The Aurora RPG Engine – Part 12

We’ve been playtesting the Aurora RPG Engine during our regular Sunday game and it’s been going very well!  (Much smoother than I figured it would, actually, which has been a most pleasant surprise.)  As we play on, I’ve noticed a couple of really neat things.

Postscript 2 – Further Probabilities

First, because Margin of Success is determined by the number of “remaining” dice, there’s an easy way to figure out what the probabilities are for achieving a certain MoS for a certain number of dice.  This is because asking “What’s the chance of generating an MoS of 1 on 5 dice?” is the same as asking “What’s the chance of generating success on 4 dice, so that I have one die left over?”  To which we already have the answer from the previously generated probabilities chart:  roughly 50% (though again it’s really 45%).

This also makes it nice an easy to generate a matrix to quickly reference the probabilities for each MoS:

Or, as a chart showing the chance of getting at least MoS X:

Postscript 3 – Hidden Rolls & Discoveries

Second, the above leads to another very cool and interesting thing: the system is bidirectional.

Typically, the difficulty of a task is handled by adjusting the base dice pool.  This allows the player to viscerally feel their chances and properly size up the situation, thus letting them make appropriate choices (and fully RP it out).  However, there are certain instances where it may be more appropriate to not “give away” the difficulty of a task to the player and have them roll blind.  In certain campaign and genre styles – such as one where the characters are expected to be over their heads or one where it is a grim and failure-heavy milieu – this may apply to most of the tests/rolls.  For others, this may be saved for more uncommon circumstances where the level of tension is heightened by explicitly being uncertain and not in the know.

The sweet thing here is that, as evidenced above, the probability of success when removing dice is the same as requiring an MoS equal to that number of removed dice.  Therefore, if a player needs to succeed on a test where the difficulty is pegged at minus 2d, the test can instead easily be run ‘blind/hidden’ by having the player roll and checking if they get an MoS of at least 2.  If not, then the test is failed.

This can also be useful for areas like perception, discerning realities, investigations, and similar, where the GM may not want to tip their hand that something is there (by specifying there is a penalty) and where the overall margin of success can be used to determine the amount or exactness of the information gained or discovered.  For example, the players are searching a room and there is a particular item that is difficult to find (the GM has determined it’s well hidden indeed at a -3d difficulty).  They roll; on an MoS of 0 they find a few mundane items, on an MoS of 1 they find some important documents, and on the MoS of 3 they find the secret compartment containing the important item.  To flip it around, if the characters already knew the object was in the room but just not where, and they were actively searching for it, the GM could let them test normally with the up-front 3d penalty.

(As an aside, Star Trek Adventures does a version of this for many types of searching, sensor, and etc tests, giving a basic amount of information on a success and allowing the player to spend Momentum (their version of MoS) to give additional and more exacting details and information.)

With this bidirectionality, the engine gains even more flexibility and adaptability, all in service of running the game in a way that supports the campaign genre, tone, and style.

Postscript – Breaking the Core Mechanic | Index

Philosophy Tuesday

Wise tiger, that Hobbes!  Our actions are always perfectly correlated with who we are being, and our being arises from who we have created ourselves to be (whether by choice or by defaultic happenstance).

When we let ourselves be present to our own actions, we gain insight into who we are being as a person, no matter what we may say or insist.

When we see with eyes unvarnished our actions in the collective, we gain insight to who we are being as a group/community/nation, no matter what our slogans may be.

by Bill Watterson

Architecture Monday

I love how the craft is so much on display in this building.  Built by local artisans, it’s all the ways the bamboo is used on this project that stands out, whether woven into patterned screens, thatched, or, my favourite, intricately roped together to form attractive columns, beams, and diagonal supports.

The other main building material is mud, a most decidedly local and abundant building material..  Through its amorphous shape it strikes an interesting silhouette while sliding nicely into its surroundings.

The inside is airy and colourful, but the pièce de resistance has got to be the little ‘grottos’ that are carved under a ramp connecting its two levels. What a fun little retreat!

Lovely work.  Expressive, local, and another example of a mighty fine building done without needing an eye-watering budget.  Good design never need be thought of as a luxury.

The Anandaloy Center by  Studio Anna Heringer.  (Also a winner of a World Architects’ Obel Award)

Philosophy Tuesday

I assert that it is time we ceased using the term “unskilled labour.”

For one, I don’t think such a thing really exists in any great capacity.  While there may be certain trades and tasks that take more or less time to grasp and to be able to perform at a bare minimum level, every undertaking done well takes skill.  If you’ve seen a toilet cleaned to the minimum versus a toilet cleaned with skill, you know the difference.  And the same holds all over, be it in service, carpentry, line work, farming, cooking, or any of the like.  In addition, there are things such as communication, attentiveness, or even just being a team player, all of which are skills, developed over time, and which really muck things up when they’re not there.

For two, the term is generally used only to denigrate, equated with unintelligent, unsophisticated, or of lessor importance.  More importantly, the term is used as an excuse, an excuse to treat others poorly in all sorts of ways:  poorly in value, respect, and appreciation; poorly in attention and care; poorly in attitude and politeness; poorly in compensation and wages.  Unappreciated and seen as a cog, whether in the home or in the workforce, the “unskilled” are paid a pittance (be it in terms of regard, respect, and appreciation or be it in terms of actual wages) and regarded as though they should be happy for their miserly sum.

It is a crappy way to treat others.  And one that belies both the value of what they take on and accomplish as well as the skill and hard work it takes to do it well.*

Everything is a skill.  Everything can be learned and improved.  Even seemingly simple things can take a lifetime to master – including the very art of living.

Let’s honour it all.


* For the briefest of moments this year we called them what they are:  essential workers.**

** The term “frontline” has now replaced “essential” and it is another obfuscation and denigration: frontline allows the vested interests (who wield the term unskilled like a club) to believe they are the generals, doing the actual important work by leading the incapable masses.  It’s a falsehood and a farce, and I recommend not falling into that trap.

*** Oddly, Walt Disney, who harboured a lot of a type of skilled/unskilled contempt, actually recognized this on some level.  One story in particular can be used as a guide for ourselves:  When Lillian Disney heard Walt wanted to open an amusement park, she said “Why would you want to do that?  They’re so dirty.”  To which Walt replied, “Mine won’t be.”  There it is: the (typically denigrated, ignored, and maltreated) janitors are the key to Disneyland’s success.


Architecture Monday

Just a fun jaunt tonight to celebrate the one and only Toronto City Hall!

The conceptual sketch of the city council chamber, which became the centrepiece of the whole design:

And the council chamber UFO itself:

The architect on site, during its construction:

Opening day/night:

By many measures, the city hall has been ultra-successful in being a grand civic centre.  Perhaps it’s no surprise it was designed by a Finnish architect, given what I saw during my Nordic trip last year.   The area enclosed by the elevated walkway… actually, let’s talk about this for a bit, because it’s a well-used piece of design that clearly creates a feeling of enclosure and demarcates this public square from the street all without being an actual barrier.  Once within, you know it and it becomes it’s own realm, one that is very much used by the public it serves, perhaps most famously during the winter, when the water feature becomes a free ice skating rink.

It’s so forward inspiring It’s been used in numerous movies, including this Star Trek Next Gen episode (which I totally remember seeing and being amused seeing it being represented as this futuristic building):

One of my professors in university (the wonderful and irreplaceable Don Westwood) worked on the project when he was just starting out in his architecture career.  He showed the drawings on the screen, including his initials, which he then pretended to be embarrassed at doing.  He worked on details for the scalloped concrete panels along the back half:

I’m loving the new green roof/public gardens on the plinth, gotta check these out next time I visit during the summer:

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square by Viljo Revell