Friday, April 11, 2014

More on Char Stats & Gen

Awhile ago I wrote about some char stats and gen methods I'd like to flesh out further.


If you didn't realize, the four skills loosely relate to the four elements:

  • Mechanical Arts = Earth
  • Martial Arts = Air
  • Liberal Arts = Water
  • Sense = Fire (may rename this one "passion" or "faith" or "zeal")
As written, having Sense/Zeal/Passion/Faith above two is fairly pointless.  Mathematically, a rank of 2 Common Sense is better than zero ranks in another skill (obviously), and equivalent to one rank with a lower chance of a critical fail to boot.  After that, more ranks in Common Sense just reduce your critical failure chance until you get to Rank 5.

I was toying with letting the character gain one rank in a skill bundle for each rank in Common Sense/Zeal -- with the caveat that they must all be the same bundle.  This requires characters to commit to a patron/planet to get the benefit, of course.  I have to think on it though and see what it does to game balance/power though.  It also increases complexity at character creation, as players would have to commit to a relatively important choice (patron) fairly early on.

Abilities are intended to create a semi-flexible "class" straightjacket of role differentiation.  I have a few concerns.

1)  What if you get cruddy rolls after investing a ton of points in "potential" that doesn't pan out?
2)  Did I pick an appropriate trinity?

The first one is easier to mitigate.  I think some sort of rule that allows increasing ability scores could help.  Alternatively, using the "potential" as a Dice Pool ("rank") for certain rolls could also work.  For example, you could have people roll the Potential as a dice pool if no skill is relevant, perhaps for saving throws.

The second is harder.  I wanted to go with a "holy trinity" model.  Three broad classes allows a party of two characters to cover everything if they "major" and "minor" (hybridize) in two different things each.  With my gaming trends today I'll rarely if ever have a large group, so three core roles instead of four or more to cover helps.

  • The "heal/tank/DPS" model is well established and easy for players to grok.  It also has the advantage of not needing a battle map.  I haven't entirely thrown that out yet.  I could sub out the three ability scores I have now for something like "Spirit (Heal)," "Stamina (Tank)," "Strength (DPS)" without a problem.  Stamina needs to be linked to an aggro/mark mechanic.  Still, this is overdone and I rather dislike aggro mechanics.
  • "Armor/Firepower/Mobility" would be entirely appropriate for a tank/armored vehicle game.  I don't know if it fits for other genres.
  • "Speed/Stamina/Strength" is roughly drawn from physical conditioning, with stamina being aerobic and strength being anaerobic endurance.
  • "Mobility/Endurance/Firepower" matches with 19th century Napoleonic warfare.  Think "cavalry, infantry, artillery" or "light infantry skirmishers, line infantry, and grenadiers."  It also kind of lines up with the Speed/Stamina/Strength.
  • "Cardinal/Fixed/Mutable" fits my astrology theme better and links to ancient archetypes.  The trick is defining what those abilities actually do.  I tried to do this with the above Speed/Stamina/Strength model but am not convinced I got it right.  There is some trickiness here, especially with the treatment of mutables.  Mutables are flexible, perceptive, and adaptable.  They also can bring death (as at the end of a season; fall dies and the cycle begins anew in winter).  So, do they do the "utility"/"support" role or are they the strong DPS types?

The easy solution is just to go with Heal/Tank/DPS.  I don't particularly care for "heal" as nobody likes to be the healbot so that could be eliminated, give everyone some healing, and broaden the role to "support."  Alternatively, you could axe DPS, give everyone credible offense, and make the third role something like "mobility."

I definitely think this is homing in, though...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Character Stats & Gen

I'm having a bout of insomnia so figured I'd throw something out there that has been rattling around on some notebook scraps for awhile.  Basically it is a way to describe a character's core capabilities.


  • Martial Arts / Physical Domain (Riding, Tilting, Fencing, Wrestling, Running, Leaping, Throwing or Archery)
  • Mechanical Arts / Mental Domain (Fabric Making, Hunting, Commerce/Navigation, Armaments/Smithing, Surgery*, Agriculture, Cooking)
  • Liberal Arts / Emotional or Spiritual Domain (Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Astronomy)
  • Common Sense / Catch-All
Each skill is rated from zero to five points.  Each point in a skill represents about six years of study.  For example, a single point in liberal arts could represent a grammar school education, two points a secondary education, and three some sort of time at a university or college.  In the mechanical arts, progression might follow the apprentice-journeyman-master model.  While a theoretical maximum of five (or even more!) is possible, most people will have one or two points in a skill.

Common sense is a "catch all."  If the GM is unsure what skill applies, common sense should fill the gap.  Additionally, anyone may make any other check with "common sense" at a -1 penalty (or the target number is increased by one).

Note that skill training has diminishing returns -- the first point invested has a more likely payoff than the second.

*Surgery is a mechanical art or trade and generally deals with trauma.  Internal medicine is a liberal art and deals with disease.


Some groups may want more refined skill sets that the bundles described above.  This variant rule is perfect for such groups!

Gaining skill specialty bundles:

  • Option A (power neutral):  Expend one character point that would otherwise be used to improve a skill set or potential ability to gain two bundles.
  • Option B (higher power):  All characters get one bundle at character creation
  • Option C (power neutral):  All characters may take one bundle, but in turn, take one bundle as a "flaw."  The flawed bundle receives -1 to all checks.

Available bundles (All bundles list skills in the order liberal art, mechanical art, and martial art):

  • SATURN:       Astronomy, Agriculture, Riding
  • JUPITER:       Geometry, Architecture, Mounted Combat*
  • SUN :              Arithmetic, Surgery, Climbing
  • MARS:           Music, Armament (Smithing), Melee Fighting
  • VENUS:         Rhetoric (Inform, Persuade, Motivate), Fabrics (weaving, tailoring, etc), Swimming
  • MERCURY:  Dialectic (Logic, Argument), Commerce, Dancing
  • MOON:          Grammar (Languages, quotations, history), Hunting & Tactics, Shooting
*At the GM's discretion, for cultures which lack mounted combat experience, this skill can cover regional tournament games such as Bull Fighting in a Spanish campaign.

Effects of skill specialties:  Gain a bonus die on all checks relevant to the skill, as if you had +1 rank in that skill.

  • Speed
  • Stamina
  • Strength
Each ability is given a "potential" from zero to five points.  The "potential" is used to generate an actual score from 3 to 18.  Not all people live up to their potential, after all!  Note that potential has diminishing returns -- the first point invested has a more likely payoff than the second.
  • Zero Potential:  Roll 4d6 (avg 8.76), sum the lowest three.  Below-average potential.
  • 1 Potential:  Roll 3d6 (avg 10.5).  Typical potential for most people.
  • 2 Potential:  Roll 4d6, sum the highest three (avg 12.24).  Significantly above average potential.
  • 3 Potential:  Roll 5d6, sum the highest three (avg 13.43).  Dramatically above average potential.
  • 4 Potential:  Roll 6d6, sum the highest three (avg 14.27).  Extraordinary potential.
  • 5 Potential:  Roll 7d6, sum the highest three (avg 14.9).  Legendary potential.
After rolling the ability score, apply the following standard modifiers:
  • 0-1 (-3)  -- only used in special cases
  • 3-5 (-2)
  • 6-8 (-1)
  • 9-12 (0)
  • 13-15  (+1)
  • 16-18 (+2)
  • 19-21 (+3) -- only used in special cases

Each character has ten points to divide between starting skills and starting potential.  The division, at the GM's discretion, is linked to character starting age.  It is recommended to start each character at an age of about 30.
  • 18 yrs of age (3 skills / 7 potential)
  • 24 yrs of age (4 skills / 6 potential)
  • 30 yrs of age (5 skills / 5 potential)
  • 36 yrs of age (6 skills / 4 potential)
  • 42 yrs of age (7 skills / 3 potential)
  • 48 yrs of age (8 skills / 2 potential)
  • 54 yrs of age (9 skills / 1 potential)
  • 60 yrs of age (10 skills / 0 potential)
Variant:  For more mundane characters, use a total of 8 points rather than 10.  10 points is intended to create well rounded characters who are somewhat above average.


Players may choose to assign points.  Alternatively, they may use the following random method:
  1. Pull only the face cards from a deck of playing cards.
  2. Draw five cards (for a 30 year old character).  Each card represents six years of training and development.
    Jack = Speed
    King = Stamina
    Queen = Strength

    Aces = Martial Arts
    Diamonds = Mechanical Arts
    Hearts = Liberal Arts
    Clubs = Common Sense

    For example, if the first card I drew was the King of Aces, I'd place one point in Stamina and one in Martial Arts.

To make a check, roll one D6 for each point in a skill, retain the highest die, then apply any modifiers from your ability score.  Treat "boxcars" (two sixes) as a natural seven.  Treat three sixes as a natural eight, and so on.

For example, say the GM calls for a Martial Stamina check.  My character has three ranks of training in the martial arts and a +1 modifier from a stamina score of 14.  I roll three D6 and get a 2, 4, 5.  The best die is a 5, so I retain that then add my +1 modifier for a total of six.

If you are entirely untrained in a skill, roll one die (c.f. "critical failures" below), or you may substitute "common sense" but must subtract -1 from the result.  While success with "common sense" may be less likely, it mitigates the chance of a critical failure.

Critical Failure:  If all of your dice come up with a "one" showing ("snake eyes") your character suffers a critical failure.  If you are entirely untrained, any failure is considered critical.

As you can see with this mechanic, training reduces the odds of getting a poor roll and creates more predictable results.  Training does have diminishing returns though, particularly above three ranks. Some degree of natural ability is needed to get the best results.


In general, use Domain + Ability for all checks.
  • Speed:  Used to determine who acts fastest or first, and for rapid activity.
  • Stamina:  Used to resist the actions of others, or for sustained activity.
  • Strength:  Used to overpower obstacles or others.
The domains and training are self explanatory.  Here are some typical combinations:

Martial plus...
  • Speed:  Initiative in physical combat -- who acts first in combat?
  • Stamina:  Resist physical damage or attacks.  Use a martial skill over a long period of time ("aerobic"), such as swimming in calm water for a long duration.
  • Strength:  Hit someone, or surge aggressive use of a martial skill ("anaerobic"), such as swimming through a difficult obstacle.
Mechanical plus...
  • Speed:  Initiative in mental challenges, puzzles, or craftsmanship problems.
  • Stamina:  Resist mental fatigue.  Use a mechanical skill over a long period of time, such as focusing on making some sort of item.
  • Strength:  Solve a challenging problem or use a feat of skill, such as making an extraordinarily complex item.
Liberal plus...
  • Speed:  Initiative in social situations -- who acts first at a party?
  • Stamina:  Resist social or emotional fatigue.  Use a social skill over a long period of time, such as staying out through a long party or looking for recruits for an army.
  • Strength:  Solve a social problem, such as making a strong favorable impression at a party or rallying troops to your cause.
As discussed previously, common sense is a catch all; it can also be used to substitute for any of the other specialized skills at a -2 penalty.