Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Refitting Star Wars d6 - Modifiers and Actions

I started off this month talking about "messing with" d6 Star Wars. This is (finally) where that part starts.

One of the things I really liked about the original Star Wars system was its simplicity and consistency. The whole game worked around the principle of "choose relevant ability and roll a bunch of d6's against a target number".

  • It was easy to grasp - more dice = better
  • The math was simple and didn't get in the way- I've played it with 6 year olds
  • It played fast with little need to look up stuff in books and few charts or tables
  • It gave players a lot of choices in combat - how many actions to take? Whether to take a big defensive action? Close in or fight at range?
  • It fit the universe - the system scaled up and down nicely from people to capital ships and it handled variety as well from foot races to speeder chases to space combat  

I really liked it. Then the inevitable complications set in.Overly specific skills. Lengthly lists of modifiers to certain checks. Numerous speical case rules. Pretty soon people were flipping through books just like when we played AD&D - that's not what this game is supposed to be! I pretty much quit caring about it and moved on, leaving Star Wars alone until the d20 version came out and gave it a fresh start.

I still like the ideas behind the d6 system though, and I really would like it to work the way I remember it from years ago and the way it should. So I started making little notes here and there about how to fix it. I have not tried to run a game with all of these changes in place, so some of this is still experiemental, but I intend to try out the full package very soon. Some guiding principles:

1) If it never happened in the movies then it probably doesn't need to be in the game. This covers everything from technology to skills. Too much of the clutter seems to come from something in a comic book or a novel that 90% of the fans haven't seen and don't care about.

2) Narrow and specific are not what this game is about. Long lists of modifiers are unneccesary and slow down play, and no one seems too terribly worried about what kind of blaster they are shooting or what kind of ship or vehicle they are flying so skills should be broadly applicable

3) Assume competentce on the part of the characters when it comes to most things. An assumed "Yes" is more Star-Warsian than an assumed "No". Balance may have to be sacrificed in some regards.

So a lot of the changes I propose are going to be tied up in the skill list, both what should be a skill and how those skills should be handled in play. I'm going to trim the list way down first, and then I'm going to dump all those lists of specific modifiers for specific tasks and go with a suggested set of general modifiers. I also tweak the action rules a little bit to clean those up too. 

Dump all the long lists of -1 for this, +2 for that, and +3 for something else. Considering the game already has flexible difficulty classes, you only need a few levels of modifier:

Minor Advantage or Disdvantage: +/- 1D
Moderate Advantage or Disadvantage: +/- 2D
Major Advantage or Disdvantage: +/- 3D

It seems obvious but it's not used enough in the game - instead there are long lists of modifiers under specific skills as though this is tyring to be some kind of simulationist set of rules all of a sidden. 

With this far more general approach there are some compromises but it speeds things up a ton in play by eliminating the need to reference most charts and making it easy to for the DM to improvise. My concept here is that in the Star Wars Universe a "normal" person has 2 or 3 dice in a skill and an "Easy" difficulty is, say, 7, so that an average character should be able to handle that most of the time. Having a schematic for a particular vehicle or device would be a minor advantage when making repairs, performing repairs in a workshop would give a Moderate or Even Major advantage. Trying to repair something with partial or inadequate toools or parts is Minor or perhaps Moderate but do-able,  but doing something with no tools or parts is very difficult. however for a Tongue-Tied Engineer and his 6D repair skill, he can attempt to rebuild a blown-apart droid (Difficult) with almost no tools (-3D) and still have a halfway decent chance to make it happen. 

Having a stable set of modifiers matters, especially in a cinematic game like this. The more competent you are, the less bothered you are by the circumstances of the test because at the lowest levels of skill, a die or two of difference is huge, but ny the time your up to 5 or more dice, losing 1 or 2 of them doesn't stop you from making routine checks, but you're still going to feel a -3D. Once you get to 8D or so, you can still pull off "Very Difficult" tasks on a routine basis. I was originally going to go with set numeric modifiers (maybe -2/-5/-10 or even -5/-10/-15) but I like the variability of subtracting dice. Unexpected things happen and I like the idea of tougher = "I roll fewer dice" better than I like tougher = "I roll my usual dice with a penalty". Besides, Difficulties are set at specific numbers  - modifiers should be die codes like the skills themselves, and it meshes with the multiple action penalty better anyway. I intend to make this consistent across my revisions and any d6 game that I run.

Moving your normal Move stat no longer counts as an action. You can crawl at half speed as a Move as well. A Run does count as an extra action and does involve an Athletics check.Terrain is rarely a factor,  but if it does come up it will typically be handled as 1/2 of normal movement or something similar. Considering how much time is spent on deckplates or other artificial surfaces it probably won't come up a ton in many games. 

Melee Combat
This is now automatically the attacker's weapons skill against the defender's parry skill and there is no distinction between armed and unarmed. This defense roll does not cost the defender an  action. I really dislike the artifical target numbers for melee combat for mechanical, cinematic, and even realism reasons. People rip on D&D's Armor Class mechanic but at least it's based on the defensive capabilities of the target. This set number is not based on either the target's abilities or the wielder's capabilities - it's just a number! If you assume a stationary target, it's really not difficult to walk up to something human-sized and put a good solid lick on it whether it's a fist, a baseball bat, or (theoretically) a lightsaber. If we are assuming a non-stationary target, then let's use their melee defense ability - that's what it represents and that's what it's for! Plus the special rule for lightsabers that makes them injure their wielders on a miss by 10 or more is just stupid. In six movies plus a whole bunch of Clone Wars material we never see anyone injure themsleves with a lightsaber, so why is it in there? I'm sure it was a game balance thing but that's just not good enough so we're dumping it - bye!

I realize that doing this means we lose the option of the Full Parry in melee as we no longer have a base difficulty to build on. I don't really like this as I want peopleto have an all-out defense option, so let's do this: A Full Parry means that you roll double your normal Parry dice. So, if you have 6D in Lightsaber and are surrounded by sand people, you can throw 12D and yell for help and probably take little to no damage. If you have 2D with the vibroblade you just picked up and go full defense then you throw 4D and, well, cross your fingers.

Ranged Combat
This will still use the range to set the base target number, with an option for the target to dodge at the cost of one action and replace that base difficulty with the result. We will also retain the "Full Dodge" option where as an exclusive action a defender can make a dodge roll and add it to the base target number - they can't do anything else that round, like "Run" so this makes for an interestng choice as to whether it's more important to cover distance (Run) or avoid being shot (Full Dodge).

I am tempted to make the Full Dodge option work the same as the melee version above but I'm afraid that it would make characters with a low Dodge skill very vulnerable to ranged attacks, which are already common and already deadly. It would be easier to remember though. 

Let's make the double-Dodge the rule for this remake and have the range + dodge as an optional rule. There. I am at least being somewhat consistent.

Alright that's enough rules-mongery for today. I will focus on the skill lists tomorrow.


Nemo235 said...

Really great ideas. Easy to remember modifiers.
The skill list in first edition was mmore basic than later editions.

Blacksteel said...

Thanks! More tomorrow...