The Aurora RPG Engine – Part 13

Postscript 4 – MoS Counting

It’s somewhat thorny to get an idea of an average numerical value for MoS that includes the possibility of failure, since both failure and an MoS of 0 calculate as zero.  However, if we look at mechanics for using MoS either in cumulative or extended tasks, or when it is used to determine damage or an outcome against an opponent, we can calculate some useful guidelines (and get a window on how to use those values in our game).

There are two prime methods to use MoS in this way.  The first is to have a success (MoS of 0) count as 1, plus 1 additional per point of MoS.  So a success with an MoS of 2 would result in a value of 3, whether that be 3 points of damage/effect, or 3 points added to the cumulative pool towards completing a task or achieving an aim.

Using this, we can determine the average MoS expected for a particular dice pool that includes failure:

An alternate way is to re-work the success ladder presented earlier to make an MoS of 0 a little more precarious by making it a Minimal success:

MoS Quality of Result
0 Minimal Success
1 Solid Success
2 Notable Success
3 Brilliant Success
4 Stunning Success
5 Sublime Success
6 Legendary Success

Thus a Minimal success is a case where the character has just, barely, succeeded at the task.  For example:

  • If a character is leaping between buildings, their foot lands right on the edge of the parapet. They made it, but their heart is certainly beating hard now!
  • If this leap was part of a chase, it may cause them to stumble a bit, which, depending on how their quarry rolls, might make them lose a bit of ground.
  • If the character was attempting to haggle for an item, they only manage to get a minor discount.
  • If the character was researching something, they confirm its existence and the overall, general information about the thing, but nothing very detailed.
  • If the character was fixing an engine, they get it running in the nick of time, but it was looking dodgy right up until the last moment!

This is opposed to the next rung up the ladder, where a Solid success is an unambiguous one:  a character lands firmly on the roof beyond the parapet; they achieve a worthy discount; they gain a new piece knowledge that will aid them going forward, or they get things running and are sure that things won’t break again.

The value of making a distinction between Minimal and Solid success is mostly one of RP – it’s to narrate a bare success.  It also helps to make each of the levels above a Solid success more distinct and thus easier for the GM to craft mechanical and narratively appropriate outcomes (and thus also more RP-rich).

Minimal success can also be used to tweak the cumulative/damage mechanics by having the value be equal to the MoS, with the special case that an MoS of 0 counts as a value of ½.  This makes things more elegant and straightforward* to calculate as there’s a more direct line between the MoS and the value (when compared to calculating it as the 1 + MoS method above).

Using this Minimal success method, here is the matrix to determine the average MoS expected for a particular dice pool:

*While keeping track of ½ points of success might seem to add back some inelegance, but as the system is already tracking ½ values for the dice pool the context for ½ points already exists.  Much like modifiers described above, it could be recorded using boxes, where a ½ result is marked by placing a single slash in the box and a full point is marked either with an X in the box or by completely filling in the box.

← Postscript – Further Probabilities & Hidden Rolls & Discoveries | Index

Philosophy Tuesday

Riffing a bit off last week’s post, albeit in a 180 degree way, since it is firmly within the opposite realms of explanation and excuses… but what’s up with those situations, often at work or were there is a sort of hierarchy/seniority context, where someone asks you for a reason why you did something or why you did something a particular way, and when you explain it they  get mad at you for “making excuses”? 

I mean, that’s weird, right?  Because they don’t even address the reason or the reasoning behind it, and rather it gets all accusatory.  Well, what gives is that the question is a ruse.  What they want as a response is to capitulate to being an idiot for not doing it exactly as they want it, exactly as their narrow view of it says it must be done.  The real question is “I wanted it done this way, why didn’t you do it this way?” 

So any answer other than accepting blame (whether you feel there should be blame or not) is taken as a dodge, and thus an afront to them. 

And all of it is some petty power play BS. 

It’s a bully tactic.  They don’t say what they mean up front to set a trap.  Nor do they have any kind of understanding or teaching or etc as an intention.   They don’t want the answer.  They want you to be wrong and admit to it and, even better, grovel about it. 

Which, while it speaks volumes about who they are being, is a poopy thing to have to deal with.  But with this distinguished and with mindfulness we get to keep ourselves grounded, avoid furthering any blame game, and can choose our response to create our own path forward.   

Architecture Monday

The interesting thing about a lot of infrastructure is that what it supports is often very heavy compared to more ‘typical’ commercial or residential uses.  Which is why adaptive reuse of them is often easy from a structural perspective, since almost always the load is lightened compared to what they were used for in the past.

In this case, this isn’t so much a full adaptive reuse as a re-adaptive-reuse, for this water tower already sported several uses in between its support columns (water being so heavy, any extra weight by these floors and uses was negligible).  But what had been only archives has been converted into student housing in a rather neat way, by having the apartments bust out from between the beefy columns.  These extendy bits not only add floor space but, more importantly, catch light and views, making the small apartments feel expansive and cool.  A trio of communal spaces spiral up the tower, complete with three balconies that catch the morning, noon, and evening sun.

Very slick idea, creating interesting and enlivening spaces for living out of an existing robust icon.  Brilliant idea.

Jaegersborg Water Tower revamped by Dorte Mandrup

The Aurora RPG Engine – Part 12 Redux

So… when I first posted this Part 12 about further probabilities and the “amazing niftiness” of Aurora being bidirectional… I goofed.  Embarrassingly so, and doubly embarrassing for someone who has rolled many a D&D character under good ol’ 4d6 drop lowest.  I very much led myself astray, and I think it was because I became heavily enamoured with the idea/hope that the system was bidirectional, which led me to not examine my probability assumptions.  Mea culpa.

Having finally realized my error, I’ve gone back and crunched the numbers.  Here are the proper, actual, honest, expanding probabilities tables, hidden rolls, and discoveries.

Postscript 2 – Further Probabilities

First, the possibilities for each MoS:

Then the chances of getting at least MoS of X:

Here’s the average MoS expected on a success (if you succeed, this is the average MoS you can expect):

Postscript 3 – Hidden Rolls and Discoveries

Unfortunately, as the above shows, the system is not, in fact, bidirectional.  But some number crunching can get us a little bit of the way there, at least in equivalency.  Here’s a re-written version:

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 might be more desirable to not “give away” the difficulty of a task to the player and to 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.

Blind rolling can also be useful for areas like perception, discerning realities, intuition, investigations, and similar, where the GM may not want to tip their hand that something is there (by specifying there is a penalty).  It can be used such that the overall margin of success determines the amount or exactness of the information gained or discovered.  Star Trek Adventures does a version of this for many types of searching, sensor, and similar 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.  Under Aurora terms, an MoS of 0 would give the base level of information, while an MoS of 1 would reveal something more obscure and an MoS of 3 might divulge everything.

To set an equivalent MoS for a Blind Test, use the following equivalency table:

(Note that these equivalency values change and drop if a character’s dice pool is very high when compared to the MoS required.  For example, a character who has a pool of 7½d and needs an MoS of 3 only actually suffers an equivalent difficulty of -1d instead of the -2d indicated on the chart above.  This is unlikely to have a major impact in most scenarios, but if a character’s pool is large and gauging against a low MoS equivalency, consider stepping up the required MoS by one if you’re finding characters succeeding more often than expected and appropriate for the campaign.)

Postscript – Breaking the Core Mechanic | Index | Postscript – MoS Counting

Philosophy Tuesday

I’ve spoken many a time about apologies and the amazing power they can have.  .  But I’m not sure I’ve ever succinctly highlighted the very important distinction that there exists between an apology and an excuse.  They are so much not the same thing!

An excuse not only doesn’t take any ownership it actually and actively denies both ownership and self-agency.  In some ways it’s even a subtle DARVO, at the very least implying the upset ought to be ratcheted down so your apology can be minimal.  More often it goes full bore and implies other party is in the wrong for even being upset with you.

It is not the stuff of a genuine apology.

If moving to make a genuine apology, including an excuse (or, worse, multiple excuses) is even less productive than trying to include an explanation in the apology.  At least an explanation can indicate some desire to do better in the future, in a kind of “hey, I know that caused this and hopefully I will know better in the future” kind of way.*  An excuse however demonstrates no empathy, no care, no concern, and no chance in heck anything’ll be different in the future.  It’s pure avoidance and blame throwing.

So an important pair of distinctions to be mindful of!  As we often have few good role models when it comes to apologies**  we default/resort to that what we have seen and know, which is usually explanations and excuses.  As opposed to acknowledging what we’ve done, really getting the impact of what we’ve done, genuinely indicating we recognize it and regret it, apologizing without reservation, and taking what we get.


*  Though this kind of knowing rarely makes a difference

** This is a good one!

Architecture Monday

Habitat 67 always looks like a bit of a lark, like someone having fun with a 3D modelling program or concept art to create this replicating and interlocking set of cubes set in between two bodies of water.  And, in some ways, it is… though not quite a lark, but instead a master’s thesis project in Architecture.  A thesis project that, by a stroke of fortune, was built and today still stands as something quite unique.

Funnily, as I’ve been posting so much of the work of BIG architects, you can see their precedent (and likely inspiration) in Habitat 67 with their repeating forms and using the units around and below as landscaped garden terraces (though here, in the strong Montreal winters, many are covered in solariums).

Besides the crazy assemblage, it’s the cantilevered parts of the building that never ceases to catch the eye, the cubes seeming to be suspended in mid-air, again giving that impression of a 3D conceptual model stuck in mid-simulation, or one where the laws of physics has not yet been implemented.

Despite having some wear and tear, the complex is still going strong.

Delightfully I was leaving through some older architecture and design magazines and came across this cool article by the architect’s son, who lived in the complex in his youth.  It’s a nifty little bit of insight into something so iconic.  Worth a read!

Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie

Philosophy Tuesday

There is great beauty in the simple* act of bearing witness.  To just be, and be there, for another in what they are going through in that moment.  Not to fix.  Not to provide advice.  Not to agree.  Not to negate.  Not to do something.  But to just be and acknowledge and honour the emotions and feelings and thoughts and to honour each other in our shared humanity.

In that there is also a great power in the simple act of bearing witness.  To allow what is there to pass, to open, to become a clearing, to allow love and beauty and empathy and verve and whole heartedness to arise once more.

It is a beautiful moment of generosity, of empathy, of connectedness, and of who we all are together.

(I was fortunate to be able to provide this once, to a lone person crying within a large crowd.  A few of us were drawn to them, crouching down and reaching out with a single hand, wordlessly lending our presence and our attention.  Bearing witness to and honouring their anguish, and in so doing honouring that for what or whom they were anguishing for.  As their storm subsided we began to leave, one by one, still silent, leaving with them as they returned to the present, serene and smiling.)


* Simple in that it consists only of being present and attentive and for the other.  Not-so-simple if we are not used to being present, or not facile with being vulnerable, or become distracted by our inner chatter or judgement or make it about ourselves or anything of that sort.  But when we practice mindfulness and work to transform and self-cultivate and remove our own baggage and barriers we are not only more available for ourselves but for others as well.