member, 1471 posts
Sun 17 Mar 2019
at 08:38
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
I'm putting together a very simple system to fit 1 or 2 pages, yet with expansions that can add greater detail to certain areas of the rules. For example, the core conflict resolution system works for any kind of conflict, whether combat, diplomacy, or challenges of skill, but one expansion adds a combat system of greater detail similar to d20/gurps/sw/etc.

I haven't gotten any interest in trying the system, but I thought I'd see if anyone was interested in discussing the concepts I'm going for, the general design, and what might gain interest vs what makes players turn away.

It's all on paper right now, and I'm in the process of typing stuff up, which takes a while.

The basic check is to roll 2-5 dice each representing an attribute, skill, or other stat, and total them for a single value, high is good, meet or beat a target value and you succeed. This has an interesting way of being a flat-topped bell-curve that gets more consistent and better as a character goes up in skill.

Skill based but with power as a stat, so you can raise power often to mimic DnD from vl 1 to lvl 20, or keep it low so characters get skillful while staying in the realm of real world people, or even starting high for superheroes who have great power but must learn to harness it.

I'm working on the initial write-up, but I figured I get some feedback on these basics and perhaps discover questions to address in the write-up. Then when I get it all digitized I can c&p it over here somewhere.
 member, 164 posts
Sun 17 Mar 2019
at 13:07
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
Okay what's it designed to simulate? Is there a specific genre or subject it's aiming at?
 member, 1472 posts
Sun 17 Mar 2019
at 20:10
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
The design is not about simulating something in the way most systems are "simukating" cinematic action, or pulp fiction, or supers.

There is a distinction between "playing the game" and "playing the rules." The design I'm going for is all about the reasons for using rules when you are not playing the rules.

So, start with a freeform game and the goals of freeform play, namely, the game is a choose-your-own-adventure book with infinite choices, thus the "author" writes each "page" during play based on what choices were made because any choice that could reasonably be made by a character is available.

So, why do I not play freeform? Certain issues crop up, namely communication and issues of trust with the gm. There are two additional reasons for using dice, the tension of risk, and the presence of uncertainty.

Simple "stats" can be used to ease communication, for example, "how strong are you?" is more easily answered with "14 strength on this chart" then a 5-minute discussion of what "very strong" actually means and is actually capable of. More detailed rules can communicate things about the world within the narrative, such as how in d20, common folk get 3d6 for stats informs you of the general capacity of people in d20 narratives. (this part can go wrong in some occasions, like it does in d20, where people routinely think Gandalf is some high level wizard in d20)

I'll detail this further later. I've got to go.
 member, 1473 posts
Sun 17 Mar 2019
at 23:46
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
Then there is feelings about the gm. No matter how honest or truly fair a gm is, when a character fails, that generally feels bad, and when the gm simply chose to say you fail just so you don't always succeed, then it generally makes you feel bad about the gm. Feelings that the gm is playing favorites is always a concern, and even when a gm is trying to be fair, it is all too easy to have subconscious favoritism. The exportation of success/failure decisions to dice alleviates this, so instead of it being a person choosing, it becomes chance. A much better emotional outcome for everyone, especially when the player can exert at least some control over the amount of risk being taken (do the costly low risk, or try the high risk. Player choice means there is a self control on the emotional impact of failure.).

Uncertainty is also a very good thing to have. When reading a book for the first time, the reader does not know how things will turn out, and there is a sense of discovery in finding out what the outcome is. Dice add this uncertainty.

Gambling is something nearly everyone likes to some degree. Roll the dice to find out whether you won or lost. It is appealing. Of course, it only works if there is a chance for both victory and defeat.

And lastly, a system helps track options. In the a book about wizards, you do not need to know every last spell the wizard knows, you only need to know which spell the wizards chooses to use. However, when you are making the choice yourself about what spell to use, or what spell to research, or similar, you need to know what your options actually are so can make the kind of informed choice your character is making.

My system is about these things. Communication, tension, uncertainty, and a toolset for the gm to build a library of options for the players to know about what options are available in the campaign setting.
 member, 1474 posts
Sun 17 Mar 2019
at 23:51
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
In other games, like chess, it is an exercise in system mastery and player skill. These things are explicitly not goals in my system.

My system is also supposed to be universal, a bit like gurps, except there are several issues I have with gurps, such as how sizes are handled, roll under, a skill check only against character capability rather than capability and task difficulty, poor scaling, etc.

This message was last edited by the user at 23:53, Sun 17 Mar 2019.

 member, 934 posts
Mon 18 Mar 2019
at 03:50
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
Hi DLH, I like playing semi-freeform for exactly the reasons you state, and I also like very simple 'indie' rule sets with minimal number-crunching. I've trawled through a good many over the years. The 2-page set you're working on sounds just my type, so I'd be happy to look it over with you.

It's so essential to avoid:

"Bang! you're dead." "No I'm not, you missed."

"My character's strongerer than yours, so there!"

and "Of course my character can leap that chasm."

Freeform works best when there's no PvP. When there is, you really need some rules to avoid a constant turnover of peeved players.
 member, 1475 posts
Mon 18 Mar 2019
at 06:48
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
Here is part one, the attributes. Some of them could use better names, and I'm not a very good writer, so it's probably more verbose than it needs to be, and perhaps not verbose enough in some cases.

I'll add Skills and making checks next.
A check needs to account for A: Character capability and B: Task difficulty. Thus, characters have "stats" measuring their capabilities, among other traits, and there is a number line to rate how difficult things are. This is an objective number line, how skilled the character is does NOT change what difficulty rating a task has.

A character has Attributes (a measure of fundemental and inherent qualities), Skills (a measure of knowledge, experience, and practice of a specific kind of task), and Features (good or bad aspects of unique or extraordinary abilities and basically any other stat that is generally not possessed but can be gained as a singular ability).


A character has 3 basic attributes in each of four categories plus two "meta" attributes. They are,

Strength, ability to move things around, apply force.
Agility, speed and flexibility.
Hardiness, toughness and recovery.

Intellect, logic and memory
Creativity, problem solving and analysis
Awareness, notice things and pattern recognition

Energy, how energetic and active one is
Aura, connection to the world/surroundings
Will, Sense of self and spiritual integrity

Charisma, personal appeal and magnetism
Communication, ability to understand and be understood by others
Individualism, lead vs follow, trendsetter vs conformity, etc.

Tier, a character's overall agency in life.
Power, the raw power a character can have.

Attributes have a score and a rank (derived directly from the score). The reason for this is so the score can be descriptive with a finer granularity for non-dice uses and add advancement without growing the impact on dice quite as quickly. Rank is about one quarter the score minus 1, thus a score 1-4 is rank 0, 5-8 is rank 1, 9-12 is rank 2, etc.

For the 12 basic attributes, an average person's stats pretty well follow the 3d6 bell curve, averaging a score of 10.5 and the average rank of 2. In general, a score of 19 is legendary compared to real world humans.

Attribute scores are also for creatures of that size, thus in a game of mice, the average mouse has a strength of 10, just like the average human has a strength of 10.

Tier represents a character's agency in the world. A trap (or jellyfish) is the low end, as it simply triggers a set response, it has a tier of 0, simpler creatures act on instinct and have a Tier of 1, more advanced creatures such as predators do more planning and intiate action and thus have a Tier of 2. Sentient creatures start at a Tier of 3, though sentient creatures can advance their Tier. Advancing Tier however is very difficult. This happens only when a character has reached a breaking point. Something within the character has to change, break, or be let go in order to advance Tier. Characters do not seek to advance Tier, it is a growth of the character when they have faced a challange that is of life altering nature that requires them to risk everything for that one thing they care about above all else.

Power is raw power, as per the name. Power is generally a zero sum game against other characters of the same power save for one thing, higher power amongst all involved generally extends interactions, making conflicts take longer to resolve. Power is best when compared among those of differeing power levels, such as supers having high power among people of low power. For real world humans, power should stay 1-3, maybe up to 5 for the highest humanity has to offer.
 member, 935 posts
Mon 18 Mar 2019
at 16:14
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
Verbosity, or lack of it, can be edited in a final draft. Itís not important at this stage.

Having said that, the Meta Attributes are not very clear. Perhaps because they are not stock items like the rest, and so are less easy to grasp.

Do they have the same Score and Rank as the other Attributes? And does Rank equate to Tier?

If so, your average roll will give a Tier of 2 --> predator animal level...

If your average roll gives a Power of 2, that might be in line with your preference.
Aleph Null
 member, 17 posts
 I have my PhD
 In Wumbology
Mon 18 Mar 2019
at 17:00
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
So would something with a tier of 4 or 5 be some sort of transcendent or multidimensional being? I'm not sure I fully understand the idea but it's very interesting.
 member, 1476 posts
Mon 18 Mar 2019
at 20:47
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
Okay, I'll stop calling "Tier" and "Power" attributes. They are, according to how I defined attributes, but they are handled differently, having only rank.

Rank is a measure. It tells ypu size die you get. I use "rank" for two reasons, first, the math. As a rank, it is easier to +1 or -2 etc. Second, I have a second way of using ranks for simplton electronic rollers that can't sum differently sized dice. This other way is not as fun nor as elegant, but significantly easier to use on most forums. Using ranks means both methods are available without changing a single thing.

For the normal rolling method (which shoukd always be considered to be what I'm discussing unless explicitly stated otherwise), the number of ranks for a die is the average of that die, alternatively stated, double the ranks to get the die size.

1 rank = d2
2 ranks = d4
3 ranks = d6

Sentient races are Tier 3 and above. Humans for example have Tier 3 as the common people, Tier 4 are the motivators in society, generally being the common middle leadership, the people in your everyday life that tend to solve other's problems. Tier 5 are exceptional thinkers and have great ability. Tier 6 are the legendary people who can rise from poverty to radically change everything, such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Newton and other radical thinkers usually would be Tier 5. A tier 5 can figure out new revolutionary concepts which just happen to be world-changing, a tier 6 is trying, and succeeding at, changing things on a massive scale regardless of obstacles and usually end up changing the world.
Aleph Null
 member, 18 posts
 I have my PhD
 In Wumbology
Mon 18 Mar 2019
at 22:03
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
In reply to DarkLightHitomi (msg # 10):


Then things that are superhuman would have tiers higher than 6?
 member, 1477 posts
Tue 19 Mar 2019
at 05:01
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.

There is no absolute set of skills, though a list of basic and example skills is provided, a list of skills built by the campaign creator can say a lot about the setting, and different genres and magic/tech styles may need vastly different lists of skills.

Skills come in 3 groups based on how difficult they are to learn.

Natural Skills are skills that everyone basically has by default and uses at some level quite often, such as athletic skills (everyone can jog and jump after all, unless afflicted with an unusual drawback).

Learned Skills are more difficult skills to learn, and usually learned from a trainer/mentor of some sort, but could be self taught through a great deal of trial and error. Examples would be martial arts or vocational skills.

Advanced Skills are generally the sort that have a requirement of some sort to even start learning. For example, knowledge skills quite simply can't be learned without studying a source of the knowledge to be learned. Though some may simply be unusually difficult, such as learning to pilot a V-22 Osprey which requires more training to achieve the same level of proficiency as other aircraft.

Skills have only ranks, and Natural Skills start at 2 ranks by default. Learned skills start at rank 0 thus first improvment is gaining rank 1. Advanced skills however have a +4 to the TN (Target Number, explained in the next section) if used untrained (if it even can be attempted untrained). When an Advanced Skill is first learned, it starts at rank 0 (but no longer suffers the +4 to TN).


A standard check rolls 3-5 dice and sums the total as a result to compare to a TN (Target Number). Each of the dice comes from the character's stats.

Tier provides the first die and applies to all standard checks.

Checks also will have a skill and an attribute to apply, with the Tier die, these make the core three dice.

A secondary attribute or skill may sometimes be added, usually at a reduced rank. This can only happen if there are no specializations or equipment bonuses (as these basically do not stack with each other).

Lastly, bonus dice, such as from spells, environmental effects, or Features.

Additionally, a check can have advantage dice. Advantage dice are extra dice added to a check. for every extra die added one will be removed after being rolled but before being summed. Advantage would remove the lowest dice, while disadvantage would remove the highest dice.

The stats mention ranks. This is because ranks are easy to deal with, but also because there is a second way of making checks that is easier with electronic dice rollers like those found on internet forums. This other method will be described in it's own section later on.

For the size of a die, take the ranks and double them for the number of sides a die has. Thus rank 1 is a d2, rank 2 is a d4, etc. All die sizes are thus even numbers. If a dice has more than 6 ranks, then break it into multiple dice all a d12 or smaller.

The result of these dice is taken in two ways. First, it is descriptive of the character's result, how well they did. Second, this is compared to the TN of the task to find out if how well they did was good enough to succeed.

The number line is intended as an objective baseline. Both task difficulty and check results can be compared to this line for how difficult/spectacular they are. The results of the individual dice can also be used as inspiration for describing the narrative results.

It should also be noted, that failure can mean many things and need not be literal failure. It can also be success at an extra cost, or an extra obstacle that must be faced, or anything that basically makes the plan go awry in a negative fashion.

 0 is something that is automatically a success, such as walking.
 5 is something that rarely fails even for average people.
10 is the average result for an average person's main job when rushed.
15 is the average result for an average person's main job with comfortable time and little presssure.
20 is an expert's level of craftsmenship with comfortable time and little pressure.
30 is a master's work.
50+ is legendary, nearly mythical.
 member, 936 posts
Tue 19 Mar 2019
at 07:40
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
<Grin> Iím not sure I agree with your ranking of Isaac Newton (I'm trying to picture every schoolchild being taught the theories of Elon Musk, three and a half centuries hence...) but thatís a personal thing. Different GMs will apply the ranks in different ways. The Rank concept itself is sound enough.

Advantage Dice is essentially a re-roll of lowest and highest dice? Or can it replace a D2 with a D6?

Itís not immediately apparent how the Task Line works or whether the numbers are sound, but Iíll bide my time on that one and wait for further description.
 member, 555 posts
Tue 19 Mar 2019
at 07:51
An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
DLH: How long do you think until you have the system fleshed out enough to playtest? Ive been almost exclusively freeform until recently but would love to playtest this system in a game I'm running. I find systems out thereare either too conplex for forum-based games or too simplistic to bring much value to a game.
 member, 1478 posts
Tue 19 Mar 2019
at 09:31
Re: An expandable 2-page system, looking for feedback.
<Grin> Iím not sure I agree with your ranking of Isaac Newton (I'm trying to picture every schoolchild being taught the theories of Elon Musk, three and a half centuries hence...) but thatís a personal thing. Different GMs will apply the ranks in different ways. The Rank concept itself is sound enough.

The thing I was trying to point out with that was that the difference wasn't about impact nor intellect. Newton was very smart, but what kind of obstacles did he need to overcome to succeed at the task he set for himself? Steve Jobs had his company taken from him and he still managed to succeed. Elon Musk is likewise giving the world the finger and doing things his own way, despite just how different his way is and how much the world is working against him, and he is still finding success. Perhaps I am simply not familiar enough with Newton's life, but as far as I know, he worked within the existing structure and simply produced new ideas, though great ideas they were, he wasn't fighting the cultural environment to actually produce those ideas.

Advantage Dice is essentially a re-roll of lowest and highest dice? Or can it replace a D2 with a D6?

It is an additional die that is then rolled with the normal dice, then after the roll, a die is removed based purely on the values shown on the dice. Thus, a d2 advantage die will basically give a 50% chance of replacing a 1 with a 2. Larger advantage dice naturally improve both the chances and scale of replacing low rolling dice with higher numbers.

Itís not immediately apparent how the Task Line works or whether the numbers are sound, but Iíll bide my time on that one and wait for further description.

The Task Line isn't really a thing that works, rather it is a consistant meterstick to make judging how numbers fit into the world easy.

There are three key ways this can be used.

A) when a pc makes a check, the gm can compare the result to the Task Line to see how well of a job the pc did. Was it the work of a master, or a novice? For example, if Alice rolled a 21, the gm knows she did a spectacular job to be expected from an expert who wasn't being rushed.

B) when a gm needs a TN for the pc to beat in order to succeed. All they really need is to decide how difficult the task is in terms of whether a novice or master would be able to defeat it. For example, the pc goes in an unexpected direction and the gm needs the TN to spot a pit trap. Well the gm considers who built it and how well. A novice or average farmer? TN 10-15. A master trapper built to trap sentient beings? TN 30.

C) a measure of quality. Appraise style checks and craft checks. When a craft check is made for crafting an item, the result can be taken as the item's quality. Likewise, an appraise check can reveal the quality, giving a simple measure of the item's quality of manufacture. This quality number can also be used in comparing two items, such as during contests, or can impact an item's value, or even impact an item's capability.

Really, as a meterstick, a gm should feel free to use it anytime a measure is needed that relates to quality and skill in some way.