Gaming Thursday

As you’ve likely noticed, I haven’t written anything further on crafting the ruleset for our upcoming Star Wars campaign.  That’s because the starting date got moved up a bunch and my time had to be focused on writing the rules rather than writing about the rules.  Our first session was last weekend and it went well!  And there’s already a few tweaks to make, which is cool and exciting – I knew there would be plenty of things to fix and refine and it’s great to do some honest actual playtesting!

I’m prepping like mad for this weekend’s game (and I need to make the opening crawl, of course), but I fully intend to return here to share the rules writing process, the nuances of the rules themselves, and to demonstrate how to take the core Aurora engine and craft an entire system out of it that supports the style of gameplay perfect for the game and campaign.

Until then, let’s talk a bit about… Kickstarters!

For the first, I got my copy of the Cortex Prime book (in PDF form) and W O W.  It is a thing of beauty in terms of graphic layout (and hopefully in terms of organization too… I haven’t given it a thorough enough read with a blank perspective to assess it yet).  I already had experience with the rules and liked them, so there was no disappointment there either.  But what really caught my eye and has me super thrilled was reading all the contributors.  Because many of them worked on other systems I have enjoyed, some of which were systems that they created.  Which means that these creators – and sellers! – of their own rules nonetheless helped develop and play with other rulesets and enjoy them.  It’s this great circle of everyone having fun and supporting each other (again, even if some might otherwise see them as “competitors”) and playing all sorts of different types of games and using the rulesets that support them.  That’s just super heartwarming to me.

For the second, a new campaign just launched today on Kickstarter for something that, if you’re picking up on the theme here by now, has me giddily excited:  an RPG based on the genre of Franco-Belgian graphic novels (aka bandes dessinée).

In other words, this is essentially the Tintin RPG, and if that isn’t 1000% right up my alley, I’m not sure what is.  Go and buy in!

The Aurora RPG Engine – Next Steps

First off, I’ve created a PDF compilation for your reading pleasure!  Click below to grab it:

And so, where do we go from here?  The big next step is to take this core engine and begin to create some full rulesets out of it, both for playtesting but moreover for actual campaign play.  First up will be using it for an upcoming (and fittingly) Star Wars game I’ll be running.  Over the coming months I’ll share the design diaries as I put it together.

After that, I have some ideas for at least partial write-ups for campaigns based on Zoids, spycraftian action, Broken Lands, and maybe even Firefly.  Though the idea of a Tank Girl RPG I used as an example in the introduction could also be fun to try out…

Thank you all for reading, and if you try this out yourself and create a campaign with it, I’d love to hear any feedback.  Game on!

The Aurora RPG Engine – Part 9

Creating the Base Pool

After going through nearly the entirety of the resolution system and outlining the bits that happen once the base pool has been gathered, it’s well past time to cover how that base pool, and its baseline value of 5 dice, is generated.  This is no trivial matter.  As every test or roll made by a character begins with these values, what gets included, measured, and listed on the character sheet not only defines that character but also has a huge influence on the overall genre, tone, and playstyle of the entire game/campaign.  These values say what’s important about the characters, and thus what’s important about the game.  They influence how the players view the characters, how they approach things, and what kinds of actions they will take.  They provide flavour and guidance and ultimately are the lens through which the players/characters know themselves.  All in all, the way characters are measured and defined is one of the most important choices in designing the campaign. Continue reading

The Aurora RPG Engine – Part 8

The Twist: “Buying” Success

Riffing on the previous concept is a twist that complements the idea of MoS from the opposite direction:  If I fail the roll, or if I succeeded but want extra MoS, I can “buy” extra dice to succeed (or succeed better) at cost.

While this doesn’t preclude the recommendation of using a “fail-forward” concept in scenario design, there are still times where I might want my character to succeed in this moment, right now.  And so I have a choice… let things continue as I rolled them, or am I willing to put my character into some narrative (backed by mechanics) peril in order to get the win?

If I choose the latter, <devilish voice>excellent</devil>.  Much like the ladder of options for MoS, each extra die bought in this manner raises the magnitude of the potential trouble.  The number of dice to be bought doesn’t need to be stated up front, allowing them to be bought one at a time, rolling and adding to my total and gradually raising the stakes until either my character succeeds or I reach my limit of peril.

Note that the narrative/perilous cost of the extra dice is paid whether they lead to success or not! Continue reading

The Aurora RPG Engine – Part 7

The “Extra Die” Beauty: Creating a Margin of Success

Now we get to the key idea that really makes Aurora sing:  After tallying enough dice to reach the target number of 15, any “remaining” dice count (as in counting the number of dice themselves, not the numbers on the dice) as the Margin of Success (hereafter often noted as MoS).

With this innovation*, a Margin of Success mechanic is elegantly added to a dice pool system that keeps things moving quickly and, most importantly, preserves the pool’s visceral nature.  By dealing in dice (and by having/keeping a fixed target number), there’s no need to calculate something fiddly such as “for every 5 points over the target number you have achieved an extra level of success.”  Count out to 15, move the rest of the dice to the side, and there’s the Margin of Success.

With this, the many great options and advantages of a Margin of Success system open up:

  • Provides for more interesting narrative outcomes. With an explicit MoS system, the players and GM know not only if the character succeeds or fails, but also how well or by how much.  Did they just narrowly make it?  Succeed with style?  Fail miserably?  Or did they shine in a moment of glory?  This gives everyone a tool to create and craft a rich and more exciting scene and story.
  • AND, using the “Buying Success” mechanic detailed in the next section, it allows for tension, excitement, and a great story even if the character fails or just ekes out a win.
  • Allows for the easy creation of cumulative or extended tasks, compiling a count of MoS towards completing a goal.
  • Explicitly allows the coupling of success in combat (or other conflicts) with the skill roll, avoiding the oddities (and often frustration) of excellent to-hit rolls yet terrible damage rolls, or vice versa. This makes the skill roll more important and thus makes character ability and agency more relevant.
  • By leveraging MoS as a type of “currency,” interesting subsystems can be added, such as spending MoS to activate special abilities, create advantages, or other creative and exciting outcomes.

Continue reading