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Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on August 17, 2007, 12:38:47 AM
[size=30]Mastery[/size]
A Minimalist Table-Top RPG Ruleset
2nd Edition


Mastery is the result of one evening of thinking about rules. I wanted to write an RPG which could be summed up on a single sheet of paper, so I wrote out the Mastery Rulebook. The bare rulebook is supplemented with examples, optional rules, and advice, which are not counted for the one page. Because I think it helps for learning the system, the examples book will be presented alongside the rulebook, but is completely optional. I don't claim that Mastery is the best, or even great. It leaves a lot to the specific GM, and I'm not sure I'd want to play it consistently, but I thought I'd share what I have. The world needs more minimalist RPGs.

[ic Rulebook]The GM is always right.

[spoiler Characters]Each character has a number of traits, abilities, and skills.

Traits represent the raw talent or power your character possesses in a field.
Example traits might include cunning, intelligence, fortitude, or agility.
Normally, traits can be -2 through +4.

Abilities represent general skill-sets which the character has learned.
Example abilities might include martial arts, stealth, acrobatics, or magical lore.
Normally, abilities can be +1 through +4.

Skills are more specific than abilities, and represent specific prowesses.
Example skills might include tracking, lock-picking, feinting, or swimming.
Normally, skills can be +1 through +5.[/spoiler][spoiler Challenges]Before playing, pick a kind of dice to use (I prefer d6) and stick with that for the rest of the game.

All challenges are made by rolling dice and counting the number of results that equal or exceed a Target Number.
Target Numbers are based on the inherent difficulty of an action. Jumping across a small gap would be easy, while jumping across a large gap would be hard. Don't even bother rolling trivial challenges.

Target Numbers:
[th]Difficulty[/th][th]d6[/th][th]d10[/th][th]d20[/th][/tr]
[tr][td]Easy[/td][td]3[/td][td]4[/td][td]7[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]Normal[/td][td]4[/td][td]6[/td][td]11[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]Difficult[/td][td]5[/td][td]8[/td][td]15[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]Extreme[/td][td]6[/td][td]10[/td][td]19[/td][/tr]
[/table]
For any solo challenge, the GM will require a certain number of successes for the character to succeed in their action. In many instances (such as music or athletics), more successes indicate a more impressive performance.

When characters oppose one another, treat it as though both characters were performing solo challenges where the victor is the one with the most successes. In this circumstance, the degree of success is equal to the difference, rather than the absolute number of successes.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

A player rolls a number of dice for a challenge depending on their character's attributes and the circumstances of the challenge.

Each challenge uses a trait, chosen by the GM. The player then chooses one ability and one skill. If the GM decides that either are unfit for the test at hand, the player cannot use them (and may not change their choice). The player then rolls a number of dice equal to:

1 + trait + ability (if any) + skill (if any) + circumstance modifiers (if any)

Unless a challenge is impossible, all characters get one base die, which cannot be removed due to modifiers.

Circumstantial modifiers can include assistance from others, low visibility, weariness, magic, or distraction.[/spoiler][spoiler Character Creation and Advancement]Before the game can begin, the GM must provide a list of traits. These traits should optimally cover all character archetypes that players want to use.

All traits start out at +0. Each player has two points which can be spent increase a trait (+0 -> +1 or +1 -> +2). Traits may be reduced to -1 to gain an additional point. Normally, a trait cannot be increased above +2 or reduced below a -1.
If a player wants to play a specialist, however, they may opt to reduce a +0 to a -2 in order to increase a +2 trait to a +3. This specialization may only be done once.

Starting characters then gain 20 "triumphs" which they can use to buy up skills and abilities, described below. 20 triumphs is intended to represent a starting hero, and the GM is encouraged to allot more for creating "experienced" heroes.

"Triumphs" are the units used to keep track of character advancement. Whenever a player does something difficult and important, the GM is suggested to give them a triumph. When a character is in a situation where they have the opportunity to increase a trait, ability or skill, (such as when creating a character) they may burn triumphs to do so. The number of triumphs it takes to move from one number to another depends on what is being increased.
[th]Cost of increasing traits:[/th][/tr]
[tr][td] -2 -> -1 = 1[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] -1 -> +0 = 2[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +0 -> +1 = 3[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +1 -> +2 = 4[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +2 -> +3 = 5[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +3 -> +4 = 7[/td][/tr]
[/table]
[th]Cost of increasing abilities:[/th][/tr]
[tr][td] +0 -> +1 = 2 (Gaining a new ability)[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +1 -> +2 = 3[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +2 -> +3 = 4[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +3 -> +4 = 6[/td][/tr]
[/table]
[th]Cost of increasing skills:[/th][/tr]
[tr][td] +0 -> +1 = 1 (Gaining a new skill)[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +1 -> +2 = 2[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +2 -> +3 = 2[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +3 -> +4 = 4[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +4 -> +5 = 6[/td][/tr]
[/table]If the task of learning is difficult (such as without a teacher) the GM may require a challenge to improve.

Characters start with whatever items or equipment are considered appropriate for the setting and the character. If in doubt, ask the GM.[/spoiler][spoiler Combat]In addition to traits, abilities, skills and gear, characters have a number of health boxes which are an abstract representation of their physical condition. The number of health boxes a character has will depend on the style of game that the GM is running and the physical toughness of the character. GMs are encouraged to tie a trait, like "Health" or "Fortitude" to the number of Health Boxes a character receives (minimum 1). I suggest using a base of 10 boxes. Gritty games may go for 5 or even 3. When a character takes damage, mark off a number of health boxes. When the last one is marked, the character typically goes into a coma or dies, depending on the circumstances. A character's health should always be taken into account when determining the "circumstances" of a challenge.

Combat can also vary, depending on GM. Presented below are three ways that I suggest handling combat.
[spoiler Fearsome Challenges]Perhaps the simplest way to deal with combat is simply to make it a series of deadly challenges.

Imagine a group of explorers venturing through a forgotten tomb. They come upon a spike-laden pit trap. Jumping across the pit might take two successes against a difficult target number, with failure dealing 4 health boxes of damage, and the extra problem of getting out. Now imagine the explorers come across an ancient tomb guardian. The guardian is slow, and all the players can take actions before the guardian acts. When it does, it swings it's hammer at a single character, forcing a challenge to either block or move with failure meaning the victim takes 4 health boxes of damage. Under this system of combat, there is no difference between an environmental hazard and an intelligent opponent, except that opponents are generally deadlier and more adaptable.

This system allows the GM to avoid rolling dice, which lets them stay focused on the group. To determine the number of successes to dodge the attack of a humanoid opponent, just assume that they roll all average. That is, if they are looking for a "normal" target number, just make their degree of success = half their dice pool.

Using this system, determine if enemies act first, then take turns where the whole party acts in whatever order they want (though only within reason).[/spoiler][spoiler Single-Action Roundtable]Good for dueling, this system breaks combat down into a number of rounds, where each player takes a single action.

Each character, at the beginning of combat, performs a challenge to act first, comparing degrees of success. In the case of a tie, the character with the highest "agility" trait (or equivalent) acts first, or the GM simply decides. Each character then acts in turn, taking a single action. Typical actions involve directly attacking the opponent, or modifying circumstances to get more dice on a future attack.

Attacks are handled as contested challenges with the defender. Stunned or surprised characters cannot defend. If the attacker wins, he or she deals damage equal to their degree of success (plus any modifier from weapon or armor). If the defender wins, they gain a counter-attack advantage on their next turn of a single die.[/spoiler][spoiler Bloodbath]This system is good for games that favor violent, or unpredictable combat. In Bloodbath, all characters decide on their actions in secret and act simultaneously. The results of a round of combat depend on the nature of the actions involved.

Independent Non-Challenge: An example of this is two characters that run away from each other. No rolls are made, and both characters successfully withdraw.

Independent Challenge: An example of this is two characters that attack each other. Each character rolls a solo challenge to hit and deals their raw successes as damage to their opponent (plus any modifier from weapon or armor). This can mean that both characters kill each other, if they roll high enough.

Conflicting Challenge: An example of this is a character that attacks a defending or fleeing character. The action is made as an opposed challenge, where the victor is the only one to have their action take effect, and their degree of success is the difference between the rolls.

Asynchronous: An example of this is a character that attacks a character trying to focus on something. In instances where one action (like attacking) is unaffected by another action (like focusing), but not vice-versa, the action that is not effected works and the other is disrupted.

Bloodbath can become unwieldy in non-one-on-one situations, and favors power in numbers.[/spoiler][/spoiler][/ic][ic Options][spoiler Magic]Magic is intentionally left out of the Mastery system, as it varies widely from setting to setting. For those who don't want to create their own rules for magic, I have developed an optional default magic system.

Coming Soon
[/spoiler][spoiler Gifts and Flaws]Coming Soon
[/spoiler][spoiler Luck]Coming Soon
[/spoiler][/ic][ic Advice][spoiler Monsters and Races]Remember that the GM is always right! Mastery is built to be flexible, not all-encompassing. If you, as a GM, feel that dwarves deserve stat mods - do it! It is because of this that the system doesn't handle monsters or races. These things differ so much from one world to the next, that it's on the shoulders of GMs and supplement writers to come up with rules for such things.[/spoiler][spoiler Skills and Abilities]As a GM, the biggest task will be learning to classify skills and abilities and to call "not applicable" skills when players try to use them. This can be hard, as a player can fail simply because you don't think farming ability helps classify wild plants. Combat can be especially bad, as powergamers will instantly create "Skill with Erchax the Longsword" and try to pass it off as a skill. Skills are more powerful than abilities, and should be much more specific, and very rarely cover simple attacking. Parrying, for example, makes a good skill. Counterattacking with a specific weapon is a good skill. Both of these are only usable in certain situations, which is why they're skills and not abilities. Abilities represent professions, general skillsets and skill with weapons. When considering whether something is a skill or ability, also take into consideration the world and type of game you're playing. Engineering might be an ability in a steampunk setting, but in a dark ages world it would probably only be a skill.

Don't be afraid to say that certain actions are only possible by characters with points in a specific skill. I can't do magic, so why should a farmer or a barbarian? This even applies to abilities, though less so. I may not be able to do a cartwheel unless I have acrobatics, for instance.

Lastly, say no to skills and abilities that don't match up with a test! Don't let your players re-pick different skills or abilities once you turn the first ones down! (unless you really think they deserve it) If players know that a bad choice will result in no extra dice, they'll be more likely to pick the most realistic skills and abilities. Disallowing skills and abilities also forces players to get creative and tackle problems from different angles.

Here are a list of abilities I suggest for medieval fantasy: (Note that even with this list, players should be allowed to make their own)

Here are a list of skills I suggest for medieval fantasy:


Note the last few skills. In certain situations a character can use generic skills that represent devotion to their cause. Be very careful with these, as they can be overused. Point out to players that take these skills that you'll be more open to their use if the player uses them sparingly. If correctly employed, such skills can add heroic drama to a tense moment.[/spoiler][spoiler Weapons and Armor]Weapons in mastery are a bit vague, much like the setting itself. The power level of weapons and armor depends on the technology of the setting and also how gritty the GM wants to run things. High weapon damage means more deadly combat, while high armor values tend to make for a more "epic" game (as high armor tends to mean a generally higher expected damage).

Here are some general guidelines:
-- Medieval --
Fist, Foot or other weak attack = +0 damage
Daggers and light weaponry = +1 damage
Light Swords and Spears, Clubs, Handaxes = +2 damage
Large Swords, Battleaxes, Projectiles, Maces and Hammers = +3 damage
Lances, Greataxes, Gratclubs and Flails = +4 damage

Leather Armor = +1 armor
Chain Mail = +2 armor
Plate Mail = +3 armor

-- Modern --
Brass Knuckles = +1
Baseball Bat, Flamethrower = +2
Light Rifle or Pistol = +3
Chainsaw, Submachine gun, Revolver = +4
Heavy Rifle = +5
RPG or Plain grenade = +10
Shotgun +1 through +4 depending on range

Riot Gear = +2
SWAT Armor = +3

-- Modifiers --
Long Range or Weak Swing = -1 damage
Gritty Setting = +2 damage to all weapons. +1 to unarmed attacks.
Charging or otherwise extra-powered blow = +1 damage


Remember that weapons are more than just that single number. Some weapons (such as daggers) are easier to wield in tight quarters and conceal. Others (such as flails) might be difficult to wield. Some will require special conditions to be effective (lances) or require more time to use (ranged weapons). If you feel that an attack deserves a damage modifier (such as a killing blow or a point-blank shot), propose it to the GM. And as always, modify these numbers as you see fit to make the game that is fun for you.

Proficiency is also important with both weapons and armor. In cases where a character attempts to use a weapon without any skill or ability, the GM may decide to impose any number of circumstance penalties. Armor, unlike weaponry, has no associated skill or ability (under the defaults), but the GM has full right to impose penalties on any number of things, especially if the wearer of the armor is unfamiliar with it.[/spoiler][/ic]

Examples coming eventually...
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Stargate525 on August 17, 2007, 01:00:04 AM
I like this. Alot. This is the system I would literally keep in my wallet for on the fly sessions.

One suggestion though. Perhaps change the name of traits to abilities, and change abilities to focuses (or something similar). I keep getting confused, as I'm used to seeing abilities as the broadest set.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on August 17, 2007, 09:10:41 AM
What if I made traits into abilities, and made general skills and specific skills instead of skills and abilities?

I must admit, I'm hesitant to change the names based solely on differing d20 terminology.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Túrin on August 17, 2007, 12:02:25 PM
Simple but elegant. I like it. :)

Quote from:  Bad
2 = Weak
3 = Good
4 = Great
5 = Excellent
6 = Amazing
7 = Phenomenal
8 = Heroic
9 = Insane[/quote

I take it 0 successes counts as an automatic failure?

Túrin
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on August 17, 2007, 12:26:19 PM
Yes. Added. Thank you.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Atlantis on August 17, 2007, 03:32:13 PM
would each skill have to directly corresspond to one of your abilities?
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on August 17, 2007, 05:40:56 PM
Not at all. I might have skill at swimming, without being generally good at athletics.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Matt Larkin (author) on August 17, 2007, 06:57:25 PM
I think the question, and forgive me Atlantis if I misspeak, is whether every skill would be tied to an ability.

In your example, I'd say it does tie in well. You might not be a stellar athlete, but if you're not in fairly good shape, you won't be a champion swimmer.

My encouragement Rael, it sounds pretty good.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Wensleydale on August 17, 2007, 07:04:02 PM
Agreed here. I like it, and it'd certainly be good for on-the-fly gaming.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Thanuir on August 18, 2007, 04:22:14 AM
Nice enough, seems functional, but I wouldn't call it minimalistic.


Personally I would allow player to select which skills, abilities and traits he wants to use. Target number would then be assigned by the GM based on how relevant the player-selected skills, abilities and traits are. This would make the GM's job easier, IMO, and that is always a good thing.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on August 18, 2007, 08:52:45 AM
Quote from: Thanuir
Nice enough, seems functional, but I wouldn't call it minimalistic.
That's odd. I define a minimalist work to be that which is stripped of all but what is essential. I deem the essentials of an RPG to be GM involvement, character building and test resolution. Mastery doesn't have rules for things like poison, drowning, magic, sleep, monsters, magic items, certain combat effects (like grappling) and more. What would you call a minimalist RPG?

Quote from: Thanuir
Personally I would allow player to select which skills, abilities and traits he wants to use. Target number would then be assigned by the GM based on how relevant the player-selected skills, abilities and traits are. This would make the GM's job easier, IMO, and that is always a good thing.
So if the player tried to use fishing to attack the dragon, you'd set the DC to impossible? I agree that it makes the GMs job easier the way you have it set out, but Mastery wasn't designed to be easy on the GM, it was designed to be simple and give the GM power.

Let's say a character (Bob) looks something like this:
Might: +3, Gardening: +3, SneezeArt +4

Bob falls in a river and the GM says he needs to make a test to stay afloat. Bob wants to use the above skill, ability and trait. Even if the TN is 6, Bob will still get it. If the TN is 7, that's too bad for Bob. What if Bob is wearing armor? Is the DM going to further increase the TN? Or will they increase the number of successes needed? If it becomes impossible, couldn't bob have probably done it if he just hadn't selected sneezing skill? The selection of skills is OOC, and if you let that fall through without a sanity check, it becomes silly.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Thanuir on August 19, 2007, 03:36:40 AM
Quote from: Raelifin

Quote from: Thanuir
Nice enough, seems functional, but I wouldn't call it minimalistic.
That's odd. I define a minimalist work to be that which is stripped of all but what is essential. I deem the essentials of an RPG to be GM involvement, character building and test resolution. Mastery doesn't have rules for things like poison, drowning, magic, sleep, monsters, magic items, certain combat effects (like grappling) and more. What would you call a minimalist RPG?
GM is a good general choice, but not strictly necessary, IMO. Defining roleplaying, or rpgs, is not really fruitful, though.

Take a look at Risus (http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/risus.htm). It is free and quite fast to read. It has GM, chargen and resolution system. And it is pretty good.

Quote
So if the player tried to use fishing to attack the dragon, you'd set the DC to impossible? I agree that it makes the GMs job easier the way you have it set out, but Mastery wasn't designed to be easy on the GM, it was designed to be simple and give the GM power.

If a player tried to attack a dragon with fishing, I'd simply ask "How the hell?". The player might have a great idea that involves nets, tridents, fishing rods and a red herring.
Generally, I would always ask two things from players; what they are trying to achive and how. "What" determines the likely outcome of success, "how" tells the difficulty of the roll.

Quote
The selection of skills is OOC, and if you let that fall through without a sanity check, it becomes silly.
When desiging a game, I always assume I will play it with good players, or at least adequate ones. That is, if GM tells them that the game is not one of slapstick humour, they will play fairly seriously and not try anything too goofy. If players (or the GM) are out to ruin a game, there is little a designer can do to prevent that. So I just assume the players and the GM are there to play together and not spoil the game for each other.


If you only want to give the GM power, it is very easy to accomplish. Go totally freeform. Or use the traditional resolution system: when trying something, roll a die. High result is good, low is bad. It works pretty well. Been there, played and GM'd that.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Matt Larkin (author) on September 04, 2007, 08:36:44 AM
Hey Rael, is this project complete now?
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on September 04, 2007, 09:54:05 AM
Quote
GM is a good general choice, but not strictly necessary, IMO. Defining roleplaying, or rpgs, is not really fruitful, though.

Take a look at Risus (http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/risus.htm). It is free and quite fast to read. It has GM, chargen and resolution system. And it is pretty good.
Whoops, I forgot to post here after I read that. It's a good system, and I like the strategy involved (though the slippery slope is annoying).

Quote
If a player tried to attack a dragon with fishing, I'd simply ask "How the hell?". The player might have a great idea that involves nets, tridents, fishing rods and a red herring.
Generally, I would always ask two things from players; what they are trying to achive and how. "What" determines the likely outcome of success, "how" tells the difficulty of the roll.
Difficulty is part of likely outcome of success. And yes, if the player comes up with something appropriate, it's very easy for the GM in Mastery to go with it. (Remember that the player is supposed to describe the course of action as a first-thing so the GM can pick the right trait.)

Quote
When desiging a game, I always assume I will play it with good players, or at least adequate ones. That is, if GM tells them that the game is not one of slapstick humour, they will play fairly seriously and not try anything too goofy. If players (or the GM) are out to ruin a game, there is little a designer can do to prevent that. So I just assume the players and the GM are there to play together and not spoil the game for each other.
That's a good idea that I have to disagree with on one point: The GM or players may not realize that they're doing something wrong until it's too late. Rules and guidelines prevent things from going too wildly off course. Mostly I just agree with you though.

Quote
If you only want to give the GM power, it is very easy to accomplish. Go totally freeform. Or use the traditional resolution system: when trying something, roll a die. High result is good, low is bad. It works pretty well. Been there, played and GM'd that.
No. There's a very big point here, and that is the inclusion of strategy as well as creativity. RPGs are called games because they resemble activities that can be won or lost (even though they can't). Part of the fun, for me at least, is tactically devising ways to defeat my foes, and I feel that freeform doesn't give me the structure needed to do this consistently. I love freeform, don't get me wrong, I just think that there's a lot to be gained from GM heavy gaming.

@Phoenix Knight:
The rulebook is finished, and that's all you need to play, really. The book of examples isn't "done," though there's a good chance I just won't bother writing about equipment and skills. My interest in the project isn't very high, atm.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Thanuir on September 05, 2007, 12:58:22 PM
Quote from: Raelifin
Difficulty is part of likely outcome of success. And yes, if the player comes up with something appropriate, it's very easy for the GM in Mastery to go with it. (Remember that the player is supposed to describe the course of action as a first-thing so the GM can pick the right trait.)
Whatever works for you. I would, of course, houserule the trait selection to players, but it is a modular rule (not tied to others), so houseruling is easy.

Quote
That's a good idea that I have to disagree with on one point: The GM or players may not realize that they're doing something wrong until it's too late. Rules and guidelines prevent things from going too wildly off course. Mostly I just agree with you though.
True, that is one important function of rules. It can also be accomplished by strong reliance on source material (this game is like Star Wars/Michael Crichton's books/four-colour superhero comics) or a pre-game discussion (pitch session, where people talk about what they want to play and create characters and do similar preparations), but rules are an easy way.

Quote
There's a very big point here, and that is the inclusion of strategy as well as creativity. RPGs are called games because they resemble activities that can be won or lost (even though they can't). Part of the fun, for me at least, is tactically devising ways to defeat my foes, and I feel that freeform doesn't give me the structure needed to do this consistently. I love freeform, don't get me wrong, I just think that there's a lot to be gained from GM heavy gaming.
Okay. Strategy and tactics are not a huge factor for me, so it is easy to ignore them. This does explain quite a bit.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: sparkletwist on September 07, 2007, 04:31:52 PM
Quote from: Raelifin
Part of the fun, for me at least, is tactically devising ways to defeat my foes, and I feel that freeform doesn't give me the structure needed to do this consistently. I love freeform, don't get me wrong, I just think that there's a lot to be gained from GM heavy gaming.

Perhaps these two aren't exactly mutually exclusive (or maybe I'm not understanding your meaning) ... it seems like you can still have a game that is "GM heavy" but not "rules heavy." You could still, concievably, have a rather freeform-ish game, though with a GM, as long as the GM is able to be logical and consistent-- so the mileage any particular group gets may vary.

Anyway, I do like this set of rules, though, I'll agree with the opinion that it seems pretty exhaustive to be "minimalist." It seems to be elegant, though, and free of a lot of inconsistent garbage that plagues some rule sets and confuses players and GMs.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Matt Larkin (author) on September 07, 2007, 05:31:59 PM
It's certainly minimalist compared to most systems.

From my perspective, as a GM, having rules for common circumstances and situations helps to be consistent. Even with a good a memory, you won't remember every call you make about how every situation affects the game without writing it down. If it's going to need to be written down anyway, it's nice to have it in the book in the first place.

Of course, it is possible to carry such things too far. Take the 3.x grappling rules, for example ;)
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on September 07, 2007, 08:07:46 PM
I remember once making a flowchart for grapples. Any PnP ruleset that needs a flowchart is BAD.

------------------------[quote sparkles 'n twists]Perhaps these two aren't exactly mutually exclusive (or maybe I'm not understanding your meaning) ... it seems like you can still have a game that is "GM heavy" but not "rules heavy." You could still, concievably, have a rather freeform-ish game, though with a GM, as long as the GM is able to be logical and consistent-- so the mileage any particular group gets may vary.[/quote]You're missing the point, I was discussing how game-like a system is. If I define a game as something than can be won (and usually lost), than it's up to the player to make a series of decisions to guide them to the goal. Tabletop roleplaying is not usually a "game" by my definition because it lacks a fixed goal and is thus "playing," but this doesn't mean it's unrelated, as most players build up personal goals to reach (even if it's something like "get to level 20). Freeform roleplaying is a great thing, and I enjoy it, but because it lacks fixed rules, there's no basis to form strategy.

Yes, it's true that with freeform gaming strategy and challenge take the form of real-world logic and developing creative solutions to sticky situations, but things are so loose most times that it's difficult to be consistently difficult. By applying a ruleset, each situation becomes grounded (more or less) by the numbers assigned. The shared knowledge of what works also helps players understand how to tackle confusing scenarios or to guide newbies toward more interesting and fun courses of play (such as "parry, disarm, trust!" rather than "uh, I attack him").

(There are, of course, clear downsides to rules, but that's another matter.)
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on July 15, 2008, 11:06:42 AM
Well, on Sunday I played my first game of Mastery. Here are the highlights:



As soon as I can, I'll be posting suggested errata based on my experiences, new optional rules like "luck" to make the system more fun, and additional options for combat and magic.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on July 15, 2008, 03:08:29 PM
Mastery, 2nd Edition

[ic Rulebook]The GM is always right.

[spoiler Characters]Each character has a number of traits, abilities, and skills.

Traits represent the raw talent or power your character possesses in a field.
Example traits might include cunning, intelligence, fortitude, or agility.
Normally, traits can be -2 through +4.

Abilities represent general skill-sets which the character has learned.
Example abilities might include martial arts, stealth, acrobatics, or magical lore.
Normally, abilities can be +1 through +4.

Skills are more specific than abilities, and represent specific prowesses.
Example skills might include tracking, lock-picking, feinting, or swimming.
Normally, skills can be +1 through +5.[/spoiler][spoiler Challenges]Before playing, pick a kind of dice to use (I prefer d6) and stick with that for the rest of the game.

All challenges are made by rolling dice and counting the number of results that equal or exceed a Target Number.
Target Numbers are based on the inherent difficulty of an action. Jumping across a small gap would be easy, while jumping across a large gap would be hard. Don't even bother rolling trivial challenges.

Target Numbers:
[th]Difficulty[/th][th]d6[/th][th]d10[/th][th]d20[/th][/tr]
[tr][td]Easy[/td][td]3[/td][td]4[/td][td]7[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]Normal[/td][td]4[/td][td]6[/td][td]11[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]Difficult[/td][td]5[/td][td]8[/td][td]15[/td][/tr]
[tr][td]Extreme[/td][td]6[/td][td]10[/td][td]19[/td][/tr]
[/table]
For any solo challenge, the GM will require a certain number of successes for the character to succeed in their action. In many instances (such as music or athletics), more successes indicate a more impressive performance.

When characters oppose one another, treat it as though both characters were performing solo challenges where the victor is the one with the most successes. In this circumstance, the degree of success is equal to the difference, rather than the absolute number of successes.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

A player rolls a number of dice for a challenge depending on their character's attributes and the circumstances of the challenge.

Each challenge uses a trait, chosen by the GM. The player then chooses one ability and one skill. If the GM decides that either are unfit for the test at hand, the player cannot use them (and may not change their choice). The player then rolls a number of dice equal to:

1 + trait + ability (if any) + skill (if any) + circumstance modifiers (if any)

Unless a challenge is impossible, all characters get one base die, which cannot be removed due to modifiers.

Circumstantial modifiers can include assistance from others, low visibility, weariness, magic, or distraction.[/spoiler][spoiler Character Creation and Advancement]Before the game can begin, the GM must provide a list of traits. These traits should optimally cover all character archetypes that players want to use.

All traits start out at +0. Each player has two points which can be spent increase a trait (+0 -> +1 or +1 -> +2). Traits may be reduced to -1 to gain an additional point. Normally, a trait cannot be increased above +2 or reduced below a -1.
If a player wants to play a specialist, however, they may opt to reduce a +0 to a -2 in order to increase a +2 trait to a +3. This specialization may only be done once.

Starting characters then gain 20 "triumphs" which they can use to buy up skills and abilities, described below. 20 triumphs is intended to represent a starting hero, and the GM is encouraged to allot more for creating "experienced" heroes.

"Triumphs" are the units used to keep track of character advancement. Whenever a player does something difficult and important, the GM is suggested to give them a triumph. When a character is in a situation where they have the opportunity to increase a trait, ability or skill, (such as when creating a character) they may burn triumphs to do so. The number of triumphs it takes to move from one number to another depends on what is being increased.
[th]Cost of increasing traits:[/th][/tr]
[tr][td] -2 -> -1 = 1[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] -1 -> +0 = 2[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +0 -> +1 = 3[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +1 -> +2 = 4[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +2 -> +3 = 5[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +3 -> +4 = 7[/td][/tr]
[/table]
[th]Cost of increasing abilities:[/th][/tr]
[tr][td] +0 -> +1 = 2 (Gaining a new ability)[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +1 -> +2 = 3[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +2 -> +3 = 4[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +3 -> +4 = 6[/td][/tr]
[/table]
[th]Cost of increasing skills:[/th][/tr]
[tr][td] +0 -> +1 = 1 (Gaining a new skill)[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +1 -> +2 = 2[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +2 -> +3 = 2[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +3 -> +4 = 4[/td][/tr]
[tr][td] +4 -> +5 = 6[/td][/tr]
[/table]If the task of learning is difficult (such as without a teacher) the GM may require a challenge to improve.

Characters start with whatever items or equipment are considered appropriate for the setting and the character. If in doubt, ask the GM.[/spoiler][spoiler Combat]Coming Soon[/spoiler][/ic]

Once I get the combat, etc. done, I'll be integrating this into the first post.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: limetom on July 15, 2008, 03:54:40 PM
I would first like to say that I love this system; if I had players, I'd use it tomorrow.

My only major concern is the distinction between abilities and skills.  To me, the distinction between the two is pretty arbitrary, and to have them not folded into one thing seems to go a little against the theme of minimalism.  That is, of course, unless I'm missing something important...

I was going to comment on traits as well, but I really can't come up with anything constructive, just that I think 10 traits is a little much.

Good work.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on July 15, 2008, 04:48:48 PM
Thanks.

The distinction between skills and abilities is primarily to distinguish between easy and difficult. I think that in a system where all "class" features are skills it is important for them to have different degrees of difficulty. It's not as perfectly minimalist as it might be, but I like the mechanic well enough to leave it be. If you have any suggestions, I'm open.

The new version removes the 10 fixed traits. Traits are now determined by each specific GM at the beginning of the game as a part of the setting.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Nomadic on July 15, 2008, 05:38:37 PM
might I suggest changing Agility & Balance to Dexterity & Agility (at least I think that is what you were trying to get out here). Balancing skill actually falls under agility as agility is full body motion control while dexterity is fine movements (like crafting or aiming a bow, etc).
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on July 15, 2008, 05:43:05 PM
[ic Combat]In addition to traits, abilities, skills and gear, characters have a number of health boxes which are an abstract representation of their physical condition. The number of health boxes a character has will depend on the style of game that the GM is running and the physical toughness of the character. GMs are encouraged to tie a trait, like "Health" or "Fortitude" to the number of Health Boxes a character receives (minimum 1). I suggest using a base of 10 boxes. Gritty games may go for 5 or even 3. When a character takes damage, mark off a number of health boxes. When the last one is marked, the character typically goes into a coma or dies, depending on the circumstances. A character's health should always be taken into account when determining the "circumstances" of a challenge.

Combat can also vary, depending on GM. Presented below are three ways that I suggest handling combat.
[spoiler Fearsome Challenges]Perhaps the simplest way to deal with combat is simply to make it a series of deadly challenges.

Imagine a group of explorers venturing through a forgotten tomb. They come upon a spike-laden pit trap. Jumping across the pit might take two successes against a difficult target number, with failure dealing 4 health boxes of damage, and the extra problem of getting out. Now imagine the explorers come across an ancient tomb guardian. The guardian is slow, and all the players can take actions before the guardian acts. When it does, it swings it's hammer at a single character, forcing a challenge to either block or move with failure meaning the victim takes 4 health boxes of damage. Under this system of combat, there is no difference between an environmental hazard and an intelligent opponent, except that opponents are generally deadlier and more adaptable.

This system allows the GM to avoid rolling dice, which lets them stay focused on the group. To determine the number of successes to dodge the attack of a humanoid opponent, just assume that they roll all average. That is, if they are looking for a "normal" target number, just make their degree of success = half their dice pool.

Using this system, determine if enemies act first, then take turns where the whole party acts in whatever order they want (though only within reason).[/spoiler][spoiler Single-Action Roundtable]Good for dueling, this system breaks combat down into a number of rounds, where each player takes a single action.

Each character, at the beginning of combat, performs a challenge to act first, comparing degrees of success. In the case of a tie, the character with the highest "agility" trait (or equivalent) acts first, or the GM simply decides. Each character then acts in turn, taking a single action. Typical actions involve directly attacking the opponent, or modifying circumstances to get more dice on a future attack.

Attacks are handled as contested challenges with the defender. Stunned or surprised characters cannot defend. If the attacker wins, he or she deals damage equal to their degree of success (plus any modifier from weapon or armor). If the defender wins, they gain a counter-attack advantage on their next turn of a single die.[/spoiler][spoiler Bloodbath]This system is good for games that favor violent, or unpredictable combat. In Bloodbath, all characters decide on their actions in secret and act simultaneously. The results of a round of combat depend on the nature of the actions involved.

Independent Non-Challenge: An example of this is two characters that run away from each other. No rolls are made, and both characters successfully withdraw.

Independent Challenge: An example of this is two characters that attack each other. Each character rolls a solo challenge to hit and deals their raw successes as damage to their opponent (plus any modifier from weapon or armor). This can mean that both characters kill each other, if they roll high enough.

Conflicting Challenge: An example of this is a character that attacks a defending or fleeing character. The action is made as an opposed challenge, where the victor is the only one to have their action take effect, and their degree of success is the difference between the rolls.

Asynchronous: An example of this is a character that attacks a character trying to focus on something. In instances where one action (like attacking) is unaffected by another action (like focusing), but not vice-versa, the action that is not effected works and the other is disrupted.

Bloodbath can become unwieldy in non-one-on-one situations, and favors power in numbers.[/spoiler][/ic]
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on July 15, 2008, 05:44:12 PM
As I said to limetom: "Traits are now determined by each specific GM at the beginning of the game as a part of the setting."

You can do whatever you want with agility and dexterity. :)
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Eladris on July 16, 2008, 10:29:31 AM
I like the idea!  Your skill examples are pretty broad given your minimalist mindset, though.  Just looking at the list combat skills:
Quote
    * Lance, Flail, Blade, Axe, Spear, Hammer, of Staff Training
    * Fencing
    * Knife Fighting
    * Archery
    * Knife Throwing
    * A Martial Art
    *  Blocking
    * Parrying
    * Dodging
    * Feinting

* Archery Bows, crossbows
* Athletics Dodging, running, jumping, throwing, horse-back riding
* Melee Fencing, knife-fighting, martial arts, parrying, blocking
* Subterfuge Lying, feinting
[/list]
4 skills that can apply to a broader range of situations.  If you want to play the best flail wielder in the world the specifics could be served by a GM- or player-introduced bonus while using the flail or penalty while using non-flails.

Just a thought. :)  I mulled over several systems and created a few, but lacked interested players.    
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on July 16, 2008, 11:19:09 AM
1. You've clumped together skills and abilities without discussing the ramifications of removing the distinction.

2. Abilities are exactly "skills that can apply to a broader range of situations."

3. None of my examples are actually part of the rules, and the complexity of the rules is not increased by having a large number of examples. To illustrate, lets say we're playing the game 20 Questions. This game can be played with just about any Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, but the game itself is very simple, despite being able to generate 1,000 examples off the top of one's head.

3a. Because there are no hard and fast rules on what skills or abilities are acceptable, feel free to reduce the options into condensed groups. Be aware that doing so will make your players stronger, as they won't have to spend as many points to get a wide-range of abilities.

4. Simplifying horseback riding into athletics actually makes playing the game more complex, as a player who wants to be a knight needs to explore new rules for being good at horseback riding, but not cartwheels.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: snakefing on July 16, 2008, 12:10:36 PM
Somehow lots of people have missed the point of skills vs. abilities, so I wanted to make sure I've got it right myself.

An ability should be applicable to broad categories of actions. This allows the character to achieve a certain level of basic competence across the board without getting bogged down in a dozen different skills.

A skill should be quite specific and apply to a fairly narrow category of actions. This allows the character to specialize in a specific area at lower cost than buying up the corresponding ability.

The only issue I have here is one that would best be answered by extended playtesting: Is the point cost (sorry, triumph cost) of an ability enough larger to make it worth buying skills? From your example, Stealth is an ability, and Hide or Camouflage is a skill. But it seems like you'd want to buy up Stealth to the max first, because it applies to pretty much anything Hide does, but also applies to situations that Hide doesn't.

Of course, you might reply that such min-maxing is antithetical to the whole concept of this system, and if people are going to do that, they should play a different game.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on July 16, 2008, 01:04:49 PM
Thanks, you've brought up an important question, and one that I'm not sure about.

When playing, it's easier to notice the cost difference of a skill and an ability. I gained three triumphs in my session, which would be enough to buy one level in three new skills, two levels in one new skill, or one level in one new ability. Based on my experiences during that game, I'd want my character to either take one level in brawling (ability) or take several new skills (camping, leadership, climbing). I'm honestly not sure which would be "better," but it occurs to me that it depends heavily on what other skills or abilities the character has.

A rogue, for instance, might have an acrobatics ability at level 2. If the rogue wants to be better at acrobatics, they can either spend the 4 points to go up to level 3, or they can spend 3 points on a two-level skill, such as climbing. If they buy the skill, it's cheaper, and in some circumstances will grant more dice.

You may be right in thinking that abilities are superior. I'll keep my eye on it. At the very least I've fallen on the right side of the line, as I think having more well-rounded characters helps avoid weird inconsistencies.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: snakefing on July 16, 2008, 01:29:28 PM
Three observations:

What do you mean "in some circumstances [the skill] will grant more dice?" Unless I missed something, it seems to me that dice from abilities and skills are the same.

In most point buy games it really matters how points are doled out. If you get them in small bits, like three per session, there will be a fairly strong tendency to spend them now for an advantage, rather than save them for a six point buy later. So after five sessions, you'd have accumulated a number of one-, two-, and three- point buys. If I waited and gave you all fifteen points at the end, you'd probably spend them differently.

There is another factor at play here - to get maximally good at some particular thing, you'll eventually need both skills and abilities. Since you can't go higher than +4 in abilities, or +5 in skills, at some level it makes sense to buy both, at least for those skills that you are aiming to excel in. Just a question of what order you buy them in. (And how many dice is enough.)
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Kindling on July 16, 2008, 01:32:05 PM
I love this, from what I've read, not least because it seems to have the same ethic as I used when I created my own system - that of aiming for flexibility and minimalism.

Although your creation seems a lot better thought-out, I might post my rules in this thread, just for comparison... and so I can get pointers :P
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on July 16, 2008, 02:16:55 PM
@ Kindling: If you have a different thread for your game system, we could use that too. I'd like to keep this thread about Mastery, so I'd prefer if you only post your mechanics with the topic of how they compare or could compliment it. ^_^

Quote from: snakefing
In most point buy games it really matters how points are doled out. If you get them in small bits, like three per session, there will be a fairly strong tendency to spend them now for an advantage, rather than save them for a six point buy later. So after five sessions, you'd have accumulated a number of one-, two-, and three- point buys. If I waited and gave you all fifteen points at the end, you'd probably spend them differently.
There is another factor at play here - to get maximally good at some particular thing, you'll eventually need both skills and abilities. Since you can't go higher than +4 in abilities, or +5 in skills, at some level it makes sense to buy both, at least for those skills that you are aiming to excel in. Just a question of what order you buy them in. (And how many dice is enough.)[/quote]
Right.
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Eladris on July 16, 2008, 04:40:25 PM
I confused Skills and Abilities.  With that cleared up, would my examples better serve as abilities?  

Assuming that the answer is yes, wouldn't character sheets quickly suffer from bloating?  In your example you list purchasing 3 new skills as a possibility after of 1 session of play, something that many players would likely do; particularly those interested in rounding out a character sheet to match a background.  Is that desirable, adding or increasing an attribute at every session?
Title: -Mastery-, A Minimalist TableTop RPG Ruleset
Post by: Raelifin on July 16, 2008, 05:05:38 PM
I think it is desirable to add or increase an attribute every session. Veteran characters may likely have a wide range of skills and talents, but I don't see this as a bad thing. I haven't played more than a single game of Mastery, so I can't say how it would work in the long-run. "Bloating" though, is in the eye of the beholder.

Your examples are abilities, or at least Athletics, Archery and Subterfuge are. I tend to discourage making "melee" a single ability because it makes it temping to max out. It very well could be, though, depending on the setting and play-style.