Tuesday, 31 December 1996

[DWDev]Statistics Part 2

In Part 1, I discussed how I got to this place.. now what I did about it.

Skills, and how it affected the decisions on stats:

'96 was the Year I really ripped apart the system I had and started again. My Mate Craig and I grabbed a whole slew of skills from all the systems, correlated them into one big list of skills. Crossed out all the double ups, so many systems have skills that are just pointless. Light Lantern! in comparison to Climb. Its all about balance, if a skill is worth a 'slot' of your game, and players can spend X time learning a skill and one give you access to the +Dex/Ref bonus to all climb skills/checks and the other allows you to light a lantern..

The Skill system has pretty much had the same core mechanic from the beginning, but changes the dice used. The Idea was instead of a flat "pass/fail" I'd just recenly seen Vampires 'number of success' system, which made far more sense.. Alot of D&D stories involve some incredibly exotic and mind bending events,.. but give than you have a 5% chance of exotic death, or exotic success in any given roll.. I'm not so surprised. 

My core mechanic was.. each time you roll, you had a chance of gaining experience in that skill.. when the skill experience is equal to or greater than the skill, your skill score increases. 

In Examples below.. I've quickly done the maths to show how much XP would be required to get the skill to that score. i.e. score of 5 = 15 or 1+2+3+4+5xp

back to the story...

We then took a big look at how the rolls were being made.. the first thing to start on was the Mathematics of a flat d20.

The Beginning of it all .. 

In most systems, the d20 for example, is a flat rate of advancement. each point is worth exactly the same as any other point. It matches the human mind as much as a ruler can be a balloon. Other systems were using piles of dice, while I'm ok with maths, adding up 16d6 to determine values every single combat.. slows things to a crawl.. I wanted a clean and quick system like a flat d20, but with more realism...All the literature I was reading at the time suggested that the human mind took 4 stages of learning.. so I looked into that first.

The first, the stage where you know nothing, struggle with everything, have to think about what your doing & fail constantly. You are Unaware of how Ineffective you are.. you just keep trying. So I needed characters to take an amount of time, that was fairly quick to get to a stage whereby they could sometimes perform the skill, but still have a large chance of failure...

Next, you are aware of how bad you are, you study under some master or something, and you become better faster. only showing a slight slowing in the speed of learning.

Then you begin to become pretty good at the skill, showing aptitude at performing the task.. you are aware of how good you're becoming, and are still improving, but less noticeably as you progress.

Finally, you are very very good, almost natural, but it takes months and months of effort at this stage to become just that tiny bit better. 

How to Represent that with numbers.

So, we all know that the d20 system uses 3d6 to start stats, it always had that little problem of the 1/2 and 19/20.. it felt uneven to me. The Maths of 4d6 sorta looked nice, and matched this 4 stages thing I just learnt.. but 4 dice was still clunky.. Then Shogun happened..

My Cousin and I used to play shogun, Japanese medieval warfare.. used d12s.. something majestic about the dice, I just sorta looked at it and said.. wow.. that's what I'm looking for.

The first thing that was so noticeable was the bell curve. the plain straight forward understanding that while mid point 13, is a 50/50 chance.. 1 single point of difference, up or down, is approx 9%. its the real deal, its worth far more than any other edge of the spectrum. The next point is around 7-8% (remember I'm doing this from memory, sure I could go look it up, but its the idea, not the pure maths of it) so now if you are 2 points higher than someone.. you are almost 20% better to hit them.. Its the sweet spot..

Why is it? 

I wanted players to find a 'zone' kinda like if you think about it, it many swashbuckling movies.. they dispatch the npcs pretty fast, swash here, buckle there, and you're done with the guards and fighting the mini-boss.. He's a bit of a fight.. and then you face off against the boss.. now comes the hard and drawn out battle, all your skills are pressed into this one.. until you finally defeat him..

to d20 this.. you'd need to be rolling above Thac0 1's for the guards, but 1's wouldn't be fails, they'd just be a miss for that one attack.. then the mini boss would need to be a 10, a crit couldn't be a crit, it'd just be a booster, otherwise you'd spoil the scene.. and the final boss, you'd need 20's to hit him, and only when his HP are at their last, a critical would be needed to finish him off.. 

to get such values in a D&D game, (or pathfinder these days) you'd need all the guards to be 2nd levels.. the mini boss to be 10th, and the final boss to be 18th! that'd be the most imbalanced module ever...

worse yet.. the 1st 1 against a guard would result in being flatfooted, and he'd have a chance to injure you and knock you down a peg, then the mini boss would screw through your remaining HP if you fumbled any further.. you'd critical him as a splat into the wall.. and finally the big boss would be impossible to hit, and you'd all be there roll after roll after roll.. no story.. just waiting for the dice to finally get the 20 to...

ok I'm being melodramatic.. it'd be fudged by the GM to make it more playable.. and if you have a nice GM, that's ok.. but a evil GM.. well sorry.. your evening of fun became a TPK to tell your friends.

No, I wanted something that would get those 'edges' and give more scope to play. I needed this 7th level mission to have 5th/6th level guards, a 7th level mini boss and an 8th level boss.. to ensure the right balance of enemies.. with the aforementioned variances in combat..

With 2d12.. less than 10 has a 25% chance to hit.. while less than 16 is 75% chance to hit, that's only 6 levels of difference between bad guys.. more believable that a 16th level BBG has a 13th level 2nd in command, and hires 10th level guards and I get my mathematical variance with very little shift in numbers.

Will it still work with the skill system:

So, that learning chart.. Stage #1, don't know how, or how to improve. At this stage of a skill, your score is less than 8, It took 36 xp to get to an 8.. in those days you got an xp every time you rolled, + bonuses for rolling a double 1 when you didn't need it. so you only needed to try the skill 36 times to get fairly much out of the first stage. 

Stage #2, you have 20% chance of success.. your a beginner. but you're getting better. It now takes 63 more xp to get to the mid point.. little less than double.. but that's a quick progression to get to 50% success.

by Stage #3, each point progresses you further and further into higher chances of success, +8%, +7%, +6%, +6%, +5%. by a score of 19, you have 90% chance of success, sure it took you 99xp more to get here, but with barely a 10% chance of fail, you're on the home stretch.

The Last Stage #4, you know your skill, and you know its going to take ages to get further.. Later we added in the ruling that A) if the modifier took the 'roll' above 24, you didn't get to roll, you just 'did' it. No rolling meant no xp, so the last 90 xp took much longer.. the standard 'this is easy' task was a +3 and a very easy task +6, so it became obvious to the players that an 18-21 was the point when skills needed a 'challenge' if they wanted to progress further. 

The last thing we used, was the idea of 'pass by'.. but more on that later...

So that was the start.. a nice balanced 2d12 system for Chats, Stats and skills, which had a balanced progression system, matched the reality of how we learn skills, a nice progression from zero to hero, and a set of easy pointers on how to roleplay the game for far more player friendly balance, swashbuckling adventure and a way to put the rules to one side and just play the game.  

Later, much later, I would discover how the number 12 just came to make everything in my system



Monday, 30 December 1996

[DWDev]Statistics, Part 1

6 months of roleplay, moving out of home, meeting new friends, getting a job as a telemarketer, and gaming into the wee hours of the night.. seems like such a blur..

I really got down to business in the next 6 months, we had a regular group every Sunday, I was writing up professions.. gawd I can still remember the order: Knights Crusader, Knight, Hunter, Forest Assassin, Thief, Magician, Sorcerer, Priest, Templar, Thaumaturge and Commoner.. (ok, so maybe I missed a few)

To make things simpler, I didn't want to bog myself down with all the Warhammer professions.. It seemed that I re-wrote the character-sheets monthly, and with them some rules, which meant that I managed to have around 20 versions of Knights Crusader, before I gave up and decided to get something done about it..

You see we had the period of time when the players were sick of me adding or tweaking rules.. they just wanted to play.. so I'd stick to a set of rules, but at the same time, would be making the next set for the next campaign.. at the table, I'd often get confused between the two.. Should a Knights crusader actually start with a horse & barding? one player started as a KC and sold off the horse, to buy some nicer magical gear, forgoing the crusade, because that was 'who he was' but in reality, he abused the rules to get a better start..

This is the inherit problem with players, treating the game as a game.. they don't take it seriously. Many RPGs create their rules to balance out this problem, which creates their own problem.

Imagine a world in which the wizards never managed to develop spells above 4th level.. why would a player play as a mage.. maybe it'd be ok for the first few years.. and possibly there would be some way they could use their 5th slot to develop a new spell, or they'd be stuck just casting the 4th as a 5th with a +1.. most would probably multi-class.. I don't remember, would a rolemaster wizard be better off?

Imagine an Island, where the largest creature is a squirrel or flying fox or a shark.. The Druid can transform into any animal he knows.. sharks only ok if he's near the water.. but everything else? becomes useless...

Image roleplaying in 200BC Rome, No Iron, No Steel, No Longbow, No Crossbow, but the Druid can become an Owlbear, Wizards cast Lightning and Fireball, Clerics can bring back the dead.. but the warrior.. reduced to semi-magical versions of short swords of Bronze..

Sure, I'm not being realistic(!) but that's the point, No given class is supposed to be 'equal' to another.. you play it because it suits you, or your temperament, or you'd interested to go outside the box, If we played it like a board game, we'd pick a character and level suited to the adventure and go from there.. sheesh..

So there I was.. stuck in this quagmire of players who wanted to stay stuck.. and I just wanted to make things right, or better.. We broke up the gang.

Now, sure, some of them were roleplaying other games, and some weren't, some had gotten jobs and lives, no-one had Girlfriends so that wasn't it, so I can understand that the frustration of not knowing the rules had gotten too much.. people wanted stability.. and I was a leaky boat of a GM.. 

Sunday, 30 June 1996


Having come from a Dragon Warriors Background, I found that Warhammers lack of Value for simple things like Reflexes or Psychic Talent or How good Looking you were, seemed to be Problematic. Game Systems with a base Characteristic such as Strength were the fall back for things like, a character using their strength, with no extra skills to perform a task..

Sure WHFRP has Strength, but how to compare to Reflexes? Dexterity? Charisma? they didn't.. You could multiply it by 10, but we'd already begun to introduce modifiers,

Also, since we had this XP per stat system, you had to divide any strength XP by 10, and lose out on a few points.. it didn't gel, it wasn't clean. something I can't stand is game systems which have too many clauses or cases (When I was teaching English this too became a pet peeve)

So I had to go back and look at these values. What was Strength, easy.. What was Reflexes vs Dexterity.. well most references to Dexterity was Hand Eye co-ordination, while Reflexes was more about speed and dodge.. D&D had both Intelligence AND Wisdom and Charisma was considered how good looking you were, everyone knew in real life that less attractive people are more likely to be nicer.. so it seemed wrong to lump them together. Psychic Talent from Dragon Warriors didn;t seem to appear in many systems, but Gurps had Willpower too, which made sense, and many times I saw rules for courage, but it was not considered something people had, it was a skill (like you had it or not.. more on skills later again...) or it was a check against wisdom and Rank or Level.. it was all very messy.. but the names made sense to us at the time as a basic fall back..

These are things that people have, regardless of race, religion, class, creed, training or development. A child even at the age of 1 has these things.. infact that seemed to be where we were heading.. looking at a basic being from the point of view.. what does a child have that is there from the beginning.. genetically so to speak. So we had our basic stats:

Strength, Courage, Constitution, Reflexes, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Psychic, Willpower, Charisma and Looks.. years later I reverted a 'hit system' of luck, instead, to the final of 12 Characteristics.

By Mid Year of '96 we'd accomplished a new charactersheet, new basic characteristics, but we still had alot of leftover. Weapon skill, Ballistic Skill, Leadership, etc.. plus some of the new elements of Dragon Warriors.. Defence, Magical Attack and Magical Defence, Stealth and Perception..They were all there.. all messily bunched together.