Author Topic: Mechanics Feedback Needed  (Read 1105 times)


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Mechanics Feedback Needed
« on: February 23, 2012, 08:32:01 pm »
I'm about to (re-)start working on a new edition of our M-Force game, which we're hoping to release later this year. It'll use the QAGS system, but as with most of our games there will be some tweaks. There's one bit in particular that I keep changing my mind about, so I'm posting the details here in hopes of getting some feedback.

I'll try to give all the basic info needed to keep the thread self-contained, but if anyone wants more details, you can download the QAGS Qik Start Rules for a more complete look at the system and go to for more details on the game itself (there's a more or less usable* PDF version of the first edition in the downloads section).

*The layout was done in some ancient version of PageMaker that wasn't fully compatible with Windows XP, so weird shit happened when i made the PDF. Also, the layout of the first edition was shit to begin with.

The Basic System:
The basic QAGS systems has the following stats*:
Body, Brain, and Nerve--your typical core attributes (physical/mental/social)
Job--Overall "class" (Knight, Slacker, Magical Hobo, etc.)
Gimmick--The thing that makes you a special little snowflake. Acceptable Gimmicks depend on the game. For a "realistic" game Gimmicks are basically stupid human tricks (Always Find A Parking Space, Open Beer Bottles With Anything, etc.). More epic games might have Gimmicks like Psychic Powers or Last Son of Krypton or whatever.
Weakness--Your heroic flaw. Like Gimmick, available options depend on the game. Possibilities include things like Alcoholic, The Gods Hate You, Lycanthropy, etc.
Skills--Things you know a bit about, or aspects of your job you're really good at. So stuff like Poker, Horseback Riding, Firearms, and Star Wars Trivia are skills.

*Actually, there are a few others, buy they're kind of secondary: Health Points (lose them, you die), Yum Yums (bennies/Fate/Karma/Drama Points), Tag Line (something cool you'd say), WWPHITM? (Who Would Play Him/Her In The Movie?), and Dumb Fact (just what it sounds like).

Body, Brain, Nerve, Job, Gimmick, and Weakness are typically rated 6-16 for most games (in games with super-heroes and elves and shit they can go higher). Skills are rated +1 to +5. The basic is mechanic is to roll a d20 and try to roll as high as you can without going over the appropriate stat (or stat + Skill, if a skill is applicable). So if you've got a Job of "Cop" at 14, any roll less than 15 succeeds, the higher the better. If you've also got a "guns" skill of +3 and you're shooting, you want to roll under a 17.

In most games, a majority of rolls use Job or Gimmick. If those aren't applicable, you make a Default Roll using Body, Brain, or Nerve. If the action is something pretty much anyone can do to some extent (climbing a tree, using a computer, questioning a witness), you use the full number. If the action requires some level of training/knowledge to perform effectively (fighting, programming a computer, social engineering), you roll against half the appropriate stat. If the action has absolutely no chance of an untrained person succeeding (brain surgery, for instance), a default roll isn't allowed (obviously the last bit depends on the style/genre/tone of the game--Batman could probably make a default roll for brain surgery, depending on who's writing him).

M-Force Special Rule:
M-Force is a game about part-time monster hunters, so everyone has an extra job of "M-Forcer" in addition to their normal job.

M-Force will also add Flaws, which we've used in a couple of supplements. They're basically the opposite of Skills--you have a -1 to -5 penalty that's applied to the number you're rolling against. Things like "shitty aim" of "bad driver."

The Problem:
Obviously, since everyone has the job of "M-Forcer," we want there to be some room for variation. For example, an M-Force office may have a couple of agents who are really good at combat, one who knows a lot about monsters, a medic, and one agent who's good at dealing with the administrative side of things and maintaining community relations (like keeping the office on good terms with the local police and dealing with the press*).

*It occurs to me that now might be a good time to mention that in M-Force, everybody knows monsters exists. The hunters and the critters aren't working together to keep it a secret like in a lot of set-ups.

Anyway, in the first edition, we basically used different Job descriptions to differentiate the different types of agents. So you might be an "M-Force Combat Specialist" or an "M-Force Monster Researcher" or an "M-Force Community Relations Officer," etc. This works pretty well for deciding when a roll is required (the Monster Researcher can recognize some monsters that other agents would have to roll to identify) or whether to use an M-Forcer Job or a default roll (A M-Forcer Maritime Agent can operate a boat with a Job roll while a Community Relations Officer would have to make a default Body roll). The problem comes when you get to the stuff that everybody's trained to do. The M-Force Combat Specialist with a Job Number of 15 has exactly the same chance to hit a monster as the M-Force Librarian with a Job Number of 15. So basically I want to add some nuance.

Scheme #1: Just use Skills and Flaws.
This is the obvious idea, and it kind of works, but I don't really like it. Skills and Flaws are (at least in my mind) supposed to be more about defining what the character does when he's not saving the world, so I don't like mixing the job nuances in there.

Scheme #2: Add In A Special Kind of Skill
I think this is the rule I used in the current draft. Basically, the M-Forcer Job about 5 core job abilities (Monster Lore, Combat, Administration, etc.) with their own Skill Bonuses. You can also buy new abilities for non-core specialties (like Maritime Agent or Medic). I actually tried this in playtests, but it led to a few problems. First off, it required the M-Force Job range to drop down a bit (I think I maxed it out at 12), which makes it different from the 6-16 range that most QAGS players expect (since M-Force takes place in the same ficton as some of our other games, this can potentially cause actual mechanical as well as perceptual issues if M-Force characters mix with characters from Hobomancer or Fort High or something). Also, even with the lower job score, stacking an M-Force skill on top of a regular skill result in target numbers that are too high to be any fun.

Scheme #3: Let the Job Title dictate, with a bonus for specialties.
So, for example, a character with the Job of "M-Force Combat Specialist" would get a flat bonus on all combat-related abilities. This one could lead to the stacking problem, but my bigger concern is that it limits everybody to a single specialty, which leads us back to the original problem if, for example, you're playing the Key West office and everyone's a Maritime Agent. I'd like the option for players who are willing to spend the points to have multiple specialities.

Scheme #4: Skills that add to the degree of success rather than the chance of success.
As I mentioned before, the higher the successful roll, the better (in some cases, you're rolling against someone else or against a Difficulty Number set by the GM, and in all cases, the better the roll, the better the result). Under this plan, the modifier for the specialty adds to the effective roll rather than the chance to hit. So if you've got a Job of 12 and a Combat specialty of +3, you still need to roll a 12 or less to succeed, but once you succeed you add 3 to the roll. So if you roll an 11, your number is 14 for purposes of figuring out the effects of the roll (in this case, whether you hit the target and how much damage you cause).

Scheme #5: Something else, or some combination of these.

Any thoughts?
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."-HST