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Fulcrum - a science fantasy frankengame

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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2015 1:12 pm    Post subject: Fulcrum - a science fantasy frankengame Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

At some point in the next six months or so, I'll be running a new campaign for one of my groups, and none of the systems I already have really seem to be capable of what I want to do. So, in the time-honored tradition of talentless hacks everywhere, I'm butchering several systems that have nifty bits and gluing them together with what originality I can muster.

System conceits:
    Skill-based, not class/level
    Wound/Condition track instead of flat HP
    Diminishing returns on improvement
    Compressed power scale - competent/expert to master, rather than zero to hero; most improvement is in flexibility rather than bigger numbers
    Relatively simple/coherent resolution mechanic
    Action points (spend X to perform action Y, not the add Z to roll type)
    Must handle Star Wars setting - droids, spaceships, the Force
    Ideally should handle "similar" settings (I intend to borrow liberally) : WH40k, Mass Effect, Coldfire Trilogy, Deus Ex, Shadowrun

Any suggestions or criticism are welcome.

Edit: forgot the dice mechanic -

The primary dice mechanic is dice pools, using exploding d09s (which is simply d10s read with the 0 or 10 face as a 0: this eliminates the 6=7 issue from Shadowrun). Pool size is determined solely by the skill being used, target number is determined (primarily) by the target's relevant attribute. Minimum successes is almost always 1 (except for extended or cooperative tests), and extra successes usually add to the effect of the attack (additional damage dice 1 for 1) or skill use (specified by the skill, if relevant).

Last edited by Tvarog on Wed May 27, 2015 1:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2015 1:15 pm    Post subject: On Condition Tracks Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

One of the issues I have with D&D/PF is that so many of its effects are entirely binary. That is, either something works or it doesn't. There are basically no examples of "degrees of success" outside something like "reflex save for half damage". Specifically, most of the most effective spells (save or die / save or suck effects like Sleep, Dominate Monster, Flesh To Stone, etc) have no effect on a save and full effect otherwise. Arguably, spells like that are both too powerful (one spell completely takes a single target out of the fight permanently) and too weak (you can waste a high level spell slot and your action in combat and have zero benefit), at the same time.

The (well, "A") solution to this is to use a condition track mechanic. Star Wars Saga edition had a single condition track (in addition to the usual HP total) with escalating penalties, and anything that gave a penalty (such as stunning effects, large amounts of HP damage in a single hit, etc) would move you one or more steps down the track. This also had the potential issue that every successful effect made the next effect easier to apply. The primary drawbacks of the SWSE condition track, in my opinion, are that there is only one track shared by all different types of effect, and that the numerical penalty applied by the condition track requires subtraction on the fly, which is a relatively slow math operation. It's better in some ways than, for example, Con damage in PF requiring you to recalculate HP, but it's still kinda clunky.

My current idea on a better implementation of that concept is to use a set of (relatively) static character qualities - Attributes - as the determining factor for the size of a character's multiple condition tracks. Attributes are the defensive stats of this system, they determine the difficulty of attack rolls. For a basic attack, to hit someone with a sword, you'd roll your Melee skill with a TN of the target's Agility. Simple enough, I think.

The real trick here is that each Attribute is also used for a condition track to measure a related (impairing) condition. The Agility attribute, for example, would determine how difficult it is to affect someone with a Slow spell. Constitution would be used to determine Poison resistance, Willpower vs Stun effects, Wisdom vs Confusion, and so forth. When making special attacks (including normal attacks with rider effects such as a poisoned weapon), the number of successes generated will influence / determine how many counters or markers are added to the relevant condition track. For a weak poison, perhaps only one counter, but for something very strong it could be three or more.

So, now that we have a set of condition tracks in place to measure how much a character is impaired by various detrimental effects, now we need a way to benefit from that information. Have you ever noticed that in most cinematic duels, there is usually a lot of back and forth, near misses and grazing hits and parrying and creating distractions and such, and then the fight is usually won in a single stroke? We can model that by creating a set of special attacks (including spells) that are significantly more powerful that usual, but can only be used when the target has a full condition track (meaning as many tokens or marks on the track as they have points in the related Attribute) for that effect type. A Petrify effect, for example, can't be applied until the target has a full Slow track, and an Insanity effect can't be applied until they have a full Confusion track.

As an added bonus, teamwork can be an actual thing in this system - one or two characters (or minions) can use smaller attacks to set the enemy up for a larger, more powerful "finishing move" from their buddy (or the BBEG).

Extra differentiation between enemy types (more or less resistant to the various effect categories), more cinematic fight scenes, more significant tactical choices all for free (and note that none of this requires a grid for positioning)? I'll take it!

The markers put on each track will have no direct effect themselves, although some attacks may have multiple effects (such as 1 wound plus one or more condition counters).
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2015 1:17 pm    Post subject: Resources Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Fulcrum system will have 3 types of resources to spend for activating and empowering abilities.

The first type is Force Points. They will work sort of like mana points or spell slots, in that they are spent to activate certain types of abilities only (like Force powers or magic spells). They do not (generally) refresh until you have sufficient downtime to sleep or meditate or whatever. Some abilities will transfer FP from one being to another, directly drain/reduce FP from the target, or perhaps gain a small amount back. Typical Force user characters will have perhaps 3-5 FP at starting level, 12 at moderately experienced, and perhaps 20-25 at the Jedi Master level.

The second type of resource is Action Points. These take the place of action types (Standard / Move / Swift / etc), and give a little finer control over what your character can accomplish in a short span of time. Most actions will take 1-2 AP, and it will often be beneficial to keep a couple in reserve for things like Overwatch (essentially reaction fire, similar to AoO) or other reaction abilities. Typical starting characters will have about 3 AP, and the average very experienced character will have 5-6 or so. It will be possible to go higher than that (probably a hard cap at ~9), but that will cost a very large amount of advancement (XP). You can be "the really insanely fast guy" if you want to, but you won't be super good at anything else (opportunity cost!). AP refresh every turn (but they don't carry over).

The third type of resource is something I haven't seen in any other RPG, and it works differently. It's called Focus, and represents what your character is paying attention to. If you're distracted, you won't be performing at peak ability. Your Focus pool will be very small (starting characters will have 1, and top tier Jedi Masters or equivalent may go as high as 3). Focus doesn't refresh, but you don't really "spend" it either - you simply allocate what you're focusing on each turn (and it will probably cost 1-2 AP to change your Focus). Some (most, actually) abilities will get better with higher Focus allocated to them, and some will be unusable without Focus (things like walking a tightrope, picking a lock, etc). Some abilities will require Focus be allocated to them long-term (maintaining concentration on certain Force powers / spells, for example).
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2015 1:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Attributes in this system are entirely defensive, in that they provide both the target number for Skill Tests against that aspect of the target as well as the length of the "condition track" for that aspect of the target. It is very difficult / expensive to increase Attributes directly, although they can be increased indirectly by equipment, Force power/spell effects, Perks (roughly equivalent to Exalted's Charms, the closest D&D/PF equivalent would be Feats), environmental conditions and so on.

Numerically, the human baseline for these will be 2-6, with some species (races) getting a small bonus or penalty (1-3ish), such as Wookiees getting a bonus to Constitution.

The goal with these Attributes is to find the minimal set that encompasses every way in which a character can be attacked, as well as every reasonable condition set (a group of related conditions that have similar effects or are simply more or less powerful versions of each other) that should be tracked. Specifically, I mean social and mental/magical attacks in addition to physical. Armor and elemental resistances are not counted as attributes, since they do not really have a condition track that can be associated with them (with the possible exception of armor damage, but for right now let's leave that out for simplicity). One of the things I specifically want to be able to represent is how certain character types (Jedi) are more vulnerable to social attacks than physical (piss them off enough to call on the Dark Side, and they'll eventually fall, etc). As well, some attacks may impact more than one defense at a time.

Currently I have eight Attributes, each paired with a condition set. There is a bit of overlap in some of these, and I'd like feedback on whether some aspects of things should be moved to different Attributes, some Attributes combined or split, or the type of conditions not matching the Attribute they're paired with. 5-7 is generally considered the "ideal" number of "things" a person can keep in mind at one time, but I don't really see any way to narrow it down any further. In fact, we may need to add one or two. These are in no particular order, and the names are subject to change.

Agility encompasses things like speed of physical movement, reaction time, and coordination. It is the primary TN of attacks - basically the AC or Dodge rating that determines how hard a character is to stab or shoot. Agility is paired with the Slow condition set, which includes encumbrance, fatigue, and entangle / slow type effects.

Constitution represents physical health, resistance to injury / disease / poison, and endurance, as well as physical strength to some extent (carrying capacity etc). It is the primary factor in determining the Wound capacity of a character. Constitution is paired with the Vitality condition set, which includes poison, disease, weakness, paralysis, and vulnerability effects.

Wisdom represents enlightenment, education, informed decision making, and natural insight. It is paired with the Confusion condition set, which includes distractions, confusion, and insanity. (This does have some conceptual overlap with both the Sense and Persuasion condition sets below.)

Charisma represents force of personality, general likeability, and resistance to social manipulation (but NOT appearance/attractiveness!). It is paired with the Persuasion condition set, which includes fascination, charm/dominate, glibness, and Jedi mind trick effects.

Perception represents a character's powers of observation, pattern recognition, acuity of senses, and "sixth sense" / hunches. It is paired with the Sense condition set, which includes blinding, deafening, illusions, and stealth effects.

Conviction represents force of will, dedication to goals, and mental resistance. It is paired with the Stun condition set, which includes stunning, dazing, and concussion effects.

Courage represents the ability to overcome/resist fear, shame, and threats (such as being seriously outnumbered/imperiled). It is paired with the Fear condition set, which includes fear (shaken, panicked etc) and surprise.

Serenity represents calmness and self control, as well as resistance to emotional manipulation. It is paired with the Passion condition track, which includes things like lust and hate.

Anything I missed? Anything which is in the wrong group, or doesn't make sense?
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2015 1:20 pm    Post subject: Skills Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Skills are probably the single crucial hinge point in this game, because they serve as the primary task resolution mechanic, as well as gating the Perk system (which basically means you can't select something like the "Boom, Headshot" perk which lets you make called shots to the head until you have, say, Rifles skill at level 5). If the skill system isn't good, the rest of the game will have a much steeper slope to climb in order to be playable, balanced, and entertaining.

For RPGs which have skills as the primary resolution mechanic (which includes things like Shadowrun and the World of Darkness line, but not D&D), there are two major philosophies.

The first is to have lots of skills that each only do a single, (relatively) narrowly defined thing. Fly Starfighter and Pilot Capital Ship would be different from Fly Helicopter and Fly Hang-Glider. Conceptually, this makes sense because each of those things is relatively different, and it's easy to imagine that being good at one of them would not necessarily carry over to being good at the others. This generally leads to a huge list of skills to remember, with very little overlap between them, even when some skills should really be close enough that you could substitute one for another (Biology standing in for Anatomy in a pinch, for example).

The second is to have relatively few, very broad skills that cover quite a lot of different but related tasks. So, you might have one skill for Fly (that would cover pretty much any sort of air or space craft), and another for Shoot (any sort of ranged weapon), and one for Sorcery (that would cover any sort of magic). This leads to a much simplified, shorter skill list that is easier to remember but much more vague. There's also some potential conceptual disconnect, since Knowledge Arcana not only means you know about magic, but also about dragons, and golems, and other planes of existence. Knowledge Local means you know about wherever you happen to be, even if you've never been there before (in fact, even if you never knew the place existed). Knowledge Religion not only means you know about deities and religious holidays and practices, but also about undead.

One of the relatively common compromises between these two is the idea of skill groups, where several related skills can be trained together for a discounted price. In practice, this tends to end up looking very similar to the latter, where only a few broad skills (the groups) really ever get used. However, the drawback is that you're essentially stuck in the latter paradigm, if you want to learn how to drive a car, you either pay more than the marginal value of the skill, or you end up learning a whole bunch of other stuff you may not need or even want.

Some systems (like FATE) even allow you to define your own skills (which may not even really be skills in the traditional sense of the term). You could have "Disreputable Smuggler" 5, or "Ninja" 4, and those skills would substitute for anything you could think of that type of character (or someone who's good at that sort of thing) should be able to do. That's relatively fast and flavorful, but it's also easy to abuse, because there's no fixed definition for what the terms actually mean or what areas they cover. Some players are just more convincing when they try to finagle the GM into letting them use a skill for something it really shouldn't be able to do. Also, because these type of systems are based on concepts, some will naturally be "better" than others, in that they cover far more areas. "Special Forces" is necessarily going to be a better (broader) skill than "Soldier", but if they're equivalently priced then the system is flawed.

What all this leads to is the need for a hybrid system. My idea (which may not be original) is to have one "profession" per character, which is basically a player-defined skill group representing the handful of skills most essential to the character concept - those the character has been trained to do and uses most commonly. This would start out with probably 3 skills included, which should all be pretty easily related to the profession, and it could be expanded to encompass more individual skills as the character grows. In fact, if there's a way to add skills, there should probably be a way to remove skills (up to and including all of them, in effect becoming an entirely different profession) to reflect a character who changes their focus mid-game for whatever reason.

The profession group would have a single rating for all included skills, and would be advanced as a single group (at a slight discount from the cost of increasing them all individually, since they'd all be "in-theme" for the character, and we want to encourage character themes as a framework for roleplay opportunities). Naturally, given the cost discount, there should be at least a modicum of oversight by the GM as to which skills can fit a particular theme.

Now, even a focused professional has hobbies, interests outside the profession, or prior training (up to one or more prior professions, even). So, for skills the character needs but which do not conceptually relate to the chosen profession, those skills can be gained individually. This gives us a reason to have a large, diverse group of individually narrow skills - you can choose whatever seems relevant to your character's core concept as a custom group (so you're not stuck with just the ones the developers put together), and then anything you want to be good at but isn't really an intrinsic part of that concept you can get "a la carte".

These aspects basically add up to player-defined archetypes which are conceptually easy to understand and relate to in-play. Job titles are usually pretty intuitively connected to the sort of things those people are capable of, and it fits much better as a way to relate a character's abilities in-character.

As a side benefit, it promotes (well, can promote, if used well) interaction with NPCs, since there are almost certainly going to be things the party members cannot do well, and the most efficient course of action is to hire an expert in that field.

The skills themselves will not be tied to particular Attributes, nor gain any bonuses directly related to them.

So, to recap, each skill is a general measure of how well a character can perform a group of closely related tasks. Specific or uncommon abilities related to each skill are represented by Perks, which are gated to appropriate skill ranks (for example, the "Boom, Headshot" perk mentioned earlier that allows called shots to the head of a target, but requires a Rifles skill of at least 5 before it can be gained). Each character has a custom-chosen skill group that represents the character's profession or archetype, as well as some number of other individual skills to represent hobbies, outside interests, or simply training not directly related to the character's theme.

Here's the current list of skills, grouped by (very broad) category. Some of these skills will have a bit of overlap. Any suggestions for consolidations and additions are welcome. Many skills require at least one perk to function, these give one specialty perk for free at rank 1 of the skill, and more can be purchased individually at any time. This is meant to represent skills that would otherwise be mostly overlap and very little distinction, such as Survival in Forest vs Mountain terrain, or Sports concerning Football vs Basketball, or the various vehicle types sharing a single piloting skill.

Athletics skills are those which consist mainly of non-combat physical activity.

    Athletics: Gymnastics - covers activities such as vaulting walls, Parkour, traversing obstacles
    Athletics: Mountaineering - covers climbing, rope use, equipment maintenance
    Athletics: Running - sprinting, distance running, terrain navigation (not stepping in holes)
    Athletics: Sports - requires specialty perk for one or more sports (including things that aren't "game" sports, like skydiving). Covers equipment, rules, game history, technique.
    Athletics: Survival - requires specialty perk for each terrain / environment. Covers food sources, shelter construction and location, navigation.
    Athletics: Swimming - covers technique, as well as terrain-related information such as the effects of undertow and current.

Combat skills consist of anything used in direct combat.

    Combat: Melee - requires specialty perk for each weapon. Covers use and maintenance, identification.
    Combat: Ranged - requires specialty perk for each weapon type. Covers use and maintenance, identification.
    Combat: Thrown - requires specialty perk for each weapon type. Covers use and maintenance, identification.
    Combat: Unarmed - requires specialty perk for style (Brawling is free, Echani or Teras Kasi would need to be bought). Covers techniques, identification of movements, practice regimens, etc.

Engineering is the "craft" skill block, covering primarily practical applications of sciences and equipment.

    Engineering: Aerospace - aircraft/spacecraft (but not starship) design and maintenance, modification
    Engineering: Audio / Video - sound and light systems, mixing/mastering, media editing
    Engineering: Civil - buildings, earthworks, utility systems
    Engineering: Cybernetics - cybernetic augments / implants; design, maintenance (external), modification
    Engineering: Demolitions - setting and removing explosive charges, structural weakness analysis
    Engineering: Electrical - electrical power (generators, transmission lines, house wiring) and signal systems (network cabling and infrastructure)
    Engineering: Electronics - design, manufacture, repair and maintenance of circuitry and portable electrical equipment
    Engineering: Electronic Warfare - design, use, and maintenance of sensor and countermeasure systems; used for drone, droid, vehicle, and emplacement systems
    Engineering: Energy Shields - design, use, maintenance, repair of shield generator systems
    Engineering: Energy Weapons - design, use, maintenance, repair of blaster and other energy-based weapon systems (including tractor beams, etc)
    Engineering: Environmental - life support, food growing/storage, artificial gravity
    Engineering: Fluid - liquid handling systems such as irrigation, liquid waste, or industrial / manufacturing chemical handling
    Engineering: Genetic - mapping, isolation, and modification of genetic structures
    Engineering: Machinist - using mills, lathes, drills, and other machine shop equipment to produce, modify, or repair non-electronic parts (including non-energy weapon components)
    Engineering: Mechanical - systems involving mostly physical motion, such as trash compactors, cranes, blast doors, missile launchers and ammo storage/loading systems
    Engineering: Mining - design, use, maintenance of systems and equipment for extraction of mineral resources (including space-based)
    Engineering: Nuclear - systems designed to generate nuclear power (includes fusion devices such as starship drive cores)
    Engineering: Primitive - covers things like building (simple) wooden buildings, simple earthworks, leatherworking
    Engineering: Software - programming, debugging, interface design, data design, algorithms. Includes modification of existing programs
    Engineering: Starship - structural and environmental design of starship hulls
    Engineering: Vehicle Repair - general troubleshooting and repair of vehicle (including starship/drone/droid) systems, on a modular basis (ie, identify the bad part and replace it - not actual refurbishment of the part itself)
    Engineering: Weapon Repair - general troubleshooting and repair of weapon systems on a modular basis

Force skills are those enabling the conscious control of the mystical energy field that surrounds and binds all things.

    Force: Alchemy - altering physical substances directly using the Force (Sith Alchemy, lightsaber crystal attunement, etc)
    Force: Focus Design - understanding and creating objects attuned to the Force which can alter the flow of Force energy (Sith talismans, Force infused locations)
    Force: Knowledge - understanding of Force traditions, theoretical knowledge of Force powers, identification of Force signatures ("magical" residue from power use). This is intended to be largely flavored as "intuitive" knowledge, provided by the Force itself, rather than academic "taught" knowledge.
    Force: Manipulate Energy - using the Force to affect the flow of energy around you (Force Lightning perk)
    Force: Manipulate Matter - using the Force to affect the physical world around you on a macro scale (Move Object perk)
    Force: Manipulate Mind - using the Force to affect the perceptions and thoughts of living beings (Affect Mind perk)
    Force: Ritual - using the Force to create greater effects drawing power from sources outside the self - sentient sacrifice, focusing implements, drugs, Dark Side tainted locations, cooperative power usage
    Force: Sense - sensing potential of Force users, using the Force to extend or supplement existing senses, precognition (perk)

Medical skills deal with the life processes of living beings

    Medical: Anatomy - requires specialty perk for each race, understanding location and function of major biological components
    Medical: Cybernetics - installation, maintenance, (safe) removal of cybernetic components such as implants and replacement limbs. Requires Surgery skill, Anatomy skill, and anatomy perk for patient race.
    Medical: Diagnose - observation of symptoms and deduction of likely biological cause
    Medical: First Aid - minor direct medical treatment, such as bandaging wounds, CPR,
    Medical: Pharmacology - understanding the effects of medical and recreational compounds on living beings, as well as interactions between compounds, or between compounds and patient conditions
    Medical: Surgery - major medical treatment requiring significant incisions, organ alteration, or recovery time
    Medical: Toxicology - use and effects of poisons on living beings

Science skills are the replacement for most systems' Knowledge skills, but including an active component for the application of that knowledge. These should be pretty self explanatory, no real description needed.

    Science: Aerodynamics
    Science: Anthropology
    Science: Archaeology
    Science: Architecture
    Science: Artificial Intelligence
    Science: Astrophysics
    Science: Astrophysics
    Science: Biology
    Science: Biowarfare
    Science: Botany
    Science: Chemistry
    Science: Computing
    Science: Criminology
    Science: Cryptology
    Science: Cybernetics
    Science: Entomology
    Science: Epidemiology
    Science: Ethics
    Science: Finance
    Science: Forensics
    Science: Genetics
    Science: Geology
    Science: History
    Science: Law
    Science: Linguistics
    Science: Logistics
    Science: Mathematics
    Science: Metallurgy
    Science: Optics
    Science: Physics
    Science: Psychiatry
    Science: Psychology
    Science: Statistics
    Science: Tactics
    Science: Theology
    Science: Trivia
    Science: Zoology

Social skills handle the majority of interpersonal interaction, whether one on one or when trying to sway a crowd.

    Social: Debate - usually used as a type of performance, where you interact directly with one or a few people, but the object of the interaction is to convince the audience, as opposed to the other participants.
    Social: Interrogate - gathering information from unwilling (likely physically restrained) subjects, usually through violence
    Social: Intimidate - a type of bluff, usually used to avoid direct physical conflict or to gain information by convincing the target you're a bigger threat than they can reasonably handle
    Social: Leadership - encouraging, cajoling, inspiring your subordinates (or anyone who trusts you enough to follow your directions)
    Social: Negotiate - working out a deal by which both participants benefit
    Social: Perform / Entertain - requires specialty perk for specific mode (dance, sing, musical instrument)
    Social: Persuade - convincing someone that something you say is true
    Social: Seduction - gaining a favorable reaction (not necessarily intimacy) from someone who is already non-hostile towards you
    Social: Streetwise - discovering and fitting into "non-official" power structures, finding sources to obtain restricted goods, etc.

Stealth skills include anything to do with not being detected

    Stealth: Disguise - pretending to be someone (or something) else by means of playing dress-up
    Stealth: Observation -
    Stealth: Security Systems - use and methods of overcoming security systems such as cameras, motion detectors, thermal and pressure sensors, maglocks, and physical (tumbler) locks
    Stealth: Sleight of Hand - pickpocketing, concealing small objects, secretly passing objects to others
    Stealth: Sneak - moving unobserved
    Stealth: Surveillance - monitoring a target (ideally) without being noticed
    Stealth: Track / Pursue - tracking a target through varying terrain and conditions, pursuit driving and foot chases, obscuring your own trail to make tracking difficult

Vehicle skills allow a character to pilot/drive, navigate, and maintain the specified vehicle type.

    Vehicle: Aerospace - requires specialty perk for each specific type of vehicle. Atmospheric and transatmospheric small craft (hang glider, Cessna, Airbus, F-22, helicopter, atmosphere-capable starfighters). Does not cover space travel (for those vehicles capable of it).
    Vehicle: Ground - requires specialty perk for each specific type of vehicle. Bicycle, motorcycle, car, APC, bus, etc.
    Vehicle: Heavy Machinery - requires specialty perk for each specific type of vehicle. Bulldozer, crane, backhoe, tank, etc.
    Vehicle: Repulsor - requires specialty perk for each specific type of vehicle. Sled, speederbike, airspeeder, transport, repulsortank, etc.
    Vehicle: Starship - requires specialty perk for each specific type of vehicle. Starfighter, transport, gunship, freighter, capital ship. Does not cover atmospheric maneuvering (for those vehicles capable of it).
    Vehicle: Watercraft - requires specialty perk for each specific type of vehicle. Sailboat, motorboat, submarine, warship, freighter, hydrofoil, etc.
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2015 7:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

You have a lot of skills, can you imagine them all being used in a campaign by a myriad of characters?

What kind of challenges do you expect your players to overcome? Once you have that down it puts into perspective what skills will actually be used and what should be folded into other skills. Is everyone expected to fight (even Leia pulls out a pistol when the imperials show up?

Do you see Droids as playable? If yes then how are they built vs flesh and blood characters. Are you going with a system where "has money for fancy equipment" is a character resource alongside "is very skillful at ___"?

Do you see being good at flying a spaceship making a player worse at diplomacy or shooting? Characters like Luke are just good in every combat situation they're in. Do you see jedi as being balanced against non jedi, or are they just expected to be better than everyone?

Though you don't have a level system I'd recommend some kind of cap (such as 'potency' rating) for how much you can sink into a skill/attribute so you still have an idea of their maximum potential in combat and other systems.

How much do you expect to get done in a single 3 hour session of gaming? Do you expect a shoot out or space dog fight to take hours of real time to resolve or just be done in a single set of comparative rolling?

The more I know about what kind of stories you intend to tell, the more context there is to the rules you're writing.

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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2015 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm actually brainstorming for an alternative skills list right now (I'd really like to cut the list down by about half), but yes, I can imagine situations in play that could make all of those skills useful. Maybe not particularly common, though.

Without falling into the SWSE trap of "every character is good at everything by default" that makes any individual character pretty much replaceable at-will, I want everyone to be capable of surviving a fight if they're smart about it, and anyone who puts even a small investment into combat skills should be able to contribute against most enemies. If a character is more focused on hacking or something, then I'll make a point to include something useful for them to do, whenever feasible. Unless there's something more important to be done in their specialty area, though, I don't see it as particularly reasonable for a protagonist (which in most circles equates to hero) not to participate in fights. Their lives are on the line just as much as the fighty types. I'm also taking some cues from Shadowrun here, where in order for someone to be on the team they would generally need to have a basic level of competence in all the essential areas (fight, talk, sneak, hack). Some groups will be more or less specialized individually, but that's the intended baseline. With the skill system as it stands, getting a couple dice in all the essentials should be doable for anyone.

Droids should be playable, yes. I haven't put a huge amount of thought in it yet, but I figure they'll have replaceable bits just like everyone else (cybernetics will be a thing, so replacement limbs and such are possible). I'm sort of envisioning a system where you pick a chassis and then kit it out from a basic list, and then can upgrade pieces over time. I've had some bad experiences with systems where wealth is a character stat (D20 modern, etc) so I'm looking at it more along the lines of "has money for fancy equipment" will lead to "adventure(s) finding a dealer of fancy equipment" and such. Money should not lead directly to character power, but it should lead to adventures where character power can be increased. Money should be, basically, another MacGuffin that is slightly more under the players' control.

Ideally, Jedi will be at about the same power level as non-Jedi. I intend to make the balance point one of focus vs flexibility. Jedi will have a whole bunch of things they can do, but if they want to be good at those things they will have to accept not being as good at everything else (they'll have to sink a lot of points into it). Non-Jedi characters will be able to put more focus/character resources into their abilities, so they should have pretty similar effectiveness. A lot of that will come down to how the Perks are implemented, since that's where the Force powers will be. Characters who specialize in one thing won't be directly penalized for it, but they'll be investing character resources in their desired specialty rather than in other skills. Skill advancement will have escalating cost (almost certainly geometric cost), so for example the points you'd spend to get rank 5 of a single skill could instead get rank 2 in 3 different skills. I haven't mathed it all out yet (that will have to wait until the skill list is finalized and the Perks are ready), but that's the idea.

Skill ranks will also have a balance point based on in-character training time. Getting to high levels of a skill will take time that they could be spending doing other things, or will give the other characters an opportunity to catch up. Also, the bulk of XP in this system will be gained by accomplishing goals, with a token amount for showing up and none at all directly from killing monsters. Any time they spend training skills is time that the whole group is not gaining any advancement. I believe this will self-regulate to some degree. I could see capping skill rank at character creation and then increasing this cap over time based on things like major goals accomplished or story advancement. Is that sort of what you had in mind?

I would expect that most combats would run at about the same speed as D&D. There are about the same number of rolls to be made, although counting dice might be somewhat slower than rolling one and adding things to it. That's probably going to vary by group/player, though. I wouldn't expect hours, even for very complex fights, unless it's due to basically decision paralysis on the players' part (like picking the right spell to use in D&D). Anything that could reasonably be resolved in a single roll is something it's probably not worth the time to actually roll for.

Hmm, stories. Well, for points of comparison, here's my list of major influences for the campaign idea itself.
    Star Wars (including EU)
    Mass Effect
    Deus Ex
    the Elder Scrolls series
    Jagged Alliance 2
    Burn Notice
    the James Bond movies

I'd consider pretty much anything that happened in one of those to be a reasonable thing for Fulcrum to handle.

Last edited by Tvarog on Sat May 30, 2015 3:08 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2015 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Tvarog wrote:
I'm actually brainstorming for an alternative skills list right now (I'd really like to cut the list down by about half), but yes, I can imagine situations in play that could make all of those skills useful. Maybe not particularly common, though.

Without falling into the SWSE trap of "every character is good at everything by default" that makes any individual character pretty much replaceable at-will, I want everyone to be capable of surviving a fight if they're smart about it, and anyone who puts even a small investment into combat skills should be able to contribute against most enemies. If a character is more focused on hacking or something, then I'll make a point to include something useful for them to do, whenever feasible. Unless there's something more important to be done in their specialty area, though, I don't see it as particularly reasonable for a protagonist (which in most circles equates to hero) not to participate in fights. Their lives are on the line just as much as the fighty types. I'm also taking some cues from Shadowrun here, where in order for someone to be on the team they would generally need to have a basic level of competence in all the essential areas (fight, talk, sneak, hack). Some groups will be more or less specialized individually, but that's the intended baseline. With the skill system as it stands, getting a couple dice in all the essentials should be doable for anyone.

I haven't read most of this thread, and I probably won't because time / caring / etc. But this stood out on skimming and I wanted to comment on it. Because of said lack of reading it's possible that this is misplaced concern though, in which case disregard and sorry, etc.

Disclaimer done.

Saying that it's ok for a character to elect to not take combat skills or related force perks is functionally equivalent to saying it's ok for a character to hide in a corner while everyone else does the fighting stuff. It's different from single character challenges like the hacking or face character making a few rolls, because those are spotlight cases where no one else is doing anything. This is a case where everyone else might be doing something and the non-combat guy is just hanging out. Just saying it's fine and those characters will have other stuff to do is an extra onus on the adventure designer to provide those characters something so do so that the player doesn't just leave the table and come back later. Even if it's manageable in some cases, the possibility space here is huge and you're going to run into lots of cases where people don't have the right skill or nothing fits. It's an extremely poor patch.

But... it might be fine. Sitting out fights is only really a problem if fights are detailed tactical affairs that take 10+ minutes to resolve, and not so bad if they're relatively quick affairs. Even if they take less time, if they're common you just walk from time out to time out, which isn't much better than them taking a long time. The less time you sit out while everyone else is occupied, the less you're inclined to go play games on your phone / something else. So if non-combatant characters is the plan, you really need to be designing towards speed of resolution in combat. The wound / condition track makes this easier to implement, but you probably need to cut a bunch of other stuff (like positioning, non-boss enemy status tracking, etc.). It's going to make combat less technical and tactical than some of your source material though, which may not be what you want.

Alternately, you can require a minimum combat competence from people. You can do that with requiring people to spend some minimum investment in combat skills / perks / whatever (enforces minimum combat competence without maximum), by giving people separate pools to spend on combat skills / perks (enforces both minimum and maximum competence), or something else. And you probably only need this sort of break at char gen, because once minimum combat competence has been pushed on people they can participate as necessary. If they still choose not to, that's a player decision instead of a game failing by not anticipating the situation. Droids are sort of a problem in such a setup, as they're supposed to be non-combatants under most circumstances, but it otherwise supports the meatbag characters in your source material. And I'm not convinced that droids (as they appear in the Star Wars movies, where they are mostly plot devices or tools) need to be supported as player characters in the first place, but that's me.
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