As play testing continues there is bound to be some changes to previous releases. Two have recently come up as the magic system has been being tested.
On Aptitude – Slow, Meticulous Actions
This mechanism was designed as a way to avoid dice rolling when someone could just declare they were taking their time to get it right. With the magic system players have wanted to use this to just be sure of a bare success when summoning a weather pattern, however the original values were just too onerous. So we have slimmed down the time multipliers to make it more usable.
The play screen has also been updated with these new values.
The Adventure Cycle – Reputations
The reputation system is great for shaping “in the field” play. However as we played on we found that, as well as generosity and honesty, players wanted reputations for mercy, justice, bravery and a host of other detailed things. Too many of these and things get diluted and nitpicky. So after some variations and trials we have settled on a reputation of “Benevolence”, which encompasses the previous reputations of honesty and generosity and also the other good, or bad, acts in the field.
Reputations like quest, hirelings and companion treatment remain, since they are tied to specific transactions in the game system.
The character sheets have been updated accordingly.
Future System Impact
Part of the future design includes Mysticism, which involves mastering relationships with the incorporeal spirits of the magic world. The initial intent was that fine tuned reputations would be important to them. However this has been revised so that spirits have their own specific behavior likes and dislikes, which they will try to directly observe, enhancing or detracting from the relationship with them.
Originally I had the rules body of this game in two outer core parts – Character and Action. However it became obvious this was not the right way to deliver the rules to players and game masters, even though it was analytically neat.
On Aptitude is now about character aptitude and character development, along with with those parts of the action cases that support or flow from the character structures. That means taking the initial materials and chopping them about a lot.
At the same time The Book of Struggles is gathering to it the core part of Actions about conflicts. Having now become a focus its getting easier to expand the cases in a nice, fluid, easy to remember way.
All Us Gamers relies on player knowledge about how things are in reality. The structures let players interpret between their understanding of the situation the characters are experiencing through action resolution and back again. This means much can be implied and players don’t have to learn lots of new rules about things they already mostly understand anyway. The rules can be holistic. (You might want to read Dissociated Mechanics – A Brief Primer.)
However, some ordinary but complex things its helpful to have guidance on, and in the book of struggles I’m shifting in the structure for damage to machines, and repair, and extending from that to injury to people, natural healing and medical treatment. These rules need more play testing but they are managed, again, by general method. Things have a worsening condition. At crucial moments saves are made or they get worse, leading to eventual break down or death. In the case of living things saves can also lead to improvement even without intervention.
Settings are the places where rules and game structures will be found for fictional things like magic, faster than light space travel and time portals, because these are things that don’t have real world obviousness to them, all though they have bodies of work and traditions that need to be considered.
In every case for an extended rule, its anticipated that players will want to apply them in detail to their characters and character actions. The game master is more likely to use all these more sparingly for game master characters, instead opting for the inner core generalisations much of the time. This should make the game both enjoyable, fast paced, and low prep.
All Us Gamers is intended to allow a careful balance between number handling / dice rolling mechanics and the use of narrative style game play, where decisions are made based on descriptions, without resorting to dice at every step.
In the On Aptitude module that is under development this can be seen in the way character attributes are described. Here is the current table of character attributes:
The aptitude values, ranging from -2 to 2, are to plug into the dice engine. However the descriptive names are important too. When a game master and player are working through what happens in a situation, the descriptive names provide insight into the judgements being made. Should the action or save just be determined by fiat, or would a dice roll make sense here?
For example, a wooden beam has collapsed onto someone and another character is trying to shift the beam off them to unpin them. A normal strength person could probably do it with some exertion, so a character with Herculean strength should perhaps just be given a “yes ok”. A Puny character might get a “You are going to need a lever to even try”. In between those extremes go for a roll, with disaster results perhaps giving a strain injury, and incredible success being a “You lift the beam and hurl it aside” description. For the Herculean character you might roll to see how well they do the job, and if they avoid accidental side effects. For the Puny character, if they are in dire need and have no lever around you might roll to see if they get lucky but would require some negative cost.
This is where role playing game rules differ considerably from board game rules. The RPG rules are more to act as guidelines, providing structure when needed but also allowing the players and game master to determine reasonableness in their judgements. For an excellent take on the idea of role playing game structures consider reading the extended essay about game structures at The Alexandrian.