Tuesday, May 4, 2010

[CLASSIFIED]: Simplified

So in looking over [CLASSIFIED] and thinking about it in terms of this contest, I realized that it's rather... well, needlessly crunchy. There's some nostalgic crunch in there, what with the separation of stats and skills and skill categories, and the way your base rating with a skill is determined by adding two stats together, and the fact that the number of skill points you have available to spend in a given category's skills is dependent on adding another two stats together, and so on.

The simplest solution is to ditch the stats altogether, and just have skill categories (Areas of Concentration, or AoCs -- an obvious nod to Top Secret's Areas of Knowledge) and skills (specialties). The AoCs are Combat, Academics, Technical, Athletics, Subterfuge, and Interaction. Your rating in an AoC is the base rating for every specialty that falls under it, so if you have a 12 in Combat, all of your Combat-related specialties are also rated at 12 by default.

I was a little torn on how to determine what your starting AoC ratings would be, until I fully committed myself to the central, unifying idea of [CLASSIFIED], which is, essentially, "antiquated but relevant." I want things to have a somewhat retro feel, but not to the point of just being derivative or clunky for the sake of it. Likewise, in terms of setting, this applies to the PCs: Former government spooks, spies, and assassins turned loose with the end of the Cold War in the mid-'80s (alternate history!), they're now high-priced "consultants" for a "private security corporation." In other words, they're still doing what they've always done, but now they're doing it for cash instead of duty. They don't really know another way of life, even though the world has ostensibly passed them by. Their ways and worldview are somewhat outdated and out of step with those around them, but they're still frighteningly effective. I want the system to feel the same way: a little passe, in some ways, but still fun and playable.

Anyway, with that in mind, I think I'm taking a page out of Star Frontiers. I want AoC ratings to range as high as 20, and this is a contest based on the use of d10s, so instead of some point-buy thing I'm going with actually rolling dice and determining those ratings randomly -- but with a sliding scale of bonuses to those rolls to forestall feelings of uselessness in a given AoC. I think it'll just be 2d10 six times, arrange to taste.

Then it's eight points to spend on specialties, on a 1:1 basis. Eight's enough to probably max out one or two specialties at 20 at the cost of effectiveness in other areas, which is fine with me. I want these PCs to start out as more than competent; a 20 in Marksmanship or Security Systems is not only acceptable, it's desirable. It may vary a little from this. Maybe it'll be six points, plus another two in a chosen AoC's specialties to represent something along the lines of departmental specificity, like Eliminations or Infiltration. I dunno. Details.

Toughness -- the measure of how easily a character takes major injuries -- used to be based on a couple stats, but now it's (Combat + Athletics)/5, which should make for a practical range of 4 to 6, and a possible range of 3 to 8.

The big honking resolution table stays the same, as does the method of injury determination by hit location and weapon Damage Factor. From a design point of view, the latter is the most genuinely interesting or innovative, or at least unusual, so I'm not dropping that.

As for layout, I have this crazy idea to make the whole thing feel like government documents, with redacted words or sections and slightly crooked, typewritten pages. I don't know how practical that is to do without it getting annoying, but it intrigues me enough to find out.

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