The Aurora RPG Engine – Part 2

 

Intentions and Advantages of the Aurora RPG Engine

  • Delightfully visceral, with an intuitively graspable chance of success and strong emotional engagement.
  • Uncomplicated and minimal math plus easy handling of modifiers makes for a quick and efficient resolution system.
  • In a clean and innovative way, outcomes generate a Margin of Success or Failure that tie both into crunchy rule impacts and/or narrative boons, banes, and effects.
  • Easy to hack and customize to suit a campaign’s specific needs in terms of genre, tone, feel, and playstyle.
  • Emphasizes player choice and agency, allowing for greater options, engagement, excitement, and storytelling oomph.

 

Aurora’s Core Resolution Engine Building Blocks

  • The task resolution mechanic is d6 pool system.
    • All die values in the game are written without the 6 on d6, as there are no other dice. For example: 5d.
    • Values are (generally) stepped up or down in ½d increments: 4d, 4½d, 5d, etc.
    • A ½d is a d3.
  • Values on the character sheet determine the base pool.
    • Exactly what these values are, and what they represent, varies depending on the genre, style, and tone of the campaign.
    • Most games will use a combination of values to generate the base pool.
    • Common value groupings include:
      • Attributes
      • Skills
      • Styles
      • Roles
      • Backgrounds
      • Approaches
      • Aptitudes
      • Traits/Aspects/Distinctions/Tags
    • Values are (generally) rated in ½d increments.
  • The base number of dice for a skilled entry-level professional is 5d.
    • Consider: “If this was someone’s profession, and they had a year or two in that profession, would this be considered regularly doable? Would this be in their wheelhouse?”  If so, this is the baseline of 5 dice.
    • A higher level of skill, experience, or capability is represented by a base number of dice greater than 5.
    • Likewise, a lower level of skill, experience, or capability is represented by a base number of dice less than 5.
  • This base pool is adjusted.
    • Tasks of greater or lesser difficulty are handled by adding or subtracting dice from the character’s base pool.
    • External and contextual modifiers to the task (for equipment, environment, situation, injuries, etc) are also handled by adding or subtracting dice from the character’s base pool.
    • Modifiers are (generally) applied in ½d increments.
    • Therefore, the total pool rolled (generally) equals the Base Values ± Difficulty Modifier ± All External & Contextual Modifiers.
  • The target number of the roll is 15.
    • This number is fixed; as above, tasks of greater or lesser difficulty, as well as external and contextual modifiers to the task, are handled by adding and subtracting dice from the character’s base pool, not by increasing or decreasing the target number.
  • Rolls that total or exceed the target number of 15 count as a success.
    • “Extra” dice (the number of dice remaining after totalling enough dice to equal 15) count as the Margin of Success.
    • These Margin of Success dice are then used to gain superior outcomes, including narrative favour, creating advantages, extra effect(s), etc.
  • Rolls that total less than the target number count as a failure.
    • “Extra” dice can be bought (one by one) to be rolled and added to the total to succeed “at cost” by incurring setbacks, including narrative disfavour, disadvantages, troubles, complications, etc.

Influences and Inspirations.  Over my 35+ years of gaming I’ve played dozens of different RPG systems and read (though not played) countless more.  As can be expected, every one of them has influenced me in some way.  But there are a couple of games that clearly play an outsized role in inspiring Aurora:

The first and most noticeable being West End Games’ d6 system, as originally presented in their Star Wars games.  It is from here that the base functionality of the dice pool derives and forms the glowing heart of this game engine (albeit with an innovative twist that I think both strengthens its inherent advantages as well as creating further advantages).*

The second is the Silhouette system by Dream Pod 9.  A flexible and effects-based system, it introduced me to many ideas, most especially the great concept and utility of a “Margin of Success/Failure.”

The third, as I began to describe in this earlier blog post, is the current crop of what could be termed (though I am cautious of the reductiveness pitfall in using such labels) more “narrative-based” games, with FATE and Cortex Plus/Prime being the most noticeable and influential.  There are a lot of ideas and aspects within Aurora that very much fall in line with what’s being created in both Cortex and FATE.

* This is especially poignant as the founder of WEG and creator of the d6 system, Daniel Scott Palter, unfortunately has just passed away.  A big debt of gratitude to him for his all his work in the RPG industry, creating not only the amazing d6 ruleset but also an astounding volume of work done to keep and expand the Star Wars universe and lore during a time when the franchise was dormant in the popular media sphere.

The Drop-In Factor.  One of the great things about systems such as FATE, Cortex Prime, or Savage Worlds, is how they are designed to be modular and flexible.  As such, they are a treasure chest of ideas and game rules that can be “easily” imported, adopted, and attached to the Aurora core resolution system in order to create a full game system that suits the tone, style, and feel of the campaign.  Alternately, there is the option to use those systems as the base and swap out their resolution system with Aurora’s to incorporate the advantages it brings.  This is especially true (and “easy”) with Cortex Prime, for it as well is explicitly developed as toolkit, based around its own core resolution ideas.

 

Introduction | Index | Base Underpinnings and Dice Pool

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