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As some of you may already know, Blue Max Studios has been developing new and original content for OpenD6 since last September. To date, all but two of our current releases have been for a new Hard SF setting, The Black Desert. Basically, I decided that instead of waiting an indefinite amount of time working on the Core Rulebook before trying my hand at publishing, I would get my feet wet by writing supplements to build up a fan base and to get experience in the business. I highly recommend this to those of you who are thinking of starting your own game design companies, working for a current one, or going solo like me. But now the time has come. I have a lot of fans, a lot of support, and a good bit experience in writing for publication and meeting deadlines. Therefore, Blue Max Studios is proud to announce the official release date of our first full-length, original role-playing game for OpenD6. Let me put it in bold for you: The Black Desert Role-Playing Game will be released on December 16th, 2011. This gives me plenty of time to finish the game while keeping up with my prior commitments and still lets me publish in time for the Holidays. I pride myself on having never missed a product release date, even when my computer crashed after getting a virus. I for certain do not intend to miss this one. To all of you who have offered encouragement, advice and support, thank you.
Below is an excerpt from the current draft of the skills entry for The Black Desert. Questions, comments and criticisms are appreciated. In particular, input on the concepts of Attribute Independent Skills and Skill Combinations are welcome. Thanks in advance! SKILLS In addition to having Attributes, Characters in The Black Desert also have Skills. Skills are similar to Attributes, but far more specific. There are two types of Skills: General Skills and Focused Skills. General Skills General Skills reflect fairly broad subjects â€“ though not nearly as broad as Attributes. For example, While the Knowledge Attribute covers any type of learning, the Science Skill only covers the sciences. Starting Characters begin play with 20D they may allocate to skills. A full Skill List and an explanation of the General Skills commonly available are included later in this section. Players will naturally want to put the most dice into the Skills they expect to use the most often wile this is logical, there are limits to the number of dice a Character may have in any given Skill. A starting Character may not have more than 5D to any Skill and No Character may have more than 10D in any Skill. This represents the limits of a Humans capacity to learn, limits other species may break, but not without consequences. Focused Skills General Skills are further broken down into Focused Skills. A Focused Skill is very specific; often covering only a single item or action. What Focused Skills lack in utility they make up for in ability â€“ Each General Skill die counts as two Focused Skill dice. An example would be a Player adding 2D to the Focused Skill Biology, instead of adding another 1D in Science. Characters must have at least 1D in a General Skill before they can focus that Skill. When making a Skill Check, a Focused Skill cannot be used with it's General Skill; Players must chose one or the other to put into their Dice Pool for that check. Focused Skills are like General Skills when it comes to determining the maximum number of dice a Character may have. Attribute Independence Unlike traditional D6 variants and many other popular games, the BD6 system has Attribute Independent Skills. What this means is, when deciding what to roll in a Skill Check, Any given Skill can be matched with any Attribute. For example, while a boxer would roll the Strength Attribute and the Brawl Skill together, a Eastern martial artist would most likely pool Agility with Brawl, or even switch between Strength and Agility from round to round. While this level of independence allows for more versatility in creating Dice Pools, not all Attributes fit with all Skills, and certainly not in all situations. The GM has the final say in what Attribute/Skill combinations are allowable in your game. Skill Combinations Sometimes having skill in one thing gives you an advantage in another. For example, having skill in Biology gives one additional insight into the workings life and improves one's skill in the practice of Medicine (I am speaking from personal experience on this one; I am, among other things, Biologist and a Medic) To reflect this in The Black Desert, the BD6 rules system incorporates something called Skill Combinations. Skill Combinations grant Characters bonuses to Skill Checks based on there level in another skill. For every Die a Character has in relevant Skill, the Player can add +1 to the result of Skill Checks combined with that Skill. So if a Medic has 3D in Medicine and 2D in Biology, the Player may add +2 to their Medicine Skill Checks. A Character may benefit from Skill Combinations up to a maximum of +5 to their Skill Checks. The descriptions of the various skills include a short list of possible Skill Combinations. Whether one Skill can be combined with another one is ultimately up to the GM. Focused Skills cannot be used in combination with general Skills.
This is a meta-discussion about game design concepts. I aim to avoid the competitive navel gazing of the Forge, and will be referencing one of my own designs. Where my prior thread Number Crunching Equivalences - Why My Dice Suck Compared To D6 Legend covered the numerical concepts of the different systems (and why I come down about halfway between D6 Classic and D6 Legend), this one is going to get into squishy areas. The core concept here is this one: A roleplaying game is not a simulation. It's a reward mechanism and incentive system for specific kinds of play. Not all games had their 'play style' reward chosen consciously - see D&D for an example. D&D is ostensibly about Robert E Howard-style Conan stories. What it rewards is like Munchkin without the sense of humor. (This isn't a slam on either D&D or Munchkin. I enjoy D&D and still play Munchkin when nothing else is available...) Mechanical Rewards For Roleplaying People who like 'old school' RPGs tend to say "We don't need no rewards for roleplayin', it just happens." I've heard this argument before, and I'm going to quash it here. You will get the roleplaying that exists in the Venn diagram overlap between what your system mechanically rewards and what your game master and fellow players reward. This does mean that for some groups, roleplaying just happens. These people could also probably run a campaign about Pride & Prejudice & Zombies using a rulebook that alternates every even numbered page from Amber Diceless and every odd numbered page from RIFTS. Not everyone is lucky enough to be in that skilled a play group. The reasons most old school gamers give for not incentivizing roleplaying is because it means the blabbermouth player gets more XPs than everyone else - it's a reward for scene hogging, and for slowing the game down when we could be killing more things to take their stuff. It also leads into charges of GM favoritism. We'll address all of those concerns in this post. The Basic Types of Incentive Boost Average Roll: The first type of incentive is to do something that increases the average result of a die roll - "Yeah, get +2 on the die roll for that cool description" is one example. One of the reasons for doing roll-and-count is that you can make incentives that improve the average die roll without increasing the maximum possible die rolls. (This can still be done with roll and add systems by turning them into roll X, keep Y systems, but it's a bit more cumbersome. Boost Maximum Outcome: This type of incentive almost always increases the average die roll, but also changes the maximum possible outcome. The "Yeah, get +2 on the die roll for that cool description" does this in a d20-style game. In D6 Classic, this is using a Character Point or a Fate Point. Having a system that can do both types of incentive - and knowing that they're different - means you can incentivize different kinds of behavior with specific bonuses. Rewarding Player Behavior One thing people sometimes ask me is "You have Upshifts. Where are the Downshifts?" There aren't any - Upshifts are entirely meant as a way to encourage players to be more descriptive about the cool things their characters are doing. Upshifts reduce the chance that you'll outright fail, but they won't increase the maximum possible number of successes you can get. The other thing that Upshifts let me do is avoid special rules. The classic example is the player who has lots of knowledge about guns trying to use it to argue for special case rules in combat. Here, we can let him use that knowledge to describe how he's setting up the shot, and let him show off the knowledge he has...in return for making an Upshift that's entertaining for everyone else at the table. Rewarding Character Action In D6 Dramatics, every character has to have three goals defined, and the party will likely have a Mission defined. Goals are rated in dice, and cap out at 4D. Whenever a character works towards a goal, it goes up by 1D. Whenever a character works against a goal, it goes down by 1D. A player may convert Goal Dice into skill points at 1:1 at any time using the normal D6 rules. Once this is done, the skill points must be spent immediately, and you can't convert them back. There are a few other things that players can choose to do that reduce Goal Dice. So far, they sound a little bit like Character Points, and they are - you just get them for doing things important to your character rather than just showing up and getting 2 for being a warm body eating chips. However, unlike Character Points in D6, when you're rolling dice on a task that pertains to your Goal, you roll those Goal Dice in addition to your Skill dice - make them a different color set of dice. Goals are never Upshifted (it proved to be too powerful in playtesting). The +1 or +2 on Skill dice only applies to the Skill dice - never to a Goal die. This applies to every single roll in that scene so long as you're working towards your Goal. It's not a case of "OK, I burn a character point for an extra die, once." It's "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." However, you only get this massive bonus when doing something matching one of your character's Goals. This also replaces Fate Points. This means that someone with 6D+2 and a full up Goal is rolling 6D+2 and 4D and counting successes. Which means that 'if it's important to your character, it's likelier to succeed'. And in the event that someone manages to get all three Goals bearing on a scene (it's likely the climactic thriller with the Fate of the WOOOOORLD at stake...) they're throwing an extra 12D at the scene... But wait, there's more! If you complete your Goal; it automatically converts to skill points at 1:2. One Goal Die becomes two skill points. Not only do you get more powerful for pursuing your goals as single mindedly as fictional heroes tend to, but completing them gives you more skill points. I mentioned Mission Dice. Your group can come up with a Mission. It can go to 6D. It works like a Goal Dice pool set - except it's going to be at the same value for everyone. If at least two people in a scene doing something that furthers the group mission, they both get the Mission Goal dice to roll. If anyone works against the Mission Goal, it goes down by one die for everyone as well...which tends to curtail the "Well, I'm the party thief. Why did you expect to still have underwear after going asleep near me?" types of ass-hattery. When a Mission is completed, it converts at 1:1 into Attribute Points that can be spent to raise Attributes, or converted at 2:1 into Skill Points (which nobody does because the conversion rate is awful). You can't use Skill Points to raise Attributes. This means that over the course of a campaign, Skills increase, but Attributes tend to not do so as quickly. Goal and Mission dice also make the game master's life easier. They give the game master a road map of the things that ostensibly interest the players in the game. (If you pick a Goal you're not interested in, convert any dice into Skill Points and re-set it to something you ARE interested in.) Words cannot describe how much easier this makes organizing a plot or an adventure, particularly when combined with another tool I use.