Monday, July 12, 2010

In the Weeds - At the Earth's Core

So as I said, after considering both the old-school Champions system and the OpenD6 system, I decided to go with Champions, then in the interests of making things easier for newer players to build characters, I decided to make a new system that drastically simplifies Champions-style character creation while retaining the core mechanics.

What core mechanics? Champions basically has two: you spend 5 points to purchase 1d6 of effect, and you resolve actions with a single roll on three dice that usually defaults to around 11 or less. Virtually all the game's mechanics revolve around variations on these two things.

At the same time, I'm trying to consolidate and simplify as much as I can. So as much as I have grown to like the 14 stats that make up the core of a Champions character, I cut it down to ten. Nice and round. I came up with a couple of ideas for streamlining the skills, talents and perks a little bit, as well.

But those aren't the chief source of complexity in the game design. The big problem is powers.

Champions came up with a brilliant solution to the problem of coming up with superpowers in a game, which was to buy powers as game effects. I've already talked about Villains and Vigilantes' system for rolling up random superpowers. In V&V, you could get Flame Powers, for instance, and then the listing for that power would tell you what you could do.

But look at two characters like The Human Torch and Pyro. The Human Torch literally bursts into flame, flies, shoots flame blasts and has a special Nova Blast. On the other hand, Pyro can't fly or burst into flame and needs a source of open flame that he can manipulate. V&V handled this by creating two different versions of Flame Power. But what happens if you decide to create a character more like Stephen King's Firestarter?

Champions said, "Screw what it looks like at the end. If you want the character to fly, shoot blasts, and explode, then buy Flight, Energy Blast, and say, Ranged Killing Attack Explosion with no range. Then just call it fire."

Which is a concept that takes a while to get your head around (as I'll explain further on Big Game Wednesday), but once you do, it's incredibly flexible. And a big pain in the ass, especially with some of the more complex combinations of advantages and limitations to make the power do exactly what you want it to do.

So as I was trying to figure out a way to simplify the power designs, along with making them work more the way I envision them to work in my game world, I came up with a radical solution.

Just have characters pay a flat cost for powers, instead of making them follow the 1d6 per 5 points concept. Then rather than being multipliers, advantages and limitations can simply add and subtract cost. Much easier.

But then how to account for differences in ability? What if I want one character to be really powerful in something, while another is barely adequate?

My solution? Add another stat which is basically a measure of how powerful the character is. Make powers work in conjunction with that stat, which I'm calling Chi.

But then what about a character who has one very powerful ability, while others are weak? Answer: make powers purchasable in ranks, which make a character able to use their Chi more effectively for higher-ranked powers.

I thought this would be a flawed, but reasonably simple approach to radically simplifying the character creation process. And as a bonus, since my conception of the game was to have the characters start out as normal humans with the possibility of developing some unusual abilities later, they don't even have to worry about using that system until later in the game, making initial character creation even simpler and easier.

Then, a few days after coming up with my brainstorm (but before actually putting any numbers down on paper), I was looking over the D6 Adventure rules again, and realized that their system for buying extra-sensory powers and other special abilities is basically the same system--flat rates for ranks of ability, keyed off a special stat. So I'm even less brilliant than I thought. I'm using Champions stats and dice mechanics with OpenD6 power purchase options (as well as a couple of other mechanics I adapted).

Basically it seems that, given the choice between Champions and OpenD6, I chose both.

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