Glenn's Junk Chest

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Glennworld: Potentials

Note: These are rules for my RPG system. They are still very much in development and playtesting, so take what you find here with an expectation of future change. For those curious about the system's philosophy and goals, I refer you to this post. Because this is still in development, this post will occassionaly be updated with changes. If the changes are major, the update will be noted at the top of the blog.

The Six Potentials

Once a background and race are selected for a new character, it's time to figure out her potentials. Potentials are each tied to a physical trait, and measure how much aptitude the character has for related fields of endeavor. Each Potential is measured on a scale from -7 to +7, where 0 is human average, and -6 and +6 are human minimum and maximum. The Potentials are Body, Strength, Dexterity, Perception, Intelligence, and Determination.

Body is an measure of how physically tough a character is, and whether she can easily learn the occasional skills that rely on that, such as endurance or running. Even without learning these skills, a character with high body is more likely to shrug off injury or hardship, and is substantially harder to put down even when injury is suffered.

Strength is a measure of how physically strong a character is, and how quick she is to learn new highly physical skills, like fighting with a simple weapon, sailing, or smithing. Even if she learns no related skills, a strong character can lift more, fight better with makeshift weaponry, and will probably be larger and more imposing.

Dexterity is an indication of how quick and agile a character is, and how quickly she can learn new skills that rely on speed and coordination, like fencing, lockpicking, and acrobatics. Even without learning these skills, a dextrous character can move more surely, avoid sudden trouble better, and will be more graceful.

Together, Strength, Dexterity and Body measure a character's physical aptitude, and a character with high potentials here will more easily learn the skills of fighting hand-to-hand, and dealing with the physical world in a straightfowardly physical way. In addition, most non-scholarly professional skills are more easily mastered with high physical potentials.

Perception is a measure of how acute a character's senses are, and how easily she will learn new skills that rely on observation or snap judgement, such as archery, tracking, and cooking. Without learning skills, a perceptive character is still better at noticing things, has better distance vision, and will probably be a better judge of things about which full information is not yet known.

Intelligence is a measure of how smart a character is, and how quick she is to learn new primarily mental skills, like book-learning, the mechanics of trade, or alchemy. Without acquiring these skills, she still knows more languages, and is quicker to understand things that need to be thought through.

Determination is an indication of how driven or stubborn a character is, and how easily she will master new abilities that rely on perserverance and refusal to give up, such as resisting magical effects, healing the sick or wounded, or surviving in hostile environments. Even without these skills, a determined character is more likely to resist magical compulsion, stay on track when the going gets tough, and have less trouble dealing with fear.

Together, Perception, Intelligence, and Determination measure a character's mental aptitude, and a character with high potentials here will more easily learn the skills of fighting at range, and dealing with the world by understanding and influencing it. In addition, Intelligence and Determination both play very important roles in the mastery of magic.

The six potentials can also be thought of as existing in a circle, with the physical potentials on one side and the mental on the other. Each potential is somewhat complementary to its two neighbors, (for example, Body complements both Determination and Strength) and skills that rely on multiple potentials will more often rely on adjacent Potentials than non-adjecent ones. Additionally, there is an opposition between each Potential and the the Potential that lies directly across the circle, so Strength and Intelligence are opposed, as are Dexterity and Determination, and Perception and Body.

The Potential Ratings

A character with a positive rating in a potential is more apt than average. At levels like +1 or +2, this is useful, but not exceptional. She will find related skills easy to learn at first, but may find that they become more difficult to pursue before they are truly mastered, which may dissuade her from ever excelling. Such a character will probably still be thought of as fairly average in this Potential by most observers, however. Only someone who is training the character in a related skill is likely to notice the character's aptitude.

At levels like +3 or +4, the character has a substantial advantage in related skills, and may find even skilled proficiency easy to achieve. She has a proficiency that would allow her to excel in almost any related profession, and woud probably be highly desirable as a student for those who seek to recruit. A character with this kind of Potential will be easily noticed by others as being smarter or stronger, and it may be that more is expected of her as a result.

At +5, she is better than 99% of all humans at related fields of endeavor, and may become a highly skilled professional in a related skill without ever even touching the limits of her natural ability. No one who regularly associates with the character can fail to notice her strengths in this area, and people may assume she is capable of things that she has not actually studied, merelly by dint of her clear natural advantages.

At +6, she is 1 in a thousand, better than 99.9% of all humans at picking up related skills. She can become a master of a related field, and highly respected, without ever running into her own limitations. Anyone seriously considering her abilities in this area will realize that she is a prodigy.

Finally, at +7, the character is better than any unaltered human, with a supernatural aptitude for learning related skills that is likely to breed resentment among those of more normal capability who must struggle to learn alongside her.

A character with a 0 in a potential is not crippled in any way, rather, they are average. Related skills can be learned, but they won't come especially easily, and unless the character dedicates a lot of skill points to these skills, they will probably never rise to the highest levels in them.

A character with a negative in a potential is less apt than average. At levels like -1 or -2, this is no big deal, it will keep the character from progressing beyond a certain point in related skills, but she can, by dint of effort, still become quite proficient, if not a master. Such a character will probably still be thought of as fairly average in this Potential by most observers, however. Only someone who is training the character in a related skill is likely to notice the character's difficulties with the subject.

At levels like -3 or -4, the character is substantially handicapped in related skills, and even basic proficiency may be an elusive goal. She has effectively no aptitude for them, and can't even attempt to use them without significant practice. (For example, a character with a -3 Strength simply cannot make effective hand-to-hand combat unless she's actually spent some skill points to learn a combat skill.) Such a character will be noticed as being a poor functioner in this area by others, a character with a low Dexterity potential will probably be regarded as clumsy, for instance.

At -5, 99% of humans have more aptitude than her, and she will never be better than a novice at any related skill. No one who associates regularly with the character can fail to notice that she has trouble in this area, and people may assume that she's not capable of any level of function here, whether or not it's true.

At -6, 99.9% of humans are better, and the character is the one person in a thousand who is effectively barred from participation in related fields of endeavor. This represents someone who is unfortunate enough that she is too weak to lift a sword, or too stupid to learn to read, for instance. Someone with a -6 Dexterity cannot attempt acrobatic feats, and no matter how much she tries, cannot become even a novice fencer.

At -7, the character is worse than any unimpaired human, and is not only inept at related skills, but will have difficulty learning skills of the two complementary Potentials as well. A character with a -7 Intelligence, for instance, will not only be completely unable to learn a new language, but will also have greater difficulty learning Perception-related skills (they'll be too stupid to realize the importance of what they percieve), and Determination-related skills (the focused determination required will too often be replaced by ill-considered stubbornness).

Generating Potentials New Characters

There are three ways to generate a new character's Potentials.

Random Realistic Potentials are generated by rolling 6dF, and assigning each result in order. Using this method, a completely random set of potentials is generated. About a quarter of characters generated this way will have nothing better than a +2, and nothing worse than a -2, 60% will be in the -3 to +3 range, and 90% within the -4 to +4 range for all Potentials. This is an ideal method for generating NPCs, as they are not required to be exceptional individuals, but is usually a poor method for generating player characters, since it leaves too much to chance.

Random Targeted Potentials are generated by rolling 6dF for each value, but the person creating the character assigns the values as desired. This allows randomness to play a role while still allowing the creator to target a specific character goal. If better stats than average are desired, 1, 2 or 3 adjustment points can be applied to each roll. This is an ideal method for generating NPCs, and a good method to use for PCs if random Potentials are a goal.

Purchased Potentials are generated by giving the person who is developing the character a certain number of points to work with. When all the potentials are added together, the result must equal this number of points. Using this system, a character's creator can slight one Potential to favor another. If given zero points to work with, the only way to get one Potential up will be to put another down. The more points the creator is given, the less slighting she'll need to do in order to have high Potentials for the Character.

Keep in mind when using this system that characters with positive scores in all Potentials can have very diverse capabilities, because they can buy skills in all areas without penalty. As a result, if you want characters to be more specialized, it's a good idea to keep a tighter rein on the points, so that people feel compelled to take some zero or negative Potential values. Here are some recommendations for different kinds of campaigns.

Suggested Point Totals
Realistic3 points
Adventurous6 points
Heroic9 points
Legendary12 points

This is an ideal method for most role-playing oriented campaigns, as it allows the character's creator to adjust points to suit the desired character conception. Six points makes a good point value for most campaigns.


At 5:06 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

I definitely need some art to go with this, don't I?


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