Thursday, 20 November 2014


Before any rules mechanics can be finalised, the matter of the setting needs to be addressed - to make sure the mechanics fit the tone and style of the game.

So, over the last few weeks I've been thinking about the setting and style for the Nexus Tales RPG.

It's planned to be a world of larger-than-life player characters, rooted in the real world but with more of a film/tv/book feel to it - so the characters are more capable than the general populace, but not to super-heroic levels.

The main place of play will be the City, set on the island of Kingdom - encompassing the counties of Devon to Essex, Oxfordshire to Hampshire, and is roofed in a transparent material 1km up. It's a place where technology is high, no-one works unless they want to, maker machines make consumer goods for everyone, medicines lengthen life and keep people healthy, augmentations are commonplace and DataSpace is accessible to all.

Outside the City is a wilderness, where storms are common and technology is unreliable - ships that sail on the sea are often sunk by storms and tidal waves, flying machines are brought down by storms and winds.

Off the coast of Kingdom are the storms, about 10km away and impenetrable to boats or aircraft.

History writes that about 200 years ago, Kingdom was an island off the coast of Europa and there were other lands that Kingdom traded with. Then the storms came and Kingdom is cut off, but still exists on the same planet as it did before.

There are those who live in the wilderness and travel its regions, in less technological vehicles and homes. Also in the wilderness are enclaves, people who have banded together to escape the City and set up their own laws and lives.

To the north is Hadrian's Wall, that separates Ecosse from the rest of the Kingdom - a place of clans and small settlements.

There are places where the walls of reality are thin, where worlds overlap, where people and things can move from one place to another. Some people from other places come to Kingdom for reasons of their own - to escape persecution, to prey on victims, to trade goods or information, as a stepping stone to other places.

The setting allows for a variety of places to do things, as well as a variety of things to do - whether hunting outsiders [those who come from other places, via  overlaps], inter-company intrigue, working for her majesty's organisations, helping friends at the Londinium Club, hiring out as independent operatives, exploring overlaps, dealing with those who exhibit unusual abilities.

With the storms have been noticed there is a conflict between nature and technology - where the presence of man is strong, the power of nature is weak, and vice versa.

And then you have the Feh Aree - things from myths and legends, come to feast upon the worlds of man and nature. Shapechangers, beasts, blood drinkers, fluttering imps, behemoth makers, lords and ladies.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Attributes, Skills or... ??

Separate attributes and skills for a character has been the way of things since I started in RPGs.

But as I look to write my own, I wonder why  - and if that's the best way to build a character.

Attributes define the basics of a character, whilst skills define what the character can do.

However, looking at things more deeply, it seems that attributes are more present as default skills than anything else.

In most RPGs, the value used to resolve actions is based on a value derived from attribute+skill or attribute bonus+skill - and a default value based on the attribute if no skill available.

But other than that, attributes aren't used much at all after character generation.

I understand and appreciate the logic, even if i don't agree with it, where it would take lots of time and effort to list every skill that someone has and adds complexity to character generation - many of which would never be used in a RPG session.

I also understand that attributes define a character, allowing his strength and intelligence to be noted.

But for use in an RPG ??

I see little use, apart from default values.

For example, need medical training to treat wounds ??

Use medical skill, or default to intelligence attribute.

Need to hit someone in a fight ??

Use fighting skill, or default to dexterity attribute.

Need to drive a car to get away from the police ??

Use driving skill, or default to dexterity attribute.

Need to sweet talk someone to gather information ??

Use persuasion, or default to charisma attribute.

And so on.

So, I'm going to reverse the equation and have something that combines attributes and skills.

This has the advantage of simplifying character generation, as only a single set of values have to be determined.

These values will be present in all characters, in varying degrees, and will be umbrella skills that all skills and attributes fall into - In effect, characters will be defined by their ability to do things, but not by how that ability is determined.

Since Nexus Tales is a near future game of action, that is the setting my abilities need to fit into an work with.

My current abilities are :-

  • Athletics - climbing, throwing, swimming, lifting, running
  • Driving - cars, boats, helicopters, planes, bikes
  • Fighting - fisticuffs, swords, claws, martial arts, clubs
  • Shooting - pistols, lasers, rockets, smgs, crossbows
  • Making - electronics, cooking, metalwork, carpentry
  • Communication - talking, teaching, painting, streetwise
  • Covert - pick locks, stealth, hiding, palming
  • Outdoors - riding, survival, navigation, hunting, tracking
  • Gaia - spells, rituals
  • Learning - maths, research, law, area knowledge, trivia, design, memory
So, every skill that can be known will be contained within these 10 categories of ability.

Should specific attributes be required, they are inferred from the abilities - remembering the action film nature of the RPG.

For instance, someone with excellent athletics ability would probably be healthy, fit, strong, agile, with good stamina - so any need to check their health, strength or stamina could be accomplished by referring to the athletics ability.

And so on.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Doing Things 2

One of the things I dislike for many RPGs is their granularity - not because such granularity is bad, but because it's mostly unnecessary.

Real world realism relies on granularity because the real world is granular, and small difference can make a difference - however, the world of an RPG can never be as granular as the real world and such granularity just slows things down.

For a game of action, where flexibility and speed of resolution are desired, real world realism definitely isn't what I'm going to aim for.

Years ago I was a fan of TORG and DC Heroes, both of which are cinematic/action movie games with ungranular rules which helped speed up the game, at the cost of some real world realism.

Looking at this, and realising that RPGs are vague simulations of reality, I'm going to use one of my favourite non-linear progressions of 1, 3, 6, 10, etc. It allows me to have a broad scale of values, but keep with a narrow set of values.

Rather than having attributes and skills with values of 1-20, meaning theres a range of 1-20 slightly different results, i'm going to separate those numbers into bands - and those are the values that characters will have.

So, band a = value of 1-2, band b = value of 3-5, band c = value of 6-9, etc - allowing me to have 10 bands and values of 1-55, with the average being band c and value 6-9 for most people.

Now, looking at the values involved, characters will roll 2d10 + a value to overcome a difficulty rating.

That means an average band c will get 2d10 +6-9 [11 +6-9] when he rolls dice.

Ok, so we can see what characters will do.

As mentioned above, characters will overcome a value based on the difficulty of what they're trying to do, and it looks like the values above can be used for this !!

Looking at the average difficulty value that the average person, with a band c skill or attribute, can succeed at we have a value of 2d10 +6-9 to overcome a difficulty value of 6-9 about 1/2 the time.

That infers there are bands of difficulty, from band a = value of 1-2 to band b = value of 3-5 to band c = value of 6-9, etc.

Well, that looks promising.

But I don't think the variability of numbers will help the game run faster - so lets streamline things.

Attributes and skills have band a = value of 1 [instead of 1-2], band b = value of 3 [instead of 3-5], band c = value of 6 [instead of 6-9], etc.

This makes the dice roll to do anything 2d10 +1 or +3 or +6, etc

Much nicer and faster.

In the same way, difficulty values become band a = value of 1, band b = value of 3, band c = value of 6, etc.

Now, one of the things I've seen in game designs that I like are varying degrees of success - I feel it adds more to the game, and allows extra results for succeeding at things.

But how to implement it ??

Just a simple minimum dice roll [critical success] and maximum dice roll [critical failure] ??
Why can't the existing values be used ??

This would become, succeed by value of 1 = band a success, succeed by value of 3 = band b success, succeed by value of 6 = band c success, and so on.

that would give us...

2d10 +6 to overcome a difficulty of 6, with success value of 1, 3, 6

So, it looks like we have a set of attribute/skill values, a set of difficulty values and a set of success values.

It's not finished, but a good core is there.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Doing Things 1

One of my biggest challenges was the mechanics to be used - without knowing how things are done, it's difficult to make characters.

My basic mechanics choices have all been done before, which is Ok as I'm not trying to be radically different, and could be summed as :-

  • xDy + modifiers or less - roll a limited number of dice to get a number less than attribute or skill
  • xDy + modifiers v z - roll a limited number of dice to get a number more than the difficulty
  • skill/attributeD6 v z - roll a number of dice equal to attribute/skill to get a number more than the difficulty
  • D% + modifiers or less - roll D% to get a number less than skill or attribute
  • D% + modifiers v z - roll D% to get a number more than difficulty
  • xDy + skill + attribute + modifier v z - roll a limited number of dice, adding a skill number and an attribute number to get more than the difficulty

Phew, that's just some of the choices.

Looking at the choices, helps sort skill and attribute values.

For instance, if I want to keep things simple and use 3d6 to do things, my range is 3-18 and characters should have a value of approx 10-12 to be able to succeed roughly 1/2 the time.

That means either attributes and skills have to be in the range of 3-18 [probably 1-20 would be easier], so doing something can be done by rolling less than the attribute or skill on a 3d6 roll, or adding a skill number and an attribute number together would produce such a number.

In a similar way, if attributes and skills are to be rated on a scale of 1-6 [with 1 being the lowest, 3 being average and 6 being the highest], then an average charter would have 3+3 = 6 as his average have to do things.

Not so good for rolling 3d6 and trying to roll less than the accumulated number [6 or less on a roll of 3d6 is tough], but could be done by using a roll of 1d10 [6 or less on a roll of 1d10 is not too hard].

Rolling 3+3 = 6 d6 dice is another option to do things, where the results of each d6 are added to end with a total more than the difficulty.

Looking through the options above, I think I'd like to use 2d10 or 3d6 for characters to do things - it keeps the number of dice low, keeps the number used for doing things low and that should make it fast to get things done.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Where to begin.

Welcome back...

When I started to put a system and setting together, I drew inspiration from the things I enjoyed in films, tv, books, existing RPGs.

There were games I'd enjoyed, but something was lacking and I set about making something I wanted to play.

I wanted something where actions were easy to resolve, characters didn't take hours to build, things were flexible enough to throw in, the rules didn't break easily, there wasn't a lot of maths involved.

I wanted to emulate some of the books and films I enjoyed - Indiana Jones, Akira, Blade Runner, Robocop, James Bond, Takeshi Kovacs, Neuromancer, Call of Cthulhu, Doctor Who, Ghost in the Shell, Shadowrun, Cyberpunk 2020, Space 1889, Traveller, GURPS, D&D, and many more.

A tough order !!

I'm more of a scifi buff than a fantasy enjoyer, so I knew I'd want something set in the near future or similar.

While I enjoyed cyberpunk, I felt it was too cliched and meaningless when almost all of its qualities existed in the real world or became cliches in the stories and games that existed - and only the attitude seperated it from other science fiction.

I didn't want to venture into the far future, because that didn't feel right.

Urban fantasy has become popular, and is something I've always enjoyed - so that was something to think about.

I wanted a setting set in the near future, that allowed me the freedom for player characters to be involved in several different types of game and allow people to take the game in their own directions.

For this to work, the rules need to be flexible enough to handle almost anything, robust enough to not break easily and quick enough to resolve things that the game didn't get slowed down.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

So it begins...

Well, this is it...
...Updating Nexus Tales and writing about it.

Introductions !!

I've been into RPGs for about 30 years, and have played many games and met many people.

About 20 years ago, I started tweaking games I played and adding elements from other places  - so much so that little of the original games remained.

So I started putting what I was playing onto paper and making something new out of it.

I tried several rulesets, from d% to die pools to xdy, and several levels of complexity.

Finally, I settled on a 2d10 mechanic that wouldn't look out of place in many existing RPGs.

That was ok for years.

Then I lost touch with my players and started doing things on the internet...

...So I dusted off my rules, took a look at what I had and started putting the on the internet.

And realised that although they were usable, I could do things better.

I'm not going to dwell on what I've done in the past, only the development of the current rules.

So let's go...