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The S.A.V.I.S. Role-Playing Game System

JPS

Serving humanity by counterexample
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#1
I love D&D 5e. It's a great system which, so far as I can tell, does a great job of unifying the various editions in a way that makes them seem as though they are all part of the same game.

But one thing I feel is that abilities aren't as important now as they were in, say, the second edition.

Why? It's because abilities are associated with modifiers rather than used outright. For ability checks in the second edition, one would simply see if a d20 roll went below his ability; if so, he succeeded.

Nowadays you roll, apply the modifier for your ability, and compare the modified roll to a target number. Your chances of success are remarkably slim this way.

Have an ability score of 18? Then when playing the second edition, your chance of success at a medium difficulty task is a whopping 90%. In the fifth edition it is only 55% (15 - 4 modifier = 11 * 5 = 55).

Now, I don't like this very much.

Adventurers are tough and they don't do things half-assedly. Medium difficulty tasks are not so hard for adventurers, especially those with ability scores of 18, unless you subscribe to the idea that anyone can become an adventurer. Personally, I don't.

With my system there are five abilities instead of the usual six. These are: Spirit, Awareness, Vitality, Intellect, and Sociability. Spirit measures your morale and ambition; Awareness, your perception and agility; Vitality, your strength and hardiness; Intellect, your acuity and cognition; and Sociability, your wisdom and charm.

I firmly feel that this is a better way of looking at the adventurer's personality. A few qualms I have with D&D's scheme of things: one can certainly be wise and yet absent-minded, while both keenness and insight into the motives of others are measured by Wisdom; one is rarely ever both sickly and strong; one is rarely ever both agile and absent-minded; etc.

My categorizations are designed to fix and to simplify things; though, admittedly, they do introduce a few problems of their own.

Anyway, now we get to the matter of resolving tasks. Tasks in my system are resolved in three ways: simple ability checks, complex ability checks, and contests.

Let's say you want to lift a boulder and your strength is 16. This constitutes a simple ability check. Roll a d20 and see if your result is lower than your ability score; the lower the number, the better. If it is, you succeed; if not, you either fail or succeed while introducing complications. Done.

Now, let's say you want to trick somebody into believing you are his long-lost cousin. The relevant ability here is Sociability. You roll a d20 as in the preceding case, but this time it is a little bit more complicated. Instead of comparing the roll to your ability score, you compare the roll to the average of your Sociability and his passive Sociability. Passive abilities are simply equal to 20 - your active ability score.

So, let's say your unsuspecting victim has a Sociability of 16, while yours is 10. His passive Sociability is 4. You average 4 and 10 and the result (7) is your target number. This comes out to a 35% chance of success; not very good.

Lastly are contests. Let's say you are at a tavern and are engaged in an arm-wrestling fight with the town brute. His Vitality is 18 and yours is 14. In this case, you each make a simple ability check. Once both checks are done, a 'round' passes. If one person succeeds and the other person fails in the round, then the person who succeeds wins the contest. On the other hand, if both fail or both succeed, the contest goes on with a new round until the winning condition is met.

This is how tasks are resolved. Now let's look at difficulty. The notion of difficulty in my system uses a modified version of 'advantage' and 'disadvantage' from 5e, meaning that in a high-difficulty situation you roll several times and take the worst result and in a low-difficulty situation you roll several times and take the best result.

That's a basic outline of my new RPG system. I haven't gotten as far as the races and classes, but those will come naturally.

Suggestions and improvements are welcome.
 

Jennywocky

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#2
For ability checks in the second edition, one would simply see if a d20 roll went below his ability; if so, he succeeded.

Nowadays you roll, apply the modifier for your ability, and compare the modified roll to a target number. Your chances of success are remarkably slim this way.

Have an ability score of 18? Then when playing the second edition, your chance of success at a medium difficulty task is a whopping 90%. In the fifth edition it is only 55% (15 - 4 modifier = 11 * 5 = 55).

Now, I don't like this very much.
That's how Pathfinder rolls too, and I'm not a fan of ability checks. It seems silly to have a huge Ability score and have it mean almost nothing on an ability check. (In this sense, though, I guess they have it being more comparable to a saving throw versus a skill check, although saving throws themselves are still usually better off than ability checks since you get both a level/class-based bonus + the relevant ability bonus + your roll.)

With my system there are five abilities instead of the usual six. These are: Spirit, Awareness, Vitality, Intellect, and Sociability. Spirit measures your morale and ambition; Awareness, your perception and agility; Vitality, your strength and hardiness; Intellect, your acuity and cognition; and Sociability, your wisdom and charm.
Meh. Agiliy and perception are equivalent concepts? (Same goes for some of the other combinations.) Already you are going to lose players.

Spirit is interesting; however, that kind of thing usually gets handled by role-playing your character versus having it reduced to a statistic.

I firmly feel that this is a better way of looking at the adventurer's personality. A few qualms I have with D&D's scheme of things: one can certainly be wise and yet absent-minded, while both keenness and insight into the motives of others are measured by Wisdom; one is rarely ever both sickly and strong; one is rarely ever both agile and absent-minded; etc.
So you just went to the other extreme. They tend to have some correlation, but they are not equivalent in the least (you can be physically agile but be distracted; you can be really strong but only typically hardy, or very good at endurance but not necessarily bench-press strong, AKA alpine climbing), and by making them equivalent you have just committed the opposite error.

At that point, you should be looking at a system that correlates those traits, but now you are running afoul of the rule of "Thou Shalt Not Make Thy Game Too Complex" unless of course it's a computer game with the machine handling all the stats instantaneously; I helped with an RPG where the creator had an interesting game but refused to reduce complexity, and he lost $40-80K on it since it never took off. The biggest complaint was having too many calculations to figure out. You're needing to balance the "accurate system" versus "playability factor."

Let's say you want to lift a boulder and your strength is 16. This constitutes a simple ability check. Roll a d20 and see if your result is lower than your ability score; the lower the number, the better. If it is, you succeed; if not, you either fail or succeed while introducing complications. Done.
So you would add to the complication of the boulder lifting if it's heavy or large enough? After all, all you need to do is have a 20+ STR (which is really easy in Pathfinder/3.5) and you make every roll, making higher amounts of STR kind of useless unless we're adding in difficulty factors to bump (in effect) the DC.

Lastly are contests. Let's say you are at a tavern and are engaged in an arm-wrestling fight with the town brute. His Vitality is 18 and yours is 14. In this case, you each make a simple ability check. Once both checks are done, a 'round' passes. If one person succeeds and the other person fails in the round, then the person who succeeds wins the contest. On the other hand, if both fail or both succeed, the contest goes on with a new round until the winning condition is met.
Yeah, so it's just a competing skill match that goes on until you have a loser. Seems easy enough.

This is how tasks are resolved. Now let's look at difficulty. The notion of difficulty in my system uses a modified version of 'advantage' and 'disadvantage' from 5e, meaning that in a high-difficulty situation you roll several times and take the worst result and in a low-difficulty situation you roll several times and take the best result.

That's a basic outline of my new RPG system. I haven't gotten as far as the races and classes, but those will come naturally.

Suggestions and improvements are welcome.
My main issues so far are with merging some abilities together, I don't think it's intuitive as much as you do (there's correlation, not equivalence); plus the competing skill check involving bizarre calculations such as having to subtract someone's skill from 20 and then averaging numbers together. I haven't quite explored it enough to recognize whether it even makes sense, and for casual gamers, you've just made learning the system a little more complicated.
 

JPS

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#3
Meh. Agiliy and perception are equivalent concepts? (Same goes for some of the other combinations.) Already you are going to lose players.

Spirit is interesting; however, that kind of thing usually gets handled by role-playing your character versus having it reduced to a statistic.
I would argue that agility and perception are more related than, say, insight into the motives of others and perception; D&D 5e would have both of those under Wisdom. Generally speaking, if one is more aware of his environment, he will be in a better position to react to it. It doesn't make much sense to me for someone to be both oblivious and agile at the same time, while it certainly is possible for him to be both oblivious and good at detecting ulterior motives.

As for Spirit, that ability is more useful for monsters than characters, in a sense, though it would be useful for characters when they are under the effect of some mind-altering spell, or alcohol. I admit it is a bit of a passive, background ability, but so is Wisdom in D&D 5e (though Wisdom has a wider range of uses; this I admit too).

So you just went to the other extreme. They tend to have some correlation, but they are not equivalent in the least (you can be physically agile but be distracted; you can be really strong but only typically hardy, or very good at endurance but not necessarily bench-press strong, AKA alpine climbing), and by making them equivalent you have just committed the opposite error.
I originally felt I needed 10 abilities, not 5; but I thought that this would be too complicated, so I simplified the system quite a lot.

But I totally see your point. Still, I want to avoid the pitfalls of D&D abilities, all the while retaining some degree of simplicity; I feel that equating traits that are merely correlated is better than equating traits that are not correlated at all.

You're needing to balance the "accurate system" versus "playability factor."
Definitely; this was my main problem.

So you would add to the complication of the boulder lifting if it's heavy or large enough? After all, all you need to do is have a 20+ STR (which is really easy in Pathfinder/3.5) and you make every roll, making higher amounts of STR kind of useless unless we're adding in difficulty factors to bump (in effect) the DC.
Could you expand on this point a little bit? I'm not quite sure what you mean.

My main issues so far are with merging some abilities together, I don't think it's intuitive as much as you do (there's correlation, not equivalence); plus the competing skill check involving bizarre calculations such as having to subtract someone's skill from 20 and then averaging numbers together. I haven't quite explored it enough to recognize whether it even makes sense, and for casual gamers, you've just made learning the system a little more complicated.
I've determined it makes sense; at least enough sense to work.

In my opinion it's better than modifiers, complicated though it is. That's one of the challenges of my system: eliminating modifiers and relying on the concepts of multiple rolls and averages.


All in all, though, I think you're right. My system isn't very marketable, and it probably makes much more sense to me than it would to novice gamers. It was certainly fun to develop, though, and I think it's more philosophically intuitive. The simplifications, while sometimes gross, are necessary given the premise of the system; but maybe the premise isn't so ideal anyway.
 

SpaceYeti

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#4
The contest is basically just opposed skill rolls.

I don't want to start an edition war about edition warring, and I've only built one character in 5e, and only played one session, but I've looked through the PHB... man, it lacks... the fun that 4e has. Vancian casting is back, non-casters are, once again, relegated to basically just hitting the bad guy with a stick...

There are obvious attempts to make melee jerks more than just stick-hitters, but it still pales in comparison to what spell-casters can do.

Back on topic, though, if you're crafting a game, you must keep in mind what each statistic does. If it's just describing your character, give as much regard as hair color. If it's actually useful, though, be sure to put it to proper use.

I'm designing a game right now that I don't even bother with base statistics. Why bother? What's the point? +7 to hit with your axe is +7 to hit with your axe, whether it's because you swing it really hard or because you're so very quick, or whatever. Describe your character however you want, but what can he do? That's what statistics are for.

Also, make sure all stats are grouped/ordered/whatever according to how actually useful they are. If you create a game about politics, maybe a hit-man's useful once in a while. Probably, combat ability won't be as important as your ability to manipulate and coerce others, or your ability to dig up relevant information. If your game is about people who live their lives primarily fighting monsters and raiding ancient temples, politicking can probably take the back-burner to combat. If you want to allow either or both, definitely include both skills, but maybe group them differently, so that they get better faster at which they do more, but still allowing both.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents; Stats and skills are only as relevant to a game as they are useful to playing it.
 

redbaron

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#5
JPS said:
Have an ability score of 18? Then when playing the second edition, your chance of success at a medium difficulty task is a whopping 90%. In the fifth edition it is only 55% (15 - 4 modifier = 11 * 5 = 55).
That's something I like about Pathfinder. The ability to 'take20' or 'take10'. So in situations where you're not under stress, you'll always be able to succeed at menials tasks.

Whereas using under duress is different. For example if you're being attacked by a troll while desperately trying to start a fire (to kill the troll with) in windy conditions, it's fair to say that even a Ranger who's started hundreds of fires in their adventures could struggle to get it started. So I like the way that Pathfinder approaches the concept of ability difficulty classes - where you get bonuses or penalties depending on the conditions.

JPS said:
Spirit measures your morale and ambition; Awareness, your perception and agility; Vitality, your strength and hardiness; Intellect, your acuity and cognition; and Sociability, your wisdom and charm.
I'd have to play with this to see how it goes, but my initial response is that it feels very limiting.

I don't like the way they're lumped together. Particularly Awareness, Vitality and Sociability. I don't like mixing wisdom and charm into one category. There's charming idiots and people who are wise yet dour. Actually it seems that these things go together pretty often.

Perception and agility together. It's an interesting combination and it makes a certain sense in some contexts but definitely not in others. Your ability to physically complete agile maneuvers isn't based on perception, although your ability to adapt those agile maneuvers to certain contexts is dependent on how well you pick up on important cues.

The thing I don't like about it is that it's perfectly feasible that someone could excel in noticing various things - say a wild animal. They know what signs to look out for, what smells and sounds might occur. But that's a purely perceptive task. Just because they know how to find them, doesn't mean they're agile enough to outmaneuver them in a fight for example. It seems to me that this ability turns any character who invests heavily in Awareness into a Ranger. A balance of perception, keyed into the environment but also with great reflexes and ability to adapt to the unexpected.

At the same time it seems to eliminate the ability to play like a Rogue - amazing reflexes, even when caught off guard is so agile that they can avoid seemingly impossible to escape situations or turn the table on would be attackers. Then it also destroys the fun of playing a Druid too - being amazingly perceptive and keyed into your surroundings that you don't need to rely on physical agility. Nullifying danger using superior understanding as opposed to dodging it.

It sort of limits your ability to specialize in one and not the other.

As for Vitality. Being strong doesn't really imply anything when it comes to durability. Completely different concepts really.

I mean again, it negates a lot of ability to specialize. If strength and hardiness are grouped together into one thing - how do you differentiate between say, a weightlifter and a marathon runner?

~

With the criticism out of the way, I have to say though that I find the concepts interesting. While on one hand it removes the ability to specialize - it does allow for some cool combinations where you can generalize.

I think at its core, your system sort of forces more Jack-of-all-trade type gaming - which is kind of cool because it eliminates cookie-cutter Fighters/Rogues/Wizards...maybe.

I do know that in Pathfinder the archetypes make for some real interesting setups.
 

JPS

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#6
What would you guys think if I made passive ability scores in my system more than just 20 - the active ability score? If I allowed some room for variation, without entirely creating another ability?

In fact, I could get rid of Spirit, leaving me with only four abilities: Awareness, Vitality, Intellect, and Sociability. And at character creation I could have the player roll for modifiers to his passive scores. That way there would in essence be 8 abilities: perception, agility, hardiness, strength, acuity, cognition, wisdom, and charm. But I wouldn't need a separate ability slot for each.

It plays in the correlations but doesn't equate them entirely, which is why I think it makes for a good compromise.
 

redbaron

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#7
Personally I actually think the original concept's interesting and you don't need to change it before you've tried it. I could pick apart things I both dislike and like about pretty much any RPG system if I wanted to. The only thing that's really important is that players have the tools at their disposal to be able to actually feel like they have a real impact on the game world.

At least as far as I can tell, the only thing that really annoys people about an RPG is when they feel like they can't really impact situations in the way they're supposed to be able to. Like what SpaceYeti said about fighters being reduced to "hit stuff with a stick". In certain systems, fighters are seriously mind-numbingly boring to play. In others they're incredibly fun.
 
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