Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Very Quick System

Back from vacation with a VERY fast system:

The player characters all have amnesia (not the interesting part).
They have no idea who they are or what they can do. Each time they
try to do anything for the first time they make two rolls with a die,
any die on hand (good for when you want to play but only have a D6
around). The first roll is what their skill will be for that task from
then on. The second roll is the attempt to accomplish the task. Roll
under the skill to be successful in the task.

The system is not sustainable because after an hour the character
sheet is filled up with skills and it is hard to find "read a
wristwatch" on the page. But it is fun when you don't have time or
supplies for a more in-depth game. It is also best for "normal human"
characters because who wants to sit for an hour and GM a guy "trying
to shoot energy from his eyes" (although if you get too bored there
are creative solutions for trying to "fly"). And "normal human"
should also assume that the characters have average capabilities, a
"walking" skill might be funny at first but a character who has a 1
for walking might not be that fun to play.

In this, everything is a skill - even common attributes. So, "lifting
heavy things" might be part of what is usually Strength. "Jumping over
something" might be part of Dexterity. The important part is the
skills should be generic enough to be used more than once but not so
generic they are used constantly - the balance between the two makes
the discovery of each new thing fun.

No hit points, the GM should provide negative consequences for
actions. Remember that just as "punching" is a skill, so is "taking a
punch" - you might be like Mike Tyson but have a glass jaw.

The point is, this is a quick way to play a fast one shot game that
might give you ideas for other characters to play.

This idea came from a friend of mine when we played a quick game set
as elementary school kids, we used D4s and had stats like "dental
hygiene" and "parental coolness". My Character had high dental
hygiene and very uncool parents...

Friday, July 10, 2009

What is the Counting Game System?

The name is not very sexy but it is what I have called it all these years.  I am content with the name because I have not come up with anything better and my kids are happy to call it that.

Now what is it?  In a nutshell of RPG design babble, it is a generic, point-based, rules-medium, skill-oriented system with a flexible classic die rolling system.

Before I dissect what that gobbledygook means to me, I want to say that the mission of this game is to provide a system where anyone can play it at any time with materials at hand.  I am not fond of LARP, I personally feel too self-conscious acting out my character, so the mission does not include the need to consider LARP as a playing option.  What the mission does mean to me is to provide a balanced and flexible system where the basic rules are simple enough to be remembered and the game can be played wherever there are people with paper and pencils.

First the system is Generic.  It is not oriented to a specific genre or setting for a game.  This is in homage to GURPS and the fickle nature of my pool of players (kids you know, one day it is spaceships and the next day it is giant robots).  As we all know a generic system with no game world is very boring (unless you are a fellow game designer), so a major impediment to publication is the lack of a game world. In a future post I will go over some of the best game world candidates for my initial release.  At this point I see the system as a way to describe and play in a world of the player's choosing with characters of their choosing.  As a web developer the system is like HTML and the game world is a fully designed web site, so the same people who are interested in a generic system might also read up on the latest HTML 5 specification (but most people would prefer to go to a fully developed web site).

Generic systems have a few pitfalls.  The first pitfall is the issue of over-generic-ness.  A GURPS implementation of the D&D world is very different from the D&D world.  A GURPS version of a 7th level Mage is... well it should be a crime to do that on top of the fact it is a lot of work to not only design the character but also pick the advantages and disadvantages that mesh with D&D.  It would require several books to just begin to cover all the material necessary.  In this system the creation rules are straight-forward and simple.  Each character, item, skill or power is evaluated for it's useful parts to determine its value in points - more on that in other posts.

The more major pitfall of generic games is the idea of character progression and playing the same character long term.  In a D&D game (should I specify that I only speak of the Second Edition?) you start with a character that is basically worthless but work to become more and more powerful.  Working to get those xp becomes an obsession.  Generic games do not really have this, they are typically class-less and level-less, so the character you start out with is the one you envisioned during creation.  There is no next level that drives you on to play.  This leads generic games to be more one-shot or shorter term than other styles.  I don't actually see this as a problem, if you were to take the average ten year old through the creation process and then have a few asthmatic cockroaches nearly kill them after six hours of play?  The would be back to their Nintendo before you could tell them that they still needed to play a few dozen hours before they could last 10 seconds with a dragon.  A generic game lets the player choose the character they want to play without hours and hours of dealing with level 1 issues.

This is a point-based system.  In this system every attribute, skill, power and weakness is worth points.  These same points are used for healing, damage, purchases and skill rolls.  This is a universal currency for everything in the game.  Some systems have hit points, skill points, attribute points, luck points, kitten points, etc - each with a unique exchange rate.  This is way too complex.  One attribute point can be exchanged for a point to increase a skill/power/buy equipment/etc.  On a side note, there are no hit points - when you take any sort of damage it comes off of the character's attributes or skills or powers (it might even increase a disadvantage or weakness).

This is a rules-medium system, meaning that it is not rules-light or rules-heavy.  My exposure to rules-light games left me feeling of potential anarchy, many people hate the government but it comes in handy when people try to steal from or kill you.  Rules are the same way, there must be some rules to check a permissive or obstinate Game Master.  On the contrary, rules-heavy games are gigantic books with tables and formulas for everything.  I would prefer to guess at the velocity of an unladen swallow than check a chart that takes into account fifteen variables.  In this game there is rounding and even bad math just to keep things simple lest someone be forced to look at a chart. 

This is a skill-oriented system.  Many systems are combat oriented, which is fine since most players prefer to "kick butt".  My daughter was the primary reason to change this in my system.  She would prefer not to kill every dragon but instead befriend them and help them live a vegetarian lifestyle.  So, the classic sense of combat is not primary in this game.  Combat is a contest, not actually different from arm-wrestling, competitive eating or even trying to get your boss to give you a raise at the office.  Keeping with the theme of flexibility, skills are all based on attributes so a skill can be untrained and used in relation to the skill's controlling attribute.  But if you take damage, then the decrease in attribute points can lower a skill.

Finally this system has a flexible die mechanic that is based on classic dice rolling.  I love dice, the dice section is my second favorite part of a game store.  A system that would only use one of them is just wrong.  On the other hand what is a person to do when they have a 1d8 axe but no 8 sided dice are to be found?  My super-flawed math skills allow me to suspend belief in my players to substitute dice.  In this system a 1d8 is the same as 2d4, 1d6+1 or even just '4'.  The thought is that the possible values of a 8 sided die are 1 to 8, with 3.5 as an average of those values.  In rounding up that 3.5 becomes a 4 just as a 1d6 becomes a 3 (and so on).  It is imperfect but it is more important to me to have a flexible system than force people to walk around with dice bags tied to their belts (like I did back in 1985).  Since this is a point based system, a 1d8 axe costs 4 points in the first place because that is the average damage it can do.  If a Game Master didn't agree with such silly math then they can play without rolling for damage (but the foundation of role playing is rolling for damage, so I think they will overlook it).

Obviously there are a lot of details to explain in these posts.  My intention with this blog is to explain it and eventually it will be so concise I can publish it (after I decide which game world to go with).  So, for those of you still awake.. you have now read a brief rationalization of this game system with specifics to follow.  

Questions, comments and random musings are welcome!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why do I home-brew a game when there are other "Open" systems...

I have joined the RPG Bloggers Network.  There are some great blogs as part of this network, any time I had recently to collect my thoughts on my game has been devoted to mindless surfing these RPG Blogs.

My fascination with these other blogs is part of the same issue I have with using another game system, I am old.  In 1982 my father got a photocopied edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  I was able to look at it for one whole day before my parents discovered that it would turn me into a suicidal devil-worshiper so the "pirated" book was thrown out while I was at school.  But the damage was done, what little I had seen in that book was enough.  I wanted to play D&D but my parents would not have it, so I eventually acquired the contents of the Star Frontiers game box.

Always the oddball, I was forced to shun D&D (my parents opinion mattered, I was 8 to 10) and try to play Star Frontiers.  Most of my friends would rather play Atari, but I had a Commodore Vic 20.  Typical visits from friends went like this:
"Hey Chris, let's play D&D."
"I am not allowed, let's play Star Frontiers."
"What? Nevermind, let's play Atari."
"I don't have an Atari, we can play Vic 20.  I have a new math game I typed in from the back of a magazine."
"Nevermind, lets go ride our bikes."

It was not until 1986 that I actually played Star Frontiers with a neighbor.  I made up the rules because I still didn't understand the book but I loved the art in the book and the game world.  We had fun and played my made up rules a few times.  In 1989 a new kid moved to my school who had a ton of brothers.  Their house was like a toy store with the biggest collection of Legos outside of LegoLand.  They were playing the second edition version of D&D.  Ever the goofball I still shunned it for the sake of my mortal soul, but at this point there was no denying that I knew the rules and the classes and was able to play it.  I knew enough to understand that the rules for D&D had changed with the second edition, it seemed complicated then.

I eventually broke down and played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons (second edition because no one had the first edition any more).  I liked it compared to the other Role Playing Games I was into (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG, Robotech RPG and eventually Rifts RPG - so, all the Palladium games).  D&D was so well organized it was beautiful.  You played a character for the long haul instead of just one time.  It was so well crafted and complex it was an art form, compared to the other games I was playing.

But there were problems.  Like most of the game systems of its time, what the character did outside of combat didn't matter at all.  When you added house rules, optional rules and supplements the people who wanted to "munchkin" their characters could do so in the most heinous ways (custom character classes where levels were 1xp each, I am looking right at you).  Most of all, I didn't always want to play sword, magic and get the treasure.  So I stopped playing D&D (I played GURPS instead but that is another story for another time).

In the years since, D&D has changed a lot.  During the resurgence of Role Playing Games in my life thanks to free efforts like FUDGE and the others, the Open Source mentality got into the Wizards of the Coast and they put the d20 system out under the Open Gaming License.  Now, back in 1992 I began this system I blog about and once the OGL/d20 was released quite a few people felt I should use that system.  Most of the homebrew web sites (before blogs there were forums and bulletin boards) had member populations moving to d20 in droves.  I resented Wizards of the Coast for that migration.  Overnight discussions of die rolling systems were replaced with what feats Neo would have in the Matrix and other stuff.  I moved on because in a wold of forum trolls and d20 fan boys there was no room to discuss my ideas.

To this day I have a mental block when it comes to the OGL, d20 or the new editions of D&D.  I have tried several times to "get it" but can't.  Now, I don't need another "but I'll teach you" session from a zealot who only wants to convert another person to the system.  I don't need a thinly veiled explanation of why d20 is superior to the system I am working on.  Maybe I do need young eyes to look at d20 and get excited, maybe even recapture the feeling I had when I looked at that photocopied book all those years ago.

But maybe I am too old and set in my ways to put my ideas in another framework.  My framework has developed over time and it fits the concepts I use when I run or play a game.  I am not sure what d20's roots are but they are not appealing to me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Character creation is the most important step in playing a Role Playing Game.  Past games basically had the players sit and randomly create characters to play.  Such randomness was fun and quick but did not allow a player to use the character they wanted.  The randomness also allowed for cheating and players could get maximum attributes with "lucky" rolls.

The lesson of these early systems and rules was to allow some flexibility to allow a player to create a character they wanted to play but still provide balance to the game.  There are many modern ways this issue is dealt with and perhaps many go too far and character creation becomes hours of pouring over books and selecting skills, powers from lists.  

The more time that is wrapped up in creation time, the less available for playing the game.  A creation system for a RPG must balance flexibility with speed to have a player create the character they want in a minimal amount of time.

Here is the creation process for this game:

Step 1: Think about the character you would like to play.  Think of their most distingushing characteristics, things like what they can do, how the act, things that are good about them and things that are not good about them.  There might not be much that is interesting about your character at this point other than maybe an occupation or skill, and that is fine.  When you have a concept of what your character is like, move on to step 2.

Step 2:  Attributes:  Consider your character concept.  Are they smart?  If so, how smart are they? Normal people have 10s for all attributes.  A Nobel scientist might have a MS of 18 or 20, just as an Olympic gymnast might have a BS of 18 or 20. Now down the following on a piece of paper with a pencil: MP:10, MS:10, ME:10, MI:10, BP:10, BS:10, BE:10, BI:10.  These are the attributes.  As you raise one attribute you must lower another, or take disadvantages (later).

Step 3: Skills:  In this game, a skill is necessary for everything the character can do.  Quite often they are default and based upon the controlling attribute.  But there is no substitute for training and skills that are untrained, or default will suffer more modifiers than skills which have been trained.  A skills costs one point per point increase (1/+1), a skill that has a negative modifier is a disadvantage and can be used to pay for other skills, powers or equipment.

Step 4: Powers and Equipment: Selection of powers and equipment is best from a list to speed the creation process, but a basic idea of the cost of an item has to do with it's value in a contest.  For each point the item increases or decreases a skill or attribute in yourself or others, it costs one point.  For each 3 feet (or about 1 meter or yard) of range the item has it costs one point. So a sword that can reach about a meter/yard away and does 5 points of damage, would cost 6 points. (more on item creation later)

Step 5: Disadvantages: A disadvantage is the opposite of a power and instead of costing points, they add points back to the character.  Disadvantages must be played and must have a point value - they are more than "afraid of the dark" where a character carries a glow-stick to avoid the effects of the fear.  Creating disadvantages will be covered further, later.  Basically there are two kinds of disadvantages, constant and conditional.  Constant disadvantages apply all the time, such as blindness where a character is always -10 to see (and would be worth 10 points).  A conditional disadvantage is only in effect for part of the time.  "Afraid of the Dark" where the character is -2 to ME, -2 to MS and -2 BS when they are in the dark.  If this were a constant disadvantage it would be worth 6, but since the character would expect to only be in the dark roughly half the time it is worth 3 points.

Repeat, if necessary.

The most important rule is "you get what you pay for".  If you didn't pay for it then you didn't get it.  So if you make a power called "invisibility" and figure it costs 10 points, because everyone is -10 to see you.  Well, that effects seeing the character, not hearing or smelling them.  On the same note, if you have a disadvantage which is "forgotten" and not used, the points must be given back. Disadvantages that can't be given a rating in numbers are not worth anything.  Like "Kleptomania", unless you can attach a value to the disadvantage then it is not worth much.

Another key thing to remember is that all the points you spend are part of your character.  When you take damage, anything can have points deducted.  So, if you take 6 points in damage it can come from attributes and skills. 

Many things are fun to add to a character, such as hair color and favorite colors.  If you make an especially entertaining character the Game Master running the game might give you some extra points, but a character's favorite color is of little value in a contest.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The contest: Damage is not just for combat.

A mainstay in Role Playing Games is combat.  For the most part this is due to the nature of Role Playing Games, but to some extent it is due to the way these games were developed.  There are no tools in most games for settleing things without combat.

In this game combat is similar to any other contest of skills, the difference is that combat is when characters use skills to inflict bodily harm on each other and that is different from a game of poker or a tennis match.  But, like in combat, each player tries to control the environment to gain the upper hand in the contest.  The players use strategy to outwit and outmaneuver their opponent to achieve victory.  Many skill contests are like combat and therefore, in this game, combat is just a contest of skills.

Such contests have four phases that repeat; Initiative, Action, Reaction, Effect.  Initiative is the process of deciding who will act first, this is usually a dice roll with the highest roll acting first.  Action is when the winner of the Initiative phase (can be called the attacker) uses a skill to gain an advantage in the contest .  Reaction is when the looser of the initiative phase (can be called the defender) tries to avoid the actions of the attacker to lessen the effects of the attacker's actions.  Effect is when the overall actions and reactions are considered and any advantages or penalties are given out (can be called damage).

For example Albert and Betty are to appear on a reality television show called "Combat Cooking" - a "no holds barred" cooking contest where contestants lie, cheat and cook their way to the top.  Each is to cook a dish but can sabotage each other and only the judges decide who is the winner.  As the contest starts, Albert sneaks over to Betty's stove and alters the thermostat so that the stove is actually 75 degrees hotter than it should be.  While Albert is at Betty's station, Betty switches the sugar and salt on Albert's station and adds vinegar to Albert's Strawberry mixture.  Each uses their cooking skills to effect the other's stations and therefore limit how their dishes will turn out.

In this situation, initiative is not important since most of the action is happening at the same time.  Also the action is balanced and the important part is how well the contestants do after the sabotage.  Albert has a cooking skill of +5 and Betty has a cooking skill of +3.  For Albert's sabotage he rolls a 10 and gets a score of 15.  For Betty's reaction to Albert's sabotage, she rolls a 7 and gets a total of 10, Albert wins with difference of 5 points.  For Betty's sabotage she rolls a 4, plus her 3 for a total of 7.  Albert counters with a roll of 17, plus his skill of 5 and gets a total of 22.  Albert is the net winner by 20 points!

What happened is that Albert returns to his station and begins to cook.  Like a good chef, Albert tastes everything and catches the salt mix-up just in time.  He also smells the strawberry mixture and carefully just rinses it and uses the strawberries as garnish.  Betty on the other hand spent too much time watching Albert catch her tricks and does not pay attention while her cake is in the oven.  As her oven timer goes off she notices the smoke from the burnt cake.

There was no damage necessary in this scenario.  Normally damage is associated with skills and equipment specifically paid for at creation time to inflict damage.  In situations where a person wants to inflict damage but has not paid for the ability to do so, then extra effort would be involved and the attacker would receive damage as well - just under the name of "fatigue".  But even without damage a winner can be chosen by looking at the rolls.  In closer matches the players might opt to spend damage points as extra effort to ensure victory.  In real life it would be rare to see such extreme effort in a cooking contest but anything is possible.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The problem with dice and the casual gamer

There is a special group of people who always have dice with them.  Outside of specific areas, carrying dice is not acceptable.  If you are in Las Vegas then carrying two 6 sided dice is common, if you are in a Comic Book Shop, Hobby Store or convention (comic, anime, etc) then carrying a good 20 sided die might be common.  But how often have you been with friends who play RPGs and wanted to play but no one had the necessary materials?  

I first wanted to make my own RPG while a friend and I were no where near the required shelf of RPG books and bag full of dice.  We ended up playing what would now be a LARP style game that progressed awkwardly and no one was happy with the end result.  I decided that a good game system could accommodate the materials at hand and not require extensive books or equipment.

While a random number generator is easy to make on the computer (sample code to follow one day), but the dice assortment usually associated with RPGs is not as easy.  You can find a deck of cards and a pack of 6 sided dice at most convenience stores.  But what if you have a Orc with a battle axe that does 1d12 damage?  Or a Kobold with a dagger that does 1d4?

Another issue is the casual RPG player.  Someone who is trying it for the first time might not like the strange dice RPG gamers use or how to read them.  Many people don't know a d8 from a d10, but do they have to in order to play a game?

Some games avoid these issues by using fist-fulls of dice  where you roll under a number a proper number of times to be successful.  This is also confusing to the casual gamer who might be more used to board games or card games.

In this system all rolls are base upon an average roll.  This might be mathmatically and statically unsound but if you suspend calculation and accept the premise it all makes sense.  A six sided die rolled an infinite number of times will give values from 1 to 6, and the average is 3 (actually 3.5 but we can round down.)  In the same way a four sided die is 2, 8 sided is 4, 10 sided is 5, 12 sided is 6 and 20 sided is 10.  

These average rolls allow for two important things.  The first is that a power/weapon/whatever has an effect (usually damage) which can be paid for with a set number of points.  So a sword might cost 10 points because it does 10 points of damage.  The second feature of using average rolls for dice is dice substitution.  When the character does the damage they can take those 10 points or they can roll.  When they roll for damage, it is based on the average roll of the dice.  For 10, they can roll 3, six sided dice and add one point (3*3=9 + 1 = 10), one 20 sided die or even 5 four sided dice.

Dice substitution is good because it gives players flexibility with what dice they have to use or if they have to use dice at all.  Also, different dice combinations give different ranges of results.  While 3 six sided dice plus 1 is the same average roll as rolling one 20 sided die, the ranges are 4 to 19 for the 3d6+1 and 1-20 for the 1d20.  The 20 sided die can give a higher result as well as a much lower result, ask someone who just rolled a 1 about which way they would have rather rolled.  But if you roll both ways you might end up with a 1 or a 4, had the roll not been chosen then the player would automatically get 10.  It is up to the player as to how much they are willing to give up to chance.


A skill is a task the character knows how to do.  Skills are the basis for all actions a character  takes in the game.  All actions have an associated skill, from using weapons to cooking food.  Even the characters attributes are used as skills.

A character uses a task on a regular basis to practice it, they have trained on this task with an instructor of some sort.  In training and practice they learn to do this task better than someone trying the task for the first time.  But training and practice do not prevent the character from trying to use a skill, they just do so at the default level.

Skills are written with just the bonus the skill provides to a roll, such as "Cooking +3".  An attribute when used as a skill will be a bonus or penalty depending on if it is above or below 10.  So a BS (Bodily Skill or dexterity) of 12 will be a +2 when used as a skill, but a BS of 9 is -1.

Skills are used two ways, in contest and non-contest situations.  Contest situations is where a skill is directly used against another character's skill.  This can be in combat, in a contest or just to compete with another character.  In a contest roll the goal is to roll with a combined amount higher than the other character.

In a non-contest situation, the character is trying to achieve a goal.  Depending on difficulty, the player must roll below half the controlling attribute plus the skill bonus and attribute modifier (amount above or below 10).  So if a player has a skill of "Whip +3" and is going to use the whip to hit a target and the "Whip" skill is controlled by the BS attribute of 12, then the player must roll below 10 (12/2 = 6, +3skill = 8 +2attribute = 10).  If the target is rather large and the character is very close then the difficulty modifier might be +4 or to roll under 14.

If a character needs to use an attribute as a skill in a non-contest situation then they use half the attribute plus the modifier (amount above or below 10).  So, if a character must try to use their MI (Mental Influence or charisma) to persuade and their MI is 13 then they must roll under 10 (13/2 = 6.5, round up to 7, +3 = 10).

Skills are effected by injury because if a character takes damage, the damage can come directly from a skill or can come from a controlling attribute.  A very high skill will not help if the controlling attribute gets too low.

A character can also use extra effort to make a skill successful.  The character spends attribute points (the attribute points are subtracted just like the character had taken damage and must be healed back) and the points they spend can be used to raise a skill for a roll.

If a player wishes they can simply spend points at creation time to raise a controlling attribute and use their default skill for all rolls.  This is permissible, but not encouraged.  The issue is that a person must practice or be trained to perform some actions at some levels.  A person who never went to school might be very intelligent, but if they were never taught to read then they might have a harder time reading than a less intelligent person who had been taught to read.  So the difficulty  modifier depends on the character's exposure to the situation.

If a character is in a contest situation but does not have the same skill as the other contestants, or has a higher skill they would like to substitute they may if they make a proper argument with the Game Master.  A character in a cooking contest might have a low cooking skill but a high knife skill, they could use the knife skill to cut the food in a decorative way to participate in the contest.

A skill is not just the simple knowledge and practice to perform an action.  An accomplished practitioner of a skill gains a reputation from fellow practicioners as well as customers/friends and the like.  This reputation give the character another way to apply their skill because the skill has value beyond it's actual action.  A skilled cook might be attacked by a gang of criminals, but the cook can use their reputation to scare the criminals or at least offer to cook for them.

Some skills are common to all characters in a given game world, if a skill is assumed to be known to "everyone" then it is part of the controlling attribute.  If the character does not know that skill then it is a disadvantage and the character gets points at creation time to spend elsewhere.  For example, in the modern USA it is assumed that all residents know how to speak and read English, if a resident can't then they get a penalty to read or speak English and can use those points to increase another skill or attribute.  Usually these points will be used to speak or read a different language, but speaking or reading might not be required.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


A constant in Role Playing Games is the use of attributes.  An attribute is a common skill that all characters have.  It is recorded differently than other skills, it is written in a range of 0 (basically dead or useless) to 10 (average or normal) and on upward to infinity.  The typical range for normal games is 0 to 20, super hero comic book type games might be up to 40 for some attributes.  

Attributes are the basis for skills or provide a bonus to the effect of some skills.  A normal attribute provides no bonus but also no penalty.  A low attribute penalizes the character per point below 10, so a 9 would be a -1 penalty and a 5 would be a -5 penalty.  A high attribute gives a bonus per point above 10, so 12 gives a +2 and 20 gives a +10.

The attributes for this game are modular and can be swapped or changed depending on the game world.  In a typical game world (such as fantasy, modern or even wild west) the characters have attributes for their body and mind (more on that later). But in a high fantasy world were everyone could perform magic there might be additional attributes for a character's magical abilities.  Or a high science fiction world were everyone used computers in a virtual world, there might be attributes associated with that virtual world.

While it is possible to arrange attributes in different and perhaps more concise ways, the attributes for this game (in a normal, realistic game setting) is as follows:

Body Attributes:
     Body Power (BP): Aka Strength.  Gives a bonus to damage by manual attacks as well as distance of thrown objects and weight to lift and carry.
     Body Skill (BS): Aka Dexterity.  This is the basis for most physical skills and therefore rates the natural ability to perform physical tasks.  A character with high BS might do well at physical skills despite lack of training.
     Body Endurance (BE):  Aka Constitution.  This is the basis for a character's ability to heal their body as well as endure physical stresses.
     Body Influence (BI): Aka Beauty.  This is the character's physical appearance and how it might influence others.  This is not just to the opposite gender, many leaders have been chosen by their looks in the past as well as ugly people are often not trusted or considered inferior.

Mind Attributes:
     Mental Power (MP): Aka Wisdom.  Mental Power is the raw ability to memorize facts.  MP might be used from time to time when a character needs to recall something from memory.
     Mental Skill (MS): Aka Intelligence.  Mental Skill is how well the character can think to approach a problem.  MS is used in planning as well as to determine if small details are noticed (including the ability to hear, see or smell).
     Mental Endurance (ME): Aka Temper.  Mental Endurance is the character's ability to withstand mental stress.  ME is used when a character is trying to maintain their temper, resist mental stress (torture and questioning) and healing from mental injury.
     Mental Influence (MI): Aka Charisma.  Mental Influence is the character's ability to influence others through persuasion, speaking or direct coercion.

This might seem like a lot of attributes, but the system is built for modularity and to have a universal approach to attributes.  Any attribute is assumed to be 10, less than 10 awards the character points to be used elsewhere, more than 10 costs points from elsewhere.  If a game requires a quickly generated "average" person, then the person has attributes of all 10s.  Further, if a character from one game world is played in another world where there are additional attributes, the new attributes can be assumed to be all 10s.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What is the point?

In this game there is a currency used to create things.  The universal unit is "the point".  A point can never be created or destroyed, and anything that can be helpful in conflict (combat, task, contest and the like) has a point value.

An average person and the things an average person can do are all at zero points.  That is, a basic person who has common sense and normal skills and intellect, physical attributes.. the average person is worth 0 points.

If a person was blind, yet average then their blindness (negative point value) would be offset by something else (positive point value), like maybe they get extra money from the government under the Americans with Disabilities Act or at least accommodations so their blindness was less of a factor.

If a person was a famous rock star and thousands of people loved them (positive point value) they might also have a ruined marriage, drug addiction and photographers invading their life all the time (negative point value).

That is all part of the character creation process, to calculate these point values and to balance them.  Positive and negative, then they balance to zero points - the human condition. 

The point is not only held in these states of being (blindness, rock stardom, etc) but also in skills and attributes.  The average attribute is 10, that is worth 0 points.  The average skill is +0, that is worth 0 points.  A strong character might have a physical strength of 12 (worth 2 points) and a weak character might have a physical strength of 8 (worth -2 points).  There might even be a person who is not alert in the morning and has an intelligence of 8 in the morning but in the afternoon they are at 10 (which would be worth -2, half the time since the time is split in half for a total of -1).

Not only is the point the universal currency of creation, it is also is used in the stereotypical RPG combat system.  Most Role Playing Games use a concept of Hit Points where a person can take damage and perform at their peak until they run out and die instantly.  This game does not follow the Hit Point methodology.

In this game, when a character takes damage it comes from the creation points.  If you take damage, attributes are decreased, skills are impacted and eventually the character may die (but after significant loss of abilities).  Healing can regain all lost/impacted abilities back to the pre-injury level, but combat and damage are intentionally draining.  Just as in real life, avoiding combat and damage is the best policy (but it might happen anyhow).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


So, a role playing game is to mimic life (even a fictional life).  To have a game that mimics life, what is the goal of the game?  What is the goal to life?

I have come to understand that the goal in life is not to accumulate wealth or power, it is not to score imaginary points were whoever dies with the most toys wins.  The goal in life, the meaning of life is to experience and overcome conflict. 

Who are the heroes we admire?  What makes them admired?  Wealth? Power?  No, conflicts they faced is what makes them admired.

So, life is about facing conflict.  Successful or not, we admire people who face conflict.  Many figures we admire did not individually achieve their goals in life.  No leader won every battle they fought, no athlete won every match they were in. But it is the facing of conflict that teaches us to be successful. Facing the conflict is what life is all about.

A game is all about maintaining balance.  "Fairness" is a concern of all players in all games, equal chances to win and equally enforced rules.  To maintain fairness rules are set and game parameters are measured.  This is the same with a Role Playing Game.

Since the goal of this game is to face conflict, the conflict is measured.  Anything that helps or hinders the player in facing conflict is of consequence and therefore measured.

So, in this game only capabilities that prove a benefit in conflict are evaluated, other things that are unlikely to matter are just decorative.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Creative Commons License

I like freedom.  I think that freedom is the greatest thing ever.  I think work should be free for others to use and expand upon and competition is a good thing. In line with this belief, whatever content I release it will be under the Creative Commons "Attribution-Share Alike 3.0" license. 

This means that people may freely use my game system and expand upon it, as long as they attribute my work and allow their work to be shared as well.  Just as I can publish my work and make money from it, so can they -- as long as others can do the same.

My goal in creating this game system was not to become a wealthy RPG creator (there are so few of them).  No, knowing that I would do well to have a hobby that paid for itself, I would prefer my system and game be used than I maintain a strangle-hold on it.

So, from this moment forward any of the original ideas I present may be used in your own work, as long as you mention me and agree to maintain the same license.  Yay, Freedom!

First post: The challenge.

This is my first post. After a lot of blogs and a lot of time, I have come to the realization that I have wasted a lot of years on myself.

A log time ago I loved Role Playing Games. Not specifically the one with Elves, thieves and warriors, but the general idea of a game played with paper, pencil and imagination. I played many different games but loved the imagination and process of creation required for each game. I played games with armor plated heroes, super powered animals and even giant robots. The one constant was my jealousy at the creators who had all the fun when they made up the rules and game itself.

In 1991 I decided that I could make my own role playing game. I made a system that was simple and basic, more of a theology than set of rules and charts. Games of the time were called "rules heavy" and required two years of astro-physics before they no longer seemed convoluted. As I made my game and played it with friends whenever possible, other games were made. New games were "rules light" games that were more of a process of story telling and were much more free-flow. As fun as they were, there were few rules to keep things balanced and in a fixed context.

I'd played generic games that were in the middle of "rules light" and "rules heavy", and they clicked -- but still didn't suit me. They still needed big books and used arbitrary point systems to make characters and items that really weighed down the process. The players of these games were still encouraged to create their own content, but the process was complex and needed big books with heavy accounting skills. If a player were comfortable with a 1040EZ or other IRS forms, then creation was simple. As an Art-Major it was much harder for me.

In 1993 I had come up with the basis of my game system, the rules needed to make stuff for the game. I wanted to jump in and start publishing a game, but these were the years before the internet was common and I could see no way to get any game I produced to be published. Real life and the pressures of my existence pushed my love of this game to the back burner.

In 2000, on a family camping trip, I was doing laundry at a laundromat with my son who was 4 at the time. My son loved a specific movie with spaceships, robots and magical warriors. I had some regular dice and paper and played a quick game with him based on that movie. We called it the "counting game" and it was an instant hit. As the years when by we played a few times, eventually including my daughter. The desire to publish this game became stronger.

I had a problem. I wanted my son to contribute and we could publish the game together, but I lacked a plot for a game world I felt would fit my game and system. Aside from achieving an impossible licensing deal, I had no compelling content to provide with my game. Publishing a pure system was a major shortcoming to other game systems and I'd rather the effort remain unpublished than fail with known fault of other systems.

Back in 2006 my son and I spent some time working on a game that might involve monsters fighting each other. I would work on the rules to allow 100ft tall monsters destroy a city and he would work on the monsters. As an avid biologist he came up with some great ideas, but I faltered and lost sight of the project.

This failure on my part has been weighing heavily on my soul for a few years now and my son is much older. I know that I don't have a lot of time before he give less than two hoots about my wishes to be included in his life.

After failing at this for so long, can I pull it off now -- or is it too late?

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