Saturday, April 3, 2010

[CLASSIFIED]: The RPG That Came In From the Cold

So for some reason, fresh on the heels of the relatively rules-light Tales of the Glass Slipper, I've made significant progress on a modern-day espionage game that uses:
  1. Percentile dice.
  2. A big 20x20 table to resolve everything.
  3. Nine stats.
  4. 34 skills in five different categories (plus one derived stat!).
  5. Skill points, the exact number of which depends on your stats.
  6. Multiplication.
  7. Hit locations.
Who would play this game? Man, I have no idea. But I am so taken with it right now, I can't even tell you. I'm dying to see it in action.

It's called [CLASSIFIED] -- the name's an homage to Top Secret, but I also think it has a nice ring to it all on its own. Like I said, I can't imagine interest in it would be very high. It's like a Jurassic Park velociraptor: Recreating a dinosaur's an interesting accomplishment and all, and people might be curious about it, but not many are going to want to get too close to it. What do you call a fantasy heartbreaker than isn't a fantasy game? Is it just a heartbreaker at that point?

Regardless, I'm going to post about it anyway, because I'll enjoy it, and that's what this thing's for, right? (Answer: Yes.)

So where to start? Well, I already posted that awesome table the other day -- that's central to all of this. Just about everything in the system comes down to your skill rating (1-20) vs. either an opposing skill or a difficulty rating (also 1-20). For example, trying to punch someone is a skill vs. skill contest; trying to shoot someone is a skill vs. difficulty contest (specifically, a weapon-specific and range-specific difficulty). The percentage chance for you to succeed is X/(X+Y), where X is your skill and Y is the opposing skill or difficulty rating. The nice thing about this is that even with a 20 skill, your odds are never greater than 95%, and that's against a 1 skill -- which is, like, not especially likely. Against a 10, you're still only looking at a 67%, so the min-maxing factor is reduced a bit.

The nine stats are divided into three categories: Physical (Agility, Brawn, Dexterity), Mental (Awareness, Brains, Focus), and Social (Charisma, Empathy, Style). The skills are divided into five categories: Combat, Balance and Coordination, Subterfuge and Infiltration, Interaction and Deceit, and Academics. Characters start with a number of skill points, also divided among those five categories; the amount you have to spend in each category is the sum of the category's two key stats. You also get additional Background skill points equal to Brains + Charisma + Focus to regardless of category. This is stuff you either picked up before you became a spy/assassin/whatever, or learned on your own time since then.

Each skill starts with a base rating equal to the sum of two stats. Advanced skills, like Explosives and Medical, halve this base rating. (I figure this is easier than charging double for them or something.) I've tried to consider both game balance and verisimilitude for each skill's two stats. Usually, every skill within a category will use at least one of that category's two key stats. For example, most of the Combat skills involve Focus, which is all about willpower and discipline, because I think it's interesting to address, in mechanical terms, the guts it takes to wade into combat or pull a trigger. Marksmanship is Awareness (sensory perception) and Focus, Martial Arts is Agility (bodily control and coordination) and Focus, Heavy Melee Weapons is Brawn and Focus, and so on. At character creation, skill points improve skills on a 1:1 basis.

As for combat, damage is the product of two factors: hit location and the weapon's Damage Factor (or DF, because a game like this needs all the acronyms it can get), which ranges from x1 to x5. Most guns would be around a x3 or x4. Unarmed attacks are x1. Melee weapons are x2 to x4; if your Brawn's higher than the weapon's DF, increase it by +1. Each hit location comes with its own damage. Multiply that by the weapon's DF to get the damage dealt by the attack. Believe it or not, there are no hits points. (I know, I'm surprised too.) Injuries come in three degrees: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The higher the degree, the worse it is. The degree is determined by your Toughness (Brawn + Focus).

If the total damage is less than your Toughness, you shrug it off -- you're just too much of a badass to be affected by it. If it's more than your Toughness, but less than three times your Toughness, it's a 1st-degree injury. From there up to seven times your Toughness, it's a 2nd-degree injury, and if it's more than that, it's a 3rd-degree injury. If a location already has an injury of a particular degree and you take another to that location of the same or a lesser degree, you take the next-highest degree instead -- so if you already have a 2nd-degree injury to a hand (either one) and you take a 1st-degree injury to that same hit location, that hand now has a 3rd-degree injury. First-degree injuries are relatively minor, and often do nothing more than take up an injury slot -- it might leave a mark, or you might drop your gun, but other than that the main danger is that you can't take another one of those in that location without it getting worse. Second-degree injuries are things like fractures and significant bleeding. Third-degree injuries usually involve whatever's hit being rendered useless. If that's your head, then... well, you get the idea.

That's why you need to be Cool. Cool is a resource spent to adjust an attack's DF. Spend it on your own to increase DF; if you're the target of an attack, spend Cool to reduce the attack's DF. Thus, a punch has potential to do a Houdini-killing amount of damage, and a head shot from a 10-gauge can be reduced to a glancing blow.

How do you earn more Cool? I dunno yet. Put that on the list of to-dos.

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