Monday, November 26, 2012

Simple Fantasy Halfbreeds

Progress Quest is a weird and satirical yet very authentic experience. As my Double Wookie Battle-Felon climbed to level 8, I got to looking at the game's racial types. They're really not that far off from what D&D-style games actually do. I've tried before to distill D&D3.X's sub-races into more efficient templates; looking back at that, I now realize that race and alignment can be collapsed directly into the base ability scores.
  • "Elf"-ish ability score = dexterity, agility, foot speed, personal beauty, vision, hearing, affinity for & resistance to musical / mental magic.
  • "Dwarf"-ish ability score = physical health and resilience, sprints, sense of position / direction / elevation / orientation, mechanical engineering / architecture, affinity for & resistance to runic (artifact-based) magic.
  • "Orc"-ish ability score = size, strength, stamina, sense of smell, affinity for & resistance to blood magic.
  • [Elemental] affinity score = terrain-specific survival & peasant skills, discipline, piety, ethereal awareness, affinity for & resistance to pact-based magic. (Choose an element: fire, water, earth, wind, wood, desert/void, light, dark, etc.)
  • "Society" ability score = domestication, class, literacy, common lore, device skills, teamwork, leadership, loyalty, sensing motives, affinity for civilization & technology.
  • "Detachment" ability score = coolness in the face of danger and horror, resistance to plight of others, resistance to magical healing and resurrection. (Also replaces stereotypical Cthulhu-esque insanity stats.)
Balancing the three bloodlines creates a human; raising the highest stat to double the second-highest creates a pure ("double") breed; in between lie all the shades of half-breed; terrain-specific [Elemental] breeds can give way to pure elemental sprites; "society" can indicate "high" or "low" breeds; hobbits, pixies, gnomes and goblins amount to "short" breeds; and any of the various animal-faced races can be emulated by relabeling Elf, Dwarf or Orc to the animal type. Use either your "society" score or the best-shared of the first four stats to try communicating in someone else's language.

"Detachment," "Society," and the ratio between the two offer a more concrete and nuanced view of "alignment" than the standard good-evil / law-chaos layout does. They don't address the character's goals or commitment to the party, but those things can make or break a campaign, and really ought to be hashed out with the group before play begins.

Without complex character builds, where will players turn to flex their stat-wonkery? I think it would be useful to treat lair design & stock scenarios the way character creation has been treated - point builds, random generation, class/level systems, with a few new options or ideas costed out in each splatbook to help sell more splatbooks. Can't hurt to turn player attention to something that's routinely in short supply, and to have your books always trying to address new & different aspects of an encounter.

PS: I prefer how D12s roll to how D20s roll. So, instead of rolling 1D20 against dodge+armor (or whatever action you're taking), roll 2D12 and assign one die result to accuracy and the other to potency.


  1. I'm not sure I fully get it. A character gets X "dots" to allocate between these six stats? That seems pretty straightforward, if you can measure the the more binary abilities like special senses and vision.

    Also like the 2D12 rolls. Seems like it would save a lot of time.

    1. Could you expand what you mean by "binary abilities?" My plan is to attach things like "can see in absolute darkness" to the elemental affinities.

      The traditional way to generate Str, Con, Dex, Int, Wis, and Cha is with six throws of 3d6. Were I writing a full game, I'd say roll 3d6/2 (round down) for everything but society, and set society equal to 10 minus the average of the others. (Then I'd have to dismantle the traditional class system, which is a bigger kettle of eels than the races and sub-races.)

      I'm not sure what you'd be doing using WW in a D&D type fantasy setting, but these six stats map pretty well to White Wolf's nine + Humanity track. Would allow Vampires the possibility of temporarily boost certain stats by drinking appropriate bloodtypes.

      The fantasy game I actually play uses small pools of d6 (roll Xd6 for your stat + Yd6 for your skill), so yeah, I'd give a PC 18d6 to divide between the six. Which is totally incompatible with the 2d12 rolls.

      I'm glad you like the 2d12 rolls. They started as an off-the-cuff thing, but the ability to instantly decide two conflicting elements of an action (cast a weak controlled spell or a strong uncontrolled spell, search quickly or search well) looks to be really flexible.