Friday, January 17, 2014

My new system.

Hello, gamebookers!  I'm being early this week (on a side note, my posts don't appear on my feed until a couple of days after I have published them.  Has anyone else noticed that the posts are on their feeds after the dates that they were published?)

Today, I have a gamebook system that I want to show you all.  I will also give you some inspiration I had for the gamebook system.

The seed of the idea came from the strangest of things.  I was playing Trial of the Clone , and noticed that the skill checks were very intriguing.  A skill needs to be made against a difficulty score.  You need to roll three dice with values of 0-3.  You then take the highest value that you rolled, add it to the relevant stat and get a score above the difficulty.  What was special about the way this was done was that when you make a test, the numbers rolled do not all appear at once - rather, they appear one at a time, like on a fruit machine.

The way this skill test was done, gave me an extra 'buzz', as it extended the tension and excitement.  If I failed on the first roll, I waited with anticipation for the second etc.  Contrasted to most gamebook skill tests, where you make one roll, and then it's over, it was more intriguing.

This was the birth of my system.  At first, I tried the same system but with 6 sided dice.  Doing some stat analysis with the great website, Anydice revealed that if you roll three 6 sided dice and take the highest score (output {1}@3d6), getting a 1 has a probability of less than 0.5%.  Getting a 6 has a probability of 42%.  So that system wasn't great.

Eventually, I settled for rolling between 1-6 dice and taking the best 2 results (or 1 result if you only rolled 1 die).  That seemed to have a more acceptable spread of results.

However, I wanted more from my stat tests.  Now, you could roll more than 2 dice and enjoy the tension of not knowing if you win or lose the roll until the last die was thrown, but I wanted people to get more from their skill tests.  It is for this reason that I added abilities that allowed you to roll more dice or manipulate die rolls.  you were also allowed to do it after you knew the result.  I got this idea from the very well designed board game, Last Night on Earth.  I liked the idea of manipulating dice rolls after you knew the result as it takes away the frustration of spending a lot of resources on making sure that your dice roll is what you want, only to find out that it would have been fine anyway.  It also makes using the abilities as more of a strategic choice and less of a blind guess.

I then wanted the system to be able to accommodate many different types of characters.  I came up with six stats that I thought covered most things - combat, athletics, lore, roguery, survival, and social.  It is actually very close to the stat system in Fabled Lands.  You can have a score of between 1 and 4 for each skill.  Your score is how many dice you roll when you do a skill test.  Skill tests are done by rolling the relevant number of dice and trying to get higher than a difficulty score.  Of course, you may use abilities to change the results.  The highest difficulty that you can beat is 11.  No matter how many dice you roll, only the best 2 rolls count.  I think this is important if I was to make several gamebooks using this system.  No matter how good or bad your character is, they can still only beat a difficulty of 11.  This means that no book is off limits to a starting character and no book would be too easy for a veteran.  If you compare this to Fabled Lands, you cannot start book 6 at level 1 - the tests would be too high for your character.  Also, doing book 1 with a 6th level character would just be too easy.  With my system, better characters have a better chance at getting a high score, but they cannot ever go above 12 (except in exceptional circumstances).

For flavour reasons, I also added livings - careers that you can take.  If you have a living, it will help you in some situations, but for potentially any skill roll.  The idea of livings comes from Maelstrom where a character has several skills that cover just about anything, but they also have livings which give them bonuses.  I have six livings.  I originally had the soldier and criminal living amongst them, but I decided that they were too close to the combat and roguery skills.  Since I wanted livings to not be synonymous with skills, I got rid of them and created two new livings.  

I then had to simplify several things for gamebook purposes.  There is a magic system in my system, but magic is very rare.  Instead, there are abilities that use will.  Some of them are personality traits, and some of them are trained.  However, all of them can be used without any reference to them in the text (most of them manipulate dice rolls).  I think this is important as when I'm writing a gamebook with a spell or skill system, I have to think about what each spell or skill would do in a particular situation.  This system reduces the thinking.  Actual spells with overt magical effects are rituals which take time and effort to cast.  They are not tools to help you win, but more things to drive the plot of the books.

The combat system also has the potential to complicate things.  I had combat as being an opposed skill test that also drained each combatant's endurance slowly (so there would be no deadlocks).  Also, I made it non lethal in most cases.  Endurance is not actually a measure of how wounded you are, but a measure of your stamina.  I envisaged combat, even armed combat to not cause nasty wounds (unless they are the final blow).  I got this idea from number 4 in this Cracked article.  I also got this idea from the MMORPG Battlemaster, where it is unlikely for a character to die.  Weapons don't enhance the endurance lost per round, since you are not actually hitting people with them - they are losing endurance because you are wearing them down.  Rather, they just make combat more lethal.  Armour does very little, unless it is full plate armour, which makes combat less lethal.  Shields have a minor bonus in combat.

You don't have to keep track of your money in this game.  Instead, you have a certain number of wealth points.  Most people can afford food, clothes and basic equipment, even if they don't have hordes of treasure.  Instead, you have wealth points which represent how rich you are.  This reduces the need to choose between basic items on a shopping list and speeds up decision making on important plot points.  The Conan RPG advises to not agonise over shopping lists too much. I got the wealth points idea from this forum.

I added one final rule - in case I missed something, I added the rule of simplicity and serendipity - if there was somehting that I hadn't covered, you should just assume that you can take the best outcome for your character.  Therefore everyone is a winner.  The simplicity of the system will leave some holes and since I would rather keep it simple than add a load of rules to cover certain occurances, you should take full advantage of it and assume it works out for the best for you.

I added a bit more detail to this world (I will add more if it looks good).  There are gods, but they are not omnipotent beings - gods are physical beings who can simply excel human limits in several (not necessarily all) areas.  Depending on how powerful a god you are, gods are able to count the best 3 or best 4 dice rolls on skill tests and they also have higher endurance and will scores, but they can be killed just like mortal beings.  There are also fey, spirits and other monsters, but they are very rare as this is a mostly human centric world.

I will add a list of spells, more will abilities, a list of gods and creatures and their stats and actually write a book for this system.  I also need to give it a title.  I'm terrible at titles.

Anyway, tell me what you think!


  1. I like it. Looking at your probability chart, something seems off. If the number of dice you roll is equal to or greater than the difficulty of the test, then you automatically succeed at that roll. So, for example, rolling 6d6 should be 100% success all the way up to difficulty 6, correct?

    I really hate Tin Man's "roll X dice and take the best," because once you and your opponent have 4+ dice, you tie at 6 most of the time, and it takes forever. Your system is more granular, and allows post-roll manipulation, which I really liked in DestinyQuest.

    Very promising, would like to play something with this.

  2. Hi Horace! thanks for the kind comments. You need to roll above the difficulty to succeed. Maybe I should make that clearer. I thought that that would be easier to remember than equal to or over. It is also consistent with combat, where if you get equal scores, the round is a draw.

    1. Hi again! I did have a mechanic which stated that if the number of dice you roll for a test is equal to or greater than the difficulty of that test, then you automatically succeed, but I removed it, because I thought it added extra complexity for little benefit (difficulties of 2 will be rare and it is only applicable 1/216 times for 3 die rolls).

      Also, with the TMg system, the next highest die is counted if both combatants' highest dice are the same. If one person has more dice, then tehy win. This means that a draw is only possible if both combatants roll exactly the same number of dice and get exactly the same values.