Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Plug-ins and Framework systems

Framework systems are designed from the start to accept modular plug-ins. The StarCluster System is such a Framework system, and I'm going to explore using different Task-Resolution plug-ins with the Framework, and the effect on play.

The StarCluster system uses a system of attributes which exist somewhere in the range of 1-15 - usually. In some games they're theoretically infinite, in others they're capped at 15 for humans. There are four physical attributes - STR (strength), COOR (coordination), AGY (agility), and END (endurance). There is one attribute which is partly physical and partly mental - CHAR (charisma), and one attribute which is wholly mental, INT (Intelligence). There is always another stat which measures something else - LUCK, or PSI, or MAG, for example. Skills are rated at Skill+0 for no rank, and +1 per rank, so skill+3 means you have rank 3 in that skill. Skills are tied to specific attributes. This is pretty much invariant among the various game susing the system. Weapons have a variable bonus to damage which is the same for each weapon across systems - a knife is always +0, and a revolver is always +15, no matter what game you are playing. Damage is tracked by subtracting from a derived attribute, Constitution, which is equal to the four physical stats multiplied by a number which varies between T-R plug-ins. At 3/4 Constitution you have a penalty, at 1/2 Constitution you are stunned without an Overdo (or END) check, and at 1/4 Constitution, you go unconcious and start bleeding out.

StarPerc is a percentile T-R plug-in. For chance of success, you roll d% under a number determined by the skill rank. It defaults to the attribute at Skill+0, but jumps to 45% at Skill+1, and 5 is added per rank after that. There is a bonus due to high attributes, of +5 per 2 points above 7 - that is +5 at 9, +10 at 11, +15 at 13, and +20 at 15. Quality is a separate roll of d%. Damage is one kind of quality roll, with the weapon modifier added to the result of the roll. The Constitution multiplier is 10.

This yields a game that feels gritty, but isn't. Most characters can take a couple pistol shots without going down. Skilled characters have a huge advantage over unskilled for chance, but it doesn't matter at all with quality, which isn't tied at all to skill. Quality ranges enormously - the random factor is very high - which simulates actual wound damage well.

StarPool is a dice pool T-R plug-in. For chance of success, you roll Skill Rank +1 d20 under the attribute, counting successes. Thus for Skill+3 you roll 4 d20, for Skill+0, you roll 1 d20. Any success means you succeed. The quality of success is determined by the number of successes. You multiply the number of successes times 10, plus any modifier, to find the quality. You would add the weapon modifier to quality in combat, thus 3 successes with a pistol (+15) would be 45. The Constitution multiplier is 5.

This yields a game which feels cinematic, but is actually deadly. A skilled foe can put an average character down with one hit. Skilled characters don't have a hugely better chance of success, but they can achieve far better quality. This, of course, simulates another aspect of reality well - someone good at something should have better results!

Star20 is a roll over T-R plug-in. For chance of success, you roll (4 X d6) -4 to get a bell curve from 0-20. Add Attribute Bonus ( +1 per 2 points above 7) and skill rank. 14-15 is 1 success, 16-17 is 2, 18 is 3, 19 is 4, 20 is 5, 24 or more is a critical success, and 6 or less is a critical failure. Damage is successes times 20 plus modifier, so 3 successes with a pistol (+15) would be 75. The Constitution multiplier is 8.

This yields a game where it's hard to do well with low skill ranks, but there's a marked accelleration at mid skill ranks, and someone very good can be devastating. The combination of moderate Constitution and rapidly increasing quality means a very skilled opponent can bring an average character down with one hit, but un-skilled or low-skilled characters have to peck away in combat. It is the most cinematic of the three plug-ins discussed here. Low-rank characters really are mooks.

There are other T-R plug-ins, but I haven't released games featuring them yet, so I won't detail them here. StarKarma, for example, is a diceless T-R system.



  1. I may be too much of a universalist Clash. It seems a lot of systems could easily be adapted to do this sort of thing. Iridium does this. I have done custom dice pool, switchted to and from % and d20, stack roll-over and roll under. I mean, if you have anything approaching a skill rank system you should be able to riff off that and mod it to accept these T-R mechanics. Yes?

    I really am asking as I may be missing something.


  2. You can adapt anything to do anything, Bill - and in this case I mean "you", not "one". Most GMs aren't the kitbashers you or I am. A Framework system is designed to work this way from the ground up, with pre-made plug-in sub-systems, while retaining a consistent user interface - the character sheet.

    Iridium is a flexible system for sure - why I love it - but most systems are not that flexible. You really have to know what you are doing to swap out core mechanics, you usually have to mess with that interface a lot, and even then it tends to break a lot.

    In this article I only talk about T-R sub-systems, but you can swap out other core sub-systems as well, like chargen, advancement, and the like with little work. Of course other non-core sub-systems like magic, vehicle combat, and the like are bolt ons. Anything can be swapped out, with little effort, and work properly.