Making a TtRPG Pt. 3 – Dynamic Fireballs!

This is a Guest Post by Scott Krammer Pt. 1 Pt. 2.

Version 2 began late one night, as I delivered pizza to a large house on the mountainside.

As I drove, I was reflecting on everything that I’d done to create Version 1 of this RPG, and how it just wasn’t fitting what I wanted. It was missing something, though I didn’t know what. I’d put in so many hours, thus far, but I wasn’t satisfied. I was more satisfied with the $3 tip I’d just received, than I was with two years of work.

What was missing?

Driving down the mountainside, it finally came to me — this wasn’t an RPG in the which you could punch one alien and knock it into another alien.

You could do a lot of things, yes, but they were still very specific things. You could cast a fireball at your foes. You could go into a berserker rage and charge at your enemies. You could encase your body in magical stone armor. You could summon an infernal fiend to possess you, empowering you for a short time. You could trap your foes in a false reality wherein they were beset by their greatest fears. But you couldn’t pull off Sergeant Palmer’s favorite move.

Although I had first thought of it on that cold day in the Winter of 2009, I had been blind to the only suitable lode star for the development of my RPG.

I started over.

Pictured: Nerd anger in its highest form.

Not completely, no. I kept some of the basic framework, and some of my more favored mechanics, but I had to make some major changes from the ground level. The most important of these changes was the elimination of character classes and abilities, replacing them with what I called “Dynamics”.

Dynamics were meant to be a form of customizable abilities. There were a variety of Dynamics, each representing different types of abilities. There were Combat Dynamics, such as Defense, Maneuvering, Melee, and Ranged, as well as Social Dynamics, such as Deception, Oration, and Reasoning. Then there were all of the Magic Dynamics, broken down into a dozen different categories. A Character would have varying levels of proficiency in the different Dynamics, and would use them to perform “Dynamic Actions”.

In a Dynamic Action, successful dice results would award you with Dynamic Points, which would be spent to create various effects, based on the Dynamic. For instance, you could spend Dynamic Points on the Dynamic for Fire Magic in order to create a ball of fire and to customize it. You could choose whether you put more points into making it a larger fireball, or a hotter fireball, or perhaps a fireball that could be hurled a much larger range. Perhaps, even, you could shape the fireball like charging fire horse, instead of just a ball of fire.

Can it summon shots of Fireball to intoxicate your enemies?

How did it turn out? Well, it wasn’t half bad. Players were coming up with some exciting and creative ways to use their powers. There were certainly some balance issues, but everyone seemed really enjoy the unique things that they could do. The major downside, however, was the amount of extra time that was put into figuring out how to spend your Dynamic Points, and determining the results.  Combat was slow, and players spent more time searching through the descriptions of how their Dynamics could be used, than they spent on actual roleplaying.

This was an improvement, but it just wasn’t right, yet. It was close, but it wasn’t quite there.

I didn’t spend nearly so long on Version 2 as I had on Version 1. By early 2014, I had concluded that I needed to shift directions, and was thoroughly reviewing what I’d already done to determine what was working, and what had to change.

There were a number of excellent features added, this time around. The basic attributes were refined, to just four options — Physical, Mental, Social, and Astral. Skills evolved so that players could come up with their own, allowing for a much more customized range of capabilities. I made special rules for Legendary Items, creating a system in which your magical sword could gain experience points of its own, and become more powerful. I included a host of rules for gaining allies, and even having a whole caravan of followers. These were all interesting options, some of which turned out a lot better than others. Still, all of this meant a lot of rules writing for myself, and it was still too complex.

Version 2 was pretty cool, but things were about to get a whole lot better.


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