Thursday, May 28, 2009


The third section of a character/reference sheet is the one that will vary more from one setting to another, as stated above. It's the "module" that allows for fine customization. So I'd better present the three different version of this section separately.

Ajsalium. In the fantasy setting of Ajsalium PCs will have some special powers that clearly make them stand out from the common man. Some examples have been provided before (a cleric's "prayers", a paladin's "lay on hands", and a fighter's "tactical maneuvers"); more examples would be the ability of a druid to polymorph into an animal shape, a thief's ability to pick pockets unnoticed or the night-unstopable rage of a barbarian. All these powers will be listed in the appropriate section of the Ajsalium compendium dedicated to the character classes, and the way they are used explained there, so there's no point in going into more detail here. The way I plan to run Ajsalium this is the part that will likely be used the least, with combat and skills taking the prominent part of the game.
Absolutely, this is a ripoff from the Dungeons & Dragons game, and when talking about this I'm specifically thinking on the third edition of said game (which is the best one, in my humble opinion).

Necronomicon. For this investigative horror setting, this section of the character sheet will likely be the most used. Here there will appear some real-life areas of expertise, such as economics, history, mechanics, intimidation, computers, flirting, chemistry, biology... A list from which to select will be provided; every expertise will have an associated skill from which it "originates" (SOC and KNO will be the most common ones). The number of expertises related to any given skill stat cannot be higher than the score of that skill; for example, someone with a KNO of 2 will only be able to select up to two expertises related to Knowledge. In game, they are used just by stating they are used, as if they were always successfull. The GM will reveal any clues, but only if he had arranged there was some clues to be found using that expertise. Also, characters may "invest" in extra points for their expertises; stating they want to employ one of those the GM should give extra information when revealing the clue, information that may clarify the importance of the clue, or even another clue that would make the characters come closer to their goal, or embark them on a side quest.
Again, this is not original, but copied from the "Gumshoe" system used by Pelgrane Press (as mentioned in an earlier post). I liked their reasoning than an investigative game should be about interpreting the clues and not about finding them.

Galaxtar. To be honest, I haven't given this part much thought, but so far I've settled for what would be an "advanced skills" rule. As with the expertises of Necronomicon a list of possible areas of (science-fictioned) expertises will be provided, and as above, those will be related to any of the seven basic skills. Again, maximum number of expertises associated with a skill will be limited to the score of said skill. The way to use these expertises will be similar to the way of using skills, with the only difference of adding three scores: the skill die roll plus the expertise's stat plus the associated skill's stat. This will result in significantly higher results, thus allowing the accomplishment of much more difficult actions. Thus will be reflected the heroic achievements of science fiction heroes against life threatening dangers.
Not to break a norm, this is too a ripoff, more or less, from the "Codex" system used by Margaret Weiss Productions.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Combat is a simple thing to play. Skills are even easier. Every now and then skill tests will be used to determine whether a creature succeeds in a certain task, apart from combat. These tests are carried by rolling the special skill die:

If a success symbol is rolled, the test has been superbly passed; if a failure symbols appears, the character has failed miserably, and the GM may even rule bad consequences as he seems fit. Otherwise, when a number is rolled, it will be added to the stat number of the appropriate skill. If it's equal to or higher than the difficulty number previously established by the GM the test is passed; when lower, it just fails. If you look at the die layout, numbers range from 1 to 4. Skills will be rated from 0 (worst) to 6 (best). And difficulty numbers will range from 1 (easiest) to 10 (most difficult).
The automatic success and automatic failure symbols are there to make the game even easier and faster (behind the scenes, I can tell you they are the legacy of Games Workshop's games "a natural 1 always fails and a natural 6 always success" rule). Yet the GM must remember than whenever the skill die is rolled there's always a chance of success and a chance of failure (16,67% each). But sometimes you don't want them to fail; for example, you ain't telling them to roll an agility test to see whether they stagger whenever they walk; in these cases don't make them roll dice. On the other hand, you want to prevent abuses; if an illiterate character (KNO 1) wants to make a knowledge test (difficulty 9) just hoping he rolls a success, tell him he can't even make the test. That would be just abusing the rules, and is thus forbidden; impossible things are out.
The just explained skill tests are the "simple skill test". There's also the "opposed skill test", when you don't roll against a fixed difficulty number given by the GM, but against the skill test of another creature. This is done with both creatures rolling the skill die and adding the result to the appropriate skill. Higher wins. Should one success or one failure appear, it obviously means success or failure. Should two successes appear, the GM will determine whether that means two simultaneous successes or a draft. An example of the former would be two wrestlers trying to grapple each other, both can success simultaneously, grappling the opponent yet being graped themselves too. An example of the latter would be someone chasing another, in which case they maintain the same distance. When two failures appear, both creatures have failed, and miserably; with the former examples, the wrestlers would have suffered painful luxations, and the chased and chaser would have stumbled and ended with their faces stamped on the floor.

Now let's have a closer look at what the skills are useful for.
Fortitude (FOR). This is a combination of strength and constitution. To ram down a closed door, lift a portcullis, swim across a strong river, or ward off the effects of venom this is the skill to use.
Agility (AGI). Good reflexes, body coordination and flexibility is what agility means. You will use this skill to chase someone or pass through a very narrow passage, for example.
Perception (PER). This skill stands for sensory awareness: the ability to see, hear or otherwise detect the presence of creatures or features of some worth to the adventure.
Dexterity (DEX). Not to be confused with agility, dexterity is eye-hand coordination and nimbleness. This is the skill used to make a "magical" trick, play a musical instrument, or create a counterfeit document, just to give some examples.
Intelligence (INT). The ability of rational reasoning, used to solve a problem. Deciphering a codified message and discerning the secret motivations of a person are a couple of things done with this skill.
Sociability (SOC). Social skills are what are needed to delve successfully in society, be it a classy palace or a downtrodden gutter. With a high score you'll be able to easily befriend unknown people, get information from them, or convince a seller to offer you a special low price. This skill will be key in the Necronomicon setting.
Knowledge (KNO). This skill is a bit special, in that it means the general knowledge a person may have; but also, for every point it has, it grants a specific area in which that person is an expert. It's the GM who will determine whether a piece of info may be known by passing a KNO test ("hey, I just remember hearing that..."), or whether some expertise will be enough to discern some piece of info ("let me tell you that this essay is just a plagiarism of the book...").

Saturday, May 9, 2009


So, you already know the stats that will be used in combat. Now you want to know how all that works. It's awfully simple, specially if you've played any tabletop games like Heroquest or the more recent Descent or Doom boardgames from Fantasy Flight Games. When we enter in combat mode, we somehow zoom in on the action that's taking place. Time is divided in rounds, and during every round every creature (PCs, NPCs, enemies) takes its turn. During a turn a creature can make two actions, either different or the same.

Moving is one action. A character may move a number of squares (if using a battlemap, otherwise a square equals an inch, which equals five feet in real life) up to its MOV stat. Humans (standard race for all three settings) have a MOV of 5. Jumping over a chasm requires spending two movement squares per square the chasm has.

Attacking is one action. You will use special combat dice with the following distribution:

If a character is adjacent to another he may make a Melee Attack; if not adjacent, but with a line of vision, it would have to be a Ranged Attack. The attacker rolls as many combat dice as the MAR or RAR stats, and counts the blood drops (which means successful attacks). The defender rolls as many combat dice as its MDR or RDR, and counts the number of crossed out blood drops (which means successful parries). Substracting successful parries from successful attacks gives the number of Hit Points the attacked creature suffers and that will have to be detracted from its HP pool.
When MAR or RAR is higher than one, you may divide the attacks against viable targets as you see fit.
The exclamation mark stands for a special symbol that may have different meanings. For example, in the Ajsalium setting, a magical weapon would hit with a symbol as well as with blood drops. Magical armour would save with a symbol as well as with a crossed out blood drop. In the Galaxtar setting a symbol may have a bad implication, signalling that a weapon has jammed.

Not all damage must be wound damage; there's stun damage too. Stun damage will be inflicted when fighting unarmed, or just by declaring the attacker wants to cause only stun damage. Unlike wound damage, stun one is added up; should the current stun damage ever be higher than the current Hit Points the creature falls unconscious.

And there are more possible actions. Opening a locked door or chest with a key is one action; as casting a spell in Ajsalium. Yet, difficult things such as picking up a locked door or casting a powerful spell take up to two actions, which means the character can't do anything else that round. On the other hand, some simple and quick tasks, such as opening an unlocked door, are move-equivalent, meaning that they just take the equivalent of moving one (or two) squares.

In Ajsalium there's magic. And magic is worked with the combat rules, too.
Casting magic is done by spending Mana Points: all spells will list the cost in MP to cast it, and also if it can be enhanced (increase the damage done, spread the reach, make it last longer...) by spending additional MPs. Magic users (wizards and druids for PCs, and some monsters) have a Mana Points score, representing their capacity to weave a spell and/or enhance it. They employ their MP as they see fit, but once the pool is depleted they won't be able to cast more spells until they replenish it. This can be done with rest (a good night rest replenishes all MP), or drinking mana potions.
Everybody will have a Magic Resistance, ranging from 0 (most common) to 6 (extremely rare). When affected by an unwanted spell, a creature rolls as many combat dice as its MR; if it rolls any symbol, it wards off the effects of the spell.

In Necronomicon, Hit Points are joined by Sanity Points. I still need to work a little on how to manage them, but here's what I've thought so far. Whenever confronted by some part of the Cthulhu mythos, a character must make a Sanity test (have yet to decide how to make them, but they will likely be like a leadership check in "Warhammer Fantasy Battles"). If he succeeds, the better for him. If he fails, he loses one SP; this alone makes him "shocked" (one point penalty in any roll) until he gets some time to rest and assume what's happened, and also makes him closer to madness, when SP get to zero (a mad character should be removed from play). The difficulty of the Sanity test, and the quantity of SP lost, will vary according to what part of the mythos is revealed; clearly seeing the great Cthulhu itself is far worse than spotting a deep one!

Monday, May 4, 2009


I believe that a game system is always better summarized in the character sheets it uses, and I'm not the only one who thinks so, as many rpg books begin with a brief description of them. Thus, I'm going to present the Arcade Ruleset first with an overview of what will be found in a character sheet (or a reference sheet for npcs or monsters).
Apart from the equipment and description sections, rules-wise a character sheet will have three main sections: combat, skills, and specialities.

The combat section will list some stats that will come into play in combat encounters. I'm talking such things as Hit Points (HP), Movement (MOV), Initiative (INI), Melee Attack Rating (MAR), Melee Defense Rating (MDR), Ranged Attack Rating (RAR) and Ranged Defense Rating (RDR). In the Ajsalium setting, two more stats will be added to govern magic: Mana Points (MP) and Magic resistance (MR). In the Necronomicon adventures HP will be joined by Sanity Points (SP), to discern the psychologycal impact of the mythos in the heroes. I think the names given to the mentioned stats are rather self-explanatory, but don't worry because I'll explain their use later.

The skills section will list some stats that rate how skillfull the character is in diverse areas. These have been selected to be very generic, so they can cover every possible situation, or be close to that goal. So far the list of skills is this: Fortitude (FOR), Agility (AGI), Perception (PER), Dexterity (DEX), Intelligence (INT), Sociability (SOC) and Knowledge (KNO). In case those names make you think of D&D, let me explain that it has been purely coincidental; I followed my own road, and just when I picked the names for the skills I realized this was so close to the famous D&D characteristics. Great minds think alike (or so I like telling to myself). Knowledge is a bit special in that it represents general knowledge, but for every point it has admits one concrete area of expertise (more on this later).

The specialities section is the one that will vary most from one setting to another, and the one that still needs most work. In the Ajsalium setting, this will include some special powers typical of fantasy rpgs, such as the cleric's prayers, the paladin's immunity to fear, a wizard's special link with his/her familiar, or tactical maneovers for fighters. In the Necronomicon setting, being a mainly investigative setting, this section will be filled with the areas of master expertise that will automatically provide the hints needed for the plot to advance; some examples would be forensics, intimidation, history, academical research or arts & crafts. In the Galaxtar setting, this section will list some specialized skills that further develop the generic ones, allowing the characters to perform some tasks in a way similar to the usage of skills, but with greater chance of success. Again, if you want more info on this just keep reading subsequent articles.