Posts tagged with keywords "system design"

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System design question on Powers: Gifts/Faults versus a Skill-like system?

Starting to get back into writing for Lost Heroes but the first thing I do isn’t writing. I end up re-evaluating everything in front of me – I’m currently working on a character creation guide and despite having actually written up the rules for creating Magic Practitioners, I’ve decided to remove all mention of magic and non-Chosen types (including Magic Practitioners) from what ever thing I make public. I’ll keep the stuff I wrote, but this creation guide will be specifically about the Chosen only.

That isn’t really a radical change. I’m just moving some of the stuff aside. And it was something I had already considered for a while. But then it lays the seed of a change much more fundamental.

I am of the opinion that in game design, mechanics should follow flavour and setting and help re-enforce it or expand it. But I’ve always felt that the current power-system of Lost Heroes does not do that. I’ve invested a lot of thought and design effort into it, built elements of the system around it, but it always felt a little disconnected from the rest of the setting and the other rules which all otherwise have their place in relation to the setting. I did have a design goal way back when I started, not to have a distinct magic system but one that shared it’s core with the basic power system. That however I think is holding back a more refined vision of the RPG.

Currently a character can have gifts and faults, some of these are mundane and some supernatural or divine. Chosen with different Patron Gods will have different gifts and faults. Then there is abilities. There are psychic abilities, which have their place within the setting (a good example would be visions), and then there is the supernatural and divine abilities. These are powered by the character’s passions. Magic then aligns with these abilities (instead calling them paths), using the basic same rules but with a few extra restrictions and some broader concepts, example; Magic always takes time but Abilities are instant, however Magic can be used to create magical items but Abilities cannot. And so on. Abilities have ratings which can be increased via experience points and I’ve built them up using the mythos and elements of the setting.

But I felt they never really reflected the source idea of Lost Heroes. While characters in mythology often gain powers, they don’t work like abilities. They don’t get supernatural skills as such but learn specific tricks and powers. It’s not really something that’s part of the theme of the setting. I think I pulled the ideas for abilities from existing RPGs and martial-art based fantasies where characters only purpose is to train and build on a supernatural martial art (including all the flashy light shows).

I’m considering ripping out abilities completely, replacing them with just a set of gifts and faults. This suits the setting much more, as in the characters are human but have some  advantages. They don’t have these supernatural abilities that would make them truly distinct (i.e. alien) to human characters. They are simply different. Another angle on this is to wonder how that these sort of supernatural abilities would affect how one would sees the world. It’s not just gaining an alien sixth sense, but also a new limb to control the world within that sixth sense. It would be not possible to describe how or what that would mean to some without it.

Magic of course can still use the stuff I devised for abilities, but I shall put it aside until later.

The question then I have is, does this make sense from a player perspective?

The current gift system in Lost Heroes allows for tiered gifts and faults. Some gifts and faults can be stacked up to three times, increasing their scope or power. But there is no gift or fault tree. Players can buy new gifts, learning them from gods or other supernatural beings. But anything then with an ability is not a player character and can’t really be. Does not having powers-based skills like abilities weaken the system?

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Is that smoke coming out of the Lost Heroes forge?

I keep having thoughts about what I want to get from the system, but the more I think about it, the more it gets fuzzy and, well, complicated (but in a good way I think).

Let me explain. People love roleplaying systems that appear simple and elegant but offer up potentially limitless (or more than easy to handle) complexity. That the system everyone aims for, easy to get into but endlessly flexible. But what is not necessarily obvious is that they also what a system that plays well. And you can come up with any sort of funky simple system, but it may not work when it gets into strangers hands.

So I dwelt on this problem for a while and decided that when I put together the “lost heroes” system, I’ll lob in all the ideas I can or want to include. Fill it up and having it overflowing with much of muchness. Because it’s easier to cut away than add later once you put something in the public (and the sad thing is, I picked this little piece of wisdom up from a reality TV show). The plan then is to play test it, either in person with friends or possible online over at the Fudge IRC chat room on, cutting back on what doesn’t work until I have something that, well, does. :)

The system is going to be ostensibly Fudge. And there has been some recent free systems based on Fudge, like Marvellous Superheroes and Fudgepark2/SLUDGE that have come to my attention. (I plan to digest them for ideas! Muhahahahahah). And quite recently a new iteration of Now Playing in The Unexplained from Carnivore Games. So a nice little trove of stuff to dig through.

Thankfully much of the pieces of my system are already there or I’ve done work on them in parts. I still foresee a lot of work getting everything together in a system that appears coherent and aligns with the intents of the setting.

  • One of the core parts of the system will be Fudge Passions. This is a system I developed to replace Fudge Points but more importantly as a way to link supernatural powers to characters emotions and environs. Something that makes the powerful lost hero characters part of the world.
  • And then there is Story Hooks. This is tied to Fudge Passions but also to other ideas that have been knocking about in my head for years. I started them before I had heard of Fate and in many ways they are similar to Aspects but not as powerful as Aspects in play but are more malleable in the long term.
  • I also wanted to do something about conflict and be able to turn any roll of the dice situation into a form of combat. TDO Combat is my first attempt. It suffers in that it’s hard to understand from the text, yet I know what I want from it. It pulls in ideas from Riddle of Steel and Shadows of Yesterday games, the old Fudge Factor and discussions from the old FudgeList. It provides a criteria for when to do “combat” and when just make a single roll, handling group and one-on-one combats and should be applicable to most types of situations from chases and battlefields to political gatherings and socialising.
  • Another little titbit, but much more recent, was some thoughts on making Magic Characters interesting. It’s quite generic in that you could add it to any system: Magic Character Add-on. In principal it’s a way to turn a character who can do magic to a magic-based character. The difference is subtle, but IMHO important.
  • And finally, at least publically, is a blog post on what I call The Big Pile of Skills Problem. Your character isn’t just a big list of skills you know and I really like idea of “professions” a character has. It’s more defining/descriptive though more abstract and harder to design for.

So I hope you’re now getting the impression of how much of a mix-bag the system is going to be.

Of course, if your more interested in setting-specific bits of the rules, I’d recommend checking back over some of these older blog posts, [1] and [2], for some idea what characters you can play and what sort of powers they may have.

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