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Vile Traveller

An Entry-Level D100 Game - Legends of Adventure

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The garden is complete when there is nothing more you can take away.

I'm currently bashing together what I call an 'entry-level game' using the OGL Legend books. The aim is to produce a simple set of rules that can be easily picked up and played even by people unfamiliar with RPGs in general, not just percentile systems.

This consists partly of stripping back the Legend core rules, and partly of adding in elements from the other books (particularly Monsters of Legend). It also means a lot more introductory and explanatory text, as the Legend rules specifically say they expect users to be familiar with RPGs, polyhedral dice, and all that stuff.

I'm still in stage 1, stripping back the core rules. Generally speaking, the following has happened so far:

  • Skills are considerably simplified and broadened. This means a much shorter list, and each skill covers a wider range of actions.
  • No levels of success - your skill either works, or it doesn't.
  • Combat styles are now just any combination of 3 weapons and/or shields.
  • No hit locations, just total hit points. Once you have less than half remaining, you take penalties on everything.
  • Variable armour points to simulate the highly variable armour coverage over the whole target.
  • Magic is just one system, with no skill involved - spend the points, cast the spell. I'll probably adapt spells taken from several of the existing systems.
  • A cut-down creature chapter containing only fairly common types, and avoiding a proliferation of similar types. I may make this more genre-specific, too, e.g. European mythology only.

I plan to have an introductory adventure in parallel, again with the intention of helping novice referees running a game.

Your thoughts on what is required for a minimal introduction to percentile gaming are appreciated! Even more so if you can persuade me something else can be deleted ...

Edited by Vile
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2 hours ago, Vile said:
  • No levels of success - your skill either works, or it doesn't.

How are you going to handle ties in opposed skill use, then?

Different levels of success (special, crit) are one (not necessarily optimal, but well established) way to get around the "we're tied at every step in the contest" problem. If you start with another good solution to assign a secondary quality to the rolled result, you may not need them.

Saying "I made my roll by n%" would be a fairly easy way to do so, but for some (to me inscrutable) reason people are averse to doing simple two digit substractions during a game.

 

Broad skills, and narrowing specialisations is what I have thought of using for a D100-lookalike Science Fiction system.

 

Going a bit off-topic here, so spoilers for ease of skipping:

 

One thing I have been missing in modern and SF game systems is the concept of being sent to some corporation for a week of schooling in a new skill set, then making some sort of roll how much of that schooling you have absorbed so far, how much you still have to unlock by practicing that skill set in application, with a chance to have learned a lot less than your boss expected you to learn from that. That has been my professional life for the past 25 years, picking up skill sets way outside of my "career path" which in Traveller would have been that of a civilian scientist (chemistry). I need to know more about plumbing than my actual practical skill in getting pipes to hold together without leaking has given me.

There is other on-the-job experience outside of your actual specialisation to be picked up, e.g. when me practicing my newly won geoinformatics skills (from a year of single weeks of school plus months of homework) in a bureaucratic environment, giving me insight into processes that are mainly opaque when you're just on the receiving end of trying to get a building permit.

I'd like to see a system which allows me to have picked up quite a few basic percentiles in various crafts as I assisted my father as a 14-16-year old pupil to build the house I live in.

 

There is a (really stingy) rule in RQ3 that allows you (a chance) to pick up 1D6 in your "Ride" skill after a month or two with a signiicant portion of the day spent in the saddle. Which wouldn't be much of a problem if you learn at the same time to interact with the individual mount you have been riding, giving you an edge for that experience that lifts you from "mostly incompetent" to "has a chance to succeed in three successive rolls greater than 50%", which translates to an effective skill of about 79%. I don't mind whether this effective skill results from augments, situational modifiers or familiarity with the steed (its species, or the individual) or the terrain.

 

There needs to be a way to fail forward at a cost. A friend of mine had nothing but scorn for a scenario for the Other Game where the player party could not afford to miss a secret door leading out of one of the initial stations of the dungeon. There is a rather high chance that a party of five with 20% find skills and one expert in this with say 75% all missing their roll. It calculates as 0.25*0.8^4 = 0,25*0.4096 > 10%. In other words, if you play this by the rules as written, one GM out of 10 will have bought the scenario and be unable to run it with that party unless he cedes this point by deus ex machina or a siimilar plothole device.

The real advice would be to the authors not to use phrases like "a success at Search will uncover" if uncovering that information is essential for the scenario to continue to the lovingly crafted high point of the scenario. But it even happens to experienced authors, which means you are on the safe side if your rules account for that.

 

All of this would be nice if it was possible in a simple game.

Edited by Joerg
finer points of English language gammar
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4 hours ago, Vile said:
  • Combat styles are now just any combination of 3 weapons and/or shields.

OpenQuest survives with just Close Combat and Ranged Combat. Simpler. If you have specialisation built in the system, then you can add spec in different weapons in that way, instead of using two different approaches for combat and non-combat.

 

1 hour ago, Joerg said:

How are you going to handle ties in opposed skill use, then?

 

Higher roll wins. Without levels of success, the paradigm is "you want to roll as high as possible within your skill", and high numbers are always better, except when you exceed your skill. Pure Blackjack mechanics. Much simpler to explain than "levels of success".

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Yeah, what Rosen said - higher roll wins. It's really simple, and in the occasional situation where you get both sides making the same roll, you either toss a coin or allow simultaneous action where it makes sense - plenty of cases of people killing each other, for example.

I've been mulling the idea of just going with melee & missile for combat skills, but I'll probably wait until after playtest to make up my mind. 

It may be off-topic, Joerg, but it sounds like an interesting topic. I think it goes hand-in-hand with the opposite, though, i.e. losing skill or characteristic gains once you stop using/ training them. I believe Mythras does something along those lines. I like the idea, but of course it's one for those supercrunchy games - worth it's own thread! 😉

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16 hours ago, Vile said:

Magic is just one system, with no skill involved - spend the points, cast the spell. I'll probably adapt spells taken from several of the existing systems.

I'm gonna suggest you reconsider this one.

While "spend point, get spell" indeed looks simpler, of itself... it's actually (in effect) a whole new mechanic within the game.  Since your players are already working with "d100 roll-low (but blackjack to resolve ties)" I'd be loathe to give them another way to "do stuff."

 

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16 minutes ago, g33k said:

I'm gonna suggest you reconsider this one.

While "spend point, get spell" indeed looks simpler, of itself... it's actually (in effect) a whole new mechanic within the game.  Since your players are already working with "d100 roll-low (but blackjack to resolve ties)" I'd be loathe to give them another way to "do stuff."

 

You mean make spells into skills, with no magic points?

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2 hours ago, Vile said:

You mean make spells into skills, with no magic points?

It could work... I mean that is essentially what's going on in HQ, yes?

SDLeary

 

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3 hours ago, Vile said:

You mean make spells into skills, with no magic points?

1 hour ago, SDLeary said:

It could work... I mean that is essentially what's going on in HQ, yes?

SDLeary

 

And RQ Sorcery, I think.

But honestly, I was thinking of a "magic" skill.  As I consider it, you'd need some way to distinguish between simple little cantrip-y spells, regular spells, and Big Deal spells, so some kind of elaboration (and thus complexity) seems inevitable here...

You could look to the level-based games like Classic Fantasy; "level" is another new-to-your-game mechanic, but it's so ubiquitous these days that I expect even the n00b'est of n00bies would grasp the notion readily.

You could build-in a flat bonus/penalty -- Cantrips are cast treating your "magic" skill as double it's regular score ... simple (not "cantrip" simple, but simple) spells are cast with a built-in +20%...  Normal spells are cast with your skill as-is, "advanced" spells are cast with a -20% penalty, "hard" spells with a -40%, etc.  This is, obviously, "levels" without ever using "levels."

Or split the difference between one "magic skill" and "one skill per spell" ...  You could have "per type of spell" skills -- "Fire Magic" as a skill, "Divination Magic" as a skill, etc etc etc.

 

 

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Thanks for your thoughts, gents.

I'm using Legend as the base here so some things are different from straight RQ or BRP, though it's still pretty close (I have to say I have only the vaguest Idea about how HQ works). The magic system I'm starting with is Common Magic, but my plan was to remove the "Common Magic" skill and just keep the magic point cost. Essentially, that would make it function like RQ2 Battle Magic - learn the spell, and spend magic points to cast it. I don't really see that as adding another sub-system to the game as magic points are essentially similar to hit points in function, though I see your point g33k.

I have toyed with, but not really looked at in detail, treating individual spells as skills. That would front-load the investment, i.e it would cost time and money to learn spells and become competent at casting them, but without magic points there's no limit to how often you can cast them. That would mean you'd have to stick with spells that are not much more powerful than skills. Unless you're willing to have spell casters dominating the game the way they did in good old Stormbringer (and what's wrong with that, I hear you cry?).

If you treat spells as skills with magic point cost, you basically have the '82 Magic World system, but I'm reluctant to do that when I've just made a point of reducing and broadening mundane skills.

Even Legend Sorcery is too complicated for an entry-level game, so Sorcery is out (though I may adapt some spells from it). OGL Legend also has Divine Magic, Blood Magic, Spirit Magic, Alchemy, Rune Magic (Vikings), none of which really meet the criteria of "entry-level" - though, again, I might crib some spells from some or all of them.

So essentially, I'm looking at either (A) a simple fire-and-forget magic point spell system, or (B) something on the level of D&D 5E cantrips which can be cast at will for no cost, but are not terribly powerful. The latter might not be too bad, because one of the points of an entry-level game is to introduce new players to other, more varied and complex games. If the spell list is sufficiently large, it could make for very interesting play (in D&D 5E I've found a lot of spell casting fun comes from finding new and interesting ways to use non-pewpew cantrips). I could even kit-bash the 5E SRD cantrips into the game. In either case, there still needs to be a spell-learning system similar to that for skills, though I probably won't impose an artificial limit on the maximum number known or "kept in mind".

Edited by Vile

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As I read your post, my impression is (and it may be a misunderstanding on my part) that your Sweet Spot would be to have skills per School/Domain of magic...  It might be like D&D's Evocation, Abjuration, et al; or more ArsMagica-ish with classical elements, life-forms (human/animal/plant), and specifically magical stuff like illusions and magic/metamagic (the Art of Imaginem is weird).

It's much broader skills than per-spell, but not just a flat "magic skill".

You could even set up a parallel with "Combat styles" where a wizard can begin with 2-3 Magical Skills.

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I have toyed with, but not really looked at in detail, treating individual spells as skills. That would front-load the investment, i.e it would cost time and money to learn spells and become competent at casting them, but without magic points there's no limit to how often you can cast them.

You can treat the skill as "MP" and reduce momentarily your skill level until rest. A simple spell may cost 5%, another 10%, 15%....  Now that I think of it you dont even have to do math... as the skills are intended to roll the highest possible under your skill, you can have a Magic Point spendure beside the Magic skill and to cast you have to roll under the skill but over the spent MPs. No math, clear as water...

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The monster list is going to be very concise. No giant insects or dinosaurs, and no interchangeable humanoid species. Sticking to western European mythology.

  • BASILISK
  • BEAR
  • DRAGON
  • DWARF
  • ELF
  • GIANT
  • GOBLIN
  • HORSE
  • HOUND
  • MANTICORE
  • SKELETON
  • SNAKE, POISONOUS
  • VAMPIRE
  • WEREWOLF
  • WOLF
  • ZOMBIE
Edited by Vile

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On 5/18/2020 at 3:43 AM, g33k said:

And RQ Sorcery, I think.

But honestly, I was thinking of a "magic" skill.  As I consider it, you'd need some way to distinguish between simple little cantrip-y spells, regular spells, and Big Deal spells, so some kind of elaboration (and thus complexity) seems inevitable here...

You could look to the level-based games like Classic Fantasy; "level" is another new-to-your-game mechanic, but it's so ubiquitous these days that I expect even the n00b'est of n00bies would grasp the notion readily.

You could build-in a flat bonus/penalty -- Cantrips are cast treating your "magic" skill as double it's regular score ... simple (not "cantrip" simple, but simple) spells are cast with a built-in +20%...  Normal spells are cast with your skill as-is, "advanced" spells are cast with a -20% penalty, "hard" spells with a -40%, etc.  This is, obviously, "levels" without ever using "levels."

Or split the difference between one "magic skill" and "one skill per spell" ...  You could have "per type of spell" skills -- "Fire Magic" as a skill, "Divination Magic" as a skill, etc etc etc.

 

 

Have one skill and use it for general magic related stuff and casting checks to improve casting, at the risk of impeding it.  So a spell can be cast in its base configuration every time (a "rote casting"), but to improve its effect / duration / range / reduce its MP cost etc one needs a successful (or better) casting check - and casting fumbles make the spell weaker / shorter range / duration  higher MP cost.

Cantrips require no Casting Check, but cannot be improved; "High Magic" ALWAYS require casting checks, and fumbles with them have more negative effects....

Fumble Casting: Must impair one of effect, duration, range, MP cost

Failed Casting: Rote cast only

Succeeded Casting: Improve one of Effect, Range, Duration, MP cost

Special Success: Improve two of Effect, Range, Duration, MP Cost.

Cheers,

Nick

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On 5/18/2020 at 12:43 PM, g33k said:

And RQ Sorcery, I think.

But honestly, I was thinking of a "magic" skill.  As I consider it, you'd need some way to distinguish between simple little cantrip-y spells, regular spells, and Big Deal spells, so some kind of elaboration (and thus complexity) seems inevitable here...

You could look to the level-based games like Classic Fantasy; "level" is another new-to-your-game mechanic, but it's so ubiquitous these days that I expect even the n00b'est of n00bies would grasp the notion readily.

You could build-in a flat bonus/penalty -- Cantrips are cast treating your "magic" skill as double it's regular score ... simple (not "cantrip" simple, but simple) spells are cast with a built-in +20%...  Normal spells are cast with your skill as-is, "advanced" spells are cast with a -20% penalty, "hard" spells with a -40%, etc.  This is, obviously, "levels" without ever using "levels."

Or split the difference between one "magic skill" and "one skill per spell" ...  You could have "per type of spell" skills -- "Fire Magic" as a skill, "Divination Magic" as a skill, etc etc etc.

 

I used a slightly more fine-tuned version this idea for my Rolemaster Spell Law conversion. A skill roll, modified by the 'level' of the spell. The same system would work for any collection of spells which has been sorted into 'levels'. The skill or the spell levels could be as fine- or coarse-grained as you like. You could go from one generic 'Magic' skill and a few levels such as 'cantrip (easy), spell (normal), Great Old Spell (difficult)'; to many subclasses of magic skill eg Fire Magic, Healing magic etc and many levels of individual spells. The latter is the approach Spell Law takes.

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Honestly, I think that an "entry level" BRP should have the very basic approach to magic of the BGB, with a single magic skill or spell school depending on whether combat skills are grouped in styles or in melee/ranged. Mages can add levels, non-mages cast at level 1 (cantrip). 1 MP per level. Non-mages learn 1/4 INT, mages memorize 1/2 INT and can swap with spells in the book. 

An entry level game is not the best place to experiment with exciting new magic systems.

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I entirely agree that the magic system has to be really, really simple. I'm still reducing and refining the skills list. I have had a thought about going with classical rather than western European mythology as the base, but I'm still not fully sold on either.

Just to re-emphasise what I'm doing, there are two main principles here:

  1. The game should be usable by someone with no prior role-playing or wargaming background.
  2. It should serve as an introduction to percentile gaming, so the sub-systems should not be too far removed from the existing games out there.

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1 hour ago, Vile said:

I entirely agree that the magic system has to be really, really simple. I'm still reducing and refining the skills list. I have had a thought about going with classical rather than western European mythology as the base, but I'm still not fully sold on either...

FWIW, the core engine would work either way, without change... why not do BOTH?

The main differences, IMHO, would be two-fold:   the monster-list, with centaurs and dryads &c for a "classical" setting, and the Regular Suspects (as per above) for the (let's call it what it is) Tolkien-esque ... even D&D-style... setting.

The other difference, I think, goes back to that issue you'd already looked at -- magic.  I think "magic" as conceived in a "classical" (Greco-Roman) setting would be rather DIFFERENT from that westernEuro/Tolkien/D&D vibe.  This, I think, would be the main reason not to do both...

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2 hours ago, g33k said:

FWIW, the core engine would work either way, without change... why not do BOTH?

As you say the magic flavour would be one difference, as well as background stuff like equipment, weapons, armour, transportation and other technology. Not to mention the copious examples of play, which of course have narrative elements like names, places, etc. Finally, of course, there's the parallel-release adventure. So at this point I think it behoves me to pick one or the other.

As to why I'm even contemplating this, I admit I'm heavily influenced by an unused piece of cover art I have sitting around. 😜

aeon-cover-small.jpg

Edited by Vile
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I would get rid of characteristics that are mirrored by skills. DEX, CHA and INT, for instance.

I would probably merge STR and SIZ. POW and CON would remain essentially as maximum for HP and MP.

A list of 12 skills can be sufficient. Revolution D100 has 12 to 16, depending on setting tech level, for instance.

Mine would be:

-Aim
-Athletics
-Balance (used for stealth and acrobatics)
-Communication
-Education
-Magic
-Manipulation
-Melee
-Nature
-Perception
-Resistance (mostly willpower).
-Ride/Pilot

I would introduce a "Talents" system, that would be used to cover specific knowledges, such as Magic or Crafts.

Edited by Mugen
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Concerning Magic, I would consider something similar to RoleMaster's spell lists and Exalted's charms trees, and put pre-requisites on each spell except the most basic ones.

For instance, before learning to cast FireBall, I would have to learn to cast FireBolt, and prior to that Ignition.

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Interesting skill list, I like the idea of a Balance skill that includes Stealth. I've long struggled with finding a name that could describe some kind of "transport operator" skill covering mounts, carts, boats, and the like ... you're not helping with Ride/Pilot!  😄

While in principle I approve of the idea of prerequisites for spells, or some kind of sequential/ escalating learning system, it's unlikely I would use it in this project. I've played with such a system (in GURPS), but it wouldn't meet the "entry-level" design goal for me.

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39 minutes ago, Vile Traveller said:

Interesting skill list, I like the idea of a Balance skill that includes Stealth. I've long struggled with finding a name that could describe some kind of "transport operator" skill covering mounts, carts, boats, and the like ... you're not helping with Ride/Pilot!  😄

Originally, my skill list was just RuneQuest skill categories (Agility, Communication, Knowledge, Magic, Manipulation, Stealth, Perception) + Melee and Range. Then, I split knowledge in two because I thought it was necessary to differenciate "litterary knowledge" from "field experience", and added the two last ones because I felt I needed them.

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