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NEW RELEASE: Comae Engine (d100 Ultra-Lite)


clarence

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And I'm releasing a second book today, Comae Engine!

Comae Engine is a barebones d100 ruleset with Extended Conflicts from M-SPACE at its core. Which means all conflicts use the same mechanics - social conflicts, chases, piloting a ship through a storm, climbing castle walls, combat and everything in between.

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CREATE BETTER STORIES

Take d100 roleplaying back to its core. 

Comae Engine charts a new path for the classic d100 rules, retooled from the ground up for more creative and flexible storytelling. But keeping the grounded approach they are known for.

At the core is a versatile conflict resolution system. Combine mysteries, social conflicts, puzzles, stunts, combat - and most other challenges in modern storytelling. You can play almost any story, in any genre.

Comae Engine is a freestanding game, but with close ties to Mythras, M-SPACE and Odd Soot. And if you are familiar with classic d100 games, you will feel right at home. 

The book is available now at DriveThruRPG for only $2:

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/418884/The-Comae-Engine

 

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On first read-through, I really like it! Lenses are a great way to generalize what otherwise would probably be called combat maneuvers over several types of conflict.

I'm not so sure about tags, though - they seem like a catch-all for special permissions to do stuff the others can't; on the one hand, most rpgs have something like that, on the other, it seems a little out of place with the more abstract nature of the system.

And one very small suggestion: Make armour only apply to damage once the wearer is at zero or negative Body. To me, that would make a lot of sense, because while Body is positive, damage seems to represent more or less exhaustion and loss of momentum, and only when you reach negative body, you actually get hurt in a more lasting way. The latter is what armour would protect you from. Also, it would make armour a little less powerful, but still pretty useful in an unforgiving battle to the death.

Edited by Jakob
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Thanks Jakob, good to hear you enjoy the book! 

I have found that Lenses do an amazing job of adding details to conflicts. Especially when players need to be nudged into a more descriptive mode. And as you say, Lenses work like combat manoeuvres but for any type of conflict. 

Good to hear your thoughts on Tags! I wanted a catch-all mechanic for all those advantages that PCs acquire, instead of adding several sub-systems. In future plugins, Magic will be added as a Tag, but the actual magic/power systems will run as a sub-system.

I will certainly look into your idea about armour. Very interesting concept to keep the rules as slim as possible.

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More thoughts:

p. 28, Choosing Skills: Here, it is mentioned that using a skill or focus that is not ideal might mean you incur a penalty. Mabye this should be expanded by penalties dependingon what's at stake for whom in the conflict?

Some examples: Physical fight: You wan't to subdue an opponent who's out to kill you without hurting him. This might incur a -20% penalty, and, in exchange, guarantee that if you win, you haven't hurt, but somehow immobilized him/her.

You want to get someone to betray the the love of their live (hey, she maybe a demonologist, but she is the love of his life nevertheless!), while the other person just wants you to leave him alone - this might incur a -20 to -50 penalty.

I think this is actually more or less implicit in the system as I understand it, but it might be a good idea to make it explicit.

 

Also, with regards to social conflict, it might be important to point out that not every social conflict needs to have a binary outcome. I'm a great fan of systems that just let you make a simple roll to change the attitude of a person towards you, without necessary getting them to do something specific at that point. For example, making a test to make someone "mildly antagonistic" into a "neutral" or even "friendly" person probably wouldn't need to be an extended conflict, just a simple skill test modified depending on how the person feels about you; however, even a king who "adores you" will probably hand over the command of his army for you (though making the king adore your might be a prequesite to even think about running an extended conflict that might end with him handing over his army to you ...).

 

Not sure if I'm making that much sense: The point being that social conflict mechanisms are a great things, but in my experience, GMs might need good guidance in how to apply them. If they are modeled too closely on you win/you lose dichotomy typical of RPG combat, you sometimes get results that just don't make a lot of sense. So, especially in social conflicts, you have to be clear about what's at stake for either side and what is achievable.

 

EDIT: Consequences figure into that, as well, and should also usually be made clear in advance. In the above demonologist example, if you threaten the guy, that might alleviate the penalty, but he will hate and fear from then on.

Edited by Jakob
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Going on with some nitpicks:

On page 9, Riding is mentioned as an application of the Awareness skill; on p. 11/13 however, it is a Focus under the Move skill.

Language focus (p. 13) doesn't seem to work as described within the Comae system.

Knowledge and Science skills seem a little iffy to me: Knowledige seems to be more about directly applicable stuff (Acting, Bueraucracy foci), but why then is are the Navigaton and Survival foci under the Science skill, and not under Knowledge?

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Good comments, Jakob! I have added them to things to look into. 

And as you say, both stakes and consequences are important to define in conflicts. In combat, the good/bad consequences are often very obvious, but especially social conflicts can be more vague. So, setting them up before the conflict starts is preferable - as well as some in-between outcomes, if applicable. I will try to find a good spot to add some guidelines about this. 

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Okay, I‘ve come up with a more far-reaching suggestion to make weapons and armour more balanced and integrate them with the more abstract nature of the rest of the rules. I‘d say that being heavily armored or wielding a heavier weapon than the others that deals more damage is similar to, for example, having a Secret ID or being streetwise: It defines your character and provides them with a mechanical advantage in certain situations. So I‘d say that both should be Tags. That would make weapons and armor more in line with the rest of the system, and it would also mean that – like everywhere else in the Comae Engine – what can be applied to physical combat can also be applied to other arenas. Sure, a battle axe is a heavy weapon, but so could be the trained voice of a military officer barking orders that people just feel the need to follow (for damage against CHA), or a talent to entange others in mind games (INT damage).

 

As an example of how such rules could work:

For physical combat, the assumption is that you have genre- and character-apropriate weapons and maybe even light armour for combat; against an opponent who is similar equipped, you will deal d6 points of damage and act at no penalty. Fighting without weapons against an armed opponent incurs -20% and you do only d4 damage. If you want to use armour or heavy weapons to give you an advantage, you can do so, but without an appropriate tag, you will be at a penalty of -20% using heavy weapons or armor.

Beyond that, weapons and armor are tags:

Tag: Armoured

You are in posession of some kind of armor that protects you against one type of damage – either to Body, to Intelligence, to Power or to Charisma. Once you push a conflict using that pool (meaning, your pool drops below 0 and you keep going), your armor kicks in, protecting you – to a degree – from serious damage. All damage rolls against you that attack the respective pool are reduced by -3. Armor counts for one type of pool – physicial armor like a chainmail shirt or a shield protects Body, but you could also have armor protecting your Power (a heirloom of great magical power or simply of great nostalgic value to you), Intelligence (an uncanny ability to focus under stress) or Charisma (a familiy that you know will always love you, whatever happens).

(You CAN wear physical armour without this tag, BUT this will give you a -20% penalty to all skill rolls involving movement.)

(The whole thing with armour only kicking in when you‘re below zero in one of your pools isn‘t a necessary part of making armour a tag, of course – it‘s just an idea that I like.)

 

Weapon Tags:

Heavy Weapon:

You posess a heavy weapon (depending on setting this could be a two-handed broadsward, a blaster rifle or a baseball bat with nails in it) that deals d8 damage instead of d6. You CAN use a heavy weapon without this weapon, but at -20%.

 

Sneaky Weapon:

Small, concealabe weapons normally deal d6 points of damage; if you have this tag, you are not only assumed to have one, you also deal d8 damage with it when the situation is appropriate, e.g. your attacking stealthily or your fighting an unarmed opponent – basically whenever you can argue that your weapon gives you an advantage.

 

 

I hope I‘m not overreaching here – it‘s just that I really like how the Comae Engine re-works BRP, and it‘s giving me a lot of ideas!

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Very cool! And no risk of overreaching : ) I like to hear your ideas. 

I will have to process this for a bit, but it’s a nice way to handle both armour and weapons. It might complicate the way Combat Focuses work though (but there could be ways around that).

Armour sounds brilliant! It makes a lot of sense.

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Congrats on pushing out Comae! I really like it, it finally feels like a d100 based game that I could really dig into.

Can I ask a clarifying question: how do you typically handle Extended Conflicts with multiple PCs against a singular target? For example, with 3 PCs trekking through a snowstorm, all three of them rolling is likely going to result in at least one of them succeeding, and thus "winning" the round and dealing damage. 

It seems like the more participants a side has contributes to a major advantage, since there's only 1 winner a round. I might be missing something, obviously.

Thanks! Look forward to playing around with the engine

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Hey Mindstorm, I’m happy you enjoy the rules! As I’ve said elsewhere, it took a few years and three scrapped manuscripts to arrive at the final version.

In the snowstorm example, I would probably define a few different cases depending on how many PCs succeeded. Let’s start with the two most extreme cases.

  • All succeed. The group makes a single damage roll to reduce the snowstorm’s conflict pool perhaps representing how far they managed to travel during the round.
  • None succeed. The snowstorm deals damage to all the PCs, as they make little headway. All players roll for individual damage, say 1d6, to BODY. This is likely to represent fatigue and damage from low temperatures.
  • One PC succeeds, two fail. The two who fail take damage as normal. For the successful player, I would probably roll to deal damage to the storm, but divide it by 2 or 3 to reflect the slowdown from the two failing PCs. (At some point - if one player keeps rolling well - a PC in good shape might hurry on to get some help for any lagging PCs. If it’s really bad, they would probably have to dig a bivouac.
  • Two PCs succeed, one fails. Same as the previous point, but perhaps allowing the successful players to help the laggard in some way.

How does that sound?

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Sounds great and makes perfect sense to me. I'm really digging how easy it is to adjudicate actions with this set-up, especially coming from a more OSR oriented playstyle. Can't wait to see what comes next and how Comae shapes up, and get it to the table.

I'm also very interested in FRED, which was at the back of the book.....

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On 12/12/2022 at 4:40 PM, clarence said:

Hey Mindstorm, I’m happy you enjoy the rules! As I’ve said elsewhere, it took a few years and three scrapped manuscripts to arrive at the final version.

In the snowstorm example, I would probably define a few different cases depending on how many PCs succeeded. Let’s start with the two most extreme cases.

  • All succeed. The group makes a single damage roll to reduce the snowstorm’s conflict pool perhaps representing how far they managed to travel during the round.
  • None succeed. The snowstorm deals damage to all the PCs, as they make little headway. All players roll for individual damage, say 1d6, to BODY. This is likely to represent fatigue and damage from low temperatures.
  • One PC succeeds, two fail. The two who fail take damage as normal. For the successful player, I would probably roll to deal damage to the storm, but divide it by 2 or 3 to reflect the slowdown from the two failing PCs. (At some point - if one player keeps rolling well - a PC in good shape might hurry on to get some help for any lagging PCs. If it’s really bad, they would probably have to dig a bivouac.
  • Two PCs succeed, one fails. Same as the previous point, but perhaps allowing the successful players to help the laggard in some way.

How does that sound?

Maybe this is something that could be translated into a more general set of suggestions for how to handle damage in conflicts?

RAW, the standard seems to be that in a conflict which multiple individuals involved, only the one with the best roll does damage to whomever s/he chooses.

However, there are probably cases where you would handle it differently.

If you have two parties in conflict, it probably makes most sense to first split them up in 1:1 conflicts.

If you have three people ganging up against one person, than it would probably make sense that the one person will only do damage to one opponent, and only if s/he has the best roll of all involved - however, the side that is ganging up might get an extra damage die for everyone who beats the lone opponents roll, but only choosing the highest result of all.

If, however, you have something like a snowstorm, it makes sense that it can deal damage to all characters who didn't beat its roll, and that it will probably itself only take one instance of damage at maximum.

The same might be true of a dragon, by the way - it could probably hurt all characters with a lesser roll in one round, and would probably suffer no more than one damage roll even if it loses to all.

I think there are about two or three possible procedures for damage conflict implied here that could probably be described as options to choose from, depending on the type of conflict and the parties involved. Basically, it boils down to which opponents/opponents can damage multiple characters in one round, which ones can only damage one character in one round, and whether an opponent/obstacle is vulnerable to multiple instances of damage in a round or only to one.

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Just a quick reminder that the 15% launch discount on The Red Star and Comae Engine ends tonight!

The release has been a tremendous success. We reached #1 in Hottest Small Press on DriveThruRPG, we delivered more books in a single week than ever before and comments have been exuberantly positive. Like this one from Murallas Blancas:

”Wow, my first look at the two volumes is very positive. The Red Star is an intriguing case and displays a lot of good work. The Comae Engine is a suggestive proposition and includes powerful artwork from cover to interior.” Thorkrim O, Murallas Blancas

EN World Interview

EN World, the world’s biggest RPG site, will also publish an interview in a few days with the writers of The Red Star - Nils Hintze and Erik Hylander. They talk about the ideas behind the campaign and their previous work with Free League, adding a bit of background to the project. Highly recommended! 

Remember, the launch discount ends tonight. Tomorrow, prices go back to normal again. Here are the links one more time:

The Red Star

Print $16  $13.60 (Softcover, Full colour, 84 pages, Free PDF included)

PDF $8.95  $7.60 

The Comae Engine (Beta)

PDF $2.50  $2.00

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On 12/13/2022 at 6:25 PM, mindstorm said:

I'm also very interested in FRED, which was at the back of the book.....

Haha, good to hear! TREY is the next release, hopefully early next year. It's the solo rules I just can't stop playing. 

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And the first review of Comae Engine is out! Graham Spearing at Far Havens blog takes a look at the ruleset.

“The Comae Engine provides a light framework for conflict resolution, with enough meat for a satisfying game, and one with plenty of legs for long term play.”

“The game feels fresh, light on its feet, yet comfortably encompassing any game needs you might have for your adventures. Go and buy it.” 

 

Read the full review here: 

https://farhavens.blogspot.com/2022/12/the-comae-engine.html

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5 hours ago, Tom Pleasant said:

Bought and read it yesterday. Love it! I've wanted a decent rules-light d100 system for ages. You've done a great job. Looking forward to what else you do with it!

Thanks Tom! I’m happy you like it. Finding a good balance between simplicity and rich playability took a while, but I hope Comae Engine brings something new to the table. 

Some interesting projects are coming along. The first update of the rulebook will clear up most of the small mistakes and the solo rules are next up. After that, at least two more titles are being planned. 

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19 hours ago, clarence said:

Thanks Tom! I’m happy you like it. Finding a good balance between simplicity and rich playability took a while, but I hope Comae Engine brings something new to the table. 

Some interesting projects are coming along. The first update of the rulebook will clear up most of the small mistakes and the solo rules are next up. After that, at least two more titles are being planned. 

One of my passions is to find a light d100 lingua franca rules set that can do for the BRP community what the D&D OGL did for the OSR. Say what you like about them, but they're massively creative.

Of course it's easier to create a dungeon with things to fight than it is to create a cosmic horror investigation for CoC or similar, but I've long felt the right rules set would help bring that about. Cthulhu Eternal is great, but still too crunchy for my preferences and goals.

Are you planning anything cosmic horror related?

Will you be open to others using it to create their own projects?

I'm a professional editor, so if you need any help, gratis, do let me know.

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10 hours ago, Tom Pleasant said:

One of my passions is to find a light d100 lingua franca rules set that can do for the BRP community what the D&D OGL did for the OSR. Say what you like about them, but they're massively creative.

Of course it's easier to create a dungeon with things to fight than it is to create a cosmic horror investigation for CoC or similar, but I've long felt the right rules set would help bring that about. Cthulhu Eternal is great, but still too crunchy for my preferences and goals.

Are you planning anything cosmic horror related?

Will you be open to others using it to create their own projects?

I'm a professional editor, so if you need any help, gratis, do let me know.

Horror is not really my thing, but one of the first projects for Comae Engine is exactly that! Whether it's cosmic or not is a bit hard to say at this point, but I will know more in a few weeks. And I would be more than happy if people want to use the rules for their own projects. Do you have something in mind?

Some extra help with editing would be very helpful! Send me a PM : )

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Another nitpick: On p. 15, there's a reference to sub-focus rules; I think the're not yet there, or I can't find them.

And one thing I'm not quite sure about yet:

Is the idea for extended conflicts that they can also be asymmetrical, meaning that the skills and conflict pools might be different for different parties within the same conflict? For example, if two people want to outshine each other in public debate, both would probably use their charisma pools. But if one wants to talk the other into a bad deal, this would probably be CHA vs. INT or CHA vs. POW, right?

Also, I think the "Covert" and "Flamboyent" lenses could be generalized - they basically both say: "If you want to use an alternative skill or attack an alternative pool, you can do so, but if you fail, you're at -20 next round. If you win, your opponent is at -20 next round." Though I'm not quite sure if it wouldn't be easier to just say: "If you want to use an alternative skill or attack an alternative pool, you can do so, but at -20 (straight away)." That's basically how I would imagine you trying to talk that mentally slow giant out of bashing your brains out while dodging his blows: Keep attacking his pretty small INT pool with Cunning until he's so confused he'll just stop hitting you to think it all over.

 

One more thing:

Do you happen to know the space combat system from Ashen Stars? I think something along the lines would work perfectly for Comae Engine. It has a Rock-Paper-Scissors element that makes sure that all characters are needed at their respective stations - you basically have to rotate between using skills like Gunnery, Pilot, Sensors and deploying defensives, and if you repeat yourself before having cycled through all of them, your tactis are considered to be too obvious, and you get a penalty on your roll. You also get a penalty if one character has to man more than one station, so basically, if you have four characters manning the four main stations, you can be sure that each of them will get their turn to do something useful regularly.

Combine this with a body pool for your starship and some special qualities that will give you a better damage roll depending on what skill is being used, and I think it could be a pretty good and extremely simple system. I'll try to elaborate it later on.

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21 hours ago, Jakob said:

Another nitpick: On p. 15, there's a reference to sub-focus rules; I think the're not yet there, or I can't find them.

I removed the sub-focus rules literally minutes before the release. I hope they will return in an update soon. 

And you’re right that matching different pools might be the most logical step at times. 

Yes, Flamboyant and Covert have similarities. But I think a more generic descriptor would make it less obvious for players how it can be used. But I will look into it. 

I really like Ashen Stars, but it’s been a few years since I read it. Sounds like an interesting approach. I would love to hear more. 

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