05 January, 2015

Voidstone Chronicles Rework

After two days, no-one has indicated to me that they've actually played Voidsone Chronicles. So that says to me that it's free to change the whole system, including some of the core mechanisms of the game, and no-one will really be upset.

Currently, the game works on the idea of rolling a bunch of ten-sided dice, each of which roll high but under an attribute value to score successes.

If an attribute is 4, you need to roll a 3 or less to score a success. 
If an attribute is 8, you need to roll a 7 or less to score a success.
If two characters come into conflict, the higher valued success result takes precedence.

It has the complication that players can take extra risk on their characters actions, by rolling more dice. This gives the possibility of more success or more failure. Players may also add an extra die to their pool if they have a skill suitable to the situation, and another if they possess equipment that might help. If any extra dice are added to the pool as skill or equipment, dice are then discarded just prior to task resolution (typically you'd discard the dice that failed, and keep as many successful dice as possible).  

It's a pretty simple system. It's the same one used in Tooth and Claw, but there is something deeply flawed in it.

At the mid attribute levels (5-6-7), it works reasonably well; rolling extra dice is risky, but can be good. At low attribute levels (3-4), you typically end up punishing yourself more often when you roll extra dice. At high attribute levels (8-9), you're often just added automatic successes the the result. We saw a character with an attribute of 3 who just couldn't get a success (with this attribute), and every time they tried to take an extra risk, things just got worse. We saw another character with an attribute of 9, who kept taking risks and kept earning two or three successes every time they attempted something (typically three successes because they tended to do things that they had skills for). When we include the way emotional energies affect the target number, we can end up with target numbers of 1 or less (meaning no chance of success), and others above 10 (meaning automatic success). This could work in some contexts, but it's not what I'm aiming for in this particular game.

I want everyone to have a chance of success, or failure; but for different characters to have a better chance of succeeding in different tasks. Experienced characters don't necessarily have a better chance of succeeding in specific narrow tasks, but instead they have a wider range of tasks they have improved chances with. In anime style, experienced characters also have more spectacular results when they do succeed.

Inexperienced characters might have a 1 in 3 chance of succeeding most things they aren't knowledgeable about, and a 2 in 3 chance of succeeding in the areas where they are knowledgeable. 

Veteran characters would have less areas where they have only a 1 in 3 chance of success, with more areas where they have a 2 in 3 chance. They might have one or two key areas where they gain an automatic extra degree of success (only granted if the basic action test is successful).

Truly powerful characters would still have a few areas where they have only a 1 in 3 chance of success, and more areas with a 2 in 3 chance. But now they might have a range of areas where they gain the extra degree of success, and now have access to specific abilities granting two or three additional degrees of success (if their basic action text is successful).

The core system for Voidstone Chronicles needs to be simple, because there are other things going on around it (a quirky encumbrance system, the voidstone magic system, the "8-bit console"-inspired combat system, the unusual setting).

Looking at the "1 in 3" on "2 in 3" mentioned above, it might be tempting to convert the whole thing to six-sided dice. I still like the idea of risking extra dice for the chance of more success, but I'm not sure about the best way to handle this yet.
 
I even thought about converting the game's dice to match the custom dice I use in my "kid-friendly"
board game Bug Hunt, but figured that most people wouldn't want to buy a set of custom dice for a independent RPG, It would solve a lot of problems, but I hear enough complaints on forums about the specialty dice used in Star Wars: Edge of Empire.

I could go back to my old standby...using a deck of cards for task resolution, but there's a niggling thought in the back of my mind that doesn't want to follow that path. I don't know why, my thoughts keep cycling back to the card option. We'll see how things develop.
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