Archives for category: Game Mechanics

Just some random thoughts about a simple solo rpg ruleset inspired by the Apocalypse World engine of 2d6+modifiers and the Four Against Darkness (4AD) method of basing everything on your level as a single stat.

I got the idea to throw these two together after reading a review of 4AD and because I am testing AW at the moment and really like the task resolution.

So, here goes nothing:

Character creation:

  1. Pick a name, race and concept. This is mainly to give yourself or others a mental image and an idea of your character. It as no rules effect. You start at level 1. The maximum character level is level 5.
  2. Pick three skills from a list of skills appropriate to the setting and provided by your GM. Skills are the main element by which characters are defined and different from each other. There are no classes. A skill gives a +1 bonus to relevant task resolution rolls. If you advance a level, you get to pick an additional skill, so a character can have a maximum of seven skills at level 5 (3 starting skills + 1 skill per level at level 2, 3, 4 and 5). There are no combat skills for character combat: Attacks and defenses are determined by your level. This is different for vehicle combat since it is assumed that everybody is somewhat proficient with personal combat but to operate a vehicle in combat requires special training, so therefore attacks or actions with a vehicle in combat can benefit from a vehicle skill.
  3. Calculate hitpoints: 12 + 2 per level including first level, so 14 hp for 1st level characters.
  4. Example character: Han Solo at the end of A New Hope: Daring, fast-talking correlian smuggler, level 3, 18 hp, no armor, skills (used skill list from Star Wars Saga Edition): Gather Information, Deception, Pilot, Mechanics, Use Computer

Task resolution:

All actions are resolved by rolling 2d6 and adding your level as well as other modifiers. Other modifiers can come from a skill, equipment used or the environment as well as personal health level etc. This is called a check.

So it is:

2d6 + level + 1 if you have a relevant skill + other modifiers

So if Han Solo from above would try to con someone it would be a roll of 2d6+4 (3 for his level and +1 because he has the Deception skill).

If he would try to convince an imperial officer that he is actually an imperial officer working on an undercover assignment this might incur a -2 penalty because it is so far from the truth so the check would be a roll of 2d6+2.

The success of your action depends on your check result and follows the AW scale with a little extra:

An unmodified roll of 2 (called natural 2 or “snake eyes”): A criticil failure: The action fails no matter what. No positive modifiers will save you. The (emulated) GM gets to make a hard move against you. In combat you will take damage from the enemy.

6 or less: A failure. You don’t get what you want. In combat you take damage from the enemy. In AW terms: The (emulated) GM gets to make a hard move against you.

7-9: A partial success. You get what you want but at a price: In combat you hit the enemy and deal damage but the enemy also hits you (if the enemy has the appropriate weapons and is in range) or the GM or you as solo player set-up a dangerous situation. A soft move in AW terms.

10+: A success: You get what you want and don’t suffer any drawbacks. You hit the enemy but the enemy misses you etc.

An unmodified roll of 12 (natural 12): A success as above, in addition you get to make an advancement roll (see below).

Character advancement:

As you gain experience and survive adventures you become more competent overall. In game terms, your level increases.

When you roll a natural 12 you get to make an advancement roll: You roll 1d6 and you have to roll over your current level. So at level 1 you have to roll at least a 2.

If your advancement roll succeeds, you gain a level. If you gain a level you get +2 hitpoints and you get to pick another skill of your choice.

However, you are limited to one advancement roll per character and session, no matter how many natural 12s you roll and even if your advancement roll fails. You get one chance per session maximum to advance.

Combat and NPCs:

Combat is resolved just like any other task. There is no turn order or round structure. You just describe what you do and roll the dice. The outcome of the check dictates the course of the battle, you describe the situation, set-up an action and roll again.

Depending on your check result and action you might take damage or not or hit or miss or succeed at your desired task or not.

All rolls are made by the player, the GM never rolls for his characters, except when they deal damage. If an NPC is particulary special it can be figured in by imposing a penalty to the check.

If your hero hits you roll damage for the weapon, subtract the enemy’s armor value if it has one and subtract the remaining damage from the enemy’s hitpoints.

An NPC combat statblock example:

Stormtrooper: hp 1, stormtrooper armor (armor 2), blaster rifle (1d6+1 damage)

Or to keep it cinematic:

Stormtrooper Squad (acts as a single character): hp 12, armor 2, blaster rifle (1d6+1 damage), squad fire (if your check total is a critical failure you take 1d6+6 damage instead of 1d6+1)

An example for a main villain:

Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith: hp 20, life supporting armor (armor 1), lightsaber (1d6+1 damage, a 6 on the damage die is added and the die is rolled again), force choke (1d6 damage, ignores armor value), dark force powers (checks for actions against Vader suffer a -2 penalty)


Equipment and gear other than weapons or armor is handled in two ways:

A: It allows you to perform an action that you wouldn’t be able to do without the equipment. Examples: Without a toolkit you can’t perform repairs. Without a computer you can’t hack into networks. Without a digital camera you can’t take digital high res pictures etc.

B: It makes a task easier, providing a +1 bonus to relevant checks. Example: A camo poncho to hide in a forest. A knotted rope to climb a tree.

Supernatural Abilities:

If your setting includes supernatural abilities they are accessed by choosing an appropriate skill. Examples: Spellcraft, Psionics, The Force, Miracles etc.

If you have a supernatural ability it allows you to do things in a narrative way that characters without the ability couldn’t do. If you use a supernatural ability to deal damage, the damage is 1d6+x where x equals your level.


A Star Wars Jedi – Lia Siwan, young and idealistic Jedi Knight, 14 Hitpoints, no armor, Level 1, Skills: Use the Force, Acrobatics, Diplomacy, Gear: datapad, comlink, medpac, credchip, utility belt, lightsaber (1d6+1 damage, if damage die shows a 6 add and roll again)

-Lia walks through the streets of Mos Eisley as the encounters a stormtrooper patrol that orders her to stop. Lia doesn’t want to draw attention to herself so she stops and attempts a Jedi mind trick on the lead trooper. Roll 2d6+2 (level 1 + 1 for Use the Force skill). The check succeeds and they let her go. Without the Use the Force skill, Lia wouldn’t be able to attempt a mind trick.

So that is basically it. Try it out and let me know how it works for you.


In my solo Edge of the Empire campaign I am using some house rules that I would like to share with you dear readers.

The first rule is about spending advantages in combat. As a solo player I prefer to resolve effects immediately instead of in the next round. It adds more bookkeeping and things to keep track of so I try to avoid what I call “carry over” effects at all costs. So I came up with these additional ways to spend advantages in combat (in addition to those listed in the rulebook):

-Three advantages can be used to gain one additional success while attacking, but only if the attack itself was successful. You can’t spend advantages to generate a success if you don’t have any initial successes.

-Three advantages can be used to cause one point of direct damage (no soak value deducted) to the target. This option can be used only if the attack itself was a failure (no successes). Think of it as a grazing hit. The attack is still considered a miss and no weapon qualities can be used or activated.

-Two advantages can be used to heal one point of wound damage.

The second batch of house rules deals with the pilot skill. I personally like the idea that the pilot skill matters and that a good pilot should have an advantage over a bad pilot in dogfights. However, the rules as written don’t reflect that in a way I am satisfied with, so I implemented the following rules regarding the pilot skill:

-Gain the Advantage: This is a maneuver now, rather than an action, allowing you to perform another maneuver (by suffering system strain) and attack in the same round.

-The Pilot skill is used to determine initiative in space combat. So better pilots have an edge and get to shoot first.

-The Pilot skill is used to attack under certain circumstances: If the pilot is firing a starship or vehicle weapon, which is not mounted on a turret but fixed to the vehicle and aimed at the target by moving the vehicle itself (like the lasers on an X-Wing or TIE or a turret set to fixed forward fire and operated by the pilot), the Pilot skill is used for the attack roll instead of the gunnery skill.
The gunnery skill is still used if the weapon is mounted on a turret and moveable independently from the vehicle, operated by a gunner.

-Defensive Flying: As a pilot only maneuver, the pilot of a starfighter or tramp freighter can try to avoid incoming fire. Make a hard pilot check. If the check succeeds, the attack difficulty for all attacks against this vessel up until the next turn of this vessel is upgraded once. If the check fails however, the attack difficulty for all attacks made by this vessel until it’s next turn is upgraded once.

Boost and setback dice are added to all checks as usual for stats like handling etc.

In my experience, these minor changes, especially regarding initiative and attacking with the pilot skill while piloting starfighters or tramp freighters with fixed weapons, help to make the difference in pilot skill matter and give good pilots an edge.

For those of you who read my posts about 4th Edition D&D here know that I make no secret out of my love for 4th Edition D&D. So I got curious about 13th Age and read the system reference document that you can find here

or here

At least the parts about character creation, classes, combat, building battles etc. I really like some of the mechanics:

The open-ended skill system (which I already tested in Risus using cliches, it’s basically the same) and the abstract but structured combat rules that seem to combine (at least in theory) the best of both worlds:

You can use miniatures and maps but don’t have to count squares and worry to much about what the best move or position would be.

Like I wrote before my plan is to use Ren “Ash” Ashfield, corellian smuggler and hot-shot pilot, for one-shot adventures in the Tamesh sector, converting him to different rulesets.

As a little interlude to my EotE campaign I will test parts of the 13th Age system in an adventure featuring Ash. After he completed his last assignment I figure he is level 2 now by 13th Age (or d20) standards.

I will use the 13th Age reference document to create him as a scoundrel using the rogue class as a template and re-skinning powers or talents as necessary to fit the sci-fi theme.

So let’s get to it:

To generate my ability scores I will use the 28 point buy method, giving me the following array:

16, 14, 14, 12, 10, 8

As race I pick human (technically corellian, but that counts as human) and choose +2 Dexterity as my racial ability bonus.

As class I pick Rogue and choose +2 Charisma as my class ability bonus.

As human I start with two feats (instead of one) and have the racial power “Quick to Fight” which means I can roll twice for initiative and choose the better result.

For my feats I choose: Further Backgrounding, giving me +2 background points and Improved Initiative, giving me +4 to my initiative rolls (if Han shot first, Ash can too).

I assign my ability scores as follows:

Str 8, Con 12, Dex 18, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 16

and pick the following backgrounds:

Daring Corellian Smuggler +5 (gained through talent, see below)

Fast-Talking, Well-Connected Man of the Streets +4

Luck-Independent Gambler +4

Unconventional Mechanic +2

Ash is wearing a heavy leather jacket (lets make it plastoid weave leather which is leather with energy resistant plastoid fibers woven in) which I count as light armor, which, according to the Rogue class table gives me an AC of 16 (12 base + 2 level + 2 as middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis).

His mental defense is 14 (10 base + 2 level + 2 as middle mod of Int/Wis/Cha).

His physical defense is 15 (12 base + 2 level + 1 as middle mod of Str/Con/Dex).

Now for some re-skinning:

Since 13th Age is a fantasy rpg it focuses on melee combat and according to all the weapon tables for the classes most weapons deal 1d8 damage (per level). The Rogue deals 1d8 per level with melee weapons but only 1d6 with ranged weapons.

However, melee combat is not such a big thing anymore in a sci-fi setting (except for some exotic lightsabers and vibroblades) and range weapons dominate. So I switch the weapons table around and rule that Ash deals 1d8 per level with his heavy blaster pistol (and should he ever use a melee weapon it will only be 1d6 instead).

Three class talents:

I pick Swashbuckle (as written), Tumble (as written) and Smuggler (instead of the Thievery talent of the rogue, it gives me the smuggler background at the highest possible bonus (+5) without spending any background points on it).

I figure for a sci-fi reskin the rogue class covers archetypes like slicer, outlaw tech, space pirate or smuggler so therefore these talents should be available as an alternative to the Thievery talent.

The three class features (Momentum, Sneak Attack and Trap Sense) are kept as written. Even if not that common, Star Wars features traps as well (hidden blaster turrets, monifilament wire traps etc.) and Sneak Attack is always useful, however, as a lone hero Ash will probably not get to use it often, since he has no allies that can engage enemies.

So I just rule that he can always use it once in the first round of combat against an enemy with a lower initiative than he has.

Now for powers I just rule that all powers that function with melee attacks function with ranged attacks as well and pick the following:

Evasive Shot (as Evasive Strike, just with a blaster pistol)

Tumbling Shot (as Tumbling Strike, just with a blaster pistol)

Roll with It! (works as written against ranged attacks as well, think of it as a last minute dodge which turns a hit into a grazing miss, therefore half damage)

Deadly Shot (as Deadly Thrust, instead of Dex + Str modifier for the attack I use Dex + Wis modifier for a ranged attack)

So now I have my talents, feats, powers and class features as well as backgrounds. That leaves me with HP and recoveries.

I decide to forget recoveries (it is just more bookkeeping) and take the heroic 4th Edition Gamma World approach where all HP are regained after a short rest. Yep, that is true, short rest, meaning basically after every battle.

For starting HP I get (6 + Con mod) x 4 at level 2 for 28 HP.

I will not use the Icons of 13th Age (obviously) and I will also skip the One Unique Thing, as these things are very much fantasy themed.

Ash is basically ready now, what I need to think about now is how to handle space combat. I always felt d20 systems didn’t really capture space combat or vehicle combat well, so I will try something new for this test: I will handle space combat in a narrative, skill challenge kind of way.

Basically, every player hero ship has only two relevant combat stats (in addition to the “fluff” stats like cargo capacity, consumables etc.): Hull and Combat Capability (or CC). Hull is a number that indicates how many hits the ship can take before being crippled or destroyed and CC is an all around stat that abstracts the ships fire control, handling, shields and firepower into a single stat which is expressed as a modifier (+2 for example).

If space combat breaks out, it is handled like a skill challenge. The player (or players) take turns making piloting (or other) checks against a DC. The DC is determined by the number and type of enemy ships and set by the GM, together with the number of successes needed to “win” the space combat.

Every successful skill check gains the players one success towards victory.

Every failure means one hit for the ship the failing hero is on. The CC of the ship of the hero making the check is added as a bonus to the skill check.

Example: Let’s say Ash’s standard YT-1300 (that he stole) has 4 hull and a Combat Capability (CC) of +0 (nothing special here, it is an “off the rack” ship).

He is intercepted by two TIE-fighters (standard TIE/ln model) and the shooting starts. The GM sets the DC for the combat at DC 15 and rules that two successes are needed to win. Ash’ s pilot roll will be his Dex modifier (+4) + his background bonus (+5 for smuggler) + 2 for his level + 0 for the ship’s CC for a total of +11.

He now rolls piloting checks. Every successful roll earns him one success, a failure reduces his ship’s hull by one point.

A ship’s hull damage does not regenerate like a character’s HP after the battle, it has to be repaired.

So, in space combat, only the players roll. The GM doesn’t have to worry about stats, initiative etc. He just sets the DC and number of needed successes according to what he thinks is a fitting difficulty as determined by the opposition the players face. The GM in turn provides an exciting narrative to every roll and describes the action fast and furious (of course playing solo, you have to imagine the excitement in your head by yourself).

Coming up next will be a stand-alone adventure featuring Ash, testing 13th Age mechanics, as an interlude to the EotE campaign.

Edit: I just realized that as a level two hero I will get another adventurer feat and I have a total of 5 powers instead of 4, according to the rogue class table. For the adventurer feat I pick the Adventurer Feat for my Tumble talent, meaning I can ignore the penalty to disengage checks if I am trying to disengage from multiple enemies.

I can’t really decide on a 5th power from the remaining 1st level powers, so I make up my own:

Aimed Shot:

Target: one nearby non-mook enemy.

Attack: Dexterity + Level vs. AC

Hit: WEAPON + Dexterity damage.

Miss: Damage equal to your level.

Allways: You can choose to take a -2 or a -4 penalty to the attack roll to improve your crit range by one (-2 attack penalty) or by two (-4 attack penalty).

After I played a 9Q session using D&D 4th Edition and now my first session of Edge of the Empire I want to talk about what I would like to call “module based” play vs. “freeform” play.

When I say module based I mean the game plays more like playing a published adventure module. You have a set goal and a definitve end. I think the 9Qs are a good tool for module based play since they essentialy create an adventure for you and try to emulate the plot of a good movie or an adventure module that you would buy in a store. In a way, the Mythic GME also supports module based play by dividing the adventure in distinct parts by using scenes and by employing actual rule mechanics that are used once you change the scene. However, Mythic does not give you a clear finishing point as the 9Qs do which can make it hard to actually finish an adventure (as I have experienced first hand).

Freeform play, on the other hand, is what I would also call sandbox gaming. You have a certain setting or area and you move freely within that environment, without a clear structure or finishing point and basically stumble into adventure. Freeform play is what I intend to do in my Edge of the Empire campaign. That said, it is of course possible to combine the two by playing in a sandbox up until you get a “quest”. A certain task or mission that you have to complete which has a clear goal. You can then use something like the 9Qs to basically “zoom in” and treat your quest as a “module” within your sandbox.

In no way I want to turn this into a discussion about what is better. I think every method has it’s benefits and downsides. It is just something I caught myself thinking about so I thought I make a post out of it. So for me, these are the advantages of module based play:

  • You have a clear goal from the start.
  • You have a definite end.
  • An adventure can be finished in a reasonable amount of time.
  • You can use it for one-shots to try out different game systems.
  • You have a structured plot.

But for me, there are also some disadvantages:

  • It feels very “gamey” with set mechanics.
  • For me it breaks immersion in a way, as I no longer have the feeling I can really do anything but instead am “locked” in the structure of the module until the quest is finished. In other words, I find it hard to think outside the box.

So, looking at freeform gaming, you can practically turn the above list around.

For me, the main advantage is the “illusion of free will” which gives me the feeling I can freely roam about in my world without worrying about structure and mechanics. Also, as there are no rules associated with scene change or certain mechanics that you have to employ that require you to not only think about your story but about rules it does not feel as “gamey”. I experienced this firsthand while playing a Mythic Star Wars session as you can read here:

Changing a scene in Mythic actually felt like a chore:

You have to think about the Chaos Factor going up or down.

You have to update your lists with NPCs and threads.

You have to come up with a new set-up and roll a die to see if it stays or if an interrupt scene occurs.

If the scene does not stay, you have to think about how it could be altered and change the set up.

So I came to the conclusion, that I like a more freeform approach.

However, this freedom can also lead to wandering about without a goal or purpose, making it hard to finish an adventure.

So what will I do in the future? I will employ the method of freestyle delving which John Fiore introduced here

and use it not only for freestyle delving but for freestyle adventuring in Edge of the Empire. I will use the random idea generator at intervalls, whenever some amout of time has passed or it makes sense storywise, to introduce random events into the story. These intervalls are pretty easy to identify (at least I think so). Just jumped into a new system? Roll. Entering a new bar, cantina or casino? Roll. Spending the night in the wilderness somewhere? Roll. Walking from one place to another in a dangerous neighborhood? Roll. I think you get the idea.

And sometimes, these events alone can form the adventure. For example take the smuggling job Cal took. I had one encounter before the jump, battling pirates that set-up a trap. I will check for another encounter after exiting from hyperspace and for another encounter after docking at the station. These encounters in context with the delivery are, in my opinion, enough to compose the adventure. No need to employ the 9Qs here for a smuggling run. However, who knows, maybe in the course of my adventures my ship gets impounded and locked away some place. The task of stealing it back is something that I could see myself using the 9Qs for to “zoom in” on the action and create the adventure I need to complete to get the ship back.

So what about your experiences? What do you prefer? How do you do it? I am always happy to get new ideas and hear new approaches, so discuss away.