• Gaming Tips: Taking your chances on 3d6

    Edit 2017-08-05: Added quick internal links (a few short paragraphs below) before the boring stuff, for those who want to skip probability tables and jump to the conclusions. Whether you’re a GURPS GM or a player entirely new to the system, you’ll find a fast and convenient summary of what 3d6 and dice mods mean for chances of success. “12 or less? That’s good . . . right?” If you come from one of those popular games that uses a twenty-sided die to whack monsters and roll other checks, and you step up to one of several games that uses three six-sided dice instead . . . you might feel…

  • Game design musing: Drawing a bead on ranged combat targeting

    D. Cole, an inveterate rules hacker, Pyramid contributor, and GURPS community guru on things gun-, bow-, and armor-related, is posting plenty of good stuff on his Gaming Ballistic blog. If you’re the sort of gamer who likes this site, you’ll probably like his even more so. Hie thee to it. D.C.’s recent post Shoot/no-shoot: checking fire under pressure resonated with me, because I’d pondered something similar in the past: In a game’s ranged fire rules, is there a way to simulate the act of “lining up” your sights, only firing when you’re “where you want to be” (as D.C. nicely puts it)? As noted there, this can involve highly variable timing, and…

  • MERC: Make Every Roll Count

    Intro: Keep it interesting! RPGs evolve. New games don’t just invent snazzy new mechanics; they poke deep into questions of what game-table play is about. MERC stems from author Ben Finney’s interest in the innovations of recent games, and ways to strengthen those concepts in the now-classic RPG GURPS. Broadly speaking, MERC is a set of guidelines for placing story first and making the most of gamers’ time at the table. More narrowly, it homes in on a key question at the heart of all RPGs: When should the dice be used at all, and toward what end?  From the GURPS perspective, that often equates to “When should we make success checks?” The general answer…

  • Game design musing: Pricing breadth in skills

    If fluency in a foreign tongue costs your character 5 points, how much should fluency in ten languages cost? In the midst of recent email correspondence about ESCARGO, I’ve dredged up a game design topic long of interest to me: a decreasing cost scale for multiple instances of traits. Wait – is there some reason why ten 5-point languages should cost the PC less than 50 points? And isn’t ESCARGO all about increasing the cost for more stuff? Let me explain: Depth vs breadth Many a game designer (or just dedicated hacker) has pondered the topic of breadth vs depth in character skills. (Some of the below could be adapted…

  • Game rules aren’t protected by law

    Jeff Dee, RPG author and awesome gaming artist (T Bone makes Will roll, squelches further fan gushing), is also a host of The Non Prophets podcast (together with none other than fellow gaming art god Denis Loubet!) and a past semi-regular host of The Atheist Experience broadcast and podcast. Episode #616 of the latter (embedded below), titled nothing less than “The Argument from Game Design”, let Jeff put his game-design cred to work in discussing certain arcane religious arguments that compare existence to “a game”. Straying a bit from that purely religious discussion, he also made some comments of broader relevance to gaming itself, including thoughts on what makes for a…

  • Dice pools vs dice plus mods

    Following up on my post about The Riddle of Steel RPG, here’s a broad question for readers at large, touching on many games: What, exactly, is the appeal of the “dice pool” method of generating outcomes? I know it has a two-dimensional aspect to it, in that you can modify checks in two ways: you can both modify the “target number” that determines whether a die counts as a success, and you can modify the number of dice rolled. That sounds like it offers something richer than the classic one-dimensional, dice-roll-plus-summed-modifiers method, and I don’t yet see anything wrong with the dice pool method. But I’m curious: Do dice-pool systems establish a clear, easily-followed…

  • An interesting look at The Riddle of Steel

    A friendly correspondent and I were recently discussing some finer points of my Edge Protection rules for armor in GURPS, which led to a tangent about combat rules in general under another system, The Riddle of Steel. Unfortunately, I’ve only looked at that system’s “Quickstart Rules” overview and glanced through its core rule book; I haven’t played it or read it in detail, though I’ve heard many good things about it, especially the realistic feel of its signature combat system. My correspondent, Christian Rosenkjaer Andersen, was good enough to give me a sense of its flavor via a detailed description, which I thought readers in general might find interesting. With his permission, here’s one…

  • Design notes: Implementing “log ST” in a game

    A friendly correspondent (who, like me, is working on a home-brew game system but isn’t ready to release) asks me about ideal implementation of “log ST” in a system. Log ST is the name commonly given to a game feature that sets levels of character Strength to an exponential progression, so that every extra +1 Strength mutliplies the previous level of power by some amount. Typically, that’ll be expressed as every additional X levels of Strength multiplying lifting power by some easy-to-grasp multiple Y. An example is in the HERO System, in which every +5 Strength multiplies lifting power by 2. My reply to my correspondent largely mirrors this post,…

  • Game design musing: Point-cost scale for stats

    A post on the SJG forums: Originally Posted by DouglasCole The value of that extra level of stat/skill very much depends on what kind of challenges the PC will be facing. I don’t have any comment on attribute cost vs skill cost (not here and now, anyway), but on flat vs rising costs, DC’s wise remark above inspires the following note: Point and counterpoint I have an oddball article online that asks what would happen if skills and attributes (stats below) both used perpetually-rising costs: ESCARGO. Doing so offers all kinds of potential benefits. Yet as noted somewhere in the text, it’s only a theoretical “what if” discussion, and I’ve…