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A Loose and Fuzzy Game System

This is a game system I cooked up when it became obvious that the local Discworld group didn't want to use GURPS as a rules-base.  (Me, I kinda like GURPS.  Oh well.)  The rules are generic, except for a section on Discworld races.  

The Basics: Abilities and Dice Rolling

Every character has abilities that define most of what they can and canít do in the game. Some of these are universal Ė they come up so often in an RPG, that everyone needs them. Others are specific to the character.

A word or phrase and a number from 1 to 5, describe each ability.

1 is pretty crappy: You will fail all but the simplest tasks you attempt with this score. For required Ability scores, it indicates some kind of deficiency in your character. For optional Abilities, it indicates a minor trait or an amateur skill.

Scores of one are very characterful for many roles Ė absent-minded professor, dumb bruiser, 90 lb weakling, etc.

2 indicates a solid Ability: You will succeed most of the time when you attempt easy tasks with this skill, and about half the time when attempting average tasks. For required Ability scores, it indicates human average. For optional Abilities it indicates a noticable trait, or a competent, but not spectacular skill.

Scores of two are pretty good for an average person, but a bit low for serious heroing. They are best for Abilities that you arenít too bad at, but that arenít central for your character either

3 indicates a strong Ability: You will succeed most of the time when you attempt easy tasks with this Ability, and about half the time for hard tasks. For required Ability scores, it means youíre noticeably better than most people, but not so much that they think youíre a freak or a progeny. For optional Abilities it indicates an important trait, or a serious level of skill.

Scores of three are very good for an average person, and acceptable for serious heroing. They are best for Abilities that arenít your absolute best skill, but that you are very good at, and traits that are central for your character.

4 indicates a remarkable Ability: You will succeed most of the time when you attempt hard tasks with this Ability, and about half the time for really hard tasks. For required Ability scores, it means you just plain outclass ordinary folks. Maybe you arenít even human any more. For optional Abilities it indicates an incredible level of skill or some really spectacular trait.

Scores of four are unheard of for an average person. Even hero-types are likely to be impressed. They are suitable for your best skill, or traits that are absolutely central for your character. They are mostly unsuitable for anyone who wants to be "just plain folk."

5 indicates a spectacular Ability: You will succeed most of the time when you attempt really hard tasks with this Ability, and about half the time even on well-nigh impossible tasks. For required Ability scores, it means you outclass most heroic types, and mere mortals gape at you in awe. For optional Abilities it indicates a surpassingly incredible level of skill or some really spectacular trait.

Scores of five serve the same purposes as scores of 4, but are even more over-the-top. They are suitable for your best skill, or traits that are absolutely central for your character. They are truly unsuitable for anyone who wants to be "just plain folk."

Dice-Rolling

When you want to do something roll a number of six-sided dice equal to the abilityís number, and add them together. If this equals or exceeds a target number set by the GM, you succeed, otherwise you fail. If you are pitting your ability vs. someone elseís the higher score wins.

For the record, the average roll of:

1 die is 3.5, so an easy taskís difficulty is 4.

2 dice is 7, so an average taskís difficulty is 7.

3 dice is 10.5, so a hard taskís difficulty is 11.

4 dice 14, so a really hard taskís difficulty is 14.

5 dice is 17.5, so a nigh-impossible taskís difficulty is 18.

Or the GM can set some other number.

Some suggested modifiers for tasks:

  • +1 to the difficulty number, if the character is using an Ability which doesn't quite fit the task at hand
  • +2 to the difficulty number,  if the character is using an Ability which only barely relates to the task at hand.

Some suggested modifiers for contests:

  • +1 to your roll if the GM feels that one contestant's Ability is slightly more appropriate for the combat than his opponent's.  +2 if she feels that it's a lot more appropriate.  

Fancy Shit: Critical Successes and Failures

Two of the dice you roll should be a different color. If both of these dice roll a 1, you have rolled a critical failure. If both of these dice roll a 6, you have rolled a critical success.

On a critical success, you may roll another d6 and add it to your score. If this bonus die is also a 6, roll again, and again, and again, till you roll something besides a 6, or the GM gets fed up with your luck and tells you to stop already.

On a critical failure, something bad happens. You donít automatically fail. If you have such manly dice pools that you can roll two 1s and still beat the difficulty number, good for you! But something bad still happens. The GM may ask you to roll your Unluck dice (see below) to determine just how bad that something is. Have fun.

Wait, you ask. "If I have an Ability of one, I can only roll one die. Does this mean I can never have a critical success or failure?" In that case, sir, you are a pathetic loser! But you can still roll a critical success or failure. If your one puny die rolls a 1 or a 6, then roll a second die. If this second die also rolls the same as the first, then you have scored a critical success or failure. If not, then ignore it. In no circumstances do you get to add this second die roll to the first Ė itís just for checking criticals.

Abilities Everybody Has:

Except for rocks, turnips, and other weird-ass characters. Donít make my life difficult. You should define each of these for your character, by rating them with scores of 1 t o5. Higher scores are better, but if you take too many high scores BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU. Iím not kidding. Thereís even a game mechanic for it.

If you think 5 is too puny a score to define your mighty character because youíre playing Jehovah or Galactus or something, go ahead and give yourself or a 6 or an 8, or even a 20. But see above.

Cleverness: This is a personís ability to play chess, solve Mensa puzzles, and answer word-problems on math tests. The GM will ask you to roll this when you are confronted by some ENIGMA, or when your character is acting dumb enough to need a BIG HINT.

Body: This is a general indication of how athletic, strong, dexterous, and tough you are. If for some reason you are strong but not dexterous, buy yourself a custom ability representing the difference later. The GM will usually ask you to roll this if you want to HIT SOMEONE or SOMEONE IS HITTING YOU.

For The Tucson Discworld game:

The Disc has so many non-humans that Body needs some additional guidelines by species:

Body one: Wimpy adults, children, talking dogs, underfed gnomes, Twoflower.

Body two: Adult humans, most dwarfs, average gnomes, Rincewind.

Body three: Tough humans, burly dwarfs, spectacular gnomes, wimpy trolls, Vimes.

Body four: Heroic humans, massive dwarfs, average trolls, scrawny undead, Carrot.

Body five: Legendary humans, tough trolls, average undead, lazy gods, Detritus, Death.

Body six: Old trolls, powerful undead, average gods, Noble Dragons.

Knowledge: This is your ability to remember obscure but sometimes useful trivia, like how many sides are in a pentagram, which hemisphere contains Mexico, or that the Duke of Glorf is at war with the King of Snorf, and therefore youíd better NOT tell the Dukeís guards that you were just in Snorf and had dinner with the King who sent you on a secret mission to Glorf City. Or maybe thatís Cleverness. In any case, the GM will ask you to roll this if he wants to give you some USEFUL BACKGROUND INFO.

Perception: This is an indication of how alert you are, and how well you notice the little clues that are a part of so many role-playing games. Like that Shoggoth in your closet. The GM will usually ask you to roll this to see if you notice a CLUE or if thereís SOMEONE SNEAKING UP ON YOU.

Tenacity: This is your characterís willpower, mental fortitude, and just plain cussedness. The GM will ask you to roll this if you must RESIST COERCION or are for some reason IN GREAT PAIN.

Abilities Special to Your Character:

Your character wouldnít be your character if they didnít have something special to them. Maybe you are a lawyer, or a wizard. Or both. Or a camel. Pick two or three Abilities that define your character. Give them a score. You can take more than three, if you want, but your character might lose focus.

Aim Big

If you are picking skills, think of them as jobs you could have (or have had). Pick "Swordsman" or "Swashbuckler" rather than "Left-Handed Italian Rapier Fencing." And "Private Eye," not "Spot Hidden."

If you are picking physical stuff, give yourself "Demon" rather than "Can Fly," "Is Red" and "Hits People with a Pitchfork." If you donít think the GM will understand what you want the ability to do, write out a description, or use the spot rules below.

If the GM thinks your Ability is too big or too small, he will tell you, and you can change it. Or gain extra Luck or Unluck.

Some Spot Rules:

If you have two Abilities that cover the same territory (like "Swordsman" and "Body" or "English Teacher" and "Knowledge"), you will usually roll the one thatís better. But, if one of the abilities is more specific, the GM may lower the difficulty you need with the narrower skill and ask you to roll that instead. For example, a Grammar Teacher is more likely to be able to use "whom" (correctly) than someone who merely has a high Knowledge.

If your ability is a truly huge-ass magic power that could conceivably do anything, like "Wizard" or "God," then pick one big thing your power can do for each die you have in it. So a "Wizard" 3 might buy 1) Fireball 2) Crystal ball and 3) Turn people into Frogs. A "God" 2 might buy 1) Be Invisible 2) Hear Prayers (and Ignore them) and 3) Strike Unbelievers with Lightning.

You may be able to do other, smaller things with your Ability, if the GM lets you. So a generous GM would let a Wizard light his cigarette with a flash of magic, or a God manifest some handy Commandments.

You can also make your Ability more specific, by making yourself a "Fire Wizard" or a "Thunder God." This will make it more likely that the GM will let you do Fire and Thunder related things with your abilities, but less likely to do others.

Disabilities

You might well want to define your character by rating traits that are, well, less than desirable. Maybe youíre a "Crotchety Old Fart" or "Missing a Leg" or "Deeply in Debt to Scary People." No problemo. Give the Disability a number. The GM may ask you to roll it from time to time, and if you "succeed" youíll feel its bad effects. But youíll get extra karma for taking bad things for your character (Unless the GM thinks youíre min-maxing, in which case, you will suffer!)

Fixing Required Abilities

Sometimes the required abilities wonít fit your character concept exactly. What if you are really strong and tough but also very clumsy? You have two choices. First, you can buy your Body at a low level, and then buy some other Ability to represent being very strong and tough, like "Bruiser."

Or you could buy a high Body for being strong and tough, and take "Clumsy" as a Disability. "Clumsy" would then count against you whenever you use Body for a task requiring Dexterity. As a spot rule, subtract your Clumsy dice from your Body dice before rolling, to a minimum of 1 Body dice.

Karma Will Bite You in the Ass!

You may notice that there are no hard limits on the number of Abilities you can take or how many dice you can have. Whatís to balance characters? Well, frankly, if the game is good, and youíre really picking Abilities that make your character fun for the whole group, why is "balance" a problem?

Nevertheless, there IS a form of karma. Luck and Unluck.

Luck and Unluck are special Abilities, with several uses. When the GM wants to see if some random good thing happens to you, you roll your Luck. When the GM wants to see if some random bad thing happens to you (or just to make you paranoid), you roll your Unluck dice. If these rolls succeed then the random good or bad thing happens. If the GMís already decided some bad or good thing will happen to you, but hasnít decided how bad or good it will be, then he may ask you to roll Luck or Unluck to determine it.

Another fun thing is the "lottery." Maybe some good or bad thing is going to happen to someone in the group. Stepping on a landmine, winning the lottery, or being eaten by Yog-Sothoth, say. The GM asks everybody to roll Luck or Unluck, and the event happens to whoever rolls the highest.

You donít get to pick your Luck and Unluck values. Or at least not directly. Every PC starts with 2 Luck dice and 1 Unluck dice, but this may change depending on how powerful your character is relative to the campaign.

Every campaign has a baseline, which indicates how many dice (more or less) the GM expects characters to have. Usually the baseline is twenty-two. (Twenty-two gives you two dice in all the standard Attributes, plus twelve more to play with.) But the baseline might be more or less if the GM wants a more or less powerful campaign.

To find out your modified Luck and Unluck scores, compare the number of dice youíve spent to the baseline as follows:

  • Total up all the dice spent on your characterís "good" abilities (including required ones). Disabilities youíve taken subtract from your total instead of adding to it. Do not add the "Luck" and "Unluck" dice you get for being a PC to this total.
  • If any of your "good" Abilities are 6 or above, then each die above 5 counts double. So an Ability of 7 would "cost" 9 points.
  • For each point below the baseline, you gain 1 Luck die. Add any resulting Luck dice to the 2 you already have for being a PC.
  • For each point above than the baseline, you gain 1 Unluck die. Add any resulting Unluck dice to the 1 you already have for being a PC..
  • You may never have more than 5 Luck dice. (Any leftover dice are discarded.)
  • There is no maximum number of Unluck dice you can have.

The Veto

If the GM thinks your character is too powerful (or not powerful enough), or maybe not right for game or group, he may add or subtract Unluck and Luck dice to compensate. Or he may just veto the sucker. Heís the GM. He can do that.

Experience

At the end of a scenario or session the GM may feel like awarding an experience point or three. You may then spend these points to improve your character. This supposedly represents your character improving him or herself, learning from mistakes, and developing new skills and abilities. But really itís just a bribe so you keep playing.

  • Raising a good Ability by one costs 3 times its new level.
  • Lowering a Disability by one costs 3 times its old level.
  • A new voluntary Disability gives you as many experience points as youíd need to buy or improve a "good" Ability to the same level. A Disability obtained by the misfortunes of play gets you no experience points, however. (So if someone cuts off your leg in game, and you gain the "One Leg" Disability, youíd not get any points. Watch out for axes!)
  • Unluck may be increased or bought off in the same way as a bad Ability, down to a minimum of 1 Unluck.
  • Luck may be purchased or reduced as though it were a good Ability, down to a minimum of 1 Luck and a maximum of 5 Luck.
  • The GM may veto character changes that he feels would disrupt the game.

Combat Rules for Those Who Really Need ĎEm

The basic dice system can handle most combats. Each combatant rolls their Ability dice, the GM sees who won by how much, and describes what kind of thumping the loser takes. Big, important, dramatic combats (and violent players) might require more detail. Here is a fairly quick, moderately simple combat system, geared to style rather than realism.

In certain other RPGs, combat is a matter of rolling to hit, rolling to see if armor or defenses bounce the attack, and then a tedious keeping track of "hit points." Most PCs and most villains have a lot of hit points, so when they clash, itís like two mountains of Spam trying to kill each other with cheese graters.

In most stories (and, one would expect, in real life) fights involve to wary combatants circling each other, maybe trading a few parried blows (and quips), and maybe somebody gets a cut or two, before someone screws up, and the other guy runs Ďem through.

This combat system aims to be more like the latter than the former.

Combat is a contested dice roll between the combatantís Abilities. Most of this will be an opposed Body roll, unless someone has a more appropriate, higher Ability. Sometimes modifiers will affect a characterís roll. Both characters roll at the same time. The amount by which the winner succeeds is then converted into Advantage Points.

Some common Ability modifiers are listed below:

  • -1 to your roll if you are wearing something heavy, encumbering or whatever. (Like armor.) Ė2 if itís really heavy.
  • +1 to your roll if the GM feels that your Ability is slightly more appropriate for the combat than your opponent's.  +2 if she feels that it's a lot more appropriate.  For example:  Sven and Achmed are dueling with swords.  Achmed is using his Swordsman ability, but Sven is using his Body Ability.  The GM gives Achmed +2 to his rolls, as Swordsman is clearly more appropriate for the contest than Body.  Another example: Achmed and Sven are fighting with meat cleavers.  Achmed is using his Swordsman ability, but Sven is using his Body Ability.  Meat cleavers aren't exactly swords, but the GM gives Achmed +1 to his rolls because Swordsman is somewhat more appropriate for the contest than Body. 
  • -1 die (down to a minimum of 1) if you are fighting multiple people. Ė2 dice if you are fighting a huge crowd.
  • Any die penalties due to injury (see below).

Advantage Points represent how much youíve got the other guy on the ropes. At the end of the round, the winner of that round may "spend" Advantage Points, or, if the winner chooses not to spend them, they carry over to the next round. In this way, the better fighter will gain more and more Advantage points, until his Advantage is overwhelming.

Advantage points can be spent on a variety of things. Such as pushing an enemy back into a corner, maneuvering onto the high ground, or safely opening (or closing) that door without being hit. The GM arbitrarily sets the needed number of points of any of these things, but the usual number needed is 2 for most things, or 4 for hard things.

Advantage points are also spent to hurt the other guy. Each combatant has a Defense Total equal to their most relevant Ability, plus or minus some modifiers. You must spend as many Advantage points as the other guyís Defense total to hurt him, and three or four times as many to hurt him seriously or kill him. The GM is not obligated to tell you the exact number youíll need either.

Fighters may also opt to fight offensively, defensively, or to make an all-out attack, or defense. Fighters who make an all out defense may not spend Advantage points to hurt their opponents. Fighters who make an all out attack must spend all their Advantage points to hurt their opponents, if they win that round.

Some common Defense totals modifiers are listed below:

  • +1 point. If the attacker is using a not-so-lethal weapon, for example, most peopleís fists, a pen knife, a broken bottle, or a dead poodle.
  • +2 points. If the attacker is using a terribly ineffective weapon, like a cucumber, a toothpick, or a rolled up newspaper. If it is really really really ineffective, the GM may rule that it canít hurt the enemy at all.
  • +1 point. If the defender is wearing armor. (Natural armor on a character with a high Body doesnít count unless she bought a separate Ability.) +2 if its some kind of super-duper armor.
  • -1 point. If the attacker is using an especially damaging weapon, like a chainsaw, a rocket-propelled grenade, or a claymore (mine). Ė2 if itís really, really deadly. (Again the natural abilities of a high Body donít count for this unless the character bought a separate Ability.)
  • +2 points. If the attacker is trying to incapacitate the other fellow without hurting him too much. This is +4 if you are using some super-deadly or otherwise completely inappropriate weapon, like a chainsaw or a cannon. Sicko GMs may ask you to make a Body test to make sure you donít screw up and your opponent at full strength.
  • Minus any penalty to Body (or other Ability) due to injury.
  • +1 if the defender was fighting defensively this round.
  • +2 if the defender was making an all-out defense this round.
  • -1 if the defender was fighting offensively this round.
  • -2 if the defender was making an all-out offense this round.
  • No Defense total can be less than 1.

When you spend Advantage points to injure, compare the Advantage points youíve spent to your opponentís Defense total as follows to see what happens to them"

Less than their 1x Defense total: You donít hurt your opponent, or you hurt them in some superficial way. Maybe your sword dings off their armor, or you slice an  ear a bit so that it dribbles. On the other hand, they know you can hit them, and so may be more afraid of you now.

At least 1x their Defense total (but not 2x): Moderately wounded. You wound your opponent moderately. They are now at Ė1 die to all actions (down to a minimum of one). They need to make a Tenacity test of 7, or fall down incapacitated. Not necessarily unconscious, but crying for mommy, or writhing around, or just drooling. Once the wound is bandaged up, they can wander about without too much danger. If you werenít hitting them to kill, they are merely stunned or bruised or whatever and will recover in a few hours.

At least 2x their Defense total (but not 3x): Seriously wounded. You wound your opponent seriously.. They are now at Ė2 dice to all actions (down to a minimum of one). They need to make a Tenacity test of 7, or fall down incapacitated. Most likely unconscious, but maybe just crying for mommy, or writhing around. A seriously wounded character needs medical attention, and may hurt themselves more if they donít take it easy. If you werenít hitting them to kill, they are merely stunned or bruised and will recover in a few hours.

At least 3x their Defense total (but not 4x): Mortally wounded. You strike your foe a mortal blow. They are now at Ė3 dice to all actions (down to a minimum of one). They need to make a Tenacity test of 7. Otherwise, they fall down unconscious. In either case, the character will expire in matter of minutes unless they receive skilled medical attention. If you werenít hitting them to kill, they are merely stunned, bruised, or knocked out and will recover in a few hours.

At least 4x their Defense total: Killed. You kill your opponent. They fall down dead without a Tenacity test. (They could just be bleeding death, if the GM is feeling nice towards them.) If you werenít hitting them to kill, they are merely knocked out and will recover in a few hours.

A character may be injured more than once. Injury penalties are not cumulative. Use the worst die penalty; do not add them together. Furthermore, injuries do not add up. Two moderate wounds do NOT make a serious wound. (After all, being sliced twice on the arm is not the same as being stabbed once in the lung.)  A character DOES have to make a separate Tenacity test for each new injury, even if they have already suffered the same level of injury. (Even if youíve already been stabbed in the leg, being stabbed in the arm might make you pass out.) And yes, your wound penalties DO apply to this test.

Nit-pickers may object that the human body can only survive so many injuries, and that there should therefore be a maximum number of wounds of each level that a character can receive before dying. In general, however, this is not worth worrying about. First, any injured character is likely to die before they suffer so many hits that questions of massive shock come into play. (Them wound penalties are nasty.) Second, real life humans have suffered some truly amazing injuries and lived. So if it does happen that some poor character suffers 47 moderate wounds and survives, just chalk it up as a fluke.

 

(c) Tom deMayo 2003.   Please do not reproduce this page without my permission.  Mention of other people's game systems, Trademarks, etc are without permission and purely for comparative purposes. No challenge to their status is intended. 

The material presented on the pages within http://www.flark.org/SoulEngine/GURPSSE/  is my original creation, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games. GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games.  All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used there in accordance with the SJ Games online policy.

The Tri-Stat dX Core Rules are a trademark of Guardians Of Order, Inc. Used without permission.

The Discworld belongs to Terry and Lynn Pratchett.  Used without permission.  Ook!

Other mentioned books, game-systems, characters and so forth are properties of their respective owners, publishers, or whatever.  Used without permission.