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.