Game Mastery


Cutting the fat.

by on Jan.22, 2014, under NoDice

I’ve had writer’s block lately.  Not for posts here, but for my system.  In more game design woes I mentioned a set of combat features I was struggling with. I asked the GiantITP forums, like ya do, and was disappointed with the answer. Long story short the comment I got stuck on was that targeting a limb doesn’t make sense – in real combat you attack whatever you’re presented with. Yeah, you can argue that other systems do called shots. That’s not really what I’m getting at. Point is, I focused on that problem and stopped making progress because I was so focused on that one little sticking point.


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More game design woes. Too many features.

by on Oct.07, 2013, under NoDice

My main source of gaming remains my custom system.  As usual I’m cursed with too many features.

This time most of my ideas are for combat and I’m too attached to cut any of them.

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Tangents and time sinks

by on Sep.21, 2013, under links and articles, NoDice

Ok.  I was on a roll with new posts talking about my system.  I’m still enthusiastic to do so, but the last post was a month ago.  I’m not holding out on anyone, there’s been no legit progress on the system since that last post.  And yet I’m still enthused.  So what happened?

I fell into one of my usual traps.  I hit a tangent and spent so much time on it that I ignored the core focus of what I’m doing.

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No Dice – Skills 2

by on Aug.19, 2013, under NoDice, Uncategorized

Last time I talked about my system, I looked at some of the challenges in writing up a list of skills.  By the time I got to the skills, I was out of steam and it was just a list.  I’d like to go back to some of those skills now and talk about some of the things I’m doing with them that I think are interesting.  This is mostly a look at some of the special cases I’ve come up with rather than an exhaustive list of all the skills.


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No Dice – Skills

by on Aug.04, 2013, under NoDice

Designing skills really surprised me.  Stats were easy.  Rules have been easy (although choosing which of those rules are worth keeping is another matter).  I figured I’ve played more games than I can keep track of, so I should be able to churn out a skill list with little thought at all.  I couldn’t have been more wrong and aside from when I was trying to typeset a character sheet, this has been the hardest part of the process so far.


So why was it so hard to list skills?  Before I can answer that, let’s have a look at the requirements the skills had to fill.


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My Game – Stats

by on Jul.21, 2013, under NoDice

As previously mentioned, I’d like to start writing about my homebrew system.  Since the system is diceless and I’m creative and motivated I’ve tenatatively named it “No Dice.”  I’ve created a category here for relevant posts, including a few from the backlogs.  You can view it here:

So first thing first, I’d like to talk about attributes.

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Rethinking encumbrance with an alternative abstraction

by on Aug.31, 2012, under homebrew, NoDice

So I’ve had this idea for a different way to do encumbrance kicking around in the old noggin for a while.  Then I read What’s in your backpack?  A healthy dose of reality and started thinking about it again.

What it comes down to is this.  I don’t like weight as an abstraction for how encumbered you are.  It should be a factor for sure, but you shouldn’t be able to carry a dozen 10 foot poles without issue just because they’re light weight.

What I do like as an inventory system is the grid based inventory CRPGs use.  I think the first one I saw was in Diablo.  Long items took up more space.  And that axe head protrudes down from the rest of the axe.  And you get to sort all that stuff to make it fit.

Well, that’s great for computer games but not so great in pen and paper.  As a general rule, I’d like my mechanics to simplify things.  Fitting stuff in a grid simplifies nothing.  I haven’t found a way to satisfy the shape element of the grid inventory.  Instead, lets use the size part.  Different items take up different amounts of space.  You have a limited number of slots to store things…

Why not treat a line of text as a slot?  You get one item per line.  And you have a number of lines equal to the size of your backpack.  Let’s just call a backpack 10 items.  Write backpack on your sheet, draw a box around the next 10 lines.  Done.

Well, not quite.  Items need some level of size.  I don’t think D&D’s approach of weighing each item is any good.  Too much math for anyone to want to recalculate it.  But I also don’t want a backpack full of chainmail to encumber you the same as a backpack full of feathers.

So items will need some sort of size.  Let’s go with small, medium and large.  Instead of item weights, you’ll just use their encumbrance value.  This is an abstraction of weight, size, unwieldiness, etc.

Now let’s go back to the backpack.  Instead of holding any 10 items, let’s say it’s a container that holds 10 medium items.  The backpack itself would have to be large.  Maybe one of the medium items is a first aid kid, which itself is a container of small items.

Basically you’re getting a number of slots to fill in with items of varying sizes.  This doesn’t seem as obnoxious as tallying object weights and looking up an encumbrance chart.

But what about actually carrying these things?  Well, I think the way to do that is to give the body itself slots for carrying.  If a person has 3 large slots, that’s a backpack, armor, and weapon.  To give a bit of realism, lets make that number of slots a variable.  In D&D parlance, we’ll use the strength modifier.  Give each PC a number of large item slots equal to his strength mod plus one (with a minimum of one, or else the weaklings can’t carry anything).  Packs and weapons occupy large slots.  I imagine donning armor would occupy a slot as well (maybe more than one for certain types of armor?  If so, this would be the first system I saw that made you take off your backpack because it didn’t fit around your armor).  I might even introduce more types of containers, just so the strong characters get to carry more.  ie, the backpack  carries 10 medium items and occupies 1 large slot, but the hiking frame carries 16 medium items at the cost of 2 large slots.

On paper this would look something like

Body (L)
Backpack (M)
Medkit (S)

I know I’m biased, but this seems a lot simpler than keeping track of the weights of all your items. It would automatically keep you from carrying stupidly unwieldy things by factoring size as well as weight. The container business might be a little over-engineered, but it was the best I came up with. (The alternative was to say that large items took up more slots. Saying a greataxe is worth three swords is fine, but I don’t really want to know how many eyes of newt correspond to a single tower shield.)

Anyway, if you find this usable please let me know. I’ve gone a year without RPGs and that’s not likely to change. Someone else will have to beta test this one for me.

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Diceless Mechanics

by on Aug.25, 2008, under homebrew, NoDice

So, this is a little abnormal for me, but I’d like to discuss mechanics for a new RPG system I’d like to write up. I think the idea has a lot of potential and I’d like to get the ideas on paper (err on wordpress) with my name and a date attached, just in case I end up looking to publish things. (continue reading…)

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