[Sword & Sanity RPG] Resolution Systems

Roleplaying games are designed around two very important building blocks, player interaction and task resolution. I want to take a moment to discuss the later, and some of the choices I have made while designing the various task resolution systems for Swords Against the Outer Dark: Sword & Sanity Roleplaying.

As I have discussed extensively in the past, this game is being designed as an extension of the Labyrinth Lord rules. When I decided I wanted to take on this project it became clear early on that I wanted the design and gameplay to be as close to LL as possible. So far, I feel I have achieved this, but there are a few things I have changed along the way. Task resolution has been a big change, though my approach has been more of a reorganization of the rules more than it has been an overhaul.

In Labyrinth Lord there are several task resolution systems which are used. A very thorough breakdown and discussion of this can be found here (B/X D&D and LL work the same). All in all, I do not have many complaints about how most things are handled, but I have to admit that the OCD part of my brain tends to squirm when I try to understand the reasoning behind some of the game design decisions that were made.

A good example of what I mean by this is the way thieving abilities are handled. Six of the seven skills listed require percentile dice to be rolled when used, but Hear Noise instead requires a d6 to be rolled when it is used. Why is this? Why not have all thieving abilities use a d00? Also, why do thieving abilities use percentile, as does the Ranger's tracking ability in AD&D, but the Cleric's turn undead ability uses a 2d6 when used? It just seems odd to me to create a different task resolution system for Class Abilities each time a new class was designed...

Anyway, as I said before, I am not redesigning the game as much as I am reorganizing and cleaning things up the way I feel they need to be cleaned up. Quickly, here are a few thought I want to share concerning the task resolutions systems I will have in place:
  • Texture and Fun - I could have easily discarded most of the dice mechanics present in the LL system, and pared it down to just one task resolution system, but I decided against doing that. The main reason for this is because rolling dice is fun. Its that simple. I honestly believe that some of the system burnout I suffered from playing d20 based games came from the fact that all of the subsystems present in older editions of D&D were thrown out and replaced with a single d20 based system. It took me a long time to realize that by doing this D&D/d20 lost a whole hell of a lot of texture and flavor. The system became boring. By keeping multiple systems to resolve various tasks it allows the players to roll a wide variety of dice during the game. It sounds childlike, but I feel that rolling a wide variety of dice makes the game that much more interesting and engaging. This is just my opinion, of course.
  • d6 Common Adventuring Actions - In the Sword & Sanity RPG all player characters are Adventurers first and foremost, no matter what Class the player chooses to play. Each of the different Classes in the game simply represents a "class" of Adventurer. Nothing revolutionary about this, but it is a different way of organizing the game data. As it stands, LL has a few common adventuring "skills" that use a d6 to resolve, such as Find Traps, Hear Noises, Foraging, Hunting, etc. Unfortunately, all of these skills are scattered throughout the rulebook, just as they were with the B/X D&D rulebooks. In the Sword & Sanity RPG rulebook all of these Common Adventuring Actions have been compiled and listed under the entry for Adventurer. These actions on the most part work the same as they did before, and use a d6 to resolve.
  • d00 Class Abilities - As I mentioned earlier, it bothers me that Clerics use one dice system for their Abilities and Thieves use another. Why not have all Class Abilities resolve using the same dice mechanic? I decided to use a d00 to resolve the use of Class Abilities across the board. I have designed six Classes for the game, and every one of these classes has Class Abilities that use the d00 mechanic. (I will be discussing the Classes in greater detail beginning next week) So, why not use a d6 to resolve Class Abilities just like the Common Adventuring Actions mentioned above? The reason I chose to use d00 over d6 is because I feel Class Abilities require a dice roll that offers pinpoint accuracy in the results. When rolling a d6 the range of results is very dramatic (i.e. 1 = 16.66666666666667%, 2 = 33.33333333333333%, 3 = 50%, 4 = 66.66666666666667, 5 = 83.33333333333333%, 6 = 100%). This seems fine to me when rolling to resolve Common Adventuring Actions, because they are not as important to the character as Class Abilities are. Class Abilities deserve more attention to detail and accuracy, which can only be gained by using percentile dice.
  • 2d6 Calculating Results - When a Class Ability is used sometimes there is a need to calculate a random number that represents the end results of using said Ability. The number of undead which are turned, or the number of rounds it takes for a lock to be picked, are two examples of how this works. If larger sums are required, simply add additional six sided dice to the mix, roll the dice and add up the total.
  • d6 Initiative - Nothing has changed here. Initiative (so far) has remained unchanged from the LL rules.
  • 3d6 Ability Checks - Ability Checks work as explained in the LL rules, but instead of using a d20 to resolve these checks I decided to use 3d6. This allows for more predictable results due to the belle curve 3d6 creates when rolled. Using a d20 can be more unruly than I wanted for Ability Checks in the game.
  • d20 Combat - Unlike Ability Checks, I wanted combat to be chaotic and unpredictable, so I decided it best to keep the d20 mechanic in place. Not much has changed in this regard.
So, what do you think? Am I on the right track here, or have I included too many resolution systems in the game? I look forward to hearing arguments for and against my design choices.

I Am Now A Pundit

Last night, as I slept, I advanced to a new level in the OSR blogging community due to gaining some new followers. I now have 160 followers here on The Outer Dark, advancing me to Level 7, which grants me the title of Pundit. I would like to welcome all the new folks, and thank all the regulars who takes the time to stop in from time to time to read my stuff. It means a lot!


Blogger Word Verification As Random Name Generator

A game I started playing with myself a while back was writing down interesting words that happen to pop up on Blogger word verification when posting comments on other people's blogs. You know, the little popup that asks you to type in a randomly generated word to verify that you are a flesh and blood person and not a spambot? Anyway, if you pay close enough attention to these things you begin to see that sometimes a pretty cool sounding word happens to be generated. It doesn't happen all the time, but sometimes you get lucky and it happens more often than not that an inspired word presents itself. Case in hand, here are the last twenty words that were generated for me these past couple of days:
  • semerris
  • rorapp
  • poidenh
  • sycherco
  • selis
  • caten
  • dinunsep
  • chezdeg
  • olopiga
  • cuush
  • nessen
  • prusneb
  • cularic
  • enaria
  • lisuru
  • uluxin
  • sotra
  • morgos
  • coffl
  • tresneg
Yes, these are all gibberish words. Nothing here Tolkien could hang his hat on. But there is plenty here for a writer of Weird fiction to love. Many of these words have a strange and exotic sound to them. Add little flourishes, like hyphens and apostrophes, and they begin to take on even more character. If you think about them for a minute, some of these words begin to evoke images in your mind. People, places and things all present themselves when I hear some of these words. I am not sure if it is some kind of word association thing that is working on an almost subliminal level, but when I hear some of these words I can't help but associate them with things I can use in my game world.

Let's take a handful real quick, and I will quickly share with you the first thing that springs to mind as I type the word:
  • Semerris - a notorious sorcerer who is a known diabolist. Some whisper that Semerris killed his own master as a blood sacrifice to enter into a pact with a powerful demon.
  • Nessen - (the Nessen Forest) the old wood where the tower of Semerris lies enshrouded in an unnatural tangle of thorn trees. Some say there is a "Black Man" luring young maidens deep into the old Nessen Forest, never to be seen again.
  • Enaria - a local girl who has recently gone missing, and is widely thought to be held captive in the tower of Semerris. This is the daughter of the mayor of Coffl, and he is willing to pay anything for his daughter's safe return.
  • U'luxin - the demon with whom Semerris is aligned. Uluxin requires an annual blood sacrifice to be performed in his name as payment for any pact that is entered into with him.
  • Coffl - the town that lies just on the edge of the Nessen Forest. Folk have whispered of seeing a "Black Man" skulking on the edge of the forest, and "hell hounds" can be heard in the forest, baying at the moon deep in the night.
Like I said, these are the words that jumped out at me, and I typed out the first description that came to mind for each one. In my descriptions I linked all five words together to weave a small tapestry. This tapestry could easily serve as an adventure seed, and even provide a foundation for a larger campaign.

So here is the challenge. I would like to see other bloggers try this same experiment, and post the results on their own blogs. Take a group of randomly generated Blogger word verification words, choose the five that "speak" to you and quickly describe what each of the words could be used for in your own game, which could be anything -- places, people or things. The choice is yours. Once you have them posted, come back and leave a link to your post in the comments, so others can check them out. I look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with.