RPG Mechanic Round-Up #3

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Still drawing from that idea document that I maintain, these are further game mechanic ideas that I like. Feel free to take these, use them, adapt them or hack them for your own games.

Advantage and Disadvantage with Fate Dice

As written, Fate Core allows you to use Aspects to add a +2 bonus to rolls after the fact, or to re-roll. I thought of another way to represent an advantage in a Fate roll, this time before the fact. In some of my Fate-based designs, I have a player set aside one of their four dice, and set it to a “+” or “-” ahead of time. This not only grants a bonus that is approximately equivalent to the +2 from an Aspect, it also reduces the amount of swing that is possible in the roll. With only three dice, the worst that can happen with the advantage is that three dice come up “-“, or a total of just -2. I also like how visible the bonus (or penalty) is on the table, and I think of it as similar to D&D 5th Edition’s advantage/disadvantage mechanic.

Using the Force or Magic Skill

One of the things I like about skill systems in RPGs is when you have to make a limited number of selections from a list, all of which are desirable options. (No dump stats or skills in our designs, please) One of the things I’d like to see more explicitly is treating magic, or whatever your equivalent is, as a skill, meaning that you have to commit time and practice to magic, and that time and practice does not go elsewhere. You have the super-skill, so you lack the other skills a mundane person would have.

Specifically, I have in mind Jedi in the Star Wars universe, who tend to be better than everyone at everything, and to also have magic powers. Rey is an example of this, but so is Luke, and Anakin or Obi-wan before him. They are fantastic at every action-hero thing they try, and also have the Force on top of that. I much prefer Force-users, or magic-users, as specialists who have an arcane, occult, rare specialty, and I think that games should reflect this by making the choice to have magic powers a choice with a cost.

Elvish Skills

I have an idea for a game from the point of view of elves, or of other beings who have very long lives compared to humans. In this game, there will only be three levels of skill to reflect the kind of mastery an elf might achieve (assuming D&D elvish lifespans): one year of skill, ten years of skill, and a hundred years of skill. I like there being a level of mastery that is simply unattainable for shorter-lived beings, and also reflecting the idea of some diminishing return in gaining skills. The differences in skill become very small at the highest level in any field, it seems. But I like the idea of a setting where these very long lives matter, and where the most highly skilled elves could simply clown the most highly skilled humans or others. It’s a challenge to build a game around this fundamental unbalance, but is fun to think about.

My Princess

Derrick says it better than I can, so I’ll just let him say it here too:

derricklweston

This year seems to be unprecedented for celebrity deaths. It started, as I recall with David Bowie right around my birthday and continued on with the likes of Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, and of course, Prince. All of these deaths have touched me on some level as I have been moved by the art of these people in some form or fashion. The arts touch our lives at a deep primal level and we rightfully esteem those who can move us to laugh, cry sing, dance, and contemplate. I have had a level of appreciation for many artists that has brought me to a place of mourning on more than one occasion.

Today is different. Today Carrie Fisher passed away. She had a massive heart attack on a plane coming from the UK to Los Angeles a couple of days ago. Yesterday it was said that…

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Stealing from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Star Wars: Edge of the Empire

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I just had an interesting idea that I thought I would put out there. Both WFRP and Edge of the Empire, by Fantasy Flight Games, use a custom dice mechanic that allows for an interesting result on top of fail/succeed. Each has a mechanic that governs fate – a special type of die that gives an overall “this goes well” or “this goes badly” result. What this means is that you can succeed on the die-roll, but then get the “this goes badly” result on top of that, so you succeed but in another way things escalate. On the other hand, you can fail, but get the “this goes well” result on the additional die-roll, meaning that you fail but you ‘fail forward’, or your failure opens up some new possibility.

The interpretation of both is up to the GM running the game, but I really like this idea. It also allows for something like “critical success” or “critical failure”. When you succeed and get the “this goes well” result, it goes REALLY well. If you fail and get the “this goes badly”…well, you get the picture.

This mechanic struck me as a great way to tie story more deeply into die-results, or as a prompt for less-experienced GMs perhaps. It gives you a cue as to when you move the story forward – in a beneficial or challenging way, either of which is interesting. I like this mechanic a lot, but I don’t want to have to have custom dice for every game I play.

What occurred to me is that there are a number of ways to solve this problem, and to add this overall ‘fate’ mechanic to any dice-driven game. One option is to roll a FUDGE die with every roll, where a + is beneficial, a – is a new difficulty, and the blank side is just blank. To make the benefit or difficulty less likely, you might roll two dFs, and require a ++ or — result.

This could really be done with any die, though. You could roll a d8, and if it is a 1 you get the difficulty, and if it is the 8 you get the benefit. And so on.

(I’m currently poking around with a rough system for Dragonblade, and it uses a 2d8 mechanic. In the system, if you roll two 4s, that is ‘bad luck’, because in various dialects of Chinese, the number 4 sounds like the word “death”, and as a result the number 4 is widely considered unlucky. If you roll two 8s, that’s lucky, because 8 is a prominent number in Chinese philosophy, coming up in places like the I-Ching and the Eightfold Path. 8 is a lucky number in the way that 4 is unlucky. 6 is also a lucky number in Chinese culture, generally speaking, but I liked the parity between 4 and 8. Anyway, the two 4s vs two 8s mechanic is in part inspired by the cool mechanics I see in WFRP and Edge of the Empire.)

What I like about this is that it ports a mechanic that I think adds a lot to a game, which most games do not have, into any game in which you want to use it. Most games that come to mind could potentially benefit from this mechanic, especially ‘traditional’ task-resolution style games where you only roll to hit/miss, succeed/fail.