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Revolution D100

A new RPG from the makers of Stupor Mundi and Merrie England

  • CHARACTERISTICS, SKILLS AND SEQUENCES

    Second appointment with our updates about the basic principles of Revolution D100. These articles are more about the idea than the implementation, and many of you want to see the implementation, we know. Nevertheless, we think that explaining the underlying concepts will be useful for your understanding.

    Characteristics versus skills

    Historically, D100 games are among the first skill-based RPG systems. Yet they feature a rather classic set of Characteristics that represent the basic physical and mental features of your character – not how well he or she will perform, but rather how your character is shaped.

    Yet one question commonly arises among players of all those excellent D100 games that people play: why do you measure skills on a different scale (percentile) than characteristics (1-20)? Why this barrier to their interaction?

    In truth, this is a very good question. And different games provide different answers about the different roles or characteristics and skills.

    The answer that Revolution provides is quite simple and game-oriented: characteristics are used to calculate the resources your character has available (physical prowess, cunning, personal magnetism), while skills represent how effectively he or she will use those resources. Thus, both have an important role in how your character will interact with the game world, and these roles are not interchangeable.

    In Revolution, you do not calculate or roll a chance based on a characteristic, and you do not use a skill to determine an attribute score.

    Now someone will say that characteristics are useless when it comes to interacting with the game world, if you never roll them. However, this is not the case. Because Revolution does not suggest you to play by simply rolling one D100 and determining the outcome of an interaction. It suggests you to run all significant interactions as conflicts – where both your characteristics and your skills will count.

    How do you use characteristics and skills in a sequence?

    First, let us exchange the term “conflict” with the word “sequence”. Conflict and scene are terms that have a specific and clear meaning in RPG design theory, but these updates are not for theorists but for gamers. Thus, although the word conflict is perfectly suited to define what goes on, it smells of game theory; talking about a “sequence” instead reminds us of an exciting part of a movie when tension rises and the heroes accomplish some important feats to overcome a deadly challenge.

    At the start of a sequence, the Narrator determines what characteristic will be used as your point pool, depending on the main focus of the sequence; normally, CHA for social interactions, INT for investigation, DEX for acrobatic challenges, CON for survival and so on. In some cases, the Narrator can rule that the average of two characteristics is used.

    The Narrator then determines who is your opponent, whether an impersonal force (the Old Forest, the Curse of Anubis, etc.) or some non-player character, and assigns it a pool of points based on a characteristic for an individual or on an abstract arbitrary value for an impersonal entity.

    The characteristic point pools work exactly like Hit Points in classic RPG combat: if your pool depletes before your opponent’s, you lose.

    In order to determine who “scores a hit” on the opponent’s pool, player characters and their opposition roll on their appropriate skills. Unlike the characteristic used for the pool, which remains fixed, the skill used may vary according to the action described for each round. As all of these rolls are opposed, player characters might find themselves forced to use a wide array of skills as the opposition tests them in search of their weaknesses. If more than one player character is involved in a sequence, inactive characters may use their abilities to provide bonuses to the character who is rolling for effect, or defending against an enemy attack.

    Thus, in a Star Trek game, you may have a sequence involving the USS Enterprise negotiating a dangerous asteroid field. The base pool for the Federation crew is of course based on Captain Kirk’s INT, while the opposition uses an arbitrary value determined by the Narrator according to how dangerous he or she wants the obstacle to be. During the Narrator’s turn in the sequence, you may have boulders heading for the Enterprise and Mr. Sulu maneuvering to avoid them; if Mr. Scott has declared that he is overcharging the engines for a limited interval of time, his Operate [Pulse Drive] skill will support Sulu’s remarkable Pilot [Spaceship] abilities. Later, when the time comes for the crew to take the initiative, you may have Mr. Cechov use his Ranged Combat [Phasers] skill to fire at the asteroids, supported by Mr. Spock’s Operate [Sensors] to predict their trajectories.

    Whoever wins these challenges will subtract 1d6 points from the opposition’s pool, until there is only one winner left. And here Captain Kirk’s well-known smarts may make the difference, as the player characters have a bigger resource pool to tap!

    You might argue of course that this is too simplistic for a true Star Trek game. This is probably true. Such an abstract interaction is only recommendable for a kind of sequence that is not the core of the game. You will use it for sequences that are likely to happen once or twice per campaign: for those that take place each session, you will probably want to introduce an advanced, “pluggable” subsystem.

    However, the core sequence rules of Revolution D100 are a precious tool to handle those moments in your game for which you do not want to introduce an entire new subsystem, and yet you want to feel epic. Do not underestimate them, you will find them handy.

  • The Core Principles of Revolution

    Dear  Contributors and would-be contributors,

    With this message we begin a series of updates about the contents of the Revolution D100 proposed draft which  you will receive, for commenting and playtesting purposes, at the end of the funding campaign, and which we will turn into the SRD and complete game in early 2016. The first two updates discuss generic principles, while later updates will include more specific details and previews of practical game elements like stat blocks, tables, etc.

    For some of the advanced updates, I will let Simon and Charles speak, in order to describe the Merrie England: Robyn Hode and Homeward settings.

    And now for today's update:

    THE BASIC PRINCIPLES

    1. The rules should provide all the answers

    Most fans of D100 games are experienced roleplayers, and love to tinker with the rules and adapt them to suit their taste. Needless to say, this is still possible with Revolution D100. However, we strongly believe that while a GM can always change a detail that does not work well for his or her group, this does not mean that a game author should fail to describe an important procedure "because it is a consolidated RPG practice that everyone already knows" or to provide a recommended solution for a situation that might arise "because there  is a GM for this". The GM is there to infuse life in the game world, not to fill the blanks in the rules.

    Thus the Revolution D100 core book describes and regulates some procedures commonly applied at any game table but hardly ever detailed in a classic rulebook, like "what is downtime and what you do during it" or "how to handle different party members doing things on a different timescale". Revolution introduces, for instance, the concept of timescale as a core concept of the rules, thus giving you a solid set of procedures for handling the interaction between player statements and the flow of events in the game world. It is up to you to use the rules "out of the box" or change them, but the procedures are there, clear and defined for you to read, and for the inexperienced GM to learn from them.

    Of course, this leaves us with the problem of not producing a bloated set of rules. The next two principles are there to ensure that this risk does not manifest.

    2. Only keep track of significant events

    Some classic games sound like an exercise for accountants, at times. They are still extremely fun, but is book-keeping a necessary part of the game? Maybe there is another way. In Revolution, details and scores are recorded on your character sheet only when a significant event occurs, that is when you lose or win a challenge that the Narrator has opposed to the party.

    Let us use an example of a subject that is often boring or underestimated - albeit necessary - in classic RPGs: fatigue and supply consumption when travelling in a hostile territory. Keeping track of how many hours you travel in armour , or how many hours your experienced hunters devote  to replenishing your stock of dried meat, and then cross-indexing these quantities with the appropriate tables in the rules may be realistic, but it is not particularly interesting. In Revolution you do not need to do any of this: if the Narrator wishes to introduce these elements as an obstacle, he or she must simply run the journey as a challenge to the survival and exploration skills of the party. Any inconvenience due to lost stamina or supplies will be the byproduct of how well your adventurers performed. Did they win all Survival rolls? Then they managed to rest while travelling, and to hunt enough to keep some rations in stock, and to find plenty of water. Let's skip the details about how they did this and move on with the interesting parts of the adventure. Did they lose the challenge or at least suffer some marginal losses? Then the Narrator can count the point losses they suffered versus a penalty labeled and described as "fatigue" or "depleted supplies" or both, and applied to a significant scene later in the adventure, like combat with goblins at the end of a travel day, or exploring a cave complex once the first part of the trip is over.

    3. You can add crunch to each subsystem independently

    Of course, someone will  not find the above "narrative" approach satisfactory enough when it comes to the parts of the adventure that he or she wants to describe in deep detail (combat, for the average old school RPG player, but this is not always the case). Depending on what type of campaign you are running, there might be scenes for which the broad description of "what happens" provided by the Revolution core conflict system is not enough.

    For this reason Revolution is designed to facilitate the adoption of optional subsystems as "plug ins" that can seamlessly replace the core system for some kind of scenes. Advanced fantasy combat is an example of this. These subsystems will provide rules that offer a direct, detailed description of the outcome of a die roll: how much damage does a sword slash yield, and to what part of the body; by how much does the ship engine overheat if the engineer fails his Warp Drive roll; how many terabytes of information your netrunner can smuggle out of the cyberspace with a Net Hacking success; and so on. But you only need to employ a "crunchy" subsystem for those particular aspects of the adventure that constitute the core and main focus of your campaign. And of course, many subsystems will not be in the core book but in specific genre books or settings.