In order to keep myself actively and regularly posting, I plan to run a few recurring “features” of a sort, one of which will be a weekly post describing elements of my “dream design” in some detail. I thought I’d start with the relatively straightforward task of enumerating some of the various skills I wish to incorporate into the design.
As I began planning the specifics of this process, I quickly realized that the posts would make very little sense without going into at least some detail as to the underlying mechanics that would presumably support these skills. And thus, this post was born…
The overall system of advancement mechanics in my “dream design” fall fairly solidly into 4 general categories: Knowledge, Relationships, Materials, and Fate. The category of concern here is Knowledge: the others may be described in more detail at a later date. Skills are, naturally, an aspect of Knowledge.
Under the category of Knowledge, I have defined 5 basic elements which are interwoven to define the depths and breadths of each character’s areas of expertise.
- Procedures and Profiles
The basic ebb and flow of these elements are described below.
Lessons are essentially the root “unit” of the Knowledge category. They are acquired via various sources and, after some period of contemplation, grant progress toward the mastery of a Concept. Contemplation is a background activity: the character is generally allowed to be contemplating only 1 lesson at a time, but such contemplation is automatic and constant: the player need only establish which Lesson is to be worked on, and progress will be automatically recorded in the background until the Lesson is fully utilized.
Lessons are meant to be the primary errand/quest reward from NPC quest-givers: they will also be transferable between player-characters on a somewhat limited, consensual basis; available from books and other written materials; and so on.
Varying combinations of Concepts, once mastered, unlock access to specific Techniques. A single Concept can easily be tied to multiple Techniques, and at a variety of levels: it might be a fundamental requirement of Technique A, the “keystone” for Technique B, and only of supplemental effect for Techniques C and D.
Each Concept also grants small but generally cumulative bonuses to 1 or more of the character’s attributes or characteristic scores upon mastery, meaning the character slowly becomes more capable in raw, general terms as more and more Concepts are mastered.
Techniques are the actions and reactions the character can perform at the direction of the player. Each Technique is directly tied to a Skill, which governs the base chance of success of each attempt to use the Technique. Techniques themselves are defined by a Complexity score (an adjustment to the base chance of success), two Related Attributes (discussed under Skills), and 6 potential levels of achievement: Critical Failure, Special Failure, Failure, Success, Special Success, and Critical Success. Each attempt to use the Technique will be categorized into one of those 6 levels based on a system-generated Skill Check, which in turn determines the precise results of the attempt.
Skills are essentially “mini-classes” in this design, and characters are allowed a nearly unlimited ability to “multi-class” as desired. Limitations on what actions the character can perform at any specific time are instead applied by equipment selection, current “physical” and “mental” capacity, and the like.
The character’s expertise in any particular Skill is defined by a Mastery Rating, a value which can range from zero (no particular ability) to values of 1000 or more. As a baseline, a score of 100 is equivalent to a near-perfect chance of success when performing a simple action/technique related to that skill under ideal conditions. Since most characters will need to perform complex actions under challenging conditions at least occasionally, it should be readily apparent why a Mastery score far in excess of 100 could be desirable.
Each Skill is also defined by a pair of Related Attributes. The scores of these attributes, added to the scores of the two Related Attributes of the Technique being used, define a Talent Rating in that activity for the character. The Talent Rating modifies the Mastery Rating during the Skill Check, effectively meaning that a character with high attribute scores related to specific activities will enjoy elevated chances of success with those actions.
Procedures and Profiles
These are units of knowledge, about on par with Concepts, that relate to specific processes or actual entities in the setting. Procedures include things like recipes and blueprints, while Profiles would represent knowledge of a person, location, or type of plant.
Procedures and Profiles do not represent actions in themselves, but instead act to in various ways unlock or empower an action. For example, a Formulae (Procedure) could define the sequence of actions (and ingredients) required to distill a healing potion: that sequence of actions could direct the use of several Alchemy and Herbalism techniques to achieve the final result. A memorized Location (Profile) would give the character (and the player) a general sense of the direction of travel required to get there, through the application of Direction Sense or Cartography techniques.
Procedures and Profiles are only loosely tied to any specific techniques or skills: more often, there is a connection to a set of related skills instead.
That should be a fairly complete, if brief, overview of the components of the advancement system related to aspects of Knowledge. The next segment will go into greater detail on how the action resolution system works.