If I were design a totally conventional role playing game (GM and Players taking the roles of characters in a directed ‘scenario’ and defined setting, in comparison to a GMless shared narrative story telling game), it would have the following characteristics:
- Character overview defined by Clichés. Risus pioneered this view. A character can be defined by a few sentences that give a colourful portrait of what they are and what they do. The clichés for Knight, for example (Riding, Lancing, Sword-swinging, Heraldry, Being Chaste), convey a pretty clear picture in very few words. D&D, in its earliest forms, had the cliché system down pat: Fighter, Cleric, Thief, Magic User.
- Character capabilities become apparent by verbal reference to the defined clichés. The character can do whatever fits into the clichés you set up at the beginning. So a Fighter can do anything a Fighter would be expected to be able to do. I don’t need to define that he can swing a broad sword and a short sword and list every other piece of hardware he can or cannot use. All of this comes out as the players talk through the action.
- In other words: no specific Skills. Skills, Proficiencies, Feats, or whatever are limitations. Their specific job is to limit what a character can do, not enhance – and that just throttles a story. A bigger skill and more detailed skill list just implies that there is a whole lot more you cannot do. All it does it focus the mind on tedious rules detail.
- Baked in system for rewarding narrative play. Verbal description of events should be immediately and concretely recognised, not just a speed hump on the way to a sterile dice roll. FUDGE and FATE have this covered beautifully with the system of Aspects. In many ways, these are very similar to the character clichés. However, the full Aspect system allows you to invoke these personally and generally to places, objects, and events, and this ‘tagging’ concretely affects the direction of the play. The goal, basically, is to ensure that every player is involved in creating a shared adventure, and not just a passive receiver of imagination magic from a god-like GM.
- Unified mechanic. Much as it pains me to say, the new SRD d20 mechanic is unified, consistent, and works just fine. Rolling a d20, adding and subtracting factors (each of which are in 5% increments therefore) and comparing this to a target success number, is OK. Buckets of dice, dice pools, funky dice, d% are all very clever. But do they really add anything to play? The dice are there to resolve only unexpected events. Dice and system mechanics slow down play – I want less of them, not more – and a unified system is one way to cut down the dice play by building ease and familiarity.
- Seamless integration to miniatures. In truth, my wargaming and my roleplaying live in two different portions of my brain. When I roleplay (story tell) I don’t use miniatures. But I do also wargame and sometimes try to insert a few limited roleplay (story) elements. Savage Worlds is by far the best integrated system. The exact same set of rules for the miniatures game applies to the roleplaying game. Despite D&D’s wargaming origins, this is something that is not matched there.
- Aside from these major considerations, in a fantasy setting I would probably take the spell list from 2nd Edition AD&D including Cantrips; The hit location table from Runequest (Basic Role Playing); make Hit Points static (not incrementing as they are in D&D because that makes no sense to me).
The Enquiry Table has been one of the mainstays of our story-jamming activities. We use it for miniature wargames as well, and it would have easy application for a conventional role-playing game, though this is not something wedo any more.
Its last use was for the Strange Seas game at the Nunawading Wargames Club where I unleashed it on a totally naive audience. My impression is that it was received well. It certainly received questions and requests for copies.
Through repeated use I have found room for improvement. The original nine categories were derived from Mythic. When used, this seems to cause a brain freeze for many people as there seems too much choice. Often, the selection of category was either in the middle (50/50) or the extreme (million to one). The intermediate categories are so similar that they are redundant.
Reducing the number of categories to seven greatly improves this situation. Million to one, to Long shot, to A possibility, to 50/50 is an easier progression. Another advantage of the seven point scale is that it fits perfectly into a FUDGE/FATE interpetation, and I have added those alternate words for alternate use at the bottom. I used Steffan O’Sullivan’s new interpretation: VG (Very Good) FUDGE, as I think it is a superior and intuitive scale.
Below that I find that the seven point scale elegantly fits our Silhouette dice system, and below that the Savage Worlds dice system as well.
Technically, this tool covers everything required for a role-playing, story-telling, and wargame system. And it has built in conversion to the published systems that I admire.
The picture at top is just for illustrative purposes. Get a nice version here: enquiry resolution table v11
A new draft. If we move the individual shooting factors up to be 3, 4, or 5 instead of 1, 2, or 3 we get a table like this. Now, with the addition of the roll of four FUDGE dice we get a much more palatable result range. It does involve potentially counting up lots of numbers, but these numbers will only ever be 3, 4, or 5. And having said that, while you might have 15 musketeers crammed into one square, it is more likely that you will only ever have five or six.
Click this link to see the new table: more-escarmouche-firing-factors-2.pdf
Goal 2) to model wounds in a simple, easy to track way
Goal 3) to increase weapon lethality at closer range
Goal 4) to aggregate fire from a group and resolve that group fire quickly
Goal 5) to allow individual sniping with a good chance of success – where sniping would be a specific personalisation of a figure, not a general skill.
Goal 6) to represent the historical truism that Renaissance armies disintegrated from the back – more people ran than were killed by enemy action.
The last one is the easiest. For every figure killed by gunfire, another figure automatically quits the square. This is a rule that I will keep.
To model the first point is the tricky one, because it implies a good deal of luck. But it cannot be so wild that it causes the player to lose faith in tactical play. We want a bell curve, in other words. One that gives a majority of results in the expected, planned outcome zone, but allows lucky or unlucky outliers. One of the ways to do this is to roll a lot of dice; the bucket-o-dice system. Up Front does this on the cards with + or – factors specifically bell-curve calculated. This could be done with target values on d6’s only being 1 or 6 and rolling at least 6 of them. But there’s something about it that does not ‘feel’ right for More Escarmouche. I don’t know why.
This is why I have disinterred FUDGE dice. I’ve been rolling handfulls of dice of various denominations this evening. 4 FUDGE dice can shift a factor four to a kill or a nothing, but most of the time it causes no change. This is a desirable result.
|Number of figures firing|
This is the first draft table for deriving ‘average’ attack values for number of figures firing. This is the number that would be applied, one at a time, to the targets, adjusted by the roll of two FUDGE dice.
I am not sure yet whether the economy I have dreamed up works here testing will help identify whether 6 is too much and 2 is too little, and whether the spread is large enough. It may be that three FUDGE dice are needed. It may also be that different dice types altogether are required, and that the characteristic spread of one to seven on the data cards is not enough.
So this is what I’m thinking for More Escarmouche. Every figure/character is paired with a data card. Data cards are arranged in front of you, in the order that they will be subject to shooting attack. That is: the first guy in your row gets attacked by bullets first, then the next, and so on.
The board is squared, 8 x 8 like Poor Bloody Infantry and Guerra Floridas.
Range is in squares to target sqaure. All muskets can shoot out to five squares, but not everyone is a good shot, so the factors differ. Pistols can shoot to three.
To shoot, you add up the factors for the characters at that range, then derive an average attack value. This attack value is applied to the characters in the target square up to the number of figures shooting. That is: if you have five figures shooting at five figures then each target gets hit once. If you have three figures shooting at five figures then the first three figures get shot at. If you have five figures shooting at three figures then the first two figures get shot at twice and the last figure is only shot at once.
So anyway, one at a time, you shoot at each figure. You take the attack value and roll two FUDGE dice, adding or subtracting factors till you get a final number. This number is then compared to the target character’s own damage capacity indicator along the bottom, and the effect applied. Heroes will be harder to kill and wound, of course. Ordinary men will be more likely to run. The scale is at this draft stage seven places long and with four possible outcomes (no result, run, wound, killed) so there is very reasonable scope for personalisation. When wounded, a card is truned over to show a different capacity indicator.
Hand to hand fighting is very similar to Guerra Floridas. Movement into an occupied square constitutes the initiation of melee. Figures are paired up into scraps. Scraps are resolved one at a time, but simultaneously for the two sides. Two FUDGE dice results are added to the range (0) comabt factor. Both sides are impacted straight away – so both figures fighting could kill each other, in other words.
These are my thoughts so far.