I was thinking today about different ways to implement a skill system.
The question I asked myself was: how often did I “fail” a “test” at work?
Ok, I get it, developing ecommerce software in Perl is hardly an epic adventure that our PCs regularly face, but there are parallels:
- A fantasy group haggling with a merchant
- A scifi group working on fixing the stardrive or whatever
- A cyberpunk group fencing stolen data
So relative to those sorts of tests, I thought about the Powered by the Apocalypse “success with complications”. That’s pretty interesting, but not quite what I was thinking about.
The mechanic I was envisioning probably exists in many systems: it’s a question of time. How long does a task take to succeed?
This goes back to my thought about work. I rarely failed but some of the time, it took me a considerably longer time to complete the task. Still other times, I had a sudden flash of inspiration or just a solid work day and knocked out whatever was on my plate. Similarly, adding more people to a task often helped (and sometimes hurt – you can’t have 9 women birth a baby in a month).
I think this resolution method applies mostly to professional or vocational skills, not “instant” actions (although, if you’re a professional locksmith …).
Still, something to think about when working out how your PCs tackle a task.
Another thing I think about a lot of the time is the motivations of my Big Bad. I’m running out of ideas for something new.
An example is Justice League. (Spoilers, I guess.) The motivation of Steppenwolf is to find these 3 magic mcguffins, and then use their power to “terraform” the planet into his. (His ecology is apparently lots of fire and yelling, none of those awful plants or animals)
This is really dumb, because it presumes that for some reason there’s not a lot of interesting places to terraform. We’re talking about a universe with both Old and New Gods, and dimensional travel and all sorts of other things, AND probably the Drake Equation. So … why the hell does he even need Earth? Just find a rock in the habitable zone you need, and use the boxes to “clean it up”. No muss, no fuss, and no pesky Atlanteans and Amazons messing with you.
In other words: this is an example of a Big Bad whose motivation is dumb. He’s a garden-variety sadist with a magic McGuffin. That’s boring.
Another funny thing to think about is how any attempt to bring forth some “new dark age” will always end up creating a boring, bureaucratic empire. Your glorious dark legions will run out of things to conquer, and will spend most of their time trying to get those layabouts in the GleepGlorp mountains to pay their goddamned taxes. I mean, what else can happen, once you’re on the throne? What the hell else would happen had Sauron won? He’d have plowed over the gentle agrarian Hobbits in favor of factory farms, and you can’t just kill them all because those Orcs of yours are hungry.
So I’m thinking a lot about the idea of a kind of aging Dark Lord. He conquered the known world with fire and steel and his evil magics, every hero fell before his loathsome might. But now, it’s a thousand years later. The players take the role of higher-ups in his regime. They have to deal with all sorts of unusual problems: reports of a rebellion (turns out it’s just a play, but the regime refuses to listen – and wants the “rebels” exterminated), politics (those pesky taxes and the functionaries who collect them), and what happens when your death-dealing shock troops run out of enemies. As a kind of complication, the players may work for a kind of Chaotic Evil regime but they themselves are not really evil at all.
It might get boring, or it might be hilarious. I can’t decide.