Starting Over…

Just like the rest of life, sometimes it’s time for a do-over. Thus begins a new chapter in the life of Moebius Adventures (MARPG) games.

Dice for various games, especially for rolepla...
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Here’s the scoop. We have a streamlined system. It needs to be tested seriously. So who better to take a look at some of the mechanics than… you! That’s right, it’s time YOU got into the act here.

First, I want to welcome you (back) into the fold. The next series of articles will focus on some core mechanics, character creation, and then how to apply those bits to various genres. After all, MARPG is a cross-genre, universal roleplaying game. Tough to tell that when all we’ve seen so far are examples for fantasy settings.

I WANT your feedback. If you think this sucks and is too difficult, let me know. I’m looking for frank opinions with suggestions on how to make things better. The goal here is to create a solid base mechanic for a variety of settings so gaming groups can pick up the system and play just as easily in a cyberpunk setting as they can in a low-magic fantasy setting. Or if they want to do epic space battles such as in Star Wars or Star Trek or make more intimate “cowboys in space” games like with Firefly, it moves quickly with them.

Like in all roleplaying games, your MARPG character is a set of properties – characteristic values (Mind, Body, Soul), derived characteristic values (Hit Points, Luck Points, Reality Check, and so on), and skills with ranks. All these values do is provide a framework for behaviors, abilities, and experience. They’re just numbers on a page. It’s up to the player and GM to bring the player (PC) and non-player characters (NPCs) represented by those numbers to life.

As a player or GM, in addition to a PC or NPC, you’ll need two d10s. We’re not talking huge sets of dice here.

The basic mechanic is the same for all skill checks, characteristic checks, and combat rolls. You have a target number you have to roll below with 2d10 and modifiers.

The target number comes from the character himself for most actions, with modifiers from the GM for things like weather, fatigue, item quality, etc. In the case of opposed actions, it becomes a battle between the quality of success or failure between opponents.

Bird tracks on a frozen lake
Image by Paul Williams (Iron Ammonite) via Flickr

For example, if a tracker is looking for animal signs and tracks in the woods, it’s a simple skill check. The GM may make the attempt more difficult or easier based on conditions such as how recent the tracks were made, if there was fresh snow, if snow or leaves covered the tracks, and so on.

Let’s say the Tracker has a Tracking skill of 3 ranks. Tracking relies on knowing what to look for and how perceptive the character is, so it’s a Mind-based skill. Let’s say the Tracker has a Mind of 7. By default, without any modifiers from the GM, the target number is 10.

To determine success or failure, you roll 2d10, add modifiers, and compare the total to the target.

In the case of the Tracker, let’s say he rolls a 13. He failed the attempt, so he’s unable to find his quarry.

Roll two 1’s and you have a critical success. Roll two 10’s and you have a critical failure. Compare the total to the target number to determine the Quality of Success (QoS) or Failure (QoF). If your total was above or below the target, your QoS (if below) or QoF (if above) is the difference between the target and the total. If your total is equal to the target, the GM can decide whether the act was directly opposed and it was a draw or if the act was unopposed and it was a success.

QoS = Target Number – Total Die Roll
QoF = Total Die Roll – Target Number

For the Tracker, his QoF was 3. He missed the target by 3 (Total Die Roll 12 – Target Number 10 = QoF 3).

Let’s say he rolled a 3 on 2d10. That would mean he succeeded in finding tracks. In that case, his QoS was 7. He made it by 7 (Target Number 10 – Total Die Roll 3 = QoS 7).

Now let’s say the Tracker is looking for someone deliberately trying to obscure signs of their passing. The Tracker’s opponent uses her Tracking skill at rank 4 and her Mind characteristic value of 5 for an unmodified Target Number of 9. The GM rolls 2d10 and gets a 5, for a QoS of 4. This makes the Tracker’s job harder.

The Tracker’s unmodified Target Number is 10. But since it’s opposed, the QoS becomes a modifier on the skill check making it more difficult. Now the Tracker’s Target Number is 6 (Target Number 10 – opponent QoS = 6). The Tracker would have to make a great roll to get a six or less.

* on the left: German Reitschwert, circa 1530,...
Image via Wikipedia

Let’s add another wrinkle. The Tracker finds the woman he’s been searching for in the woods and a battle begins. Each opponent has a sword and some ranks in the Swordsmanship skill.

The Tracker surprised his quarry and gets to attack first. His quarry can only Parry with her sword or Dodge to get out of the way. The Tracker’s Swords is at 4 ranks and his Body is a 5, for an unmodified Target of 9. His quarry has Swords at 6 ranks and a Body of 5 for an unmodified Target of 11. Both opponents roll 2d10.

The Tracker rolls a 5, for a QoS of 4 (Target Number 9 – Total Die Roll 5 = QoS 4). His quarry has a -4 modifier to her Target to make it a 7. The GM rolls a 9 for a QoF of 2 and the woman takes 2 points of damage…

This pattern of comparing QoS and QoF is repeated throughout the system now for skill checks, characteristic checks, and combat. One mechanic simplifies the rules greatly, while still providing the flexibility and uniqueness of character strengths and weaknesses to appear in sometimes unexpected ways.

In the next article, we’ll talk about character creation and the flexibility available for quickly creating PCs and NPCs for any campaign.

What do you think? Leave me comments here on the blog entry or send me e-mail directly at fitz (at) moebiusadventures (dot) com. I’m looking for negative and positive feedback here – so let ‘er rip!


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4 thoughts on “Starting Over…”

  1. Hmm. Seems pretty straight forward and simple. I like that. Just only two notes from what I see so far.
    Personally, I never been that fond of systems when the damage equals the QoS. It’s fine to have it modify damage but not just the only source.
    Second, I think combat would probably move faster if defense were some sort of static number or modifier rather than an opposed roll.

    1. @Chuck – Thanks for taking the time to respond! 🙂

      I can see your point about using the QoS as damage. I’ve toyed with the idea of having a fixed damage number for each particular weapon or type of weapon (i.e. 4 pts for a dagger, 6 pts for a short sword, 8 pts for a long sword, 10 pts for a battle axe, etc…), but my issue with going that route is that it seems very arbitrary to assign such values to weapons. Ultimately for me it’s not about the weapons but the wielders, thus the idea of using the QoS to determine damage.

      That said, it’s a question of reality vs. playability because all characters will die the death of a thousand cuts this way.

      As for defense being a static #, I assume you’re talking about parries and dodges. Again, that goes back to the death of a thousand cuts issue. Not sure how you’d make that a static number or modifier. Any thoughts there?

  2. A few comments:

    1) You had a typo somewhere in the “For the Tracker, his QoF was 3. He missed the target by 3 (Total Die Roll 12 – Target Number 10 = QoF 3).” I think you were shooting for his total roll was 13 .. .and thus QoF of 3. Either that or it should be a QoF of 2.

    2) In the first part of the tracking example, you had rolling exactly on a the target number being a draw. In the contested result though with a target number of now 6, you had it being a success if they rolled a 6 or lower.

    So which is it? Is equaling the target number a draw or is it a success? (Answering “yes” to that, won’t make the system any clearer to use.)

    3) Addressing Chuck’s comments:

    While I don’t think the 3 main attributes (Body, Soul, Mind) lend themselves to it, I do think a passive defense (that isn’t as good as actively trying to parry or doge) does make a lot of sense. At least if they are even remotely aware of the attack coming. (If they aren’t, the passive defense wouldn’t be there.)

    As far as damage goes, I think the QoS of an attack should influence how much damage is done, but it shouldn’t be the sole factor in damage. Let’s face it, unless I’m amazing with a letter-opener, hitting them with a baseball bat is usually going to be significantly more effective regardless of relative skill levels.

    (It is significantly easier after all to bash someone with an object than stab someone in their eye with a small, sharp, pointy object.)

  3. Sorry it’s taken so long to get back with you. For the next couple weeks, real life is going to be kicking me in the butt.
    Anyway. For a static defense, I’d say something like (Attribute+Skill)/2. It’s simple and clean. Go ahead and do an opposed roll for an “all out defense”.
    Damage it’s a little harder to offer some concrete suggestions. I have no idea how armor works. And in the example, a character takes 2 points of damage. So how bad is 2 points? It’s just probably my opinion but I think a lot folks like to roll damage. It’s gives them a neat feeling.
    And since MARPG is a generic game, please, don’t fall into the High Tech just means more damage trap. It’s one of the things I never liked about GURPS.
    .-= Chuck´s last blog ..The Rolpunk Manifesto+Xtreme Dungeon Mastery+The Rule of Gordo =-.

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