Monday, 2 July 2018

The system behind the character sheet

So I have a character sheet and I have a half-remembered dream as a setting for this character sheet. Now there is a sort of a system as well.

It is a long post and of interest primary to myself. I don't think it is going to be actually played anywhere.

Character is mostly: origin + aspects + path abilities + skills + gear + death

It is a mixed class/level-skill system because pure class system is tedious to develop and pure skill system has no defined character in its amorphousness. In a way it is a bit like WoD mixed into GloG with bunch of other things as additions.

(Also, everything is renamed for no good reason, because the initial character sheet was supposed to be a heartbreaker where everything is renamed for better immersion into the game).

Origin can be defined by a failed or successful career, by upbringing, by the species of birth/creation, by goal, by chance to name a few possible routes. Origin is what for the most people in the world is something self-sufficient and static. Player character progresses by expanding themselves from the point of origin but it always stays with them in some way.

Serves as a race+background/failed career

I have a raw idea that it also serves as a HP recovery mechanic (as in 'going back to the point of origin'), but I cannot figure out details yet.

Aspects are Bones, Blood, Flesh, Reflection, Shadow and Echo. This is what the character quantifiable consist of as a being, and this is what other creatures want to have. Aspects are attunements to certain aspects of the setting, they can power up different kinds of powers, help or hinder different situations or to be used as currencies.

Path is a rudimentary class that contains a sequence of about four GLoG-like templates and a capstone ability for the Path if there are all four. The Path only defines various abilities and there are no 'attacks as fighter, saves as cleric, HP as a mage' parts in it. Character can achieve about four-five steps that serve as levels for Paths, and the character can pick up as many Paths 'templates' as they can fit in these steps. Each Path 'levels up' in a certain way – for example, for ghost-eating occultist the initial step would be to die in the city of Ghest (where permanent death is possible) and battle the hungry dregs over their own body, while the third step would be to brand themselves with blood of a phantom darkbeast to open up Black Mirror Pathways ability.

In a sense the steps requisites are opposite of dooms in GloG wizard system – it is something escalating and transforming that the character must actively seek out – to do, to survive or to inflict on themselves – to progress.

Skills are the most straightforward, they allow the character to do various, more or less usual things better.

Skills are in 1-5 range (see below why). I have a huge temptation for them to level up in a different way from paths, so the character can be level 6 and very good at doing certain things (say, fighting and knowing people) but cannot see ghosts or have any other special abilities because they didn't follow a path. I am debating myself on this because having two progression systems is usually an awkward thing to track. If it dual progression thing happens, the skills will level up from more mundane achievements – surviving challenges, exploration, overcoming violence, etc, and probably have a bigger range or levels, around ten.

Skills are divided in four categories broadly derived from four dragons in 'Ryuutama'. I wish for each skill to carry at least a double function, therefore they are more abstract/symbolic than realistic, and being good at Traversal, for example, makes a character good at climbing and driving cars simultaneously.

First group is dedicated to the idea of journeys, of exploration, of moving forward and finding new things:

Traversal skill shows how well/fast the character goes through a terrain. If it is done faster by climbing it is helpful to climbing, if it is faster by driving car - then it is helpful to driving cars. Is climbing, jumping, swimming, driving all of them at once.

Scavenging is about finding useful things that other people overlooked or discarded, be it food, shelter or clues in murder investigation; it is both survival and search skill. Available modes of perception – such as various modes of sight – are defined by origin, abilities of paths and defense worn, as a heavier defenses tend to shut off certain senses.

Disable artifice is all about disarming or bypassing artificial obstacles somebody put on a way of moving forward, be it a lock, a trap or an falsehood which often leads to the same trapped situation. It is used to disable various devices and sense social motives.

In each group the last skill serves a double role as a 'saving throw' skill, and Freedom is all about breaking from the situation when somebody wants to impede, stop, slow down or move the character somewhere the character doesn't want to be. It is rolled versus paralysis, petrification, stun and unwilling teleports. As a skill it also rolled to get freedom from shackles or squeeze through narrow places.

Second group is dedicated to Links – communication, connections, social maneuvering and the necessity of relying on others. It is the weakest defined so far because right now I have difficult time to imagine how much of numbers I wish to put into social interactions.

Handle is a measure of how well the character is able to pursue their goals in a situation where they have a advantage, parity or more or less equal circumstances with the parties they are interacting with. It is an aspect of diplomacy, haggling, trading, word-flourishes and long-term socializing. It also serves as Ride/Handle Animals skill or as measure of command when dealing with lessers.

Connections is a measure of knowing people, what they do and how they relate to each other. It serves both as knowledge of local social life, streetwise and behind-the-scene manipulations. A character can also draw onto this skill to find helpful allies and contacts alike to WoD Allies/Connection backgrounds.

Languages skill also serves double purpose. On one hand it is an amount of languages the character knows. On another hand, the language here is an essential bridge into another culture, society, behaviour, personality – language of love or hunger is still a language. This skill is used in fast-talking or in all social situations where the character is foreign to society they are currently in and/or doesn't have any parity or advantage. I am finding that communication with a boss (when I am in inferior position) is certainly different than communication with a friend (where I have parity), and skill of handling one situation well doesn't automatically makes second one to be good.

Prestige is a measure of worth that the world awards to the character's desires and behaviour. Just as Freedom, it serves as a 'saving throw' skill to resist all influences that make the character's agenda to be subjugated to somebody's else agenda. It is most commonly used to resist charms, manipulations, geas, and other mental and social distortions. Prestige also defines the amount and a base morale of followers, although the character still needs to actually recruit them. 

Third group of skills is Violence – the aspect of the character that excels at dealing harm to others.
Wrecking is probably the most direct skill that shows how well the character deals direct harm to others. It is BAB from 3.5/PF, and as such it isn't separated in Melee/Range/Thrown as in VtM. This skill also used to quantify the destruction the one brings to the unopposing aspects of the setting, such as objects or helpless victims.

Cruelty shows how well the character is able to do an indirect and/or long-term harm to others without killing them. It is intimidate, torture and ruthless psychological subterfuge with explicit purpose not to guide or help but to twist the victim into something more pliable to character's wishes through fear and pain.

Pursue quarry is skill that I know must be here but I cannot yet fully define it. Initially it was a skill to deal extra harm to certain groups, alike to smiting of classical paladins or favourite enemies of classical ranger, but the more I think about it the more I think it serves to isolate the target from all possible support like in slasher/stalker horror movies.

Fervour used to survive pain, to endure and go on to the goal even if on willpower alone. It is a 'saving throw' versus poisons, fear, burning, all debilitating conditions, pain, elements, everything that deals any kind of actual harm. As a mechanic it doubles for 'phantom hit points' mechanisms like for barbarians and berserkers.

The fourth group is Secrets, sometimes called Tragedies, that deals with unknown and how we use it, betrayals, vulnerabilities and fatum. 
Bygone lore concerns all information that is no longer connected to alive people (that would be Connections). Each successful use of this skill uncovers a bit more about things that either forbidden, forgotten or never discovered, mostly for good reason.

Exploit weakness is about using an momentary advantage to bypass defenses and reach to the core, physical or mental. It is both assassination skill and healing skill. Used in certain way exploit weakness also ensures better loyalty of followers. 

Obscurity is facilitation of ignorance, absence and anonymity. A character dedicated to obscurity is easily unseen or easily forgotten; it is a skill of stealth, disguise and informational misleading (including burning books) which might also act as Arcana background from WoD, making people forget the character.

Fate is 'saving throw' for everything that might be called luck, but, unlike luck, this skill signifies not a winning on a pure chance but a tightening of certain doom around the character. Used against or for divinations, god-like powers or everything from beyond understanding.

Art (however you define or perform the art) can be created with any of 'saving throw' skills: Freedom creates experimental, foreign and unusual art, Fervor creates suffering art, Prestige creates appreciated art, and Fate creates some ineligible art that is the most messed up.

Gear is kind of self-explanatory.

Death are marks the Pain Saint leaves on the character upon each death and subsequent rebirth.

It is a really long post and I didn't even mentioned what Heart Potential (HPs) can do.
As a sidenote, I am finding the proficiency modifiers from 5E to be set in a near-universal way.
The 1-5 range (or 2-6 as in 5E proper) can stand for:
– dot system of WoD-like system where it represents the number of 1d10 dice rolled against threshold for successes;
– proficiency modifier in d20/some OSR systems (in 5E it is starts with 2 instead of 1 to give it more weight versus untrained use);
– comparable with 'Lamentation of Flame Princess' pip/d6 skill system and general modifiers;
– comparable range for GloK sum/dice  investment system;
– comparable with 'Cats' system for 1d6/even-odds (a variation on WoD).

Mechanics where the '1-5 range' cannot be used are Roll&Keep and 'parameter = dice size' although it can be tweaked for these, but even without these mechanics, using this scale allows to make the system almost system-agnostic while having actual numbers.


  1. I really like this. The skill list is great. I really like the sidenote about how easily this could convert from d20 rolls to d6 LotFP skill-esque rolls. That is something I've never really thought of before, but it makes a surprising amount of sense, and could let you go from one-skill-roll to deal with something to, if one wants, detailed d20 round-by-round combat rolls, against the ACs you set up later.

    Very cool! I'd really love to hear more about Heart Potentials and Paths and the like.

  2. Charlie Vick, I am glad that you liked it.
    About 1-5 system (1t5?) I developed it because it just looked as a good way to have system-agnostic notation without committing to one system or another. With 5Ed using bounded accuracy, Storyteller relying on 5 dots for d10s, and OSR system being stingy on big numbers it is quite easy to transform one into another and the other way back.

    As for other things, they are still in a very vague shape, sorry.
    Paths are quite simple in principle, I just don't have any useful ones made yet.