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Author Topic: First attempt at creating a simple rules system  (Read 711 times)

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Offline ZillahTopic starter

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First attempt at creating a simple rules system
« on: February 27, 2013, 01:30:36 PM »
I’m kicking around an idea for a super, super simple system-based game. I’m usually much more of a free-form RP sort of person, but I really need a quick and dirty resolution mechanic to take care of certain things. I’m contemplating running a “Walking Dead” RP, and if a zombie decides it’s going to eat a character’s face, I want something more arbitrary to determine whether or not that happens … in freeform RPs, I somehow suspect most players would just say “no, it doesn’t, and I run away”. ::) However, I want a game that’s essentially freeform in most cases, so I’m going for as “system-lite” as I can imagine.

I’m not terribly good with most systems … I’ve played a bunch, though, so this is what I cobbled together from a bunch of different games (d20, Warhammer, and some Marvel Superhero game I played as a teenager because my boyfriend at the time made me play. :P ) Anyway, for the more experienced systems-inclined folks, please take a look at this, and let me know what you think. Your feedback is certainly appreciated!


Primary Character Attributes

Attack
Defense
Stamina
Smarts


Secondary Character Attributes

Health
Luck


Primary Attributes

Attack – used when any combat-related action is taken.

Defense – used when trying to avoid the effects of any combat-related action.

Stamina – used when trying to attempt any difficult non-combat, physical action.

Smarts – used when trying to attempt any difficult non-combat, non-physical action.


A player has 14 points to assign to the four main attributes – no individual attribute can be higher than 6, nothing lower than 2. All contested actions are determined by “rolling” a d6 and adding them to the appropriate attribute. That number needs to be higher than an opposed roll, or a static difficulty number to be determined by the GM. Tied dice rolls always “go to the defender”.

So if a player attacks a zombie, it’s the player’s Attack attribute + d6 roll vs. the zombie’s Defense attribute + d6 roll. If a player’s trying to hotwire a car, it’s the player’s Smarts attribute + d6 roll versus a GM-determined difficulty number (7, for argument’s sake).

Damage is the difference between the successful Attack roll and the Defense roll, and is applied against a character’s Health score.

In the above example, though, if a player has indicated that the character is/was a car thief, then they would automatically succeed at hotwiring the car. These checks should only be used in combat and if the character is attempting to do either something out of the ordinary or not explicit in their character’s background/experience that would be considered difficult. (Driving a car, for most characters = no roll, driving a car through a sea of zombies without hitting any of them = Stamina roll).

I know that this might be a bit too simplistic – after all, it means that a character’s equally good with guns as he might be with karate, if the Attack score is high enough – but again, it’s more about “simple”. If I wanted much more, I’d just use one of the systems I’ve read about like FATE. (And I might anyway, if the ideas presented here don’t look particularly workable.)


Secondary Attributes

Health – equal to ½ Stamina +3, and a measure of your physical condition. Over 3=perfectly healthy, 3=slightly wounded, 2=moderately wounded, 1= extremely wounded, 0=about to die unless medical treatment begins immediately. Less than zero = dead. Not sure yet how fast a character should heal, but I think it would be extended rest for 3 points and over brings you back to full health, while anything lower goes slower without medical treatment.

Luck – equal to ½ Smarts +3. Luck points can be added to dice rolls to aid in success. If a player decided to blow 5 Luck points in a single shot, it means an automatic success at an action, no matter what the dice roll actually is. Again, recovery rate of Luck = TBD.

So … this is what I’ve got so far.

Thoughts? Comments? Witty anecdotes? ::)

Offline Thufir Hawat

Re: First attempt at creating a simple rules system
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2013, 01:45:04 PM »
The number of systems I've played and run is in the triple digits, and this seems perfectly workable.
That said, I might recommend a few tweaks that might help some, without actually adding any significant amount of rules-text, if you wish me to? Actually, adding some of them might speed it up, but it's your call whether you need suggestions.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2013, 01:46:06 PM by Thufir Hawat »

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: First attempt at creating a simple rules system
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2013, 02:07:43 PM »
Add (or delete!) away. That's why I posted them here. Figured more experienced folks than myself could make some changes for the better. :)

Offline Ebb

Re: First attempt at creating a simple rules system
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2013, 02:10:32 PM »
I think this system has some real advantages:
- It's hella simple, which is your top goal here.
- It can be tweaked on the fly just by changing target numbers. If your players are steamrolling the zombies, you bump up the zombies' Defense stat for the next encounter. If everyone's getting frustrated because they can't break into the vending machines they keep finding, then future vending machines are target 6 instead of 7.
- There are few decisions to make when making your character, so there's little likelihood of getting an unplayable character or one who is a super-munchkin.

That having been said, I think there are some weak points:
- With an average score of 3 1/2, minimum 2 and max 6, you're not going to have a lot of range between characters, which means your characters won't feel very different from each other just based on stats. (They can obviously still be very distinct with background, personality, etc., etc.)
- Health ranges from 4 to 7 for all characters. So you don't have a lot of room to distinguish between minor wounds and major wounds. Here it depends on how much damage an average attack would do. If it's 1 point, then you can get chewed on a bit before you hit the death spiral. If it's 3 points, there's not much difference between your hunkiest character and your flyweight.
- I'd consider rolling Attack and Defense into a single stat and call it Combat, unless it adds something to the game to distinguish between the glass cannon (high attack, low defense) and the tank (high defense, low attack). It seems to me in most zombie movies, and in the show, that you're either good at fighting or bad at it. You could still keep these stats separate for monsters -- zombies might have a really high defense but low attack, maybe. If you wanted to keep two stats but divide it a different way, you could have Melee and Ranged. I can picture somebody being a really good shot but lousy in a fistfight, or vice versa.

Some other stuff:
- For Luck, it can create an interesting dynamic (but slows the game down a little) if you let the person add their Luck points after the roll, instead of before. So they can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Mostly because it really sucks to blow something scarce like a Luck point, roll, and still find that you missed it by 4 or something.
- Luck could also be a different primary stat. Some people are just lucky and survive to the last season, even if they're dumb, slow and can't fight worth a damn.
- With a system like this you have to be really careful about modifiers. For instance, combat is a straight Attack vs. Defense roll. But what if you have a big old axe? Well, the GM might kick you a +1. Then someone points out that they have a shotgun... so you give him a +2. Then someone says they're standing on a balcony firing down into a crowd, so they can pick their target easier... and you give in and throw them +1. Pretty soon the system is swamped. It might be good to say that there are no modifiers for equipment, situation, tactics or anything else and nip it all in the bud, just to keep things moving. People should still be encouraged to seek advantages, because that makes for a good story, but it won't be reflected in the die rolls.

Since you mentioned FATE, and it's a personal favorite of mine, I'd say that you can add a lot to a system like the one you have here by grafting the "Aspects" from FATE on top of it. So a character has a couple of tags ("Washed up veterinarian, Dedicated quilter, Mad as a hatter, etc."), and if they can find a way to apply one -- and they spend a FATE point -- then they get a bonus to their roll. It's a nice way to make mechanically distinct characters that feel like individuals without having to have giant skill lists and such. The trick is that you control the FATE point economy, which lets you do all kinds of neat things. If you went this way, you might want to roll this in with your Luck mechanic.

Hope that helps, and doesn't come across as overly critical.

Offline Thufir Hawat

Re: First attempt at creating a simple rules system
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2013, 02:41:21 PM »
Things I would add.
Skills are a resource.
You get 3 to 5 skills you can "tag". Sure, your character might be trained in all kind of stuff, and is assumed to be good at them, but they only get to be good at them so many times. After the first use, cross it from the character sheet. Don't delete it, cross it, because it can be "refreshed" for new use with 1 Luck point.
Simple and still prevents abusing the fields of expertise. Otherwise, I make a Parcour trainer, and those zombies are never, ever going to corner me ;D!

Separate weapons, no matter improvised or military-grade, based on how damaging they are. Anything like a rock, a switchblade, or a gun up to .25 is worth a +1 bonus. Anything like a machete, a baseball bat, or a gun up to 9 mm including, +2 weapon. Anything bigger, like a rifle, shotgun, or a .40 S&W is a +3 bonus.
If you hit, you add the weapon bonus to the damage. Thing is, you do that if you hit.
(How many zombies need a second shot from a character, once they get it that they should be aiming for the head? Preciously few, unless they're fast ones, or it's a very light weapon!)
Zombie teeth aren't necessarily such a big menace directly, but are bad for your long-term survival. So, don't get close, use a gun!
Second, make yourself a favour and don't require rolls for defence! Just add 3 or 4 to Defence, depending on whether you want to help the players survive, and make it a static number (most zombies have like 1 or 2 Defence anyway, there's a reason the "walking like a zombie" isn't a compliment in ordinary language).
Besides, less rolling is good in my book :P!

Quote
Health – equal to ½ Stamina +3, and a measure of your physical condition. Over 3=perfectly healthy, 3=slightly wounded, 2=moderately wounded, 1= extremely wounded, 0=about to die unless medical treatment begins immediately. Less than zero = dead. Not sure yet how fast a character should heal, but I think it would be extended rest for 3 points and over brings you back to full health, while anything lower goes slower without medical treatment.
Sounds just fine to me. Zombie games are meant to be gritty.

Quote
Luck – equal to ½ Smarts +3. Luck points can be added to dice rolls to aid in success. If a player decided to blow 5 Luck points in a single shot, it means an automatic success at an action, no matter what the dice roll actually is. Again, recovery rate of Luck = TBD.
I'd suggest "recovery rate of Luck depends on trying to help other people, if you survive the event, or if you suffer a personal setback, or if another PC dies despite you wanting to save them". The first one should be the primary one.
Of course, that might not be possible, and you might not survive it... but this way, the PCs have reason to care about people other than the rest of the PCs. Also, "Mr. I'm watching out for Number One" never makes it alive to the end of the movie >:)!

You might want to spend 1 Luck to lose 2 or more points to a Zombie without being bitten. This would actually make Luck a very important resource.
Other than that, as I said, the system looks perfectly serviceable to me.

Offline Moraline

Re: First attempt at creating a simple rules system
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2013, 07:02:25 PM »
I’m kicking around an idea for a super, super simple system-based game.

If you really want a super super simple system I would recommend just creating a series of random encounter tables that have "percentages of success VS failure" and random "injuries received tables."

Why complicate it with skills, attributes and other sticky stuff if your going for a super super simple set up?

If you're looking at using what you posted then I think it generally looks good. However, you're still going to have to make judgement calls on the fly though as you play. It is unlikely to be self sustaining. Anytime you get a simple rule system or simplified version of a system you end up having to make judgement calls and answer questions that require decision making.

The more you let players freeform it the less you have to step in.

Offline meikle

Re: First attempt at creating a simple rules system
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2013, 07:24:09 AM »
- With an average score of 3 1/2, minimum 2 and max 6, you're not going to have a lot of range between characters, which means your characters won't feel very different from each other just based on stats. (They can obviously still be very distinct with background, personality, etc., etc.)
In a d6 based game, the difference between a 2 and a 3 is 16% efficacy; the difference between 3 and 6 is almost a 50% increase in a character's odds of hitting a given target number.  The values might not be huge, but their impact should become apparent quickly.

http://anydice.com/program/1ffb

If you look at 7, for example, you see odds like so: The character with +2 will succeed 33% of the time, the character with +3 will succeed 50% of the time, and the character with +6 will succeed 100% of the time.  Those are each pretty significant differences in practice, even if the difference in numbers on the sheet is pretty small.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2013, 07:33:01 AM by meikle »

Offline ZillahTopic starter

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Re: First attempt at creating a simple rules system
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2013, 02:52:18 PM »
A belated thanks to everyone who provided their insights and feedback ... I think I may have to tweak this in some sort of small playtest, to see how the "numbers" play out.

To address some of the thoughts expressed, I really wasn't looking for too many mechanical differences between characters. I actually would hope that most differences would come from more subjective things like background and personality. And I'm hoping for the game to be deadly but not lethal - I think a healthy character should be able to survive one freakishly random bad hit from a zombie, but two hits to a healthy character (or one to someone previously wounded) should be able to take out a character.

I may try working through this with a base d6 system, then a d10. Actual play, I think, will clarify things pretty quick.

Appreciate everyone's responses, they were incredibly helpful!

Offline Thufir Hawat

Re: First attempt at creating a simple rules system
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2013, 06:03:21 PM »
I'd be glad if it helped.
Don't forget to tell us how it worked! And if it didn't, we might be able to suggest some refinements :P.