net.rpg.freeform: Post 1 of 2

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Steffan O'Sullivan

Nov 17, 1992, 9:26:06 AM11/17/92
I still believe that there a single net.rpg will not work, and not even
be healthy.

Therefore, I'm starting the first splinter group: net.rpg.freeform. If
anyone is interested in helping to design a freeform net.rpg, please join
in. Those who feel the need to inject more detail and rigid rules into a
game should ignore this splinter group.

(To avoid confusion, I use "he, him" to describe a player, and "she, her"
to describe a GM.)

Here's what I think net.rpg.freeform should have:

1. A catchy name.

2. A loose character creation system that can be as brief or detailed as
the player wants.

3. A single, easy to remember, non-chart-bound game mechanic to handle
all actions that need resolution, including combat.

4. A way to incorporate supernormal abilities (magic, psi, cyber, etc.)
without unbalancing the game.

5. A smooth and logical way for the character to grow in experience.

6. Open for suggestions . . .

Here are my proposed initial solutions to the above topics. All are open
to change by anyone sincerely interested in a freeform game:

1. Name:

net.rpg.slug. The slug stands for Simple, Laid-back, Universal Game, of

2. Character Creation:

Someone (sorry, forgot who) proposed a system on r.g.f.misc called, I
think, MILAHSE to describe how a character rates in any given skill or
attribute. I like the idea, but don't care for the exact labels used, so
I changed it to TIPAGSE, which stands for Terrible, Inferior, Poor,
Average, Good, Superior, Excellent.

When a character is created, the player should define as many things
about the character as he finds necessary. This includes such things as
attributes, skills, advantages, professions, flaws, etc. Let's
generically call all these characteristics Qualities.

Those who wish to randomly determine qualities may do so, using the game
mechanic discussed in the next section. This next discussion is for
those who wish to build their characters themselves.

Before character creation, all qualities are assumed to be Average. The
player may adjust any given quality up or down as he sees fit. For every
quality he raises one level (Average to Good, or Good to Superior), he
should lower some other quality one level.

For example, a character may decide to have Superior Strength. This is
two levels above Average. He decides to lower his Singing ability two
levels to Inferior to balance the Superior Strength. Another character
might not even mention Strength on the character sheet (which means it
remains Average), but focus on raising Laser Beam skill to Excellent (up
three levels), and lowering Fishing, Poetry and Meditation ability each
to Poor (totalling down three levels) to balance.

Most flaws (or disadvantages, etc.) can be phrased as reduced quality to
allow for balancing improved qualities. For example, a tendency toward
overconfidence can be thought of as a Poor Assessment of Abilities
quality. If the player doesn't want to get into juggling semantics, he
can simply ask the GM if he can take Overconfidence as a balance for a
high quality.

Obviously, this system can be abused. There are three ways to handle

A) the GM can simply veto any raised/lowered combination she feels is
abusive. This allows customizing the power level of a game: for
high-powered games, allow most anything; for less cinematic campaigns,
make them trade equally useful quality for quality; or

B) she can simply note the weaknesses and introduce a situation where at
least one of them is vital to the mission into every adventure as a way
of balancing the character, or

C) she can use the "disturbance in the force" technique of making sure
that more powerful characters attract more serious situations.

One last thing about character creation: reserved qualities. Each
character has five pairs of reserved qualities. This means that at some
point in the game, the player will realize that he forgot something about
character that should have been mentioned. He may stop the action, and
define a previously undefined pair of qualities, one up and one down,
subject to the GM's approval.

For example, the Waco Kid comes into the saloon and sees a poker game
going on. The player realizes he forgot to mention the Kid's gambling
ability. So he quickly proposes to the GM that Kid use one of his
reserved pair to raise his Gambling skill to Superior, and lower his
Needlepoint to Inferior. The GM considers a moment, and decides the
trade-off is a bit unbalanced. She counter proposes that he can raise
his Poker skill to Superior in exchange for a lowered Needlepoint skill,
but he remains Average with other gambling games. The Kid accepts. (Of
course, he'll later be in saloons with lots of blackjack but no poker
games, and someday he'll meet a tribe of Indians that is unimpressed by
anything he can do, but worships Needlepoint . . . :-)

(Continued next post . . .)

- Steffan O'Sullivan

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