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Thread: Makin' a System

  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Makin' a System

    So, I've been thinking a lot about making an RPG system recently. Its mostly accumulation of thoughts and half-formed homebrew, so nothing really concrete. Because of that, I'm going to be posting my thoughts and in-progress stuff here for discussion instead of posting it in Homebrew (I really dislike when people post WIP in Homebrew).

    My philosophy towards roleplaying games are summed up below:
    1. The goal of any game is to have fun.
    2. In order to have fun, a player must be able to make meaningful decisions.
    3. The GM and system should treat the players maturely.


    I don't know where the RPG itself is going to end up going, but I still have some general goals for it:
    1. Playable on forums. It's where I do most of my gaming so any system I can't use of a forum is pretty much useless to me.
    2. Marginal return on effects e.g. increasing a skill from +1 to +2 doesn't increase your chance of success as much as increasing from +0 to +1
    3. Classless. Classes have a lot going for them in terms of making sure the player keeps to a strong archetype, but that very strength is a weakness when it comes to players trying to do something the original game designer never imagined.
    4. No or minimal experience points or equivalent. I really dislike experience points and leveling and all that jazz.
    5. Some sort of fatigue system.
    6. Optimization of statistical power is channeled into fluff-appropriate things. For instance, many GMs have a problem with the concept of pacts in Fiendish Codex II since it allows characters to be more powerful in a rather easy way. I, on the other hand, think they're great since the character is getting power by making pacts with devils. Stuff like that has tons of storytelling potential and is, in my opinion, far better optimization than picking a number of disparate prestige classes in the correct order to maximize base attack bonus and saves.


    Enough meandering! The first topic I'm going to talk about is
    DICE


    Choosing what dice to use is probably the most important decision to make when designing a game. Actions in a game are all about determining success or failure and the way you determine that is by using dice.1 Some games try to get around this by using things like cards or spinners or other such paraphernalia but when you get down to it all of those things are functionally identical to dice (plus, remember Goal 1). There are a lot of different ways of using dice and I've listed just some below.

    Linear - You roll a die, perhaps you add or subtract something, and then you compare it to a number. D&D has a d20 that you add modifiers to and compares it against a d20. Call of Cthulhu has a d100 that you try to roll under a certain number. Unknown Armies is similar to Call of Cthulhu, with the added complication that, for instance, a 54 can produce a different result than a 45 even if both are under the skill of 60. I won't go into deep details, but basically no matter whether you're adding or subtracting or rolling under or rolling above, all of these style of rolling have the same probability curve i.e. a linear one. Increasing your skill by 1 always increases your chance of success by 1% (or 5% or whatever). Given Goal 2, this style is right out.

    Dice Pools - You roll a certain number of dice. Any dice above a certain number - usually called a threshold - is a "success" and any number below a certain number is a "failure". Shadowrun uses d6s. The most recent edition of Shadowrun has a die be a success on a 5 or 6 (failure otherwise) though earlier editions had the number be set at pretty much anything (die rolls of 6 could be rerolled and added to the result, allowing for thresholds above 6). The World of Darkness uses d10s with a threshold which is set by the task. Both of those systems introduce critical success or failure using semi-complicated rules.

    Assuming that you are trying to hit a certain number of successes and as many as possible, e.g. "Roll at least 2 successes" vs. "If you roll more successes, you get better results", than there is a marginal return on adding more dice. That's what I'm looking for. The problem is with opposed rolls, which are almost always "roll as many successes as you can" as that turns it right back into linear.

    Dice Poker - Alright, this is a weird one. In a dice poker system, you roll a bunch of dice. You then search for sets, e.g. "I got a pair of 5s", and then select one. The "height", i.e. what the number of the die shows, determines whether you succeed or not and the "width", i.e. how many of that number, determines the margin of success. Godlike (which I haven't played) is the only game I know which does this, but I'm sure there is more. The advantage of this system is that it's non-linear and that one roll shows success and an independent margin of success. Interesting, but having the player pick out the set they want is something I find vaguely wrong for reasons I can't properly articulate and I have a feeling the style might scare away some players.

    Attribute Determines Die - This system is similar to linear - you roll a die and compare the result to a number. The difference is that the die that you roll is different depending on your skill e.g. a novice might roll a 1d4 while an expert might roll a 1d20 (or vice versa if it's a roll-under instead of roll-over). Serenity (which I also haven't played) does something like this. I find this more interesting than strictly linear and by fiddling around with dice size you can make it non-linear.

    Median of Three - This is sort of similar to attribute determines die. Basically, you have three die. The size of the first die is set by ability score2, the size of the second die is set by skill rank 2, and the third die is just always the same (or perhaps set by the task). Roll the die and get the average result e.g. 6, 7, and 1 gives 4.66. This gives a lot of interesting probability qualities, not to mention separating ability and skill.

    Highest Die - In this system, you roll a bunch of die and the highest dice result is your score. If it's above the threshold, it's a success. Failure otherwise. This is what I'm currently leaning towards. It's nonlinear and it's easy to understand (since most people have experience with dice pools and this is a simple modification of that). The main problem with this system is that results are bound by the selection of the die, e.g. if I choose a d20 nobody is getting a result higher than 20.

    One of the modifications of this is 2nd-Highest Die (or 3rd-Highest, etc). This slows down the rate of return on increasing an attribute as well as decreasing the minimum chance. For instance, on a Highest Die system with a d20, a novice has a 5% chance of getting the best result (rolls a 20). On a 2nd-Highest Die system with 2d20, a novice has only a 0.25% chance of getting the best result (rolls 2 20s). Of course, this also means that I'll have much higher attributes, e.g. with Highest Die an attribute of 5 or so isn't bad but with 2nd-Highest Die I would need an attribute of ~14 or so instead.

    Finally, Highest Die (and variants) have the same problem that all non-linear dice rolling has, namely that the probabilities are non-obvious to the average player. In D&D, I know that I have a 50% chance of succeeding on a DC of 14 on a 1d20+4. It takes longer to calculate what my chance of success on a 2nd-Highest Die with 5 dice on a threshold of 11 is.

    1 Technically, there are diceless games such as Amber Diceless. While I do want to do something like that eventually, let's just pretend that it doesn't exist for right now.
    2 To use D&D parlance.

    Thoughts? Comments? What system of dice rolling have you used and what sort do you like?
    Smart is knowing that Frankenstein wasn't the monster. / Wise is knowing that Frankenstein was the monster.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Hi. A few not-so-helpful thoughts, here:

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    1. Playable on forums. It's where I do most of my gaming so any system I can't use of a forum is pretty much useless to me.
    If it's for playing on forums, why use dice at all?

    (No, I don't have any good idea what to replace them with. Sorry....)

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Dice Poker - Alright, this is a weird one. In a dice poker system, you roll a bunch of dice. You then search for sets, e.g. "I got a pair of 5s", and then select one.
    Weapons of the Gods uses a variation on this: Of the set you pick, the number of dice in the set is the tens digit, and the number on the dice is the ones digit. So, 9,9,9 would be a result of 39. Most things that modify a roll do so by providing a flat +/-5 or +/-10 to the result.

    It's an interesting system (and it allows you to 'store' excess sets of matching dice to boost rolls later), but I'm glad the writer included a probability table in the back of the book. :-P

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Median of Three - This is sort of similar to attribute determines die. Basically, you have three die. The size of the first die is set by ability score2, the size of the second die is set by skill rank 2, and the third die is just always the same (or perhaps set by the task). Roll the die and get the average result e.g. 6, 7, and 1 gives 4.66. This gives a lot of interesting probability qualities, not to mention separating ability and skill.
    Interesting, but instead of requiring non-integer division, why not just multiply all the target numbers by three?

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Highest Die - In this system, you roll a bunch of die and the highest dice result is your score. If it's above the threshold, it's a success. Failure otherwise. This is what I'm currently leaning towards. It's nonlinear and it's easy to understand (since most people have experience with dice pools and this is a simple modification of that). The main problem with this system is that results are bound by the selection of the die, e.g. if I choose a d20 nobody is getting a result higher than 20.
    The Silhouette system has a nice addition to this: Every extra die you get at max value adds one to the max value. So, if you roll 3d6 and get "6,6,4" it's effectively a result of 7. (It only uses d6s.)



    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Finally, Highest Die (and variants) have the same problem that all non-linear dice rolling has, namely that the probabilities are non-obvious to the average player. In D&D, I know that I have a 50% chance of succeeding on a DC of 14 on a 1d20+4. It takes longer to calculate what my chance of success on a 2nd-Highest Die with 5 dice on a threshold of 11 is.
    Yeah, calculating probabilities for some of these is decidedly non-obvious.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Thoughts? Comments? What system of dice rolling have you used and what sort do you like?
    Hope my ramblings give you a few good ideas.

    A few others I've seen:

    Opposed dice: Feng Shui's system is basically "1d6 - 1d6 + skill", with both the positive and negative dice exploding on a 6. FUDGE is similar, using 4 special dice, each of which can provide +1, -1 or 0 to a roll.

    This system provides an average effect of whatever skill or stat you're rolling on, with enough variance to make it interesting.

    Exploding dice: Can be added to most of the above: When a die rolls its maximum value, roll it again and add it on. Advantages: Allows the occasional ridiculously lucky roll. Disadvantages: Allows the occasional ridiculously lucky roll.

    Roll-and-keep: A variation on dice-pools, where the player rolls a number of dice, chooses a smaller number to use, then adds them up. Used in Legend of the Five Rings. (Example: You roll "5k3" (all d10s in L5R): You get 4,7,7,1,2. You take 4+7+7 = 18 total.)

    Oh, one other one:
    Funky Dice: The new version of Warhammer FRPG comes with a set of dice in different colors, each type has a different combination of possible effects on them: Success, Failure, Boon, Bane, Strain, Wound, etc. The players get to pick which dice they intend to use to show various strategies (going all-out increases the risk of strain, being over-cautious lowers chance of success, etc.) The obvious disadvantages are the difficulty of guessing probabilities, and the need for custom dice. (Although for a webgame, programming them into the system would be easy enough for a programmer.)
    Last edited by Arbane; 2011-07-04 at 05:04 PM.
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    In the Game system i'm working on we're using the Higest Die system you describe.

    The GM has three targets, Easy (Dc14 in D&D parlance) Medium (DC16, a ~ 25% chance of success on a D20 roll) and Difficult (Dc18) to allocate for actions of different difficulty. this allows a bit of flexibility but as the numbers can't go above twenty as you note it keeps things easy for the ref.

    this works pretty well for unopposed rolls but slightly less well for opposed rolls as its easy for two players with high scores to end up rolling lots of dice and never hitting each other as they keep being able to oppose each others attacks. this has been identified as a problem in the last round of playtesting, but so far isn't a significant enough problem to warrent a change to the system. we've gotten around the low rate of hitting by making the damage on a successful hit very high, this game is a fairly gritty sci fi system with no hand to hand combat but lots of gun fights. so we're going with the principle that most of the time you are going to be able to dodge the enemies bullets/ lasers/sonic pulses. but on the rare occasions you do get hit theres a very good chance that the wound will kill, or at least seriously incapacitate you.

    advancement is an issue in a system like this, although I note that that isn't one of your objectives. The probabilities level off quite quickly so that this system doesn't work well for a game with a lot of potential for advancement. you can't keep increasing your dice pool level after level as you fairly quickly get to a point where you're rolling high numbers most of the time but adding another die doesn't make you roll significatly higher numbers to be worthwhile.

    Dice pools in my system have been capped at five, although situational modifiers allow higher pools. For the D20s we're using the point of diminisihing returns starts at about four points. its worth having five points in something because it counteracts a negative penalty to someones dice pool, and positive bonuses taking the number of dice as high as eight are worth having although each additional die is slightly less useful.

    I hope that some of that helps. Its a system that I find works nicely enough so long as the GM is flexible with it.
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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    currently my "system in the making" 's document looks like a lot of ideas thrown around with a little framework put in. i generally don't get much time to work on it, and a lot of it is simply me throwing ideas and trying of ways to make it work.

    though i do have a vacation coming up so i'll be able to focus on it then.

    i prefer systems that work towards particular genres/games rather then generic ones.

    for now it's going to be fantasy based, but my "end" goal is to make a 1890's wild-west themed game with some fantasy elements mixed in... this test one is mostly there for me to experiment and learn about game systems.

    i also like systems that can be complex but only require a little bit of knowledge to run. the d20 system is pretty basic: d20+stat VS number. same with GURPS, 3d6 + mod Roll Under stat.

    it's the added rules that bog the game down. i need to keep the dice rolling simple and work from there.

    Spoiler
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    -due to being over familiar with the genre, i will initially make it fantasy based in the testing phases to get a good feel for how the interactions work but i will work to have it be more modern-ish in the "final" version. effectively i'm going use the fantasy genre to gain the experience needed to work other genres into it. my main issue with the Faurope settings, to me at least, have been done over and over far too much and i'm getting bored of them.

    i'm going to be aiming for a more wild west or renaissance type of with some fantasy elements mixed in... less "dungeons and dragons" and more "desperadoes and dragons" so that will be the eventual goal for the setting and system to emulate.

    -it will be pulp-action. i want action to be fast-paced and fun, but not highly lethal. pulp-action heros can roll with the punches.

    -i want it to be a class based game system. pick 2 classes, gain the benefits of both. kinda like 2nd ed's multiclassing, 3.5's gestalt or 4th ed's hybrid classes. effectively mixing and matching 2 classes to create your own. i had initially thought of going strait 1-class but Gamma World 4th ed's treatment of character origins was quite fun and allowed for a diverse amount of PCs yet each "class" itself being small and self-contained.

    in combat each class will have it's own goal/role. to me that's part and parcel to a class based game... that each class has it's "thing".

    out of combat i want to keep it more open and allow players to create a wider variety of characters within each class. skills won't be restricted to any particular class. more on skills later.

    -classes will focus on adding extra abilities rather then simply making the numbers bigger. i would like to show some sort of growth in character power without simple "numbers get bigger".

    will need to work on this

    -players should succeed more often then failing by default, modifiers should be kept at a minimum but still be relevant. i've decided to use 3d6, roll over, with 10 as the "key" number for success, giving the player about a 60% success rate. i'm working on keeping overall modifiers within an overall +/- 3 at most. with a -3 total giving the player the biggest penalties and reducing his chance of success to about 25% while a +3 will raise his chances to 85%

    might keep it exactly like that: everyone's target number will always be "10" as modified by... something... dunno... hmm...

    -stats: still unsure how i'm going to handle it, if i want a simple 3-4 GURPS/Tri-Stat a moderate D&D 6-point style or a more expansive White Wolf 9-stat system. i might just drop stats entirely and keep it entirely skill based.

    -as for character resources: i'm going for a more encounter-based design. my personal experience with 3 editions of D&D (among other systems) has shown me that daily resources are too difficult to balance properly due to how many encounters you'll get into on a day-to-day basis can vary not just from campaign to campaign, but session to session.

    i'm hoping a more encounter-based refresh mechanic will help me balance PC power. class-based combat abilities will probably resemble 4th ed's powers (as in, they'll have a standard fomat but a wide array of thematic uses), but i'm not entirely sure how i'm going to handle non-combat resources yet. i'm still tinkering.

    -broad skillsets with "specialties" included inside. characters should be capable of a wide array of things, but still allow for further specialization within those, with training allowing characters more options, akin to skill tricks in 3.5 or the skill powers in 4th ed that add extra uses out of the individual skills.

    the ability to gain skill tricks/powers will be innate to the leveling system. so at level 1 you start with X amount of specializations while at levels A, B & C you gain one extra specialization trick/power.

    think of it as "Untrained" > "Trained" > "Specialties"

    -not sure how i'm going to handle social skills yet. i do want to include them, but how, i'm still on the fence on how to handle "social combat".

    -not sure if i'm going to include things like feats. i'm thinking "no" since the larger number of classes (and combinations thereof) and the skill system should allow for more then enough variety between characters and a separate system for customization might just be overkill.

    -weapons & armor should be simple in design. another thing from the 4th ed version of Gamma world i liked is how they have overall simple weapons as a framework (unarmed, 1-handed, 2-handed, ranged retrievable/easy to find ammo, ranged limited use) and have a light/heavy version of each. one man's javelin (light ranged, retrievable) is another man's slingshot (light ranged, easy to find ammo).

    not too sure how i'm going to treat armor as an entity and how it'll affect the character's defenses.

    i'm planning on have 3 defenses: Mental (magic, trickery and such), Physical (things that affect the body like shrugging off a poison, non-targeting physical effects like a bomb's shockwave) & Touch (anything that would require contact with your person).

    "magic" will be adding properties to the gear, not simply boosting the numbers. a flaming sword could light stuff on fire via touch but also add something like a fiery burst 1/encounter. in a modern game this will be akin to sawing off your shotgun's barrel... weapon mods.

    something to think about

    -health will be abstracted, probably using a system similar to HP. i've played games that use a downward spiral of health and they're not my thing.

    -as i said, i want the game to be pulp-action, rather fast paced. i also want combat to be tactical yet fast enough that you won't slog through basic/at-will attacks after you've used up your encounter-based resources.


    it's a daunting, but fun, experiment.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Finally, Highest Die (and variants) have the same problem that all non-linear dice rolling has, namely that the probabilities are non-obvious to the average player. In D&D, I know that I have a 50% chance of succeeding on a DC of 14 on a 1d20+4. It takes longer to calculate what my chance of success on a 2nd-Highest Die with 5 dice on a threshold of 11 is.
    So non-obvious that you know incorrectly.

    The chance of succeeding on a DC 14 check on a d20+4 is 11/20 not 1/2.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    If it's for playing on forums, why use dice at all?
    Any random number generator is functionally equivalent to dice. So, if I have any randomness in the system, I can use dice.

    Granted, since I am using the forums, I can do stuff like 1d42, if I really want to. That's not really possible to do in tabletop (well, without weird rolling rules).

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    Interesting, but instead of requiring non-integer division, why not just multiply all the target numbers by three?
    The division uses an integer - 3 - it's just the result which is a non-integer value.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    The Silhouette system has a nice addition to this: Every extra die you get at max value adds one to the max value. So, if you roll 3d6 and get "6,6,4" it's effectively a result of 7. (It only uses d6s.)
    Interesting, but I think I might want to keep bounded results. AD&D, if I remember correctly (haven't played it nearly as much as I have played 3.5) had a maximum ability score of 25. Worked out pretty well because you don't get as much stat inflation that 3.5 has i.e. "The God of Strength has 25 strength. Except that he's only a lesser deity and the greater deity God of Victory has a 38 strength."

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    Opposed dice: Feng Shui's system is basically "1d6 - 1d6 + skill", with both the positive and negative dice exploding on a 6. FUDGE is similar, using 4 special dice, each of which can provide +1, -1 or 0 to a roll.

    This system provides an average effect of whatever skill or stat you're rolling on, with enough variance to make it interesting.
    Functionally, it's the equivalent of using 3d6 + modifier. It's not exactly the same as linear, but it's pretty close.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    Exploding dice: Can be added to most of the above: When a die rolls its maximum value, roll it again and add it on. Advantages: Allows the occasional ridiculously lucky roll. Disadvantages: Allows the occasional ridiculously lucky roll.
    I really don't like exploding dice because it changes how players act, in my experience. Without exploding dice, players tend to try to turn circumstances to their favor, i.e. they like for as many advantages as they can find. With exploding dice, I see players taking far bigger chances on desperate gambles merely because there's a very slight chance that their 1d6 will get 4 successes.

    Now, getting unlikely successes is memorable but usually what happens is that they fail - miserably - and I as GM am put in the situation where I either have to let them die, which usually isn't fun (Paranoia being a big exception), or I fudge it to let them live, which greatly lessens the danger and tensions that players feel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    Roll-and-keep: A variation on dice-pools, where the player rolls a number of dice, chooses a smaller number to use, then adds them up. Used in Legend of the Five Rings. (Example: You roll "5k3" (all d10s in L5R): You get 4,7,7,1,2. You take 4+7+7 = 18 total.)
    Eh, possibly. I assume the number of dice you roll is based on skill. What sets the number of dice that you keep?

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    Oh, one other one:
    Funky Dice: The new version of Warhammer FRPG comes with a set of dice in different colors, each type has a different combination of possible effects on them: Success, Failure, Boon, Bane, Strain, Wound, etc. The players get to pick which dice they intend to use to show various strategies (going all-out increases the risk of strain, being over-cautious lowers chance of success, etc.) The obvious disadvantages are the difficulty of guessing probabilities, and the need for custom dice. (Although for a webgame, programming them into the system would be easy enough for a programmer.)
    The thing is, this is functionally equivalent to just a normal dice roll. The difference is in result.

    So, for instance, you can choose "Aggressive" or "Defensive" and you roll a 1d6.

    {table="head;width = 400"]Result|Aggressive|Defensive
    1|Critical Failure|Critical Failure
    2|Critical Failure|Failure
    3|Failure|Failure
    4|Success|Success
    5|Success|Success
    6|Critical Success|Success
    [/table]

    It's still pretty much the same thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by EccentricCircle View Post
    this works pretty well for unopposed rolls but slightly less well for opposed rolls as its easy for two players with high scores to end up rolling lots of dice and never hitting each other as they keep being able to oppose each others attacks. this has been identified as a problem in the last round of playtesting, but so far isn't a significant enough problem to warrent a change to the system.
    Good to keep in mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by EccentricCircle View Post
    advancement is an issue in a system like this, although I note that that isn't one of your objectives. The probabilities level off quite quickly so that this system doesn't work well for a game with a lot of potential for advancement. you can't keep increasing your dice pool level after level as you fairly quickly get to a point where you're rolling high numbers most of the time but adding another die doesn't make you roll significatly higher numbers to be worthwhile.
    Well, that's the whole point - I want diminishing returns. I might add in additional benefits for having a high skill - for instance, it takes less time to learn feats.

    Quote Originally Posted by EccentricCircle View Post
    Dice pools in my system have been capped at five, although situational modifiers allow higher pools. For the D20s we're using the point of diminisihing returns starts at about four points. its worth having five points in something because it counteracts a negative penalty to someones dice pool, and positive bonuses taking the number of dice as high as eight are worth having although each additional die is slightly less useful.
    I don't think I'm going to put a hard cap on dice pools for my game.

    Also, just to note, you don't have to make higher skill levels cost more points. That's the entire point of having diminishing returns on probability. You're sort of double-dipping, as it were.

    Quote Originally Posted by oxybe View Post
    it's a daunting, but fun, experiment.
    I'll look over when I have a chance.

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by fractal_uk View Post
    So non-obvious that you know incorrectly.

    The chance of succeeding on a DC 14 check on a d20+4 is 11/20 not 1/2.
    Depends on how you handle ties, man.

    {table="head;width=200"]Result|Succeed?
    1|N
    2|N
    3|N
    4|N
    5|N
    6|N
    7|N
    8|N
    9|N
    10|Y/N
    11|Y
    12|Y
    13|Y
    14|Y
    15|Y
    16|Y
    17|Y
    18|Y
    19|Y
    20|Y
    [/table]
    Last edited by TooManySecrets; 2011-07-04 at 06:28 PM.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    One thing to consider in your choice of dice mechanics is familiarity. Poker dice, for example, might be perfect for you mechanically, but it can still derail your game if the players spend more time scratching their heads over it than playing.

    You also left out an important option for dice: Roll and Sum. This is used for everything from DnD statgen to Monopoly, and should be familiar to all your players. It also produces nice bell-curve shapes, which is something d20 is lacking. Bonuses become very valuable under these circumstances, and you can feel justified doling them out like a miser. Another way to produce this bell curve is to have outcomes at the extreme end of the scale that are, well, extreme, like critical hits and critical fumbles, and a gradient of success between them that is mostly meh.

    All tolled, I'd just go with roll-and-sum 3- or 4d6, or linear percentile dice. It is much easier to do complex math at character creation/advancement than when you roll. The key is diminishing returns. Make the first "buy in" in an ability +10%, for example. For the same price in character points, they can get a further upgrades of 5%, then 4%, then 3%, etc.

    Also, consider just how number-intensive you want this to be. If it's homebrew, one suspects your purpose is to play with it rather than publish it. This allows you to volunteer much more GM control. You might make a pretty easy system of arbitrarily weighing the two combatants and saying, "okay, he has about a 70% chance of hitting", and just rolling. It's only when you're trying to get a whole bunch of GMs conforming to the same 70% that you need a complex rules system.

    Ask yourself, "can I make this work with a single roll of a single d6? Can I make it work with rock-paper-scissors or a coin toss? You probably shouldn't go with these, but return to these ideas as an exercise in the K.I.S.S. principle.

    Moving away from dice specifics, remember that there is a value to specialization. Suffering diminishing returns means you players don't have much incentive to specialize -- meaning the characters are all likely to be carbon copies of each other. Players want their characters to at least have their own shticks. Look into ways that different areas of focus can help them out AS A TEAM, rather than as individuals.

    Finally, consider what type of game you want to run. For example, DnD has always, always been about tabletop miniatures. White Wolf focused on larping. The result: DnD has a very complex ruleset for combat (eg, almost all the rules) and very little for social interactions, while White Wolf has the same depth of mechanics for both. It isn't a case that one is superior to the other, but rather a case that both are specialized for certain types of games. (Don't try to be a perfect system for every type of game. GURPS did that already.)
    I'm not an evil GM! Honest!

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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Choosing what dice to use is probably the most important decision to make when designing a game.
    I would actually consider this to be largely irrelevant. Sure, the dice can give the system a distinct feel, but you're rolling dice for a random variable regardless of how your are doing so. It sounds like you have ideas for the dice already, so I won't put forth my opinion (for now).

    On the other hand, I noticed several other goals that I'd like to address or feel are important to focus on at such an early stage of design.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Playable on forums. It's where I do most of my gaming so any system I can't use of a forum is pretty much useless to me.
    If you want the system to efficiently run on a forum or in a PbP environment, you should probably focus on it in the beginning. A lot of RPGs assume several people sitting at a table, where players can see the results of rolls and actions immediately. Forum games tend to pass between player-GM turns, though, with hours or days between responses. As such, you want as much information as possible in the hands of the players, so that when they make a decision, they have the clearest idea of the outcome when they roll.

    Just for an example, here is how D&D 3rd edition might play on a forum:

    "The orc charges and attacks the fighter (roll attack, roll damage), the skeleton tries to grapple the rogue (roll touch attack, roll grapple check), and the shaman casts a spell at the wizard (roll touch attack, roll damage, give save DC). Give me your actions, roll your grapple check/saving throw, and make your rolls."

    There is a problem here. Players are taking damage will minimal input for their character, they are forced to make rolls irrelevant of their plans (grapple, save), and they don't see the results of their actions until the GM comes back to give a response.

    One better method would be to place rolls in the hands of the PCs. An even better method would be to condense everything into one or two rolls, regardless of how much they get attacked. Even better would be some way to allow them to choose what to do, with the consequences spelled out or known during their turn.

    Okay, that didn't make much sense. Let me try an example of what I mean.

    "The orc charges the fighter (DC 16), the skeleton tries to grapple the rogue (DC 19), and the shaman casts a spell at the wizard (DC 13)."

    The "DC" numbers would be the rolls the character needs to make to avoid the attack. If the fighter wants to fight the orc, then he needs to make his roll (DC 16) to fight it off - success means he damaged the orc, failure means he took damage himself. On the other hand, if he didn't consider the orc a problem, he could choose to help an ally by going after the skeleton or shaman instead. Doing so would mean ignoring the orc (likely taking the damage automatically) but it means the fighter could roll against the skeleton/shaman for a two-on-one fight that round.

    I use the term "DC" although your system will likely not have "Difficulty Challanges" or d20 rolls. I'm just using the numbers as a familiar example.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    No or minimal experience points or equivalent. I really dislike experience points and leveling and all that jazz.

    Optimization of statistical power is channeled into fluff-appropriate things. For instance, many GMs have a problem with the concept of pacts in Fiendish Codex II since it allows characters to be more powerful in a rather easy way. I, on the other hand, think they're great since the character is getting power by making pacts with devils. Stuff like that has tons of storytelling potential and is, in my opinion, far better optimization than picking a number of disparate prestige classes in the correct order to maximize base attack bonus and saves.
    Are you familiar with Faery's Tale Deluxe? That system uses the thematically appropriate "Boons", or Fae favors for aiding one another. Boons can be cashed in as favors, of course, but can also be exchanged for new skills or increased attributes (because Boons are magical and can be used to increase the magical abilities of the character).

    While a campaign that fully ignores experience in exchange for story rewards can certainly be fun and interesting, I'm not sure that a system would benefit as well. Unless you plan on being the only one to use your system, you'd want some kind of method for increasing a character's ability. Having the potential for story-rewards to grant skills outright might influence how such skills are created and organized, but you will likely also want an experience/Boon system as well - possibly thematically focused towards your system.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Some sort of fatigue system.
    This seems easy to implement. One thing that I am considering is tying the fatigue mechanic to the "Willpower" or "Edge" mechanic - you can expend your endurance to pull off some flashy or impressive stunts, but doing so tires you out quickly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reltzik View Post
    Also, consider just how number-intensive you want this to be.
    The thing to remember is that this will be on the forums. At best, it's probably going to be 10 minutes between each post - and that's with a very high post rate. Realistically, you're looking at hours between each post. Given that information, it really doesn't matter how long it takes to determine whether a given roll is successfully (as long as it is not obnoxiously difficult to do so).

    Quote Originally Posted by Reltzik View Post
    Moving away from dice specifics, remember that there is a value to specialization. Suffering diminishing returns means you players don't have much incentive to specialize -- meaning the characters are all likely to be carbon copies of each other. Players want their characters to at least have their own shticks. Look into ways that different areas of focus can help them out AS A TEAM, rather than as individuals.
    Shadowrun has a classless system with diminishing returns (both in terms of cost per dice - they go up - and in probability). Yet, most characters aren't "carbon copies" of each other. Far from it. Even among the same archetype (which is a non-rule fluff thing), there is a large difference. Now, obviously, it depends on the degree of diminishing returns and the number of attributes you can increase. If it costs 1 point to get to rank 1, 10 points to get to rank 2, and 100 points to get to rank 3 and there are only 10 skills, than sure every character is going to be pretty much identical. I think however you are overstating the danger.

    The concept of being able to do more as part of a team, however, is something I have been thinking about. But let's save that for later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reltzik View Post
    Finally, consider what type of game you want to run. For example, DnD has always, always been about tabletop miniatures. White Wolf focused on larping. The result: DnD has a very complex ruleset for combat (eg, almost all the rules) and very little for social interactions, while White Wolf has the same depth of mechanics for both. It isn't a case that one is superior to the other, but rather a case that both are specialized for certain types of games. (Don't try to be a perfect system for every type of game. GURPS did that already.)
    I want to run a fun game.

    Teehee.

    Okay, getting into more of specifics: I want to run a fantasy game that moves away from the traditional Adventurer Dungeon-Delving. I even want to get away, at least a bit, from We're A Party mentality. The closest thing I can probably think of is Amber Diceless, where each player has their own goals and are often off doing their own thing at the other ends of the multiverse. Now, in real life, this has rather obvious disadvantages - if the GM is focusing on one player, the other players are off watching YouTube or playing WoW or something. On the forums, that's not really a problem since communication is asynchronous anyways.

    It all ties back to Philosophy 2 - making meaningful decisions. In D&D, I feel like the standard paradigm has the world being a static stage for dungeon crashing. When the world is static, it closes off a level of meaningful decisions that one can make. Obviously, a skilled GM doesn't have to do this, but I would prefer to not have to fight the system to run the type of game that I want to run.

    Siderbar: Let me just take a moment to say that I do not begrudge anybody's enjoyment of any system or any playstyle (unless it's FATAL). If you're having fun, I'm not going to tell you that you're having the "wrong" type of fun.

    Where was I? Oh yeah - I'm not making a generic system. However, I like to have an iterative design process. I'm going to choose what I'm using for dice now and I'm going to keep it - until I run into problems. At that point, I back up to the first step, re-evaluate with the new information I have, and cascade the changes downward. I have enough of thought for the setting (rough as it is) that I feel comfortable choosing dice mechanics now.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I would actually consider this to be largely irrelevant. Sure, the dice can give the system a distinct feel, but you're rolling dice for a random variable regardless of how your are doing so. It sounds like you have ideas for the dice already, so I won't put forth my opinion (for now).
    Actually, it is rather important.

    Here's a bellcurve with 3d6:


    And here's one for 10d6:


    With some fudging of dice sizes and modifiers and what have you, you can make both graphs have the same average result, but the more extreme results become more or less likely. This is important, because it determines how much the attribute matters in determining the final result - higher bell curve, the more power the attribute is going to have since you can't rely on extreme results.

    You also have cases like Call of Cthulhu vs. D&D for skills. In CoC, if you get a 1 you always succeed (CoC is roll-under, right? Can't remember right now). In D&D, if the required DC is 20 more than your skill modifier, you cannot make that check. Period. If D&D exploded the 1d20 roll, for instance, than you could.

    In short, choosing the dice system has vast influences on pretty much every aspect of them game. The problem is that it's not exactly obvious - which, I guess, means that it is both highly relevant and highly irrelevant at the same time. +1 Paradox.

    At the end of the day, though, I have to start somewhere and I decided to start on dice because that's the type of person I am.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    If you want the system to efficiently run on a forum or in a PbP environment, you should probably focus on it in the beginning. A lot of RPGs assume several people sitting at a table, where players can see the results of rolls and actions immediately. Forum games tend to pass between player-GM turns, though, with hours or days between responses. As such, you want as much information as possible in the hands of the players, so that when they make a decision, they have the clearest idea of the outcome when they roll.

    [...]

    One better method would be to place rolls in the hands of the PCs. An even better method would be to condense everything into one or two rolls, regardless of how much they get attacked.
    But I though what the dice system was, was irrelevant?

    Seriously, though, I agree. I need to do a sort of information packing - putting the maximum amount of information into the hands of the PCs without spoiling anything. It's a non-trivial problem.

    The way I'm thinking of doing it is by first removing any "reactive" rolling, or at least let the player roll it as much as possible. For instance, there's no need to go:
    Quote Originally Posted by DM Post
    Okay the monster attacks you. Roll dodge.
    Quote Originally Posted by Player Post
    [Rolls] 12
    Quote Originally Posted by DM Post
    He hits you. You feel poison going into your veins. Roll to resist.
    Quote Originally Posted by Player Post
    [Rolls] 34
    The game would quickly bog down since there's so much time between posts. This
    Quote Originally Posted by DM Post
    Okay the monster attacks you. [Rolls] You try to dodge, but fail. You feel poison going into your veins. [Rolls] But you tough it out.
    is better. It really doesn't matter who rolls. In real life, it's a way of keeping the players interested in what is currently happening at that very second, but presumably players in the forum don't have the same problem since they're only posting when they're interested anyways.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    Even better would be some way to allow them to choose what to do, with the consequences spelled out or known during their turn.
    That's probably closer to what I'm envisioning.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    Are you familiar with Faery's Tale Deluxe?
    Nope. Continue.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    That system uses the thematically appropriate "Boons", or Fae favors for aiding one another. Boons can be cashed in as favors, of course, but can also be exchanged for new skills or increased attributes (because Boons are magical and can be used to increase the magical abilities of the character).
    I'm a functionalist at heart. If it moves like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it might not be technically a duck, but it's duck enough.

    My objection to experience points and leveling is not the name or thematics of it, but how it works. I really want some sort of naturalistic system where you increase your skill in something by doing it - either by training or just using it in the normal course or whatever.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    While a campaign that fully ignores experience in exchange for story rewards can certainly be fun and interesting, I'm not sure that a system would benefit as well. Unless you plan on being the only one to use your system, you'd want some kind of method for increasing a character's ability. Having the potential for story-rewards to grant skills outright might influence how such skills are created and organized, but you will likely also want an experience/Boon system as well - possibly thematically focused towards your system.
    First, I'm probably the only one who is going to use the system. I have no illusions that it will be so completely awesome that people are going to be lining up to use it. At best, I might get a few people on the forums to use it, and that's stretching.

    Right now, I'm envisioning that most of the rewards are going to be story rewards. Yes, you might get a few more notches (or points or whatever I'm going to call the counter for increasing skills) in a particular skill, but that's not why you do it. You do it to help out people or to gain influence or to kill stuff or whatever.

    Now, as I said, I'm probably the only one who is going to use the system, but I would still put guidelines in. Partly because I want my players to understand the value of something. Having a quest that rewards 100gp isn't exactly a great reward for a D&D character at 5th level - but it would be a ridiculous reward for a 5th level World of Warcraft character.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    This seems easy to implement. One thing that I am considering is tying the fatigue mechanic to the "Willpower" or "Edge" mechanic - you can expend your endurance to pull off some flashy or impressive stunts, but doing so tires you out quickly.
    Interesting. I was thinking more along the lines of Spell Points (except, obviously Endurance Points, instead). That way I had a bit more granularity, e.g. the awesome thing takes 10 EP while running for a minute takes 2 EP.
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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    In short, choosing the dice system has vast influences on pretty much every aspect of them game. The problem is that it's not exactly obvious - which, I guess, means that it is both highly relevant and highly irrelevant at the same time. +1 Paradox.

    At the end of the day, though, I have to start somewhere and I decided to start on dice because that's the type of person I am.
    I guess what I was trying to say is that, regardless of the type of curve, you can still figure out probabilities as the designer and assign bonuses / stat limits based on those probabilities. As such, the difference between 3d6 or 5d10 is primarily a matter of scale. As the designer, you can scale the numbers until they work as you want.

    My main point being that certain design changes (such as allowing the player to make all rolls themselves) may change or eliminate certain concerns (such as the one for opposed rolls).

    Since we're talking about dice here, I'll introduce you to another system: IronClaw/JadeClaw. This system starts with a d4, progressing to d6, d8, d10, d12, and then d12+d4. (It continues from there.) It is, pretty much, a Highest Dice + Dice Pool system: you gather together all the dice, roll them all, and compare them to the target number to see if you were successful/how successful you were. For opposed rolls, you compare your highest roll to your opponent's highest roll, your 2nd highest to your opponent's 2nd highest, and so on for the successes each character achieves.

    Spoiler
    Show
    A few other notes about the system:

    Players have a Race, a Career, and individual skills. Races and Careers are given their own individual die values, seperate from skills. Different Races and different Careers work with different skills - a Fox is stealthy and a woodsman, while a Horse is chivalric.

    Skills are determined by adding the Race and Careers that apply, along with the individual skill dice. If your character is a Fox Rogue trying to sneak, you would add Fox Race dice + Rogue Career dice + sneak skill dice. If we're talking about a Horse Knight sneaking, it would just be the sneak dice, as neither Horse nor Knight contribute to stealth.

    In opposed rolls, the number of successes are compared to determine one winner. You could easily modify that so that both successes apply - in the case of two warriors stabbing each other, for example.

    For IronClaw specifically, if you have more dice than your opponent in an opposed roll, each extra die counts as an automatic success. Having a "dice pool" of six dice against three ensures that you can't lose, for example.


    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    The game would quickly bog down since there's so much time between posts. This
    [...]
    is better. It really doesn't matter who rolls. In real life, it's a way of keeping the players interested in what is currently happening at that very second, but presumably players in the forum don't have the same problem since they're only posting when they're interested anyways.
    A lot of DMs have found that players actually do like rolling, and prefer that little sense of control over, "The wizard attacks from hiding and hits, knocking you unconcious and preventing you from taking any actions."

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    My objection to experience points and leveling is not the name or thematics of it, but how it works. I really want some sort of naturalistic system where you increase your skill in something by doing it - either by training or just using it in the normal course or whatever.
    You might want to take a look at Burning Wheel. Character progression is not determined by experience, but by skill use.

    Tasks (rolls) are determined to be "routine", "difficult", or "challanging" depending on how tough the task is compared to the character's skill. To progress low-ranking skills, you mostly need to accomplish routine (more than 50% chance of success) taks and perhaps one or two difficult (less than 50%) ones. If you want to progress above a moderate level, though, you need to accomplish both difficult tasks and the occasional challanging (0% chance of success) task.

    And yes, you read that right.

    Note that Burning Wheel assumes a few things differently from standard games: You only make one roll per scene/setting, you are only challanged when the outcome holds some risk, the GM needs to throw relevant challanges to increase a skill, and so on.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Right now, I'm envisioning that most of the rewards are going to be story rewards. Yes, you might get a few more notches (or points or whatever I'm going to call the counter for increasing skills) in a particular skill, but that's not why you do it. You do it to help out people or to gain influence or to kill stuff or whatever.
    One big thing I notice here: The players' characters will need to start the game with full capabilities if you are planning on playing like this. If the rewards are going to be solely physical and political, then any kinds of skills, capabilities, or magical powers need to be something they already know (or can be given to them).

    That's a pretty significant departure from the standard RPG concept, outside of one-shots. Almost all RPGs assume some kind of progressing of skills for the PCs.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Interesting. I was thinking more along the lines of Spell Points (except, obviously Endurance Points, instead). That way I had a bit more granularity, e.g. the awesome thing takes 10 EP while running for a minute takes 2 EP.
    I was thinking something you could also spend for re-rolls, to gain a bonus with rolls, and so on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I guess what I was trying to say is that, regardless of the type of curve, you can still figure out probabilities as the designer and assign bonuses / stat limits based on those probabilities. As such, the difference between 3d6 or 5d10 is primarily a matter of scale. As the designer, you can scale the numbers until they work as you want.
    True, scaling Call of Cthulhu to d20 is pretty easy, but you can't really scale from 3d6+Mod to 5k3 all that easily. Why do all that extra work re-scaling everything when you

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    For IronClaw specifically, if you have more dice than your opponent in an opposed roll, each extra die counts as an automatic success. Having a "dice pool" of six dice against three ensures that you can't lose, for example.
    I am considering some sort of mercy rule. I like how Continuum does it - basically, you have different skill ranks - Novice, Journeyman, Expert, Master, and Grandmaster - which all decrease the threshold for success by one. However, each task also has a ranking on the same scale. If you have 2 higher (Master vs. a Novice task), than you can't fail at it. This also works in opposed rolls, as well - a Sword Novice can't hit a Dodge Master without extenuating circumstances.

    Remember, though, that that has very little to do with the action of dice rolling itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    A lot of DMs have found that players actually do like rolling, and prefer that little sense of control over, "The wizard attacks from hiding and hits, knocking you unconcious and preventing you from taking any actions."
    But see here, that's all about how one runs their game rather than the system itself. If you have instant death traps (or, instant unconscious traps, I guess) all over the place, than sure the player is going to resent lacking even the illusion of control granted by rolling a die. However, if it's something that doesn't happen very rarely, than why plan your entire system around an extreme edge case?

    Going back to Philosophy 3, I'm going to assume that any players I choose to play with are mature and can handle the fact that they won't be able to roll for everything that personally affects their character in order to make the game run smoothly. Small sacrifices for the greater game. After all, most players don't have a problem with secret rolls for things like Listen, Spot, Search, etc. The players are still going to roll for things that they actually do in a post, e.g. "I attack the orc. [Roll attack] [Roll damage]".

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    You might want to take a look at Burning Wheel. Character progression is not determined by experience, but by skill use.
    I'll take a look at it.

    I'm actually thinking of increasing skills on failures. It's how Morrowind did it and I like the fact that it does diminishing returns automatically - high skill level means you fail rarely which means you increase skill rarely.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    One big thing I notice here: The players' characters will need to start the game with full capabilities if you are planning on playing like this. If the rewards are going to be solely physical and political, then any kinds of skills, capabilities, or magical powers need to be something they already know (or can be given to them).

    That's a pretty significant departure from the standard RPG concept, outside of one-shots. Almost all RPGs assume some kind of progressing of skills for the PCs.
    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    I want to run a fantasy game that moves away from the traditional Adventurer Dungeon-Delving. I even want to get away, at least a bit, from We're A Party mentality. The closest thing I can probably think of is Amber Diceless, where each player has their own goals and are often off doing their own thing at the other ends of the multiverse. [...] In D&D, I feel like the standard paradigm has the world being a static stage for dungeon crashing.
    Frankly, I'm fine making a departure from the normal RPG paradigm of kill-loot-levelup.

    You're right, too, about having the characters start out at a certain level of competency, even though I hadn't mentioned it yet. I have even entertained the notion of no increasing abilities at all - having characters start out at the prime of their natural abilities and just decreasing from there (echoing the story of Beowulf who went from being able to barehand brawl Grendel, to needing magic to defeat Grendel's mother, to needing a sword and armor and magic to fight the dragon).

    Overall, I'm seeing skill increases being few and far between. At a certain point, you can't really train them anymore (you're among the best in the world and you need to spend a lot of time just maintaining your ability). However, players get new applications of those skills. You learn secret martial arts techniques, you read new eldritch tomes, you make new friends who know somebody who can get you exactly what you need, etc etc.

    Let's look at Lord of the Rings, as all fantasy RPGs must eventually look to. Aragon doesn't really go BING! and gain a level. He gets Andúril, reforged from the Shards of Narsill, and a gift from the elves which I can't even remember right now, but that's pretty much it. He basically stays level 5 throughout the entire story. Gandalf is the only who really gets a power-up, but he's a DMPC already so...

    Of course, if I was running a story about a young farmhand (of mysterious parentage) who eventually grows up to kill gods, than the story is about his advancement and the system would have to be tweaked as appropriate. Once again, though, I consider something like that an edge case, like somebody trying to run Call of Cthulhu as a comedy, and don't feel like I should design the system around it.

    Hmmm, I'm starting to meander through paragraphs. Summing up, the characters start out competent but untested and inexperienced. They learn how to apply their talents in the best possible ways, but their actual raw strength increases little.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I was thinking something you could also spend for re-rolls, to gain a bonus with rolls, and so on.
    So, sort of like regenerating Action Points - the d20 Modern version where some class features require the expenditure of an Action Point. You would have like a max that you could spend in a day or encounter or whatever and then later you get them back. That's cool.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post

    Well, that's the whole point - I want diminishing returns. I might add in additional benefits for having a high skill - for instance, it takes less time to learn feats.
    I've linked proficiencies to the number of dice, so the more dice you put into say driving, the more vehicals you can be proficient with, it doesn't work perfectly but its proving interesting, the next round of playtesting will determine how well it works I guess.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    I don't think I'm going to put a hard cap on dice pools for my game.

    Also, just to note, you don't have to make higher skill levels cost more points. That's the entire point of having diminishing returns on probability. You're sort of double-dipping, as it were.
    this is one of the things I like about the system, too many point buy game get tricky when you have to spend different amounts of points on skills of different levels. with this method the return diminishes so any die costs one die , regardless of whether its your second or your eighth.

    to clarify I don't have a hard cap as the situational modfiers are a large part of the game. but theres a limit to what a character can invest in any one skill at character generation.
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    I don't know much about dice systems but here are my thoughts on classless leveless systems.

    Classless. Classes have a lot going for them in terms of making sure the player keeps to a strong archetype, but that very strength is a weakness when it comes to players trying to do something the original game designer never imagined.
    You can streamline it to be a pure skill based system, anytime you do anything you use a skill for that. If you wanna complicate things you can add skill specializations that improve a certain area of a skill or a certain action (if acrobatics is a skill, jump can be a specialization that adds a flat bonus to acrobatics when you jump).
    The character's race and background can determine some skills, as well as player choice.

    No or minimal experience points or equivalent. I really dislike experience points and leveling and all that jazz.
    Some sort of fatigue system.
    In place of using experience points for leveling you can use experience points to directly increase a certain skill, ability, feat, whatever. Some exp points may be tied directly to this as well. You'll keep experience without resorting to levels, character's won't be forced into a pre-determined archetype and can freely decide what they wanna be good at.
    If you want diminishing returns then you can simply decide that the more you've invested in a skill the more expensive it becomes to improve it further, but also that if you're below a certain point you can't independently do useful things in a reliable manner.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    You can streamline it to be a pure skill based system, anytime you do anything you use a skill for that. If you wanna complicate things you can add skill specializations that improve a certain area of a skill or a certain action (if acrobatics is a skill, jump can be a specialization that adds a flat bonus to acrobatics when you jump).
    The character's race and background can determine some skills, as well as player choice.
    Pretty much what I was going to do.

    I was actually toying with something similar to a homebrew I saw on 4chan's /tg/ whose name escapes me right now (I remember that you played AIs and that one of the setting details was that the elephants had all died). Basically, you would get something like "Science" - and you either had it or you didn't. If you had it, you added a +1 bonus to all "Science" rolls. Than, you could buy points in "Biology" or "Physics" or whatever, both of which would add an additional +1 bonus but only on the appropriate things (biology and physics, respectively). Let's say you had "Biology" than you could specialize even further in "Genetics" or "Physiology" or whatever. Essentially, each level gave you another +1 bonus, but it would become more and more specialized. And, of course, there was nothing stopping you from taking both "Biology" and "Physics".

    I like the concept of that, but the execution I think was somewhat flawed. They went from skill to action which, I think, is the wrong way of doing it. Instead, you should go from action to skill. You figure out all the actions (or as many as you can - only human, after all) and then get your skills from that. Either way, it takes a lot more work.

    But yeah, I was going to have it be pretty much pure skillbased or skillbased-with-feats.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    In place of using experience points for leveling you can use experience points to directly increase a certain skill, ability, feat, whatever. Some exp points may be tied directly to this as well. You'll keep experience without resorting to levels, character's won't be forced into a pre-determined archetype and can freely decide what they wanna be good at.
    My problem with experience points is more along the lines of "Hey, after hitting this Orc with a sword I now know magic".

    The way that I'm looking at it right now would be something like
    Sword: 2 - ● ● ● ○ ○
    Magic: 0 - ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
    So, basically, if you increase Sword by two, let's say, experience points than you would now have
    Sword: 3 - ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
    Magic: 0 - ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
    You can add experience points through usage and through training. The specifics of how that happens I'm not really developing right now. I might do something like Fable did, where it divided skills up into Magic, Stealth, and Combat and you can spend Magic XP on any Magic skill, etc. Once again, however, not really developing that right now - I don't even have what valid actions are, let alone skills for those actions.

    The reason I want training is so that the player isn't forced to use their puny Magic 0 in combat until it's actually useful. That's going to make the player feel like a punk and it's going to make all the other players angry.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    If you want diminishing returns then you can simply decide that the more you've invested in a skill the more expensive it becomes to improve it further, but also that if you're below a certain point you can't independently do useful things in a reliable manner.
    The thing is, that's what I'm already doing with the Highest Die system. 4d20 doesn't have twice the chance of success as 2d20 does.

    Now, granted, I might make skills cost more just to smooth things out. However, I want the dice system to handle it as much as possible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Enough meandering! The first topic I'm going to talk about is
    DICE


    Choosing what dice to use is probably the most important decision to make when designing a game.
    Yeah, I'm gonna disagree with this. I think talking about mechanics, at this stage, is putting the cart before the horse.

    What I'd be most likely to do at this stage is to:

    1) Make a list of decisions I consider important decisions in the game
    2) Write a brief transcript of a game "session" (which could mean the posts from players for a PbP game). Don't worry about the mechanics so much, just put in basic descriptions of what would impact success/failure rolls.

    What you should find is that these two exercises will tell you a HECK of a lot about what kind of mechanics and success curves you want - which will tell you what dice mechanics you should use.

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    The big question I would want to be asking at this point is, "What do you want the system to do?" What rolls do you want made during a gaming session? What activities should be focused on? What should be sidelined, ignored, or not handled by the rules? What do you expect players to do or not do?

    And note that if you say 'everything', you will likely be working on the system forever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Thoughts? Comments?
    First of all, I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself by jumping straight into the mechanics. The numeric engine of your system might be important, but the choice is largely determined by the design goals of the game (the thing's erikun's talking about), not just asthetic preference.

    For my own thoughts on a PbP-friendly system, I would prefer the immediate effects task resolution to be unrelated to dice rolls. Even in your good example, with the conflict already presented, you had a player announcing an action and rolling for its success then announcing the first's roll's subsequent effects and rolling to determine their outcomes then announcing the final result. That's an obnoxious number of rolls (and more importantly, an obnoxious number of decisions base based on rolls), especially if the game's using a forum-based die roller for transparency.

    Just to present an off-the-cuff sketch of a system that could avoid that problem: Player characters might have several ability scores treated like budgets. Player A would present a conflict and roll a d3 in one post*. Player B would choose one of 3 options: (1) pay 2x the cost of the d4 roll from one of his ability budgets and narrate a success, (2) pay 1x the cost of the d4 roll from one of the ability budgets and narrate a favorable failure, (3) pay nothing and narrate a costly failure. In Player B's response, he would narrate according to the choice and present a new conflict and die roll for Player C.

    *The method of random number generation and costs of successes and failures are just there to illustrate. They'd be based on the tone and priorities of the game. In general, fewer and larger dice would go with zany games; more and larger dice would go with 'grittier' games; more and smaller dice would go with more straightfaced games.


    Another option would be something like Fiasco, where immediate outcomes of scenarios are entirely contingent on player decisions and dice are only used to set each character's resolving scene. EDIT: I don't mean Fiasco's actual gameplay, which needs lots of immediate feedback; I mean its conflict resolution structure specifically.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Some games try to get around this by using things like cards or spinners or other such paraphernalia but when you get down to it all of those things are functionally identical to dice (plus, remember Goal 1).
    This is just nitpicking, but cards and dice are very mechanically different. The most important distinction is that cards have memories; unlike dice, they are affected by prior draws and plays. As you say, that's not really relevant here, but outside PbP it's pretty significant.

    EDIT:
    I like how Continuum does it...
    I think that's the first time anyone's ever put those words in that order. But yeah, it makes more sense than many experience systems.
    Last edited by Jude_H; 2011-07-05 at 02:29 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    [*]Playable on forums. It's where I do most of my gaming so any system I can't use of a forum is pretty much useless to me.
    I think that goal is awesome and I never do play by post. Usually when I see posts about making a system, they're tailored around a new D&D system, but with different stats, or a weird new resolution mechanic (which I'm certainly guilty of). Your system should accomplish something that other systems don't. Otherwise people just play the other systems. I've never heard of an RPG specifically built for forum use, so I think it's a cool niche to aim for.

    IMO, the big thing you'll have control over with this system is the scope of what you're rolling. I think players should be able to do a lot on their turns without waiting for GM confirmation. Back when I got into RPing, we had a V:tM GM who made you roll for everything. Lighting a cigarette was two separate rolls. One to use the lighter and the next to light the cigarette. God forbid you tried walking at the time. Anyway, that's an extreme example and nobody plays that way long term. But you want to do the opposite of that. You want the players to be able to take control for a paragraph at a time instead of a sentence.

    I see a couple ways to do this. The obvious way is to go with a light system that just doesn't have much to roll. The other way is to have a lot of stuff that people can roll, but make sure it's well published. For instance, if the players are trying to talk their way past a bouncer, let them make the roll and look up if it's successful. Then they can continue on in or get thrown to the street without waiting for the GM to tell them so.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Yeah, I'm gonna disagree with this. I think talking about mechanics, at this stage, is putting the cart before the horse.

    What I'd be most likely to do at this stage is to:

    1) Make a list of decisions I consider important decisions in the game
    2) Write a brief transcript of a game "session" (which could mean the posts from players for a PbP game). Don't worry about the mechanics so much, just put in basic descriptions of what would impact success/failure rolls.

    What you should find is that these two exercises will tell you a HECK of a lot about what kind of mechanics and success curves you want - which will tell you what dice mechanics you should use.
    Eh, I'm a computer programmer and I think in terms of system interaction. Creating mechanics is a prototype for me. When you get right down to it, as long as I don't set anything in stone at this point in time, I'm fine. Truthfully, if I had did what you had suggested, I would get at least one person asking what sort of dice system I was using and how I was putting the cart in front of the horse - everybody has their own methods.

    That being said, getting an example of play is still going to be very helpful. Likewise, making a list of all the decisions is going to be useful.

    The thing is, I don't need to know specific decisions to choose dice, only general stuff. Knowing that I need "Sword" and "Magic" skill doesn't really tell me how much luck should play in rolling1.

    1 Technically, it would matter if I'm doing something like trying to model playing Chess versus playing Poker. Poker has an element of luck no matter how skillful you are while Chess loses all elements of luck once you become more skillful than a novice. This, however, is far more in depth than I need to go.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    The big question I would want to be asking at this point is, "What do you want the system to do?" What rolls do you want made during a gaming session? What activities should be focused on? What should be sidelined, ignored, or not handled by the rules? What do you expect players to do or not do?

    And note that if you say 'everything', you will likely be working on the system forever.
    Well, in response to what "type of game [I] want to run" I said "I want to run a fun game", so I guess I'll say that I want my game system to do everything. Right down to modeling atomic interaction.

    Teehee, again.

    Back to being serious: Let me repeat myself again so that what I'm talking about is right there and I can expand upon it.
    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    I want to run a fantasy game that moves away from the traditional Adventurer Dungeon-Delving. I even want to get away, at least a bit, from We're A Party mentality. The closest thing I can probably think of is Amber Diceless, where each player has their own goals and are often off doing their own thing at the other ends of the multiverse. [...] In D&D, I feel like the standard paradigm has the world being a static stage for dungeon crashing.
    So, to sum up in one sentence, I want players to be able to change the world. Expanding upon that, that means combat, social interaction, and economic manipulation. Trying to make a specialized sub-system for every one of those things is a fool's game. On the other hand, making a generic sub-system for all them is probably just as much of a fool's game.

    I think what I'm aiming for is something similar to Spycraft's Dramatic Resolution system. Basically, it's a way of making non-combat situations more interesting. During each round, you choose a certain action related to the current event (which ranges from Seduction to Chase). Actions require certain skills and have certain modifiers, but result in either increasing, I think they call it, momentum in your favor or modify the next round (or a certain number of rounds). It's a very interesting system that's both generic while allowing specialization as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jude_H View Post
    First of all, I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself by jumping straight into the mechanics. The numeric engine of your system might be important, but the choice is largely determined by the design goals of the game (the thing's erikun's talking about), not just asthetic preference.
    See above.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jude_H View Post
    For my own thoughts on a PbP-friendly system, I would prefer the immediate effects task resolution to be unrelated to dice rolls. Even in your good example, with the conflict already presented, you had a player announcing an action and rolling for its success then announcing the first's roll's subsequent effects and rolling to determine their outcomes then announcing the final result. That's an obnoxious number of rolls (and more importantly, an obnoxious number of decisions base based on rolls), especially if the game's using a forum-based die roller for transparency.
    The GM would presumably be using hidden rolls. In addition, while player might, for instance, being rolling attack and damage, they don't have to wait for the result. If the attack is successful, damage is already rolled. If the attack is unsuccessful, you just ignore the damage. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

    But go on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jude_H View Post
    Just to present an off-the-cuff sketch of a system that could avoid that problem
    Eh, with the system you're presenting, posts start to get really busy. I'm not that worried about information packing. I'm assuming around an hour to two hours between posts, not multiple days.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jude_H View Post
    This is just nitpicking, but cards and dice are very mechanically different. The most important distinction is that cards have memories; unlike dice, they are affected by prior draws and plays. As you say, that's not really relevant here, but outside PbP it's pretty significant.
    They're not. Or rather, I should say that they're functionally identical with a tiny bit of work (in the same way that a donut is topographically identical with a coffee cup).

    Dice With Memory
    You set up a list of numbers, let's say 1 to 6:
    1 2 3 4 5 6
    When you roll a die, you start at the beginning of available numbers, go forward that many spaces (looping around as necessary) and then cross off the number once used. For instance, you roll a 5 - easy:
    1 2 3 4 5 6
    Next, you roll a 2:
    1 2 3 4 5 6
    Next, you roll another 2 - which gives a result of 3 this time (1, skip 2, 3):
    1 2 3 4 5 6
    Next, you roll a 4 - which gives a result of 1 (1, skip 2, skip 3, 4, skip 5, 6, loop to 1):
    1 2 3 4 5 6

    etc etc etc

    Cards Without Memory
    Even simpler. Every time you draw a card, put it back and shuffle the deck.


    Now, you're definitely right that in normal usage cards have memory and dice don't. The thing is, most of the time I've seen cards used in RPGs, the fact that the cards have memory isn't actually relevant - they're doing it as a flavor thing or so they can say "Yeah, we're diceless".

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    I see a couple ways to do this. The obvious way is to go with a light system that just doesn't have much to roll. The other way is to have a lot of stuff that people can roll, but make sure it's well published. For instance, if the players are trying to talk their way past a bouncer, let them make the roll and look up if it's successful. Then they can continue on in or get thrown to the street without waiting for the GM to tell them so.
    Going in a different direction, one of the ways I've handled things before is by giving Hero Points. Basically, by spending a Hero Point, the player guarantees that one thing they say is true which can range from "This man was not killed by a human being" to "I hit the bad guy with my arrow". Now, I'm pretty good at improv, but there's no way I could run an adventure in real life where the players can declare something to be true that would completely change the entire adventure. On the forums, however, I just say "Okay, I'll need a bit more time than usual to change some stuff around before I post again".
    Last edited by TooManySecrets; 2011-07-05 at 03:06 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    First, I'm probably the only one who is going to use the system. I have no illusions that it will be so completely awesome that people are going to be lining up to use it.
    I keep forgetting to respond to this one, so I'll do it now. You will not be the only one playing your system - at the very least, your players will be as well. I doubt that many people will want to play an overly confusing system, and relying on you (as DM) to make all rolls and determine all outcomes may end up feeling scripted or arbitrary after awhile. This is especially true if we're talking about random people signing up on the forum, who can join any other game, as opposed to players you meet every week and likely don't have a different gaming group to try.

    Plus, why would you want to spend all the time and energy on something that isn't impressive?

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    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    I think that goal is awesome and I never do play by post. Usually when I see posts about making a system, they're tailored around a new D&D system, but with different stats, or a weird new resolution mechanic (which I'm certainly guilty of). Your system should accomplish something that other systems don't. Otherwise people just play the other systems. I've never heard of an RPG specifically built for forum use, so I think it's a cool niche to aim for.
    This. It was the first goal that really jumped out at me as well. It's useful, it's an underserved niche, and it's definitely unique, and not something easily handled by minor houseruling.

    It's valuable. Keep it a high priority throughout, and be willing to sacrifice other things to get there. Mechanics should never be a goal in themselves, but a means to achieve your design goals.

    I'm curious about the results of this one, unlikely most attempts at system design. Too many people merely want to have made a system, rather than those who make a system because they want a thing that does not yet exist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I keep forgetting to respond to this one, so I'll do it now. You will not be the only one playing your system - at the very least, your players will be as well. I doubt that many people will want to play an overly confusing system, and relying on you (as DM) to make all rolls and determine all outcomes may end up feeling scripted or arbitrary after awhile. This is especially true if we're talking about random people signing up on the forum, who can join any other game, as opposed to players you meet every week and likely don't have a different gaming group to try.
    Have you ever had a GM with a freeform game, before? The GM is not making decisions on a completely arbitrary basis - they have a system of some sort, even if it's one that they don't consciously determine. The players have a lot of control, but they're still constrained by the GM's permission, at the end of the day. Hence, there is a system that the players don't know about and they're not the ones making all the "rolls".

    Likewise, have you ever played Paranoia? It is against the rules of the game for the players to know the rules of the game. Yet, I've had tons of fun playing and GMing Paranoia and the people I've played with have also really enjoyed it.

    Look, players can end up feeling like they're playing a scripted game based on the arbitrary whims of the GM in any system. You're also talking about how players don't want to play in an overly confusing system when all that this system has currently is "You roll a number of dice and choose the highest". There is no system to even criticize yet!

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think you're painting far too narrow a picture, reading into things that don't even exist yet. You've gone from some, admittedly vague, game philosophy and design goals to a point where I'm terrorizing players into submission and not letting them roll even a single die. I understand your concern, but I feel that it is misplaced.

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    Plus, why would you want to spend all the time and energy on something that isn't impressive?
    Because:
    (a) The perfect is the enemy of the good. I'm not a perfect game designer god and to aim to a place where people are "lining up" to play my game is just foolish. I should instead aim for the best that I can realistically achieve.
    (b) I find enjoyment in making the system itself. Don't worry, if the system is terrible I won't inflict it upon any players.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    It's valuable. Keep it a high priority throughout, and be willing to sacrifice other things to get there. Mechanics should never be a goal in themselves, but a means to achieve your design goals.
    Agreed. Going back to Philosophy 1, if the mechanics are getting in the way of fun than the mechanics must change.

    I think my next section to talk about will be a focus on PBP, how it differs from real life, and how to deal with such a situation.
    Last edited by TooManySecrets; 2011-07-05 at 03:26 PM.
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    Spycraft's Dramatic Conflicts are very deliberately tailored to a game modeled after spy novels/movies, where specific scenes like seductions and car chases are supposed to be more engaging than d20's flippant default of "roll, compare with table or other roll, narrate outcome." Even if you're designing a generic system to model a game, it would help to identify the scenes you want to be particularly engaging, and those you'd prefer to be glossed over.

    Also, the dice models you're talking about are largely based on the setting/tone you want in the game. It's still not clear what you're looking for in that regard.
    • If you want a zany game, you're probably going to want a wider and flatter distribution than you will if you want to model a more grim or mundane world.
    • If you want PCs to be big damn heroes, you'll probably want to calibrate success rates higher than you would if you wanted them to be haggard scoundrels just trying to scrounge the month's rent.
    • If you want a pessimistic tone, where characters are worn down by their adventures until there's just nothing left, you would probably want to mark your system with levels of success from 'successful unscathed' to 'successful but negatively affected' to 'unsuccessful but negatively affected.' If you want something more optimistic, you could introduce a karma-type system where particularly bad rolls increase rolls later.
    • If you want a pulpy or genre-fiction feel, you'll probably want players to be able to affect their numbers with brute force, to make the dice comply with the fiction. This usually means action points of some sort - a pool of added bonuses, added dice or rerolls. If you're going for a less fiction-structured feel, you'll want to strip out anything that works along those lines.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Expanding upon that, that means combat, social interaction, and economic manipulation. Trying to make a specialized sub-system for every one of those things is a fool's game. On the other hand, making a generic sub-system for all them is probably just as much of a fool's game.
    Ah, now this is what I was asking about. Focus on "combat, social interaction, and economic manipulation" indicates that you wish to make them equal, or at least all significant, in the system. That is, nothing like D&D's complex combat mechanics, single Diplomancy checks, and abusive economy tricks. You'd probably want to devote equal time and space to each one, or at least make economic struggles at least as challanging and interesting as martial struggles.

    Now, starting with combat: How do you invision a combat fight progressing? Is it Conan the Barbarian, where you can take dozens of hits and get through with sheer determination? Is it japanese Bushido, where the focus of your sword gets you through? Wuxia, with flying leaps and cutting through tree trunks? Or is it urban warfare combat, where cover and body armor are the main sources of not being killed instantly?

    If we want to focus on the dice, I'd think the playstyle would have a large effect on what feels appropriate. In something like Bushido or urban warfare, the character's skill would likely be highly significant, producing much more consistently reliable results - while untrained fighters have a chance of doing damage but just as much chance of hurting themselves. (A trained skill might be 10d6, while untrained might be 1d40.) On the other hand, a weak character in a Conan/Wuxia setting would be completely outclassed by a superior opponent. (1d6 vs 10d6)

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    I think what I'm aiming for is something similar to Spycraft's Dramatic Resolution system. Basically, it's a way of making non-combat situations more interesting. During each round, you choose a certain action related to the current event (which ranges from Seduction to Chase). Actions require certain skills and have certain modifiers, but result in either increasing, I think they call it, momentum in your favor or modify the next round (or a certain number of rounds). It's a very interesting system that's both generic while allowing specialization as well.
    Momentum is an interesting idea, and one I've thought of using before. I mainly didn't because keeping track of modifiers in 4e is annoying enough - perhaps PbP games won't have that problem though, especially if it is part of the core system.

    Perhaps using some basic "maneuvers" and using skills for more advanced/better maneuvers? One thought I had with D&D was to implement basic stances - Aggressive, Defensive, and Mobile - which grant combat bonuses and capabilities. The Tome of Battle-specific maneuvers would give stances with far better bonuses or capabilities, but everyone in combat is still able to use the "basic" stances for, hopefully, more interesting combat.

    (Sorry for relating it to D&D again, but it is something I assume most people are familiar with, and I hope it can get my message across clearly.)

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Have you ever had a GM with a freeform game, before? The GM is not making decisions on a completely arbitrary basis - they have a system of some sort, even if it's one that they don't consciously determine.
    Yep, quite a few actually. I've also seen the very high dropoff for such games, and most people who drop out do so because they feel ignored, or don't feel their actions have any ultimate effect. I realize it's not a universal complain, but it is a significant reason for people to drop out.

    I haven't played Paranoia, although as I understand it, the games are designed with an unfair world in mind. That's the point of the system, and what people know getting into it - as I understand.


    As a last note, saying that "it can happen with a GM in any system" is not a valid design choice. I mean, I could say that combat could be boring in any system - but does that automatically mean you should make your combat boring? No? Probably not, given how much thought you are putting into the type of dice you'll be using.

    Just because a specific type of GM can have a problem in a system doesn't mean it is inherently a problem with every role-playing system. If anything, you should be able to see why it is a problem with specific GMs or system, and fix it!

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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Quote Originally Posted by Jude_H View Post
    Spycraft's Dramatic Conflicts are very deliberately tailored to a game modeled after spy novels/movies, where specific scenes like seductions and car chases are supposed to be more engaging than d20's flippant default of "roll, compare with table or other roll, narrate outcome." Even if you're designing a generic system to model a game, it would help to identify the scenes you want to be particularly engaging, and those you'd prefer to be glossed over.
    This is an excellent point. D&D, for instance, centers on combat and the acquisition of levels and treasure. It always has, regardless of version. So, that's where the detail is.

    Focus on what you're interested in, and put the detailed mechanics there. For things that you are uninterested in, use simplified mechanics to skim over them.

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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Eh, I'm a computer programmer and I think in terms of system interaction. Creating mechanics is a prototype for me. When you get right down to it, as long as I don't set anything in stone at this point in time, I'm fine. Truthfully, if I had did what you had suggested, I would get at least one person asking what sort of dice system I was using and how I was putting the cart in front of the horse - everybody has their own methods.

    That being said, getting an example of play is still going to be very helpful. Likewise, making a list of all the decisions is going to be useful.

    The thing is, I don't need to know specific decisions to choose dice, only general stuff. Knowing that I need "Sword" and "Magic" skill doesn't really tell me how much luck should play in rolling1.
    What a coincidence! I'm a professional programmer, too!

    So, think of my suggestion as a form a TDD for game design. If you can define "success" before you start with mechanics, you'll know when you've succeeded. If players are making the types of decisions you think are important to the game, and the game transcripts are more or less what you've envisioned, you've succeeded. Red, green, refactor!

    "How much of an influence luck should have" is a pretty reasonable thing to think about - but how much influence luck should have is going to be based on what decisions players should make. If you want even the greenest character to try for heroic feats, then luck should be a big factor. If you want character development to be primary in determining success, then luck should be a smaller factor, and players will tend to make decisions based on their abilities. Having these kinds of high-level goals up-front will give you more information to guide the iteration of the system.

    I do agree with the idea of, once you've gotten the basic ideas out, writing up a quick, minimal "prototype" system. But even there, focusing on the important things (decisions, game flow) and not on incidentals (dice type) will make it easier to improve earlier decisions. If you really want a system where players try wild things, but they don't, it may be that the dice system you've chosen is getting in the way - if "Players Should Try Wild Things" is a tenet, it's easier to change the dice systems than "The Game Uses a Dice Pool Mechanic" (or whatever).

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Now, you're definitely right that in normal usage cards have memory and dice don't.
    Zombie Dice has a pretty elegant "dice with memory" system. Basically, there's a pool of dice that are used with different probabilities, and the "memory" is handled by removing dice from the pool.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2011-07-05 at 04:16 PM.

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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Quote Originally Posted by Jude_H View Post
    Spycraft's Dramatic Conflicts are very deliberately tailored to a game modeled after spy novels/movies, where specific scenes like seductions and car chases are supposed to be more engaging than d20's flippant default of "roll, compare with table or other roll, narrate outcome." Even if you're designing a generic system to model a game, it would help to identify the scenes you want to be particularly engaging, and those you'd prefer to be glossed over.
    Except that Fantasycraft also has Dramatic Conflict and it's a fantasy game (at least, I seem to remember that it used Dramatic Conflict - I forget whether it made the cut). The system itself is generic, but the content is specific. For instance, a car has an engine, four wheels, and a frame - that's generic. However, it doesn't mean that a Lamborghini is the same as a 4-door sedan. (I really hope that analogy helps - for whatever reason I'm not all that good at explaining the difference between system and content).

    Besides, as I've said, I'm moving away from the general D&D paradigm. I'm not looking for kill-loot-levelup. It probably is a bit closer to a spy flick than normal D&D.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jude_H View Post
    Also, the dice models you're talking about are largely based on the setting/tone you want in the game. It's still not clear what you're looking for in that regard.
    Yes, I agree. I've posted what I'm looking for in my game multiple times now - but this thread is dominated by hundred line posts, so it's okay if you missed it. Or maybe I just wasn't explaining it properly.

    The fact that I'm looking for a strong bellcurve means that I'm looking for a game that is on the grittier side of things. Extreme outcomes are far less likely, making them all that much more memorable. It is a world which is not actively dangerous, but if you want something, you have to fight for it tooth and nail. Mediocrity is easy, but greatness is hard.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    That is, nothing like D&D's complex combat mechanics, single Diplomancy checks, and abusive economy tricks. You'd probably want to devote equal time and space to each one, or at least make economic struggles at least as challanging and interesting as martial struggles.
    Yes.

    Can't really think of anything more to say.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    Now, starting with combat: How do you invision a combat fight progressing? Is it Conan the Barbarian, where you can take dozens of hits and get through with sheer determination? Is it japanese Bushido, where the focus of your sword gets you through? Wuxia, with flying leaps and cutting through tree trunks? Or is it urban warfare combat, where cover and body armor are the main sources of not being killed instantly?
    Depends on how many opponents you're facing. Two highly skilled warriors going at it will all be about technique and skill. One highly skilled warrior versus 20 dudes with bow and arrows is all about finding cover as quickly as possible, running to where the archers can't see you, and picking them off one by one.

    So, not strictly realistic, but still having the options for dueling (whether it be strictly physical or magical or combination of such). Closest analogy would probably be fights in Dresden Files. Though the Conan series actually comes pretty close as well, since in the actual stories (not what people think of) Conan spends most of his time sneaking around, taking out people one by one when he can, and he really only relies on his strength in desperate situations ala "Oh no, the sultry sorceresses summoned a sinister serpent... and it's suffocating me!".

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    If we want to focus on the dice, I'd think the playstyle would have a large effect on what feels appropriate.
    Partly, but also modifiers have a lot to do with it. For instance, you could modify D&D to care more about numbers by increasing bonuses for flanking (something like multiple flanking, where the bonuses increase beyond just +2) or have rules where if you're surrounded one of the dudes automatically hits.

    I think the main thing in terms of dice is determining level of diminishing returns. It prevents somebody from, say, super-specializing in Dodge so that they can't be hit by anything, even in the 20 dudes with bow & arrows situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    Perhaps using some basic "maneuvers" and using skills for more advanced/better maneuvers? One thought I had with D&D was to implement basic stances - Aggressive, Defensive, and Mobile - which grant combat bonuses and capabilities.
    Hmm, I like Mobile.

    I've thought of doing something similar before. The way I was doing it was Heavy, Medium, and Light Offense Stances and Heavy, Medium, and Light Defense Stances. Heavier stances require more Endurance Points to use. I believe that the Heavy, Medium, and Light Defense translated to using (primarily) Dodge, Shield/Parry, Armor so like a Light Defense relied mostly on Armor since you weren't doing much of anything. Certain weapons were more useful with Heavy, Medium, and Light. I believe that there were also special stances as well.

    The main problem was that it didn't play all that well on PbP. In real life, it was great. Everybody had cards that said "Heavy", "Medium", and "Light" and you chose who you were attacking, each of you picked a card, and then played it both at once. It was sort of like a more complicated version of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Really quick to use and pretty fun, though it was broken as hell since we didn't playtest it all that long.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    (Sorry for relating it to D&D again, but it is something I assume most people are familiar with, and I hope it can get my message across clearly.)
    No, no, it's a good example and a safe assumption. I think I did the same earlier.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I haven't played Paranoia, although as I understand it, the games are designed with an unfair world in mind. That's the point of the system, and what people know getting into it - as I understand.
    Likewise, if I do my utmost to make sure the players understand what they're getting into before they start playing, than I see no problem (in theory) with a super-complicated, super-simulationist game. That's not what I'm going for, but it's just a hypothetical. You yourself said it: players have a choice of games on the forums, unlike a real life group. The players aren't randomly applying to every single recruitment thread! They're reading it, seeing what the rules are, and are making a decision based on that.

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    As a last note, saying that "it can happen with a GM in any system" is not a valid design choice. I mean, I could say that combat could be boring in any system - but does that automatically mean you should make your combat boring? No? Probably not, given how much thought you are putting into the type of dice you'll be using.
    Yes, but you're missing the point. You're criticizing my system because it could be "overly confusing" and it may "end up feeling scripted or arbitrary". I pointed out that any system could be like this - I should have added that what matters is whether it is and you didn't give any reason why my particular system is going to end up like that. And I know that you can't point to any specific problems with the system, because there is no system yet. Heck, there isn't even a framework of where a system should go. At least let me make something before you accuse it of being horrible.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    What a coincidence! I'm a professional programmer, too!

    So, think of my suggestion as a form a TDD for game design. If you can define "success" before you start with mechanics, you'll know when you've succeeded. If players are making the types of decisions you think are important to the game, and the game transcripts are more or less what you've envisioned, you've succeeded. Red, green, refactor!
    Cool. I'm pretty much livin' the dream, as it were. Small start-up company working on making games. Tons of fun. The main problem is that out of all the programmers (all 3 and 1/2 of us), I'm the only one with real system design experience. Which is terrible, because I'm fresh out of college and I only had one class on system design and documentation, yet I'm the one who's going "No, guys, if you run into a problem you first to go back to the code model, you don't just start writing code wherever you want. No! Stop! Don't commit that to SVN!". Like herding cats, I tell you.

    Anyways.

    To keep the metaphor going, I've done projects like this before, but I'm going to be going into areas that I don't know if I can handle. The SDKs that I'm using, to really twist this metaphor, I've never used before. I can't start making a design because I don't understand the tools I'm working with. Hence, my enumeration of all the types of dice and only a vague commitment to Highest Die SDK.

    Also, unless you're using a different acronym than I'm thinking, I don't think that TDD is the correct thing to use. Use cases would probably be closer to it.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    If you want even the greenest character to try for heroic feats, then luck should be a big factor.
    I don't, which is why whenever it's come up (such as exploding dice, earlier), I have said that that is something I don't want people doing.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    I really don't like exploding dice because it changes how players act, in my experience. Without exploding dice, players tend to try to turn circumstances to their favor, i.e. they like for as many advantages as they can find. With exploding dice, I see players taking far bigger chances on desperate gambles merely because there's a very slight chance that their 1d6 will get 4 successes.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    If you want character development to be primary in determining success, then luck should be a smaller factor, and players will tend to make decisions based on their abilities.
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Having these kinds of high-level goals up-front will give you more information to guide the iteration of the system.
    Hmm, I have a feeling that a lot of objections by multiple people could have been avoided if I remembered to say that the reason I want marginal return on dice rolling is because I wanted the result of rolls to minimally luck-based and primarily character attribute based. I didn't pick marginal return as a goal just because I liked the sound of the word. I guess I just sort of assumed1 that people would make the jump. My bad.

    1 Making an ass out of you and me.
    Last edited by TooManySecrets; 2011-07-05 at 04:44 PM.
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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Also, unless you're using a different acronym than I'm thinking, I don't think that TDD is the correct thing to use. Use cases would probably be closer to it.
    TDD is often used as "test driven development," when it should be "test driven design," and even that's a bad name for the actual practice.

    In reality, it boils down to "define success, and then achieve it." Tests, in "good" TDD, should really be mini-specs for the object being tested. They do not verify that the code "works" (which is a crappy standard), they specify what the correct behavior is under a certain set of circumstances. "Correct" is a *much* better standard of code quality than "works".

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Hmm, I have a feeling that a lot of objections by multiple people could have been avoided if I remembered to say that the reason I want marginal return on dice rolling is because I wanted the result of rolls to minimally luck-based and primarily character attribute based. I didn't pick marginal return as a goal just because I liked the sound of the word. I guess I just sort of assumed1 that people would make the jump. My bad.

    1 Making an ass out of you and me.
    Probably, which is a huge part of what I'm suggesting. In my experience (including professional game development), people talk about the implementation without ever specifying the actual goals. The actual design goals are, similar to what you're describing, implied through the described mechanics. What you end up with then is a bunch of solutions without anyone ever going through the effort of defining the problem.

    That's why I recommend a sample game transcript - it's one of the most clear ways of communicating what you want the actual game to play like. I harp on decisions as well because in many ways the decisions *are* the game.

    These can then act as a set of criteria that can be referred back to to determine whether or not your design is successful at its stated goals (note that the goals can, and probably should, change while iterating).

    If you have these criteria, you can evaluate different dice mechanics, as you can judge them against your written criteria. Without these criteria it's really difficult to judge mechanics as you have no real way to determine the fitness of the proposed solution.

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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Depends on how many opponents you're facing. Two highly skilled warriors going at it will all be about technique and skill. One highly skilled warrior versus 20 dudes with bow and arrows is all about finding cover as quickly as possible, running to where the archers can't see you, and picking them off one by one.
    Dice pools seem like they would work best for this, at least with my experience in World of Darkness. It is far easier to just add opposing dice pools together to make many-on-one encounters very lopsided; even just five 3-rank opponents will swamp a single 10-rank one. Static modifier systems don't handle it as well, either relying on the weaker enemies to eventually roll nat-20 or using variant mechanics for group battles (+2 for every ally attacking the same target would do it, but that feels clunky).

    Please note that the new World of Darkness is fairly linear for a dice pool system, due to a success always being 8+. You can be pretty sure of getting roughly one success for every three dice.

    As for the duel, how do you see it going? As in, how would it play out at the table? If I were setting it up, I'd probably want the two warriors moving around a lot, trying to gain advantage over each other. Options should involve gaining superior ground, distracting the opponent, taking advantage, parrying stances, and so on. Skills would cover new stances, both superior ones (skilled fencers have stances with more advantages than unskilled thugs) and giving the fighters more options - perhaps an attack that consumes a larger amount of endurance, but has a much higher damage potential.

    On the other hand? Perhaps you are thinking about more magical effects, where one fighter pulls out an attack and the other pulls out an effect to neutralize or counter it - something like Jedi fights from Star Wars. Or perhaps you are looking at a rock-paper-scissors system, where Defensive beats Agressive, Mobile beats Defensive, and Agressive beats Mobile.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    I think the main thing in terms of dice is determining level of diminishing returns. It prevents somebody from, say, super-specializing in Dodge so that they can't be hit by anything, even in the 20 dudes with bow & arrows situation.
    This doesn't need to be represented by the dice system, though. It can be represented through character creation as well. This means you could get a super dodger, but they wouldn't be useful at much else.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Hmm, I like Mobile.

    I've thought of doing something similar before. The main problem was that it didn't play all that well on PbP.
    True, good point. Your momentum idea would be better than a "stance this turn" game style.

    That said, if you are looking at momentum, might I also suggest skills intended to counter momentum? That is, someone using momentum to charge through combat encounters or intimidate their way through social encounters would be rather powerful. On the other hand, a careful sidestep/parry would quickly bring such tactics to an end. It would make sense that, while "parry" wouldn't be a common skill everyone has, someone trained in combat could learn how to easily counter such common tactics.

    Quote Originally Posted by TooManySecrets View Post
    Hmm, I have a feeling that a lot of objections by multiple people could have been avoided if I remembered to say that the reason I want marginal return on dice rolling is because I wanted the result of rolls to minimally luck-based and primarily character attribute based.
    Just curious, but what is your view on impossible rolls? That is, should a character with a significantly high/low attribute have no chance of failure or success?

    [EDIT]
    Actually, I think Kyoryu is saying what I want to say better than I'm saying it. My reasons for harping on combat mechanics is to try to narrow down what exactly you're looking for - hence the large amount of time I put into the talk about the warrior duel.
    Last edited by erikun; 2011-07-05 at 05:31 PM.

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    Default Re: Makin' a System

    So, here's an example:

    Kyoryu's Awesome Spy Game

    Spoiler
    Show

    KASG is a game about spies. Players take the part of spies doing, well, spy stuff.

    KASG is intended to primarily be played in a Play-by-Post fashion, or at least to be usable in a PbP setting. This is a strong goal.

    In KASG, player and character skill should trump luck. KASG simulates a "Mission Impossible" style setting, so spies should do well against mooks, and when "spy-type" enemies appear, numerical superiority should not be a main determinant of the outcome.

    Player vs Player combat is not a priority.

    ==============

    Due to the slower nature of PbP games, combat should take no more than 3-5 rounds.

    Due to the asynchronous nature of PbP games, teams will act together. This will allow faster movement of games. This has a side-effect of making PvP more difficult, but this is considered acceptable.

    ==============

    Sample transcript of game. Posts are by Gary the GM, Alice, Bob, and Charlie

    G: You drop from the skylight into the secret facility. You're in a warehouse - there's forklifts all around, as well as tall shelving units.

    There's about ten mooks in the room with you - they hear the shattered glass and turn to see you drop. Their automatic weapons swivel to point in your direction.

    (20) *note: Using (x) to suggest time frame between posts.

    A: Uh-oh. I run behind one of the forklifts. Is there an exit visible? I grab a stun grenade and toss it at the mooks, hopefully to clear a path to the exit. I think this is too many for us to handle.

    (30)

    C: I'm gonna go all kung-fu on one of the mooks, and hide behind a shelf where I'm a little less surrounded.

    (20)

    G: Yeah, there's one obvious door, and you think you can clear a path to it without taking out everyone.

    (40)

    B: Alright. Alice has got the front, so I'm going to lay down some suppressing fire to keep everyone else occupied.

    (30)

    G: Sounds like everyone's got actions in place. Okay.

    Alice's stun grenade goes off, and a number of the mooks between you three and the door go down clutching their ears. At the same time, Charlie leaps over a forklift and starts moving to the door, and is able to knock out a mook for the duration. Bob's fire hits one of the mooks square one, but gets the others to duck for cover.

    Four mooks are capable of acting, but three are under suppression fire. Two of them try shooting you, but their shots go wide. A third one stays down and gets on a walkie-talkie like device... you're not sure what's said, though. The last mook squares off against Charlie, and throws out an easily blocked roundhouse kick. Charlie, you're able to grab their leg. What does everyone do now?



    This gives an idea of timeframes we expect, lets us measure how long we expect rounds to last even with slackers like Bob, gives us an idea of what actions need to be modeled and how "granular" actions need to be, etc.

    It's a pretty good way to get a handle on a lot of things that need to be covered in a system, and how we want the overall flow to go. For instance, one thing that stands out in the sample of gameplay to me is that there's a lot of emphasis on disabling enemies and suppression fire rather than just racking up a body count. This will give me a good idea of what areas need to be modeled in combat. The timeframe also tells me that actions need to be fairly "chunky" : the typical question/answer "is there cover/where is it/can I do this/can I do that" back and forth just really kinda won't work.

    With the team vs. team mechanics, combat feels kinda right - a team can somewhat coordinate their moves, and the enemies can as well. PvP will be difficult, as there's probably a lot of advantage gained by posting first, but that's okay - PvP isn't a priority for the system.

    I'd probably want to have some samples for non-combat, combat against "equal" opponents, and combat against superior forces/boss types as well, but even this brief sample would go a long way towards designing a system.

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