Wednesday, December 17, 2008

RPG Design Journal 2.1: Kicking the Baby

See? This is why it's good (but painful) to sometimes expose one's ideas to the 'Net.

All the posters who commented on my last column made very good points. As mentioned in a response comment, the original idea for the mechanic came from Silhouette's basic skill test mechanic, which involved rolling a number of skill dice, adding an attribute-based mod to the highest die, and then comparing the two highest dice and using the remainder to determine the effects. I liked the idea, but started tinkering with it and looking for ways to make it my own. What ultimately came about was something that, apparently, is a non-starter.

Which leads me to a point I want to emphasize, both to myself and to my readers who are also considering work on their own systems or rules - don't be afraid to kick the baby.

Somewhere floating out there I once came across a list of 10 (?) tips for indie RPG designers (here's a list of good ones, although this isn't the list I'm talking about). Maybe it was written by Ron Edwards, maybe Robin Laws - I can't remember. But one of those points was that you cannot cling to one concept so tightly that it blinds you to the fact that it was never worth holding on to in the first place. For a lot of people (myself included) RPGs are a very personal, creative thing, and a lot of us take great pains to shield our creations from the harsh glare of objective criticism. In the end, as with real children, if you shelter it too much, your creation will suffer.

[Edit: My good buddy Masakari was able to find the post I was thinking of. I was thinking of points 2, 3, and especially #10.]

So, I'm tossing aside my High Roll mechanic. I actually think I'm going to use a more Traveller-like idea; 2d6 + Skill Rating, aiming to beat a base difficulty of 7 (so 8+ is a success). It's quick, it's (I think) pretty straightforward, and for a lot of people, it will be at least passingly familiar.

What do people think - an improvement? Comments and questions are, as always, welcome.


jamused said...

I like it. One feature that's nice is that if your skill is high enough you don't have to roll in ordinary situations (CORPS did this too). I don't know if you plan to let skills get as high as 6, but I think it's pretty neat that if you're really good, you only need to check if you're doing something quite difficult.

Badelaire said...

Glad you like it. Yes, a skill of 6 (which is where it'd top out at for "normal" PCs) would get a pass in an unmodded skill check, although it'd be a sort of "marginal success" (I've actually got CORPS sitting on a shelf about 3 feet from me as I type this. An interesting game, although I never got into it).

Also, modifiers to the Break Point that would lower it would mean that characters with skills of 5 or even 4 might benefit from this. Pretty much, if you're going to auto-pass, no need to roll.

Here's a thought - if you COULD auto-pass but decide not to in favor of possibly getting a high degree of success (perhaps in crafting a high-quality item when you can bang out a mediocre one in your sleep), should there be a chance of failure (a sort of Icarus scenario - reach too high, you might fall down)?