Mechanical musings 4

Contemplating a more equipment-based, less powers-based game system. I like the 1-10 attribute range and using 2d6 for task resolution, so let’s start there.

Attributes: 1-10
Task resolution: 2d6

Because I like “roll high == good”, let’s add the numbers that help character to the player’s roll, and add numbers that hinder the character to the number they have to meet or beat — the target number.

What helps the character? Their attributes (Agility, Brawn, etc.). Their skills. Any modifiers, such as if they spend an extra action aiming (which helps them), or whether they are trying to shoot while sprinting (which hinders them). And any equipment, if it helps the character (e.g., an accurate gun) or hinders them (a poorly made sword).

Natural ability, skill, equipment. How much impact should each have? Let’s try to have each contribute equally to the character’s success. The mean roll on 2d6 is 7, with a standard deviation of 2.42. If the skills range from 2 to 12, and equipment ranges from 2 to 12… hmm. Let’s apply the standard deviation and use that as a range. The skills could range from 5 to 9, and the equipment could range from 5 to 9.

That’s a bit much. Perhaps if skills and equipment were approximately as important as the character’s natural ability (e.g., their attributes). Skills + equipment = 5 to 9? Maybe 2 to 5 each? Make it 1 to 6.

Equipment is self-leveling, in that most of the time, opponents will have similar equipment to the characters. What about skill? I think 1 to 6 should work for that, too. That takes it back to 2 to 12: Abilities = Skill + Equipment in impact. I like that.

How much should it cost? Let’s look at the worst case scenario, a character who puts all of their points into Brawn and the Hand-to-hand Combat skill. I like the current (Kalos Mechanism 4e) attribute cost curve (rank 1 costs 1, buying from 1 to 2 costs 2 pt., buying from 2 to 3 costs 3 pts., buying from 3 to 4 costs 4 pts., etc.). So let’s say that the player has gone all-in on Brawn, and has Brawn 7. Getting a +1 in Brawn (for Brawn 8) would cost them 8 points. So getting a +1 from having Hand-to-hand Combat as a skill should cost… what? What should a +2 cost?

What if skills cost the same as attributes (rank 1 costs 1, buying from 1 to 2 costs 2 pt., buying from 2 to 3 costs 3 pts., buying from 3 to 4 costs 4 pts., etc.)?


I think this will result in characters who have a few skills at the same level as the attribute, or a lot of skills at a low level with a higher attribute. That is just a guess. I will have to write up some sample characters to really see how it will work out.

Looking at that, should I price gifts and powers the same way? I think I will try that and see how it works.

Some notes on attacks and defenses. If the player hits with an attack, they roll a number of dice based on their weapon. Should I add the character’s Brawn or Agility (or Presence, for mental attacks)? If I do, I either need to boost defenses to compensate, or allow the defender to add their attribute, too. That means that a high-Brawn character is both more likely to land a punch and will do more damage with it when it lands. Is that okay? Maybe.

I changed my mind about this. Being better at hitting makes you hit more often; it doesn’t change how much damage the weapon does.

As for the weapon or armor, it will have two mechanical features: a roll modifier and a damage rating. I suppose on a table, those headings would be Mod and Damage.

Resolving an attack is (meet or beat the target number == success):

(2d6 + Attribute + Skill + Equipment) vs. (8 + Attribute + Skill + Equipment)

And resolving damage is (target’s Health is reduced by the difference):

(Weapon Xd6) – (Armor)

Damage is rolled in d6s. I am thinking 1, 1d6-2, 1d6-1, 1d6, 1d6+1, 2d6-2, 2d6-1, 2d6, 2d6+1. Negative modifiers will not reduce the rolled damage below 1. For example, if a player rolled 2d6-2, and the dice each showed a 1, the total would be 1, not zero.

I changed my mind about this. I decided to go with 1d6+[Power Level].

Armor and force fields stack. Armor is a set value that does not degrade (at least, not at inconvenient times). Force fields are ablative, their defense lowering by 1 upon each attack until they cease to function. A force field with rating 7 becomes 6 after the first hit, 6 becomes 5 after the second hit, and so on. Once the force field is reduced to zero, it ceases functioning for the rest of the scene. Perhaps the emitters coils need to cool off.

Since damage is rolled and defenses are not, how effective do I want defenses to be? If a certain quality weapon does 1d6, what does that quality armor look like? How about 4? If it’s 4, then the matching damage and defenses look like:


What about force fields? At the defense ratings I gave armor (above), any force field is probably going to make the character immune to attacks from similarly-equipped opponents until the force field expires. Maybe that’s okay. So let’s make the force field defense values the same as what I gave armor.

Ah, if armor and force fields have a range similar to that of attributes, maybe the Armor and Force Field powers should grant a defense equal to the character’s Power Level. Blast and Strike (and Mental Blast) should also be redefined as dice. I guess I need to add a Damage column to the Power Level chart.

What about a secondary injury track for nonlethal injury? I have been perceiving a need for this for a while: a path of damage that makes the character unconscious, but not dead. Currently, I refer to this damage as “stunning”, and I direct the player to “record it separately”. But if they are already recording it separately, why not make that easier by having a second attribute for it? Then, I could use that attribute for other things, like powering spells.

What to call it? I currently have Endurance. In games which distinguish between the two (that I can recall), Champions uses Stun/Body. Gurps uses Fatigue/Health. Space 1889 uses Stun/Health (sort of). So some choices for “stunning” tracking are Endurance, Fatigue, and Stun. Choices for “killing” tracking are Endurance, Body, and Health.

I like terms that describe a “full” reservoir rather than an “empty” one. The only word like that in the “stunning” list is Endurance. Removing that from the “killing” list gives us Body and Health. I think Endurance and Health make the best sounding pair.

When an attack inflicts Endurance damage, the character’s Endurance is reduced until it reaches zero (excess Endurance damage is ignored). A character with zero Endurance is unconscious. If the character is attacked again with an attack that inflicts Endurance damage, the additional damage is treated as Health damage.

When an attack inflicts Health damage, the character’s Health is reduced until it reaches zero (excess Health damage is ignored). A character with zero Health is unconscious, their Endurance is also reduced to zero, and they are probably out of the fight.

And you know, I really need a rule for head shots. Head shots (or maybe just “called shots”) are commonplace enough to need a rule. How difficult is it, and how much extra damage does it do? What the hell, let’s make it do double damage (determine damage as usual, subtract any defenses, then double the result). So how hard should that be? It should be really difficult. How about a -6 penalty?

That brings me to another topic: bonuses and penalties. At the moment, I have standardized on +/-3. How do I make a -6 mesh with that? I am considering mixing that up a bit, to having a minor penalty (-3) or a major penalty (-6), and minor (+3) and major (+6) bonuses. Currently, all bonuses and penalties are cumulative. Is that easier, or harder, than saying you only apply the largest bonus and the largest penalty?

Alternately, a “called shot” could be a different type of modifier entirely. I could say that you get a flat +1 damage for each -1 modifier on the roll. Incur a -5 modifier, inflict an extra +5 damage (determine damage as usual, subtract any defenses, then add 5 to the result). I could balance that with “suppressing fire”, which gives you a flat +1 modifier for each -1 damage. Gain a +4 modifier, inflict 4 less damage (determine damage as usual, subtract any defenses, then subtract 4 from the result). If I go this route, modifiers will have to stack.

Tangent: robots have no philosophy. That’s how you can tell them from automata aka artificial general intelligence. A standard proof that a given robot is not an AI, and is instead driven by an extremely complex but entirely pre-defined set of instructions, is to ask it, “What is the meaning of life?” The standard response programmed into all robots for well over a century is, “I’m sorry, sir. I do not understand the question. Perhaps you could rephrase it?”

I think “called shots” (a flat +1 damage for each -1 modifier on the roll; incur a -5 modifier, inflict an extra +5 damage) are distinct from “suppressing fire” (a flat +1 modifier for each -1 damage; gain a +4 modifier, inflict 4 less damage). Anyone can use a called shot, but only certain weapons are capable of suppressing fire. Modifiers do have to stack.

Time to get to work.