Yes. Let’s. I’d like to describe in a little more detail what I talked about earlier.
Let us suppose we have a fighter PC. And let us further assume that there are only six skills in the world: PUNCH and SWORD are the Fighter-type skills, DODGE and HIDE are the Thief-type, and CAST and INFLUENCE are the Wizard-type. Obviously this is a minimal list of possible skills but, you know, run with it.
Now, but being a fighter, our mythical figure rolls d10s when using figher-type skills, and d6s when rolling all other skills. I know, I don’t intend to have actual classes but… work with me here, okay? Let us say he wants to punch a dude. The GM decides the difficulty value of a basic dude-punch (somewhere between 1 and 10 I guess, probably low). Let us say it is 4. 4 is the difficulty value, and in order t succeed, our hero must roll his PUNCH die and get a 4 or above. Pretty good odds, I think… it’s a 70% chance of success by my count.
But let’s say the guy he wants to punch is crafty, and had obtained some… face armor. I don’t know. Something that increases the difficulty of the task, and GM declares it’s now difficulty 6. That’s a 50% chance on a basic PUNCH roll… not good enough for our fighter!
He has options though. He can combine his skills! So, let’s see… okay, he’s going to sneak up on the victim and punch him as a surprise, hopefully getting around the edges of the face armor, or whatever. This will require him to HIDE and PUNCH at the same time, and so he rolls both at once and adds them together. This, if anydice.com is to be believed, is going to result in an 83.333…% chance of being at least 6. Them’s good odds!
On the other hand, if he were a wizard trying to do that same task, he’d be rolling 2d6… a d6 each for the fighter and thief-type skills. Now his odds are still, ah… 72.22…%, which tells me that maybe I should invest in higher challenge ratings, but still. If it were challenge level 8 instead, then the wizard would have about a 42% chance, while the fighter would have a 65%. That’s a slightly better curve there. And at a challenge level 8, a thief or wizard would be unable to PUNCH altogether.
Anyway, that’s the basic idea I have of how skills might work (and indeed, the game will be all about skills… 42 of ‘em at current count, though I’m trying to trim that): the player selects an action, the GM a challenge number, the player can augment the action with another, then tries to roll high.
Elephant in the room problem: what’s to stop the player from rolling two dice for everything? “Oh, I’m using CAST, but, uh, I’m being sneaky about it. Better add in HIDE as well.”
Answer: uh. Eh. Currently, my plan is to have a lot of skills, in which a player can train in fairly few. Theoretically no skill is so general to be consistently applicable, and the GM is there to say “you’re casting a healing spell in your own home… who are you hiding from, buddy?” and thus curb the most excessive abuses. Still, it’s the sort of system which begs to be abused, so I might want to consider investing in some sort of mechanical limitation or drawback. A pool of points one spends to do the double rolls, or, ooh! Or a penalty for rolling too high!
That’s right, you can claim that hitting someone with the hilt of your sword is both PUNCH and SWORD, which is all well and good until you roll a 16 or higher (15% chance!) and achieve not a critical success, but a critical OVER-success, where your attempted bonking goes too well and turns back on you in some tangible way. You bonk the guy so hard that his skull shatters, and now you’re in serious legal trouble. Something along those lines.
I did it again. Or, attempted it again. I saw this informal contest, and though I was certainly too late to actually participate in this little bit of business, by a week even, I was inspired and compelled to take part in it. Sort of.
“Sort of” in the sense that Mr. Macklin was looking for a five hundred word gamelet and I just about tripled that. So, rather than forcing myself to conform to that arbitrary delineation, I chose to conform to my own arbitrary delineation. One day. One page. One shot.
(With some thanks to Paul for supplying the title. I should invest in a new rule that all future iterations of this have incredibly bad pun titles. Everyone should have a worse title than the last.)
So, give it a look! Then come back so I can talk about it a bit.
So, the obvious first question: did I succeed at my task? Did I make a one page long one-shot RPG in one day?
Okay, one day? YES. Give or take an hour, because I wasn’t really paying attention when I started, but you know… that’s the barest of technicalities, and if I were being tried, I’d certainly have been able to work the fraction of a second faster to beat the clock. So I’m calling that a resounding success. With… with the following caveat which might undo everything…
I’d already planned out the mechanics. Not exactly, because you can only take mechanics so far without some sort of theme to attach to it but… still, I’d been working on the idea for a while now. In fact, if you take a look at that dice shtick in my most recent post, you can quite easily trace the logical chain from the narrative-assist dice pool to the control of a hoard… oh, the narrative is lost, but the mixed die-type pool and the mix of attribute types and whatnot. So… does that undermine me entirely? If the idea predated the day? I’ll argue that no, because that’s how inspiration works, isn’t it? There’s no such thing as a blank slate, after all. But for what it’s worth, nothing had been typed beforehand. Success? Sure, why not?
One page? Yes! Well, with caveats, of course… eight point font, fairly narrow margins and very tight text. I’d say there’s no avoiding it, but the real and the true of it is that I’m mostly just a wordy and over complicated bastard. I could have skipped rules for autonomy, or complications for using the lich’s attributes… I could have done any number of things to trim and pare down, but you know what? That’s not my style. Honestly, there’s a lot missing… it’s a mechanical document, and not a thematic one… if I had another page to work with, I could have perhaps had a bit more fun with how liching goes. Like, how currency is unimportant, but there’s a thriving trade in infants within the liching community. Ah, but whatever. I guess it’s not too dang-old important… my only real regret is how dry the document turned out, which is a factor of how many rules I have going on. Hm. Maybe next time I’ll work on something with incredibly easy or just straight-up borrowed mechanics… I’ll steal the one-roll engine, which is effective enough, or FUDGE, and work a more setting-oriented page off of that. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to write my page in 9-point font.
Anyway, compared to Steam and Storm it’s a lot more comfortable on a single page… there’s a hint of formatting, minor appearances of white space, and on the whole a document which feels less like it was written during time period when a piece of paper cost upwards of a day’s wages. In part, however, that’s because…
… it’s not a one-shot. Now, that’s a vague description, but I use it to mean a game set up for a specific narrative, with some sort of an end game. There’s none of that here. The original outline was for a competitive game, which made the obvious presence of a phylactory on someone’s character sheet much more important, because all you liches were battling to be the last, but that didn’t work out… the idea still has merit (each lich would have been the GM in his or her own tower, essentially) but I couldn’t get it to work out quickly enough, and in trying to write around it I ended up converting things into a much more standard party-and-GM style. Which isn’t bad, but it’s certainly an indication that I can’t take the triple-one prize today, nor the ten-thousand dollar stipend which goes with it.
Still. It turned out okay, right? Right? I need your attention and adulation, people. And the character sheet, while not a paragon of graphic design by any means, seems a bit more lively than a dang-ol’ spreadsheet… it needs some art assets in those big-empty squares, of course, and a lot of restructuring for flow, but it’s got a tower. A tower! And a little space to record how many infant you have for dark rituals! And the alignment already filled in “evil”, but with enough space for you to pencil in “lawful” if you think you’re fooling anybody! So, yeah.
Long story shortish; I am pleased.
And boy, when I say one day, I mean I had the idea four hours ago and decided to plug it through the night so that she’d be done before Halloween. When I say one-shot I mean that the game ends when all the players are dead, insane, or worse. When I say one page…
… well, I mean in a cramped little font in two columns with thin margins, but honestly, that’s ten point there, so I had way more wiggle room than I have had in previous attempts at this sort of thing.
Listen, kids, I don’t even know if this is good right now. It might make no sense at all, but… well, I just crossed the writing finish line and wanted to show off what I had. It is inspired, clearly, by Marble Hornets and all its imitators, and by trying to think of a gameplay mechanic which would adequately carry forth the emotional beats of horror—the secret, and something I’m sorry I had to elide over for space, is requiring the player wait a tick and drop his or her bead, rather than showing it right off. It’s a slight moment of tension-mounting, with a visceral payoff that has instantly noticeable effects and the potential for someone to say “wait a second!” and make a side offer. I love it. Does it work in practice? Who knows. Enjoy, and happy Halloween!
EDIT: So, this is an after the fact edit, a day later, after I’ve had some sleep and gotten a change to look things over. This now links to Slenderman RPG version 1.5… it’s much like version 1, but the language has been cleaned up, the introductory text reworked into something which makes any sense at all, and the mechanics of adding beads to cups altered to be reactive, instead of mechanical. It’s still on one page though, so I will hold on to my pride.