Discussion (OOC) Broken System Needs Help

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A gang of galactic mutineers raid and work their way across the depths of space, one step ahead of the Confederation Navy.

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Alright so one thing that's become brutally obvious in not-even-one round of play is that the system as-is is fundamentally broken and confusing the hell out of everyone, and not particularly fun for anyone (myself included).  This thread is going to be for discussing our problems with it and what can be done to fix it, to put together a game we'll all enjoy and know what the hell we're doing in it.  I'll add to this thread myself over the next couple of days because I have to go to bed soon, but I wanted to get the ball rolling regardless.

So two things right up front:

1. I've made aspects way too abstract.  From now on, any action you can take, you can call on aspects (your own, the ship's, or any in the setting or on the challenge) for a +2 bonus to your roll.  Hopefully giving aspects some concrete meaning will help us get a grip on them better.

2. I'm thinking of splitting the group.  It might run smoother with smaller groups.  I'd like to know what you all think of this, and whether you'd prefer to continue playing with the characters and setting you have already, or whether you (some or all of you) would rather start over from scratch.  New characters, new setting, new genre, new whatever.  Smaller groups should eliminate the problem people are having right now with long waiting times, general confusion, and lack of collaboration/teamwork.

Also tell me what you hate most about it so far.  What part works the least well for you and how would you fix it?

More to come later.

A particular idea came up from PF in conversation earlier, and I'm just going to paste it here in full, I think it's that good.

    Well, when we're doing worldbuilding, perhaps we can each contribute a location, a contact or flavor, and a rumor. Like CITY name, where I know BILL who really loves the local seafood, but out of system merchants are driving the price up with exports.
    Now obviously, we're pirates now. A valuable shipment of exotic seafood, or the money used to purchase it? could be a booty challenge.
    Maybe someone else has heard a rumor of some valuable cargo coming in.
    Or both!

 

This should have been part of what I presented to you guys in the first place.  This is the sort of thing I mean when I talk about the system needing a huge overhaul.

i dont think smaller groups will solve that really, your going too have a issue of people communicating between posts or pooling ideas.

 

As for world building, it can be great too include the players, but it can also muddy the waters. keeping the game and genre focused while trying too make evry contribution meaningful, or have some form of impact can get very messy very quickly.

If I could make just one suggestion, it'd be that we maybe have the occasional face-to-face discussions about the campaign in the chatroom.  Especially for stuff like world-building, where we can just toss ideas at each other and see what sticks instead of putting individual players under pressure to hork up *something* to add to the setting.

That's a good thought, Sam.  Have people found the "direct questions" approach too aggressive?  Too put-you-on-the-spot?

Larketh, last time I saw you on AIM you had a fantastic thought, and I can't remember now what it was.  If you can, could you post it here for everyone to see?

Shush had something a long time back, as well.  I can't recall what it is, either.  It's the sort of thing that, when I'm thinking about the subject, immediately comes to mind, but otherwise hides in that "I'm not thinking about it so I've forgotten it entirely" corner.  I apologize for losing my grasp on the thought yet again, Shush, but maybe you can remember what I'm talking about.

I remembered again!  Shush had a concern that under the system I was running, doing something really hard but spectacular would, inevitably, have less effect.  That is to say that since your effect is determined by how much your roll succeeds by, something simple and standard will always make more progress than something clever and difficult.  I'm sure he can explain it better than I have, but it definitely deserves to be addressed.  Perhaps success and effect should be separated into different rolls?  Or effect determined by difficulty rather than margin of success?

PF also recently pitched a "multiple dice" idea in place of the borrowed Fate dice.  He was off god-knows-where again last time I checked but maybe he could expand on that for everyone.

 

 

I apologize for the long silence, by the way.  We've been in the process of adopting a dog and it's turned into sort of a ridiculous circus.

One thing that's become very clear to me is that we're moving further and further away from Fate as a model.  Although I adore the system, it may be too dependant on quick, face-to-face back-and-forth for a play-by-post game.  Fate's move away from numbers to words (which I personally adore) is also causing problems for some people, to the point I fear I did a very poor job of explaining aspects.

 

Oh I also wanted to say to anyone who is thinking about it, I won't take any personal offence if you want to say "Screw you, call me when it's finished"  You all worked very hard on your characters, and my calling an end to things must have seemed very abrupt to those of you I hadn't been on AIM with as the system's problems became more and more apparent.  So if you want no further part in this, no worries, and I apologize if you feel I have wasted your time.  Hopefully though, this early stumble will lead eventually to something far more sucessfully playable.

Okay, so I feel this particular hack is missing some of the major things that make Fate actually work.

The first is that Aspects can be invoked.  Doing so gives you either a +2 to your roll or a reroll if it's bad (such as ----)  You can get free invokes when you succeed with Creating an Advantage or Succeed With Style (which is to say, by three or more) on an attack (which deals with margin of success above).  In Fate Accelerated, it's basically - suceeed at Creating an Advantage, 1 free invoke.  Succeed with Style, 2 free.

You can also use a currency called Fate Points to invoke Aspects.  This currency replenishes based on plot, quite literally.  You have a certain size pool that refreshes per session (in the case of a forum, I'd say per scene).  FAE (which this is hacked from) starts with 3 per person.  The DM also gets Fate points to spend on characters - usually three per major obstacle.

Without this Aspects are kind of just formalizing the narration.  With it, they have a hard mechanical interpretation.

To address two points raised by Bob in one answer:

I am a huge fan of the way Shadowrun does dice rolling. The math is minimal, the thresholds can be fluid and either immediate (one roll and done) or sustained (keep rolling until you meet it), and it's a success-and-then-some system.

For those unfamiliar, Shadowrun uses only D6. You have numerical stats and skills, and accomplishing any given action is going to involve a stat and a skill (say, flying through a narrow crevice at speed) or two stats (judging the intentions of someone you're speaking to, perhaps). 

To determine your success, you roll your die pool. Your die pool consists of as many D6 as your Stat+Skill/Stat add up to. If you have Agility 4 and Pistols 4, you roll 8 dice to shoot someone in the face.

A result of a 1 is a Glitch. This is a non-success, but it's an important one. More below. 

A result of 2, 3, or 4 is just null; it is a non-success.

A result of 5 or 6 is a Hit.

If your Hits meet or exceed the Threshold, you succeed!

In the "shoot them in the face" example, any hits in excess of the threshold get added as damage, blah blah blah we aren't bothering with that since we don't have hit points. 

Now, I mentioned Glitches. Glitches can result in Bad Things. If at least 50% of your die pool comes up a 1, you have glitched. You can still succeed at this point. Our pistols example again, if it were a 1 1 1 1 3 5 5 5 result versus a threshold of, say, 2, you would have successfully shot something! However, your gun recoiled more than you expected it to, and the tingling in  your hand means you suffer a -1 die penalty next shot (roll 7 die instead of 8). 

A Critical Glitch can also occur. If you glitch out with no hits whatsoever, you have opened a fresh can of Bad Stuff on yourself and it's the GM's call as to how hard it's going to bite you. If our hypothetical trigger happy individual had rolled 1 1 1 1 3 3 2 4, and the GM was having a bad day (or had a nice side quest they wanted to give the player a reason to go on) the gun might very well just have misfired hard enough to self destruct (causing misery and injury to go along with the insult of glitching out). A more forgiving GM would simply jam the gun beyond easy field repair. 

The die pool is subject to modifiers. Special equipment can add to your pool size (smartgun systems, better scopes, etc), as can special actions (taking aim, or utilizing target correction software). Usually these result in a pool bonus of +2 or smaller each. Conditions can also subtract from your pool, taking die away from you rather than directly siphoning off Hits.

Environmental factors, or things that don't directly affect the involved character(s) usually just make the threshold easier or harder. Firing a grappling hook up and over a wall might be a threshold 2. Firing a grappling hook onto a moving hover-truck as it lifts away might be a threshold 6. If the character themselves were the one moving, it could instead manifest as a penalty on their die pool (GM's discretion). 

How does this answer Shush's concern about not trying harder things?

Like so.

The concern is that if your degree of success is what determines your bonus, or if all actions result in the same bonus, everyone is going to just plod along and do the easy thing and it will be frightfully dull and safe. 

How about if you are attempting an action to assist, success means that you add the threshold you crossed as a bonus. Succeed in a 4 box action to assist, then you just added four hits to your compadre's result. Wildly succeed in a 2 box action to assist, and you still only add two hits. Note that this is not a Shadowrun mechanic; there you simply take an action to assist, and it gives them a +2 no matter how hard it was or how handily you beat it. This mechanic would reward risk taking (harder tasks net you bigger bonuses) while also letting someone softball it if they know they only need a small bump for success.

You could incorporate Aspects in as die pool increases (use X aspect for +2 die pool) for variable effectiveness, or if you want to just leave it as an auto style bonus just use it to add two hits to your result. 

Okay just want to jot some thoughts down here.  Forgive if it's a bit scrambled, it's coming straight from my head onto the page without much filtering/editting.

 

Say we build the system with a full skill list (similar to Fate Core, for those familiar.  About 20-odd skills).  The "score" of the skill determines how many dice you roll.  So a skill of 4 means roll 4 dice.

Instead of rolling to overcome a specific difficulty, every "success" dice adds to the progress meter.  So you roll three sixes, you get three points towards overcoming the challenge.  This shifts the effectiveness of an action from difficulty to the relative skill of whoever is making the roll.

Keep aspects, but now you invoke aspects in order to add one (or maybe two?) die to the roll.  This would include situation aspects. 

So for example Bob wants to hit Eric in the face.  Bob has a score of 3 in Hitting skill, so that's 3 dice right off the top.  Bob also has the aspect Street Brawl Champion, which obviously can help in this case, so Bob invokes it and takes an extra die for that (4 total).  Eric is known to have a Glass Jaw so Bob can invoke that for yet another die, rolling 5 dice in total for his face-punching move.  And maybe the room has an aspect on it he can invoke, too?  Like, I dunno, Pro-Face-Punching Atmosphere?

Anything from say a 2 to a 5 is a failed dice.  They don't hurt you but they don't help you, either.  Perhaps you can spend stress at a one-to-one rate to turn any of those dice into a 6 instead.  Maybe it just means you can try again, but with increasing consequences for continued failures (you fail to crack the safe, you've wasted time and there's a patrolling guard on the way, etc)

A 1 on a die (glitch, critical fail, whatever you want to call it) hurts you.  Get more sixes than ones and you just ignore the ones.  Get more ones than sixes and you have to absorb them as stress or consequences.

Some kind of bonus/penalty for really bad and really good rolls, ie all sixes or all ones.

A free die.  Use any skill you don't have and you roll on one die.  Skill levels add to that starting one.  So in our example above the final total is one higher.

To use teamwork/support explain how you are helping and roll normally (skill+aspects+whatever).  And then what?  I have two different thoughts for that and I don't know which is best:

  1. Roll more sixes than ones, and each six is an additional die for the "leader's" roll.  Roll more ones than sixes, and the ones either subtract dice from the leader, or are absorbed as stress by the supporter.
  2. A six adds an automatic six to the leader roll.  A one adds an automatic one to the leader roll, anything else allows the leader to roll an additional die.
  3. No roll.  Explain how you're helping and add one or two dice to the leader's roll.

 

I think in a system like this you'd have to go without fate points, again.  You'd want to be able to add as many dice (invoke as many aspects) as possible to each roll.  I think those invokes would need to be free, or at the very least we'd need to play with more than the default 3 fate points.

In place of fate points, maybe a replenishable pool of "free dice" to be used at your discretion?  These could represent extra effort, luck, fate, or whatever.  Just add them in when you want them.  I'm not sure precisely how it would replenish, though.

 

All the above is very generalized, obviously.  The numbers I'm using are just picked for simplicity's sake (thus my using "6" as success instead of "5-6").  I'll need to run numbers to figure out what the appropriate success/fail numbers ought to be.

Anyone who can make sense of any of that please feel free to comment.  I seem to be spinning a lot of plates today but I wanted to get these thoughts down somewhere.

Mechanics-wise I'm sort of leaning towards Dae's suggestion.  It's worked pretty well for our Fate game so far