Thursday, October 27, 2016

Challenge of the Star Knights: Ruminating on Rules Part 1

In my last post I laid out the very basic pitch for the game I am working on.
Part 1: Da' Basics

 In this post i will be digging into the mechanical changes I will be making to the D6 System in order to make that fit better with the setting I am devising. that means that I will be constrained somewhat in what I can do, as a great  advantage to working within the framework of an  existing system. this also means that there is a certain amount of fan expectation for how the game should work and the changes I make will not please everyone. If I were working on a brand new system I could avoid this because those preexisting expectations wouldn't exist.

Dice Rolling Conventions
There are a number of ways we could handle dice rolling in this game. I will go through the methods I have thought about using and what their strengths and weaknesses are(as I see it). Please let me know your thoughts on the matter as this is very important to the feel of play and I am not fully decided on the matter.

Standard d6 Method: Add skill level to attribute level and roll that many dice and add them together. This can lead to too many dice being rolled and everything slows down. Especially because adding together pools higher than seven or eight can get a bit tiresome. However it is a tried and true way and adding up the numbers is a minor inconvenience. Also, I run and play most of my games online for the last few years and online dice rollers can do all that adding for me.

The Mini Six method: Used in the phenomenal game Mini Six. Very similar to the standard method, but it uses static defenses and thus lowers the number of rolls in total. I may go this route as I think it is the easiest to implement. It also leads me to an interesting idea...

The Apocalypse World fix: The seed for this idea started in this thread post over on It reminded me of how Apocalypse World handles dice rolling. Other games have used similar rolling methods, but Apocalypse World was the first time I encountered it, so that is where my mind went when I came up with this. Only players roll the dice.  All of the GM's stuff is handled with static difficulties based on the character sheets of the NPCs.  This would allow for interesting things, like say take the dice total times three for mooks and low level minions, or multiplied by four or five for named villains and such to give you an interesting differential. This would allow the GM to set a basic campaign difficulty or allow the players to have a sense of how tough their opponent is going to be. It would make for a more cinematic feel...I think.

The 5d6+whatever method: Offered as a way to cut down on the number of dice used. Every die over five is converted to a +3 bonus to the roll instead. I find that this can lead to huge modifiers and the dice become somewhat irrelevant...or at least that is how it felt to me the few times I have tried it.

The d6 Legend method: Roll as normal, but count the dice showing a number above a certain threshold. I have seen this use in a lot of different games(Shadowrun and World of Darkness spring to mind). I know it works, though it has its own feel. I think I might go with this method as it lets me do all sorts of interesting things, like scaling the campaign from Super Gritty(only count sixes as success) to Super heroic(2+ is a success) without altering number of dice. the issues with this come up with making it still feel like the D6 system that I fell in love with lo those many years ago. Though I am not so sure, as I am rather fond of all of the methods shown.

Character Points
You must spend them before you can use them to advance. This gets allows for a more freewheeling use of character points. in the old days when I would run the game, i would have this issue where my  players would all spend a great deal of time going back and forth on whether or not they should spend character points. the reason was that the more character points spent in the moment the less powerful the character would be long term. the character that horded them would become more powerful as time went on, and this would lead to those less powerful needing to burn more CP to keep up and thus actually fall further behind. It became a weird sort of death spiral.

A really weird add on to that: At the end of every session the number of character points remaining must be spent on on advancement downtime actions, like building up contacts, wealth, and influence with a specific culture. Not sure if I want to go this route but I really like it, and the more I think on it the more I like it. Something that +James Etheridge pointed out to me was that I might want to lean away from concrete growth in this manner and instead focus on these points belonging to a team pool that can be spent in team specific ways. Though I am still unsure on the exact limits and options that could be used in this case. One idea I had was to use it a bit like Team is used in Masks. Though I would need to make adjustments in order to make that work in this system.

I also want to come up with a better name for them than Character Points, but I am sure that will come with time.

The Wild Die
I do not have an issue with the wild die as it stands. However I have seen enough arguments about it to be convinced that an issue does exist for many. I would like to look into some possible solutions to the Wild Die conundrum and maybe come up with something that will please people like me, who like the wild die, and the people who do not care for it.

Methods I have thought about using:

The standard method: The wild die explodes on a roll of a six and on the roll of a one it either subtracts the highest other die from the roll or causes a complication. All other numbers are treated as normal die rolls. I like this as it adds that sense of chaos and awesome when that guy at the table rolls seven sixes in a row and just drops the mic.

Variable Success method: The wild die does not explode. If you get a 6 on it something good happens to benefit you in addition to the success or failure of the roll. If you roll a 1 something complicates the scene whether you succeed or fail. I kind of like this as it allows for a bunch of different outcomes to a die roll. Critical success(success with a 6 wild die), Normal success(success with the wild die on neither) Success with a caveat(Success with a 1 wild die), Failure with a caveat(failure with a 6 wild die), normal failure(failure with no wild), and critical failure(failure with a 1 wild die). There are, no doubt numerous problems with the system that would need to get ironed out, but it is an interesting idea.

Opportunity Method:  The wild die allows for an opportunity to do something amazing. When you roll a six you may spend a character point and have it act as a hero/fate point(or something). When your wild die is showing a one the GM will offer you something bad happening instead of the roll proceeding as normal, if you accept you gain a hero/fate point, or something equivalent. I kind of like this one as it always puts the choice in the players hands. However this would need a lot of playtesting a tweaking in order to make it feel right, and I would need to devote a lot of words explaining what it is and how to do it properly.

Aspects and Keys: Gaining Character Points
I would like for the gaining of character points to be a little more character facing than it currently is. I am heavily influenced by three games in this regard: Fate Core(I know, shocker), Cortex Plus, and Lady Blackbird.

I like how aspects(Fate Core) allow for an iconic character while also allowing for change. However compels can be tricky and are enforced from outside of the player's control. The GM compels and the player decides to accept it. The player can let the GM know that it would be a good time to compel, but the decision to compel still rests on the GM's head.

Distinctions(Cortex Plus) on the other hand are entirely player driven and allow the player to give themselves a negative by rolling the smallest die type(d4) rather than what they would normally get from the distinction(d8). When they do this they get a point. I like that it is decided by the player, but I find some other parts of the system in Cortex Plus not to my taste.

Then we get to Keys(Lady Blackbird). I love keys, they are absolutely fantastic at causing the players to drive play and putting their experience gains in their own hands. However, Keys work toward building a dramatic arc for your character, where they start out with a problem and as they go along that problem keeps surfacing until they face it and either embrace it or expel it. With this game I am looking for a more Iconic and procedural arc, and so I am unsure if keys will do what I want.

However I think that I have laid out the groundwork here for what I want, if not exactly how I want it. I want players to gain Character Points through their own choice, and not have it forced upon them by external sources. I want the source of Character Points to be able to shift and grow as the campaign goes on, and I want the core of the character to shine through. I want that, "Believe in yourself," moment to feel good and make the world better. I want growth and exploration without changing the core of the character too much, or making changing that core too difficult. Hmm...Will need to think on this some more.

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these topics. Comments, critiques, and ideas are totally welcome. This post kind of got out of hand. I was also going to go into Attributes and Skills, as well as gear and the basics of how I see Ikhai working. I guess I will have to leave that for part 2. Huh, I guess there is more depth to this than I initially thought. That's a thing.