17 October, 2015

System 4 Revisited

I'm looking back at my System 4 concept, once again torn between concepts of making a series of game mechanisms that are intricately tied into the their setting, or making a freeform set of mechanisms that are generally tailored to telling a specific style of story but setting agnostic. Since this system is already being linked to both Darkhive (with super powered adventuring women) and Other Strangeness (with mutant animals), going in the second direction is probably better. Two very different worlds, with two very different types of heroes, but telling similar stories about alienation and survival.

The dilemma at the moment comes in the form of the specific character abilities; the elements of play that separate a protagonist from those around them with less agency. I like the fundamental system of the game, choose a stance defining your mood (according to elemental principles), this gives you a number of dice to play with over the course of a turn. If you do something allied to your mood, you may roll a die with a varying number of side depending on your skill in that action type (d6 to d10). If you do something allied to another mood, you roll a d4. Any 4 (or multiple thereof) counts as an action success.

Even rolls give you an advantage, odd rolls negate one of your advantages (or if you don't have any advantages, they give you disadvantages). You may spend your advantages to gain an edge of some type, an opponent may spend your disadvantages to gain some kind of edge against you.

It's the addenda to this core system that start to get tricky.

I toyed with the idea of using equipment to increase die size, but threw away that concept because it means adding numbers and working out details before making a roll and then consulting the results. I want this game to be fast.

I'm thinking instead that equipment should add an extra die when applicable, with a number of sides based on their quality. Weapons add a die when attacking, armour adds a die when defending, tools add dice when performing specific skills. Now it's just a case of determining whether these pieces of equipment contribute cumulative successes, or whether you take the higher die roll.

There's a few ways that this can be viewed.

Maybe the result on the die roll for equipment is limited to the character's skill die roll. You need to have a certain level of skill to open up the full range of potential on an item. If you have a d6 for the action attempt, and a d12 quality item...

    ...do you limit the item's potential benefit to d6?

    ...do you allow the d12 to roll naturally but reduce the result number to match the skill result? You roll a 5 on the d6, and an 7 on the d12...the d12 result is reduced to a 6. This means the potential of a good piece of equipment isn't limited quite as much because it will quite often double your potential result.

Maybe the die roll for the equipment adds it's full success potential, but only if the character earns at least a single success using their raw skill.

Maybe the equipment die roll is completely independent, adding it's own successes to an event result regardless of the character's skill attempt. This makes sense in the case of armour, where it protects someone regardless of how good they might be, but doesn't particularly make sense with regard to a plane, where a pilot needs to actually be able to understand the basics of taking off before they can fly in it.

Maybe equipment just adds automatic advantages to a character if they are able to justify how useful the item is while performing their task.

Regardless of how I go with equipment, mystic/supernatural powers will follow a similar pattern of mechanism. The basic thinking here is that these are simply a different type of tool capable of making certain tasks easier, the difference is that these powers make things easier that might be otherwise impossible to accomplish (such as reading minds, levitating, walking through walls, hurling fireballs, etc.).

The thing about special character abilities is that they aren't necessarily supernatural powers or bonus equipment, instead they are the capacity to harness such powers and equipment more effectively.

That's where my current dilemma lies.
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