Gnawing the d100 Bone

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David Johansen

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The Boring Why? Part
Once again I find myself gnawing at the bone of a d100 system. Yes, I've written a few and one of them is 300 pages. The problem is that I shouted, "Damn the math and full speed ahead," when I designed Galaxies In Shadow and while I'd argue that it's simpler than many eighties designs, I've found people mostly don't like it. The Arcane Confabulation has too many D&D and Rolemaster legacies for my tastes and the skill system is a bit dull. I've been thinking about snakes and ladders effects in game design, like critical hits and fumbles and in my games they're pretty limited. Simply Deadly Fantasy is interesting but at first level, skills are very low and attributes don't have a huge impact. Some people love that kind of thing but I'm not so sold on the class level approach either. Blood Red Future is a stripped down WFRP and while there are parts I like, that part rubs me the wrong way. I think I can do better. I guess I want something that I could sell and would not feel trapped under once people paid me money for it.

The Interesting Mechanical Part
I'm going with ten Characteristics rated from 1-100. Agility, Dexterity, Empathy, Endurance, Knowledge, Perception, Reflexes, Strength, Willpower. The characteristics start at 40 +1d10 and the player distributes 50 points as desired. A bit indulgent I know but there's just stuff I don't want to use a trait for. I'm not fond of trait bloat. When you consider each discrete trait as a rule, most modern, exception based designs are painfully complex though the complexity revolves around memory and look-ups rather than clean and elegant math.

The skill list is quite long. As far as I'm concerned, that's a feature not a bug. If the campaign becomes about artists hanging around in cafes the system should be equipped to handle it. Skills start with a default rating of 10 and each skill has an aptitude characteristic that gives it a bonus equal to the characteristic -50. Cultural skills get a better rating, the base culture gives +50 to the character's native language and +30 to drive wheeled vehicles, punch, grapple, throw, and deception.

Career packages allocate additional skills. At a cost in aging.

Experience is awarded in points added to skills as they are used. This is tied directly to time and involves no dice rolling.

Galaxies In Shadow's skill system generally proved to be too convoluted for people in practice and involved a lot of fiddling around with points. I want to be able to paint with a broader brush while retaining the usefulness of the percentile granularity and create a bit of character history without having character creation take a full session.

Success Rolls are simple d100 under skill or characteristic rating. There is a +50 under normal circumstances bonus which requires access to reference materials, adequate equipment, materials, and time. For every 50 points the roll is under the rating an additional degree of success is gained. Yeah, this is pretty chunky but I don't want to make the numbers too fiddly. Resistance is handled with a +50 - the opposition's rating. Contests are a best 2 out of 3 with both parties making resisted rolls. I'm not really a fan of automatic success and failure ranges. Sometimes things are just impossible.

Actions in combat are taken in order of Reflexes ratings. Movement per round is equal to speed in kilometers per hour, making the round 3.6 seconds. Melee attacks are resisted rolls. Ranged attacks are -10 at 3 - 10 meters, -20 at 10 - 30 meters, -30 at 30 - 100 meters, -40 at 100 - 300 meters, -50 at 300 - 1000 meters and so on. Size modifiers correspond to ranges so that the cancel out at a given range. Weapons have a to hit modifier, a maximum range and a damage in d10s + 1dn. Damage is applied to armour and then the target's Endurance or structure.

There's nothing really ground breaking here, there's not really supposed to be. I've been rolling the concept around in my head for a while and what I like about it is the way it fits together cleanly and still achieves various things I want. I'll be cutting and pasting the best bits from many of my designs to the core. I'll confess a certain regret for one characteristic per skill but I'm really attached to one point per point and no big charts.
 

xanther

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.... Size modifiers correspond to ranges so that the cancel out at a given range. ...
Excellent idea!


... I'll confess a certain regret for one characteristic per skill but I'm really attached to one point per point and no big charts....
Could you make it so players can choose which characteristic applies to certain skills, and for very difficult skills have it be the lower of two or three characteristics?

On the first, it can allow some weapons to be Strength based or Dexterity based.

On the later I think of things like Surgeon, requires an in depth knowledge of anatomy, a very steady hand and an ability to read the situation, react and know what to do when surprised without hesitation, so the lower characteristic controls, in your system perhaps Dexterity, Knowledge and Perception. Maybe this why some surgeons seem to have a god complex; Empathy being their dump stat. :smile: One way to balance the really good skills.
 

David Johansen

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I'd probably go to fewer stats and some traits right now. It's a funny thing, you can have three characteristics per skill and people will still argue about which ones they should be.
 

David Johansen

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So, putting some thought into it, I'm going to go with 5 stats. I like points distribution where you can buy the maximum stat but no more and five stats works better for that. So, I'm going with Awareness, Coordination, Ingenuity, Physique, and Resolve. Strength, Constitution, Endurance, Dexterity, Knowledge, Psi, Reason, Reflexes, Willpower, Talent, Size, Sight, Hearing, and Smell will all be traits that modify specific skills. It's a bit more complex but it also makes those complex relationships somewhat optional. It will also keep the stat blocks small which is important for a really stripped down system. Even so, I'm never fond of traits that just provide some skill points, but maybe that's how to make it work. They just provide some skill points, and are really just a smaller package.

Awareness covers mental alertness, neuromuscular reflexes, and general sensory acuity.
Coordination covers neuromuscular control, the interrelationship of sensory input and motor control, and flexibility.
Ingenuity covers the ability to sort and organize information, recognize patterns, and figure out how to do things.
Physique covers skeletal structure, bulk, general fitness, and muscular development.
Resolve covers force of will, patience, determination, mental stability, and sense of self.

The traits are a bit trickier. Agility adds to climbing, melee weapons, kicking, and grappling. Dexterity adds to missile attacks, technical skills, surgery, and playing musical instruments. Endurance adds to swimming and any kind of long distance long term exertion. Constitution resists poisons and diseases. Knowledge helps with general academic learning while Reason adds to analytic, scientific, and technical skills. Reflexes improves piloting and initiative. Sight adds to missile attacks and detection. Hearing adds to avoiding ambushes and music skills. Smell adds to cooking and maybe detecting ambushes, poisons, and maybe tracking. Anyhow the problems are that trait lists are infinitely expansible and balancing the traits without resorting to different points costs. Generally I want traits to give +10 or +20. Perhaps the less useful ones give the higher bonus. I don't want endless trait lists, just one or two per character to fine tune them a bit.

I'm puttering around with the skill list still, I want to allow a category bonus equal to the highest skill in the category so you could have melee weapons +10 and Sword +10 for a total of +20 but all the other melee weapons are at +10. It's my favorite way to handle related skills but the categories can also be used without skills at three times the cost if people want the lower level of detail. As it's super stripped down I could see making the skills optional but that gets tricky if you want to do things like spells as skills.

With a base of 10 in all skills an maybe a dozen at 30 for culture, I'm going to want careers to put starting characters at around 50 in their core skills. That probably means a career package can give up to a +30 I might make them all +30 and rely on traits and characteristics to provide any differentiation. Ideally I'd like there to be more than one way to be good at things. That's something I really like about the way the three characteristics per skill thing works in The Arcane Confabulation. A fighter with a 20 Strength and 10 Dexterity is just as good as a fighter with a 15 Strength and a 15 Dexterity, or a 10 Strength and a 10 Dexterity. Yeah, Agility needs to be in there too but the comparison and point remains the same. The problem then becomes one of difference without distinction.

Academic
Geology
Law
Meteorology
Athletic
Climb
Melee Weapon
Swim
Unarmed Combat
Craft
Fabricating
Painting
Sculpting
Drive
Floatation Vehicles
Tracked Vehicles
Wheeled Vehicles
Environmental
Foraging
Survival
Tracking
Gunnery
Energy
Missile
Projectile
Medical
Pathology
Surgery
Genetics
Perform
Oration
Musical Instrument
Sing
Pilot
Anti Gravity Vehicles
Fixed Winged Aircraft
Rotary Winged Aircraft
Spacecraft
VERTOL
Scientific
Biology
Chemistry
Physics
Small Arms
Energy
Fluid Projector
Projectile
Social
Deception
Diplomacy
Leadership
Psychic
Mind Over Matter
Mind Over Mind
Mind Over Space
Mind Over Time
Technical
Computers
Power Plants
Reactors
Sensors
Structures
Suspensions
 

xanther

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Might I suggest you make the talents of Agility, Strength, Constitution, Endurance, Dexterity, Knowledge, Reason, Reflexes, and Willpower subsets of a Stat, more like a focus or bonus (even could note them as +1, +2) or even penalty (-1) to the overarching stat. It helps make the Stat primary and not have it seem that you really have 5+9 Stats with just a funky sub-system for 9 of them. So something like this:

Stat :: Focus-(Psi and Magic, different kinds could fall under different Stats))
Awareness :: Sight, Hearing, Smell
Coordination :: Agility, Dexterity, Reflexes
Ingenuity :: Knowledge, Reason (Magic)
Physique :: Constitution, Endurance, Strength, ...Size
Resolve :: Willpower (Magic, Psi)

Looking at this, wherefor Charm, Charisma, and the like, perhaps under Awareness?

Note sure where to put Psi, my personal view is if Psi is treated as some Stat or Stat Focus, so should magic. In that regard some suggestions above,
If you add ion Psi and Magic above you have 3 Focus areas per Stat. I'd generally have the same number of focus areas per Stat. So if added Charisma etc. to Awareness, could possibly also add to Ingenuity and Resolve, then just need an extra Focus for Coordination if add in Size to Physique

Talent not sure what this one is and how it differs from skills.

Size think that would be inherent, and treated a bit differently or put under Physique.

Sight, Hearing, and Smell, I generally like to have these stand on there own and not devolve or fall under a Stat. Personally I think them falling under a Stat is perpetuating an ad hoc game design, certainly from D&D but perhaps other games as well. One key, to me, is the rules should be the same and replicate verisimilitude for both PCs and animals, so if a sense devolves from Wisdom, does that mean sharks are very wise because of their exceptional sense of smell?

In your case the Awareness Stat seems to solve that problem, I can readily see animals having a high Awareness.

On Skills,
Always look out for those Stats, and here Focus, that also overlap with a skill, like Climb. It means certain skill tasks can get an extra bonus while others can not unless each Focus can also help certain skills.

Not sure if that is your proposed list, but Power Plants and Reactors seem redundant for example.
I am all for making limited skills, and don't even necessarily list them.

For example, I have a skill called Sword...but it includes all bladed weapons from dagger to a two handed sword, it is meant to be a broad skill. Sword is on the skill list, but not everyone has that, some NPCs just know how to use small blades so only have Dagger skill. So it is a less optimum skill, but the concept allows for ease of description with out listing all the sub-skills.

Likewise with Power Plant and Reactors, perhaps Power Plant includes Reactor as a sub-skill. That is those with Power Plant skill can operate Reactors, but those with Reactor Skill cannot operate all Power Plants.
 

David Johansen

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Charisma is a trait, as is size. Really, Size is a Strength multiplier for which humans have a x 1. The reason for putting things like knowledge and sense into traits is to keep the character sheet simple. I did a bit of a design on here a while back where I did break things into substats but it really didn't look or feel simple.
 

xanther

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So does Dexterity function completely independently from the Stat of Coordination?

If not, seems it functions as a sub-stat or modifier, so conceptually i’d note it in association with the Stat on a character sheet.

If it functions completely independently then it seems more like a Stat, but perhaps with different rules, so a separate rules sub-system

I view them more on impact, does a Stat have a broader and higher impact on a roll than Trait?

The reason I initially saw them as sub-stats as they conceptually seem to be getting into finer detail and more specific situations than Stats.

Not sure how it mechanically functions impacts the simplicity of the character sheet. With only 5 stats you can lay things out many ways, even radially.
 

David Johansen

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Mechanically it just depends on whether the skill is based on Coordination or some other stat. Dexterity would add to dentistry and soldering but not to tumbling and ice skating. As I noted before, I really like three stats per skill and a dozen stats but I find other people mostly don't.
 

David Johansen

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Incidentally, I did consider a similar 3d6 setup but the curve doesn't work so well with the linear -50s, especially for contests and resistance.
 

xanther

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Incidentally, I did consider a similar 3d6 setup but the curve doesn't work so well with the linear -50s, especially for contests and resistance.
Not sure what you mean exactly by the linear -50s, but yah if going with 3d6 you are constrained to smaller numbers and each step (+1 say) means a lot, so I don't think one can get it to work if you start stacking more than 1 mod, 2 at most. Also the statistics are more difficult to balance d100 is straight forward.
 

xanther

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Mechanically it just depends on whether the skill is based on Coordination or some other stat. Dexterity would add to dentistry and soldering but not to tumbling and ice skating. As I noted before, I really like three stats per skill and a dozen stats but I find other people mostly don't.
What I was thinking, it is a sometime modifier.

When you say three stats per skill do you mean players can choose, lower of three, average of three, etc.? I never seen a complaint when it is choose. Kind of goes along with another of my design philosophies, if you want players to track something, so you don't have to, make it and advantage for them.

I get the attraction of a dozen stats, and the desire to define. From a player's point of view it can be hard to track and how to differentiate between them. If they are narrow, they have no idea how often that narrow area comes up in play. If it is you home game then you can usually make it clear. If one was aiming for others using it, there is no guarantee they will balance out how they approach the game so each stat means something. If the stats are broad in scope they can over determine the system, and one can get ignored while another is used largely in its place.

However, many stats allow you to protect niches better, allow for longer meaningful character progression, and spread power out as it is very hard to be good in so many Stats at the same time.

In part the acceptance of many Stats is also psychological, info overload is a large part of it...that is where concepts and grouping helps.

I find you can get away with more stats if you group them by concept. So if I say each player has three groups of stats, mind, body and soul, and three stats for each; 3 to define body, 3 for mind and 3 for soul that will go down well. First, because mind, body, soul is a common concept and easy to remember and people will accept it. Second you have 3 groups with 3 each, that kind of symmetry goes down well. A dozen may work as well, especially if one group is not actively important for certain character types, like magic. So you might have might, mind and magic, each with 4 stats each. If you have psionic I would not put them under mind, instead call magic, "mystic" or something, a word that covers both...at least enough. The idea is one Stat category is only important for those who want to paly the more complicated character....it also helps limit the skills it applies to.

I think you get into conceptual acceptance problems and even modifier balance problems (where one set of stats or skills has more, broader or finer modifier set than another) when there is no symmetry, i.e. the physical has more stats or more traits than the mental etc.

Again, in my experience, the desire for asymmetry often arises from a desire for simulation to get the right outcome and feel. But outcome and feel are verisimilitude, no need to have the inputs be so tied to simulation concepts, you can define what the stat names mean close enough to ensure the same number of stats and traits for both physical and mental qualities and actions, as well as magic. People tend to accept more variation in how magic is treated, heck some even prefer it.
 

David Johansen

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Yeah, proportionality is an aesthetic thing but people really respond to it. That's why I lean to fewer stats for lower mechanical ranges. The real advantage of breaking down big stats like Dexterity in GURPS is that you can have all the stats cost the same amount if you have Reflexes, Dexterity, and Agility, you don't have to charge 3x as much and Dexterity doesn't become a god stat.

When I say three stats per skill I mean they contribute equally, you could average them like Rolemaster 2e or total smaller bonuses like Rolemaster 3e. But in The Arcane Confabulation I just added 3 stats rated from 1-20 for each skill group. You could do it per skill but one role skill groups can serve is to reduce the number of times you have to add things up. One advantage of The Arcane Confabulation method is that it doesn't really matter if you've got three 15s or two 20s and a ten or any other combination, there are multiple ways to be good at things. As I mentioned earlier, the disadvantage is that those characters wind up looking the same in spite of their differences. Difference without distintion.

So anyhow, here's a question: is it just me or is

d100 + bonus > 100 = success
d100 + bonus > 130 = success + 1
d100 + bonus > 160 = success + 2
d100 + bonus > 190 = success + 3

Actually mathematically simpler than:
d100 <= rating = success
d100 <= rating - 30 = success + 1
d100 <= rating - 60 = success + 2
d100 <= rating - 90 = success + 3

?

It seems to me the additive method has the disadvantage of a double digit addition that's not even in even tens but determining success requires the calculation. But the disadvantage of the second is double digit subtraction in even tens while success is self evident. I'm not sure which is better.
 

xanther

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Addition of two numbers of the same digits is almost always easier than subtraction. It's also mathematically simpler as a + b = b + a; but a - b dose not equal b - a, generally :smile:

The more numbers you have in the equation the greater advantage for addition. For example compare, 31 - 19 to 31 +19. It is the operation of carrying from the tens to the singles digit that slows down subtraction. Some people though do subtraction "wrong" (i.e. generally better my son got dinged in grade school for this) as 31 - 19 can be read as 31 take away 19 or...actually faster turn it into an addition problem, what added to 18 equals 31?

The addition will be simpler than subtraction.

Adding multiple double digit numbers together can slow one down though. Foremost is carrying numbers from singles to tens to hundreds. This can be greatly streamlined by making the numbers added multiples of 5, people are very good at that.

Now one attraction of d100 to me is the ability for nice trickle slow increases of skills. One solution I used back in my d100 days, was to say you add your skill to the nearest 5% rounded down, of course this incentivizes raising skills to the nearest 5%, but also it made an award of 1% to a skill with a 4% digit meaningful.

In general quantitative change that suddenly becomes qualitative change is considered rewarding, it is exactly the "leveling up" experience. The more rewards a player gets, the more satisfying an experience can be. So perhaps in each session a 1% here or 2% there raises a Skill to the next 5%, the player gets a reward and you the referee do not need to worry about too rapid progress, they get at least a bit of a "leveling up" experience every session.

Now you may not want to round down to nearest 5% for a Stat or Trait, but it would not slow things down too much if one number was allowed to be added in as is, just train players to add it last. Another way you can speed this adding up is for each Skill pre-add in the Stat. Combined you could have the Stat pre-added to the Skill, and allow the Trait to be added as is....also increases the perceived value of Traits...no % wasted there.

One realization I had with d100 was I found that in practice I started to round down to the nearest 5% so often and describe NPC and monsters in nice round 5% increments if I at all could, that in effect it was d20. And I went to d100 to get away from d20 :smile: Trying to think of ways to avoid that for you.



ASIDE:
This need for speed is part of my play style though. I like a very fast determination of the needed roll for reasons of pace, and to keep the beat, multiple little rolls that are fast instead of rolls that take longer but are more determinative. Examples...

The time aspect, from haggling with an NPC, to trying to bribe the guard, etc. to be in the player describing their action, with the knowledge of what they need to roll springing instantly to my mind from a simple question if any (so adding single digit numbers together at most...and not even that anymore).

In death defying situations, I want it very fast to maintain a sense of tension by an ability to rapid fire state the rolls.

In combat we like epic stuff, that can have a good 10 rounds of back and forth with room for tactics (more than get in range and press the attack button) done quickly, with a couple dozen of opponents. The big battles that take a real hour, we're talking 30 rounds of rolls...doesn't take all night but man it feels epic and exhausting....and enough game rounds that reinforcements can arrive, things are much more fluid. So the players can take an hour real time after the battle and still have time to secure a their location and argue over the loot...and that is only 2 hours of the session...still plenty of time left. I want 4 hours of fun in 10 minutes real time.

If it is going to take time I want that to be in the players thinking about moves and not adding or finding numbers to add (the later though is where a good character sheet design is gold).

So in isolation, a few players and few opponents, almost any method is fine, but it you up the number of PCs and opponents the time increase is non-linear.

There are other styles where things are more methodical, where adding up the 1% her and 3% there is part of the fun...I generally liked this in CoC with its more investigative aspects and geared away from combat. A serene pace, and was perfectly fine if it took a while to calculate everything as it gave me plenty of time to figure out how to run away. :smile: I generally do not like this in fantasy combat though, starship combat...depends,...and find it mood killing in post-apocalyptic vehicle combat.
 

David Johansen

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Bearing in mind that the intent is a super stripped down system I've decided to go with broad skills, five stats, and roll under. Traits to fine tune stats are out. I've already got more complex games. The point of this one is to stay lean and mean.
 

xanther

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All for lean and mean. I do 7 Stats and 9 very, very broad "skills" (I call Talents) Very broad, like athletic talent is used to do anything athletic, climb, swim, throw, stealth, etc.

I use Stats for saves so have many modifiers for various saves (similar to traits, but only one per save type). Yes it is extra stuff but it is to PC advantage so they track it, also it starts off few and grows over time.

Similarly, exactly mechanically, under Talents, I have modifiers call skills, they are really skill focus specialties mechanically, but I call them skills as they have skill like names, like Sword. You don't need Sword skill to use a sword, you just use you Combat Talent, Sword skill is just a modifier to the Combat Talent based roll. Skills also start off few and grow over time.

Can easily put a starting character on a 3x5 card, with picture and room for notes. :smile:
 

David Johansen

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My personal preference is complex and math heavy. I tend to wander off in that direction if left unsupervised.
 

xanther

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My personal preference is complex and math heavy. I tend to wander off in that direction if left unsupervised.
I satisfy that urge by using dice mechanics with hard to calculate statistics and working out all the possible permutations for character creation and spells, then comparing them all to rationalize them against each other. :smile:

I will say I get a real thrill out of complexity, tactical choice and possibility, that emerges from a few simple rules interacting.

Of course I've been known to do math for fun.
 
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