perfect. Remember the idea of not having two moves with the same mechanics if you can have one. Also I would want easier to make simpler classes. Hopefully we can do away with long class charts.

2014-01-09, 11:32 PM
I find it a bit odd (and I guess telling) that you write...

One of my other problems is that they a mechanically copy each other.

... but all you're talking about is modifying D&D 3.X (or 4E, maybe?). Your project would benefit immensely from knowing more systems, and there are many, many available for free. For instance, check out Fate Core for a very different take on RPGs, and any of the free retroclones linked in my sig for examples of doing D&D very differently.

2014-01-09, 11:38 PM
The only problem with some of the examples you listed is that the base ideas for the system sounds kinda 'samey.' If in the example of the fire arrow, fireball, and explosive all do the same thing one may ask why bother making the distinction in the first place?

Of coures, if you want to make a very rules light system where re-fluffing the effects of powers in important, you can definitely achieve this, especially if you give lots of examples and guidelines. It might not be for everyone, I personally like differing mechanical effects, but if it works for you the goal's been achieved :smallcool:

I feel the one in my sig is a tad too complex for what you're looking for, although I believe I've done a few of these things, so feel free to pick my brain :smallbiggrin:

2014-01-10, 06:48 AM
The Veil example was actually taken from a highly rules-heavy adaptation of D&D that I ran awhile back, but the basic design ideas should be transferable. Let me see if I can do a brief summary:

Monster Abilities

Monsters have certain characteristics that are hard for the average adventurer to take on directly. These advantages, however, are each nullified by a particular environmental condition or situation. Thus, to defeat a monster, the party will likely first have to nullify its advantages, and then kill it.

Each monster ability has a ranking from 1 to 3. Each environmental condition has a ranking from 1 to 3. An environment that suppresses an ability reduces it by the corresponding number of ranks.

Speed: A monster with this ability moves unnaturally fast, being able to simply step out of the way of attacks before they can land and striking more quickly than someone can react to. Each level of Speed above the target confers a +10 bonus to dodge/evade that target's effects, and denies the target the ability to use any sort of counter-attack or dexterity/speed based defenses (e.g. the target is flatfooted).

Speed is neutralized by a lack of perception. If a monster cannot see their environment or their target, they cannot bring their speed to bear. A hidden, ambushing, invisible, etc person can negate a monster's full speed rank. Additionally, obscuring conditions (e.g. Veil) reduce Speed rank correspondingly for everyone affected by them.

Dura: A monster with this ability is simply immune to harm. Generally Dura refers to a specific damage source, but this need not be the case. Higher levels of Dura represent more encompassing levels of immunity - a red dragon may have Dura I versus fire, but a fire elemental - being made of fire - would have Dura III versus fire. At Dura III, damage of that type is actually restorative to the creature - during a round in which a creature would take damage of that type, they heal 25% of their maximum hitpoints.

Dura is negated by things that are inimical to life and survival, as well as things which sap a creature's powers. The broad environmental category corresponding to this is called 'Curse' - graveyards, antimagic fields, etc all fall under this category. Similarly, if a monster is hit or targeted with a material or situation they are particularly vulnerable to, it inflicts a number of levels of Curse on the monster (for example, fighting a demon in a church or striking a lycanthrope with a silver weapon).

Another counter to Dura is to overwhelm it with more sources than it can handle. This works only against Dura I - Dura II and III are variations of 'true immunity'. A creature with Dura I is effectively regenerating from the wound as its dealt - the counter therefore is to use a continuous source of that type of damage. If a creature with Dura I is exposed to continuous damage of that type, then they completely resist the continuous damage but take full damage from other sources of that type during the same round.

Avoidance: A creature with Avoidance can see the future or otherwise perfectly evade a certain number of attacks each round. Every rank of Avoidance allows the creature to completely evade one attack that round of any type.

The trick to Avoidance is that is not a voluntary reaction, but a reflexive one. A creature cannot choose which attacks to Avoid - it is always the first set that the creature receives. Thus, the environmental counter to Avoidance is 'Hazard', and environment in which there are many things moving around that people have to reflexively respond to or dodge at all times.

Mobility: This is more a catch-all for movement modes that the PCs do not possess. A creature that can fly cannot be hit by melee weapons - it will simply lift up out of the way of the strikes. A creature that can burrow beneath the earth cannot be targeted by those without that degree of freedom.

There are three counters to mobility. One is to wait for the creature to emerge and strike as a reactive action. The second way is via the environmental condition 'Weather', which reflects turbulence in a mode of movement that hinders or prevents that movement mode. For example, a creature with Mobility: Flight will be grounded in a storm. A creature with Mobility: Burrow will be unable to tunnel safely during an earthquake. 'Weather' can also represent the presence of passive obstacles to that movement mode - a tunnel with a low ceiling has 'Weather' against fliers.

The third way is to target the source of that Mobility. Every creature with Mobility has some physical manifestation of their movement mode. This can be targeted with a called shot - these manifestations have hitpoints equal to 20% of the creature's maximum, and are the first to be restored by healing powers.

Fade: Some creatures - ghosts and spectres - can fade in and out of corporeal existence at will, allowing attacks to pass through them. A creature with Fade has a certain chance to be un-targetable during a character's round (this chance is rolled at the start of the character's action, and the character is aware of it). Fade I grants a 50% chance of this; Fade II grants a 75% chance of this; Fade III grants a 100% chance of this.

The counter to Fade is the presence of things that hint at when the creature is manifest and when they are not. This is the environmental condition Reveal, which corresponds to things like water pooling on the ground (so you can see when they make a splash), twigs that snap to give away physicality, bright lights that can cast shadows, the use of magical items that force manifestation or reveal hidden things, etc.

Vengeant: This particularly nasty ability causes all harm done to the creature to reflect back on the source of that damage. Vengeant I grants this with respect to direct damage; Vengeant II allows negative status conditions and the like to be reflected; Vengeant III causes the harm to reflect not just to the attacker, but to all of their allies present (thus someone with Vengeant III could quite literally lay armies low when struck by a single soldier). This ability is generally restricted to divine beings and is extremely, extremely rare.

Curse environments can be used to counter Vengeant, but they operate at one level lower than normal (so Curse II lowers Vengeant by I).

BeerMug Paladin
2014-01-10, 08:20 AM
I'd suggest giving a look at Minimus if you've not seen it already, it may give you some ideas of how to design a simple system.

2014-01-10, 01:10 PM
When I mean rules light I mean warrior, rogue, mage (great system, it's also been used for a pulp fiction variant). In that system their are 3 attributes and their is no mechanical difference between shooting a goblin and swinging acrossed vines besides consequences. As to what conflicts I expect to resolve, I was thinking having more of an emphasis on one chimera instead of 20 skeletons. Also I want terrain, hazards, and traps to be more important.
Why not start off with Warrior, Rogue, Mage in that case, and progress from there?
What is it about WRM that you didn't like?

2014-01-10, 06:11 PM
I do like WRM but I want special abilities to be more important. Or I guess we could try for less basic attacking via a skill tree.

2014-01-11, 12:56 PM
Have you looked at FATE (http://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core-downloads/) and/or Old School Hack (http://www.oldschoolhack.net/)?

FATE and FATE Accelerated are rules-light story-driven systems that work well for fast and loose games with a heavy emphasis on narrative and characterizations. They're both available via a pay what you like payment plan, and are both easy to pick up and run.

Old School Hack is a quick-to-learn and easy-to-run hack of the original Red Box of Dungeons and Dragons. It uses some modern RPG ideas to create a rules-light version of a kick-in-the-door style of gameplay that is a delight to run.