Setting

Well, at this point I don't have enough in non-me-readable form to put anything here. But soon, I hope.


System

Designer's Notes

Since there couldn't possibly be a system out there that could possibly be of any use to me, I had to go ahead and make my own. OK, so maybe it's more that I'm fussy and/or wanted to make my own system. Actually, I've been working on this system off and on for around 5 years, so most of the systems that would suit me didn't exist when i started. And now that i've got this much, I figure I may as well finish it. Besides, at least in theory a system I make will be better suited to my tastes than one that someone else makes. We shall see.

Credit

There are two sorts of influences that should be acknowledged here. First, i have shamelessly stolen from many a game where concepts are concerned. In particular, the idea of a log scale for relating attributes to teh real world i got from Underground. The dice pool system is mostly an amalgam of Over the Edge and Providence, though i like to think that i made a few changes. The methods for pooling talent among multiple characters are stolen straight out of Over the Edge, even including the particular examples used, for the most part (though the different nature of the dice mechanics meant slightly different implementations). The training rules are at least inspired by, and possibly directly taken from, Ars Magica; i haven't bothered to look and see how close they ended up to the source. The five groups for abilities are taken verbatim from The Power, though i juggled a few abilities around between them, and vastly increased the list of skills within each. The entire chargen process is heavily influenced by Over the Edge. The personality traits system owes about equal parts to Aria and Ars Magica. The idea of not having psychic abilities, but only attributes, once again comes from The Power. The final Difficulties chart is likely to be shamelessly stolen from Lost Souls for entertaining examples. The idea of an Experience Pool which does double duty as hero points and advancement points comes once again from Over the Edge, though i've changed the mechanism quite a bit. The relative Attribute and Ability ranges are very loosely borrowed from Ars Magica, or Providence, or Silhouette; i was thinking of those systems when trying to decide the best way to go. Finally, the trauma system comes from Aria. This is not to say that everything not mentioned above is my own work. In addition to comments below, I'm sure there are some influences on me that I'm not realizing and/or remembering. I've got about 7 dozen systems sitting on my shelf, and i've seen a couple dozen more, so i make no claims to my ideas' originality; i have emphatically not come from a vacuum with this system. Also, I realize that most of the above concepts are found in many games, and that the games i've listed aren't always the original implementation, commercial or otherwise. But they are the games that I was thinking of or got the inspiration from. Or, in a couple of cases, the first game that i saw with such a subsystem.

In addition to published games, a great deal of inspiration has come from online sources. In particular, i wish to thank the creators of several files found on Surge's big 'ol gaming archive around 5 years ago. The archive seems to be (at least temporarily) in limbo, but his most-current (i believe) homepage can be found at <http://www.omnigroup.com/People/surge/rpg.html>. The files are "hierarchical.stats", apparently a usenet post in response to <1992May16.020858.28238@cunixf.cc.columbia.edu> from John Kim, with no headers and signed only by billo, which outlined the basics of a hierarchical system such as i am using, including the important concept that level of detail doesn't matter mechanically; "stats" by <jacobus@sonata.cc.purdue.edu>, originally posted on expert-l@wizards.com, which outlines some real-world research into the breakdown of physicality that i found quite helpful; and "stats.list" by Barry Padgett <bpadget@hubcap.clemson.edu> and "skill.list", author unkown, which both are pretty much just lists, and which i found extremely useful for jumpstarting the brainstorms for my Attribute and Ability Trees. The first 2 of those files are what got me started on this system 5 years ago, and the rest evolved from the Attribute Tree. Since then, i've gleaned a few ideas from discussions on rpgs@nocturne.org and gmast-l (most recently @phoenyx.net). A lengthy discussion of the setting on taogm-l@oracle.wizards.com was extremely helpful in fleshing it out and finding some major problems, and my endless thanks goes to the list members around May '94. Brett Evill(spamblocked) deserves credit for my use of some of the terminology (grommets and hooks) and for the idea of basing disad point awards not on how much they hinder the character, but on how much they make the GM's life easier (i'm not sure he's the only proponent of this i've run across, but he's the only one who's name comes handily to mind). Rec.games.frp.advocacy deserves credit as the unwitting testbed for my system in its later stages. Several of the subsystems of this system were used by me as examples in ongoing discussions, and revised as a result of the responses, and a couple originated in response to perceived flaws in a general class of subsystem under discussion. The ideas of player-selected core abilities, and player-selected hierarchical stats were test-beaten for me a bit there. The specific implementations of personality mechanics, ads/disads, advancement/experience, and roundless phase combat used are all in response to discussions on r.g.f.advocacy. I don't remember most of the names, and don't want to slight anybody by listing some but not all, but the discussions are recent enough that you can look them up on Dejanews for yourself. Finally, Travis Casey, Klaus Mogensen and Torben Mogensen deserve thanks for rather a lot of help with the intricacies of the dice pool system--including pointing out how obviously stupid my initial implementation was.

Design Philosophy

Despite what it may seem like from reading the above, this system isn't a camel. It has been designed almost exclusively by one person (me), though i've bounced ideas off of several people and groups of people to sort of pre-test them before implementation.

My original plan was to come up with a system that was universal in setting, but specifically keyed to one genre/mode: hard to almost-hard SF. As such, there is no provision for magic or superpowers, per se, and the psionics system is an attempt to sneak useful psychic abilities through the loopholes in physics, especially using some controversial quantum theories. If i've kept up on my reading, I've constructed all the pseudo-science in such a way that it falls through the loopholes, and merely stretches the laws of science (perhaps distends is a better word) without quite breaking them. The system is intended to work for aliens as well as humans, and my original intent was to keep the Attribute Tree constant for all species down to the 3rd Tier, at least, but to construct a different Ability Tree for each culture.

Let me be the first to say it: I Hate Dice Pool Systems! Problem is, I sat down with my standard idea bouncer, and thrashed out what qualities were good and bad for the basic mechanic, and couldn't come up with a better fit that was as simple to implement. The only other thing that came close was something with cards (playing or SAGA (more suits)), but we finally decided that the extra control given to the players was more dramatist and we wanted a more simulationist system (where fine-tuning of results comes from character activity, not player initiative). More importantly, we couldn't think of any good use for the suits, which is a major advantage of cards, IMHO. Of course, I stayed away from bi(or tri-)nomial distribution, because (a) it's a pain to calculate and (b) i don't like the fact that everyone has the same range of results, regardless of ability. By adding the dice, a more skilled person produces higher results, which feels intuitively better. On the flip side, I liked the idea that modifiers didn't actually make something possible or impossible that wasn't before, but merely made it more or less likely. This works particularly well for Attributes, since it simulates the idea that two people with equal training (same Ability score) have the same potential, but the more innately talented one (higher Attribute) is more likely to actually live up to that potential. The options to convert between Add Dice and Modifier Dice first showed up so that someone could "pull their punches" by ditching some of the Add Dice. I then realized that I needed a mechanism to allow someone to make a roll when they had no skill (as the system unmodified gives you 0 Add Dice for an unskilled attempt), so shifting Modifier Dice (from your Attribute) to Add Dice was worked out, with much looking at probabilities and discussing with my idea bouncer. Finally I expanded the system to a general system, allowing the player to mechanically simulate all sorts of uses of skill on the part of the character.

The Experience Pool and Personality Traits are where the Dramatist elements of the game come in in full force. Both of these are designed to allow the dramatically-inclined to do things that the essentially simulationist skill system doesn't have provision for. In a similar vein, most of the character is not point-costed. I'd already decided that I didn't like balancing points among several things that I did like rating numerically, and a recent discussion on r.g.f.advocacy convinced me that the only way to do this "fairly" was to simply keep them completely outside of any point-accounting. Likewise during character advancement, and thus the systems for that. I kept in experience points of a sort. IMHO, they're a concession to gamist concerns, but most of my players like them. However, by putting them and "hero points" in the same pool, i've answered my own preferences, also. Experience Dice can be used in two ways, and at the extremes you have the two strategies: the Luke Skywalker Strategy and the Han Solo Strategy. Luke's player spent most of her Experience Dice on advancement, picking up gobs of new skills and improving old ones. Solo's player basically spent all of her dice saving his ass on a regular basis. Most players will fall somewhere in between, but neither approach should be inherently inferior to the other.

The idea of core skills is one that i came up with in response to yet another discussion on r.g.f.advocacy, and i'm not sure I like the implementation here. It's a bit of an awkward match with a hierarchical skill system like this, but I think the only problem in it's current form is one of cost magnitude: a multiplier or divisor in the right place should fix all the advancement cost problems, if there are any.

Known Bugs^H^H^H^HFeatures

System

Character Generation Rules

In their current form, they include some notes very specific to my current campaign. Also, there are several references in the example advantages, and the like, to elements of my future Earth, which probably don't make much sense.

Character Advancement and Learning

Mechanics

Charts and Graphs (lots of graphics)

Example Characters

Again, quite a few references to a setting that isn't online yet. Sorry.


copyright 1998 nat barmore