The Universal Resolution Chart
Create the Chart
Finally, I’m going to put some numbers on paper and generate a chart.
Step One, Lay out the chart:
Columns: -21 to +21, using modified Fibonacci sequence, for a total of 15 columns.
Rows: -7 to +7, range of difference in d8 rolls, for a total of 15 rows.
Step Two, Populate:
Let’s fill it with a simple slide-scale. “A” is “Best Result” and gets progressively worse. Let’s see how it looks:
That’s ugly. There’s 29 possible outcomes, and that’s too many. It’s quite linear. It is a coincidence that 0x0=O? I know that part of this chart’s ugliness comes from the lack of highlighting and color. It will be added eventually, but not today.
Step Two Point One, Scrap and Redo:
Let’s put some thought into it. What am I trying to do with this chart? Should I start in the middle and work outward, or do I start at the extremes and work inward? How many possible outcomes do I want to represent? Not 29.
Let’s compromise and see what we get. I’ll start in the middle and at the extremes, and we’ll go with 15 possible outcomes. This means the lower-right corner gets “A”, the upper left corner gets “O”, and the middle gets “G.”
Easy enough. What do these letters mean?
A: Killing blow, critical hit, whatever. My skill is so much better than yours, I rolled awesome and you rolled terrible. I don’t care if you’re a legendary elder dragon, I just sliced your head off.
O: Critical fail. I am the epitome of incompetence and I somehow managed to trip and fall on my own weapon, doing lethal (or nearly lethal) damage to myself.
G: We’re evenly matched. Is this a hit or a miss?
This begs the question: do I give advantage to the attacker or the defender on ties? I tend to default to the defender, but, giving advantage to the attacker will make combat encounters run slightly faster. For now, we’ll give advantage to attacker. This means “G” is a “hit” with minimal damage.
Step Two Point Two, Expand:
For the “evenly matched” outcome (advantage attacker), how many die-roll outcomes get this result? Below, I expand the previously established result ranges a bit. The major takeaway is that the outcomes aren’t constrained to one instance in a column or row.
Step Two Point Three, Another Layer:
H: Clear miss. No damage, no backlash. This is the most common outcome, and as we fill it in, I get the added benefit of reducing the total number of outcomes.
Step Two Point Four, Next layer:
I: Fail with penalty: I missed, and because I missed badly, I have some sort of penalty. It’s not a critical failure where I injure myself, but my failure is either a disadvantage to me or an advantage to my opponent. This will be better defined later.
As I filled in these letters, I’m struck with a couple thoughts. Why would anyone ever attempt an attack on that far-left column? Is it there only because I want to prove there’s no chance ever of succeeding? If I allow the bottom left corner to be a “hit,” it works out to a one-in-sixty-four chance, which I think is too great a chance in this circumstance. However, should there be a near-miss/near-hit result that gives some sort of advantage to the attacker on their next strike? I like this idea. New Letter Z (for now). I’ll revise the lettering later.
The odds are extreme, but in that far-left column, I have a remote chance of doing something beneficial.
Step Two Point Five, All the Misses:
I like where this is going. I still have a lot of gaps to fill, though. Let’s finish the Misses.
J: Is a critical, but not lethal (or high-damage) failure. I want this band to be narrow. I think I need to adjust the I and H bands a little:
Step Two Point Six. Fill in the hits:
- B: Power hit with major critical (not necessarily lethal, but could be)
- C: Power hit with moderate critical
- D: Power hit with minor critical
- E: Hit with normal damage, and an advantage for the next attack
- F: Hit with normal damage
Step Three, Clean Up and Clarification:
Let’s make some fixes, and clarify the meanings:
- A: Lethal blow
- B: Severe Critical (triple damage)
- C: Moderate Critical (double damage)
- D: Light Critical (normal damage)
- E: Normal damage with advantage
- F: Normal damage
- G: Minimal damage
- H: Miss, but gain advantage
- I: Miss
- J: Miss with penalty
- K: Moderate critical miss
- L: Severe critical miss
Step four, color:
Compared to the first draft, it’s still “ugly”, but we only have 12 possible outcomes, not 29. This is a lot better. Also, when color and shading is added, it will look a lot better. (Hopefully, it will render correctly in WordPress.)
Using MS Word’s default color choices, the result is somewhat lame. It’s the tool I’m using and for now and I’m stuck with it. At least, on my screen, it makes the chart more visible and useful. We can discuss another time how we can improve it graphically. Instead of boring letters, we could use some sort of iconology or symbology as well. What I do like about it is that it fits on one-third of a page in portrait mode. This leaves room on the page for the legend as well as other referential material we’ll need. I’d rather give each player a one-page reference than have them flip through a book to find the information they need. I can even put a large-font version on both sides of the Conductor’s screen.
(Note: Seems WordPress dropped the color. Here’s a screenshot:)
Let’s review the combat sequence.
Start of combat: All players secretly determine their first action. The best way to do this is to use custom cards (kind of like the action cards from Race for the Galaxy.) Each Action card has a number indicating how many time increments – anywhere from 1 to 15 (or so). The number of increments isn’t locked in stone, as it can be adjusted by high Facet values and situational conditions.
The Conductor starts combat by saying, “First Increment.” All Actors reduce their current counter by 1. If any become Zero (0), that player performs the Action. Upon completion of the Action, the player chooses their next Action and resets the counter. We can use countdown dice for this, or some other mechanic (the big d20 countdown dice would work well.)
The Conductor says, “Next Increment” and play continues.
To resolve an Action, the player shows their Action card. There are two types: Attack/Opposed and Non-Attack.
Non-Attack Actions are carried out without issue. Most of these are movement or object manipulation actions.
Attack/Opposed Actions require a target. The Actor’s Attack Action is based on a Facet, which has a numeric score. The Target’s current Action has a Defensive Facet indicated, which also has a numeric score. Subtract the Target’s Facet value from the Actor’s Facet Value. The resulting number directs us to which column on the chart to use.
If there are environmental or other factors that can be applied, they will shift the column to the left or right. For example, an “Advantage” from a prior action may be applied by shifting to the next column on the right. Advantages of the same type do not stack. However, Advantages of distinct types do. Example: On the Actor’s prior attack, the result was “H” (Miss, but gain advantage), and I have “Flanking” on my opponent, I can shift two columns to the right. However, if the Actor’s last attack had advantage, and the Target’s last attack resulted with a penalty, these adjustments are the same type, so we only shift one column, not two.
This means I need to be clear on naming conventions! I also need to come up with a concise list of common and representative environmental factors that affect combat.
Now that we know which column we’re using the Actor and the Target each roll an eight-sided die. The Target’s die roll is subtracted from the Actor’s die roll. This result indicates which row on the chart. The intersection contains a letter (symbol or icon). The Actor consults the weapon being used and reports the result. If called for, damage is applied.
Physical Aspect Facets
Before we can discuss how damage is applied, we need a better understanding of how the character is constructed.
In a previous article, I suggested that starting-level values for Physical Aspect Facets will run between 4 and 6. 1, the lowest level, is someone who has no knowledge, experience, or talent. 4 or 5 is someone who’s considered good, but nowhere near great. Scores can be increased to over 20, which is “god” level.
Most characters, for the 7 Physical Aspect Facets, should have values ranging from 2 to 6. Our Point-Build system will be scaled to work the same as experience improvement – that is, you start with a set amount of Improvement Points (IPs) and they get spent to raise the Facets. All Facets start at 1. To improve a Facet by 1 point, you must spend IPs equal to its current value.
I want to see how it builds out, but I think I can start all characters with 27 IPs. This translates to four Facets at 3 and three facets at 4. I’ll add an additional rule that no Facet can be raised to higher than 6 during character creation. It would cost 15 IPs to raise a single Facet to 6.
There are no “Hit Points” in this game. Damage is applied against the Facets, which translates to an immediate reduction in its value, meaning that all damage will likely affect combat. If any Facet is reduced to zero, the character is knocked unconscious. I’ll figure out rules for unconscious and near-death conditions later.
How Damage Works
How is damage applied, and what do critical hits and misses mean?
Minimal damage can never be less than 1 point of damage, even when the Target is wearing armor.
Normally, the character receiving the damage chooses where to apply it. However, whenever someone gains an “Advantage” with damage, the Actor can decide either to force the damage to a specific Facet or use the Advantage on their next attack against that Target.
When taking damage, all damage is applied against one Facet, except:
- If there is no single Facet available that can absorb all the damage, the player can divide it as they choose.
- If a Light Critical is scored, damage is spread across as many Facets as possible, with as few points to each as possible. In this situation, the one taking the damage chooses which Facets.
- If a Moderate Critical is scored, damage is applied to one sub-grouping (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, or whatever I’ll end up calling them). The Actor chooses the sub-group, but the defender chooses which Facets within it to apply the damage.
- If a Severe Critical is scored, the highest of all Facets takes enough damage to reduce it to 1. The remaining damage (if there is any) is applied evenly to the other Facets in that subgroup.
- If a Lethal Blow Critical is scored, the player must apply damage to the lowest value Facets to reduce as many to zero as possible.
If taking damage from a Critical Miss, the player chooses where to apply the damage in the same manner as above.
I think some clarification will be required, but this is a start.
The next consideration is how damage scales. “G” is minimal damage, meaning it’s always just 1 point. Normal damage depends on several factors. Typically, it starts at 4 points. I want to adjust it based on the associated Facet.
I also need to understand how armor works. I think Armor will be a combination of environmental (shifting columns) and ablation (damage reduction.) It’s because of Armor we need to understand damage types. What I fear is the table shown for each weapon becomes three-dimensional, which can’t be printed on a single page.
I’m not going to use an app to figure this stuff out. It needs to work with pen and paper!
How Damage Works Redux
I wrote the above section yesterday, and after sleeping on it, I decided I don’t like it.
Before I can discuss how damage is applied, I need to delve further into the Physical Aspect Facets and how they should work… because it MATTERS.
Here’s the list (from blog Part 6), alphabetized:
As proposed above, an average starting character will have 4 Facets = 3 and 3 Facets = 4; kind of like this:
If unconsciousness occurs when any one of these is reduced to zero, this means our character effectively has 18 hit points. As I have it currently designed, if a character wants to spike a Facet up to 6, they’ll have fewer hit points:
This character has 13 hit points. What is lacking is meaningful choice. It doesn’t matter how I distribute the values, the character has the same damage threshold. In this model, the more survivable character is “average.” I think that if I put more points into Vitality, I should have more hit points. If I put more points into Defense, I should be able to reduce more damage. No?
This means I can’t outright go with the idea that damage to Facet is a one-to-one ratio. It can’t be.
Let’s create a min-max character as best I can with 27 IPs:
Before I do, let’s create a simple “IP Cost” chart. I can do the math in my head, but not everyone is as good as I am with this regard:
|Target Facet Value||IP Cost to Get It There|
Within this model, this is the most extreme value distribution I can create. Since it’s a point-build system, the player can distribute these values across the Facets in a variety of ways. If I do the math right, there are 105 unique combinations with these values.
Let me rearrange them to represent the proverbial “tank” character:
A tank character is one who can absorb a lot of damage before succumbing. In other games, this character has a high Constitution Score which equates to more Hit Points. Vitality and Defense are the two Facets that seem appropriate.
Let me remind you (and myself) that I’m trying to avoid calculated attributes. I want these primary values to have meaning as they are. At the same time, I don’t want to introduce yet another chart or table.
I think I can answer this by clarifying some definitions:
Vitality IS your hit points. When Vitality is reduced to 0, you’re knocked out.
Defense, Adroitness, and Wits are Ablation Facets: Defense for Melee attacks, Adroitness for Ranged attacks, and Wits for Mental attacks. Incoming damage from one of these sources is reduced by the Facet value before damage is applied to Vitality.
This leaves Force, Fight, and Throw as back up damage takers. This is where Critical Hits becomes meaningful. Likewise, I can include all six (non-Vitality) Facets in the mix, because a Critical Hit that reduces Defense reduces the ablation value for subsequent attacks.
With this in perspective, we realize that my min-maxed character is only effective against Melee attacks.
Now that we have the Facets figured out, we can look at how damage is applied. My original plan won’t work, though I can still gain some inspiration from it. A few things need to be adjusted.
The idea of “minimal damage” becomes questionable. No character will ever have an ablation facet (Defense, Adroitness, or Wits) of less than 1. It is nearly impossible for 1 point of damage to ever mean anything.
Additionally, Armor will also have an ablation factor (which applies to physical damage types) that will reduce incoming damage.
I think I know the answers:
First, armor ablation is cumulative. For every “X” points of damage the armor absorbs, its ablation rating is reduced by “Y”. I know it means record keeping, but it’s part of the crunchy realism I’m trying to achieve. The “X” and “Y” depend upon the type of armor, its manufacture, and any magical enchantments.
Second, when I, as a defender, declare that I’m using one of my facet-based ablations, it is “used” until I can reset it. What does this mean? If my current Action is “Swing with my sword,” which specifies “Fight” as the attack, with “Force” as a damage modifier, and “Defense” is my current defense. It’s a 3-Increment Action, which means that unless interrupted, I can’t do anything until my counter reaches zero. If, at Increment 2 in this countdown, Orc #7 swings and hits me with a “G” result, meaning he only does 1 point of damage. I can choose to use my 5 points of Defense Ablation now or hold it for later. If I use it now, the 1 point of damage is ablated. At Increment 1 in my countdown, Orc #3 hits me with an “F” result and does 4 points of damage, I can either regret my prior decision of using the Ablation or be thankful I held it. At Increment 0, I swing and kill one of the orcs. Since my current action is resolved, I must choose a new action. Even if I choose the same “Swing with my sword,” it resets my defense.
Perhaps now you get where I’m going in that combat not only becomes more lethal, but there are more choices. I no longer stand there between my turns taking punishment, hoping the Conductor rolls poorly on to-hit and damage rolls. I now have a choice on how and when to use my defenses.
As I finish typing these paragraphs, I realize that indicating a “defensive” facet doesn’t make sense, because Defense will always be used for melee, Adroitness will always be used for ranged, and Wits will always be used for mental. This isn’t a limitation. It’s an opportunity: Various actions may allow me to use my ablation facets more than once during the countdown. Parry, for example, means that I get to use Defense for ALL incoming melee attacks. Dodge corresponds to Adroitness and ranged attacks. Certain attack actions will be weaker (i.e. less damage) if I beef up the defensive posture.
I’m not yet done with how damage is applied, but so far, it’s easier than what I had originally proposed. And, it makes more sense.
How do we handle critical hits? In TURC, I specified four levels: Advantage, Light, Moderate, and Severe.
Let’s go through this. The Actor makes the choice.
- Do one (or one additional) point of damage.
- Force the opponent to use their Ablation defense if they have it available.
- Reduce my next Action by 1 increment (though it can never be reduced to less than 0).
- Any one of the above.
- Redirect 1 point of Vitality damage to another Facet, chosen by the Target.
- Any one of the above.
- Redirect 1 point of Ablated or Vitality damage to another Facet, chosen by the Target.
- Any one of the above.
- Redirect 1 point of Ablated or Vitality damage to another Facet, chosen by the Actor.
I should make it clear that if a defensive Facet is reduced, its ablation value is affected. In all cases, critical damage is handled after the Target determines how to distribute the damage.
In the case of critical misses, the Actor still chooses what occurs, but the sequence is slightly modified:
- Use my own Ablation defense, if available.
- Increase my next Action by 1 increment.
- Increase my next Action by 2 increments.
- Take 1 point of Vitality damage.
- The next attack against me is improved by 1 column.
- Take 1 point of damage to a non-Vitality Facet of my choice.
As stated previously, if any Facet is reduced to zero or less, the character falls unconscious.
Actions and Maneuvers, an Introduction
Because I don’t want this blog to run 10,000 words, I’m just going to give a brief introduction to what I have in mind for Actions.
I mentioned before that each character will have a handful of Action cards representing the options that character has at any given point in the battle. There are two broad categories: Attack and Non-Attack Actions. Non-Attack Actions are straightforward. They represent moving on the battlefield, talking, manipulating objects, etc. Most of these are quick and generic.
Attack Actions is where we can add a lot of flavor and detail to the game without overburdening it with mechanical complexity. I do have to be aware of the potential analysis paralysis players might experience when choosing an action, but hopefully it can be mitigated.
Starting with the basics, if a character has a weapon proficiency, they will have a basic set of cards. Usually, this will include a normal attack, a power attack, and a defensive posture. During character construction and subsequent improvement, additional cards can be purchased for that character, representing specialized skills and talents. These include cards like Quick Draw/Move (movement without sacrificing an increment to draw your weapon), Riposte (quick attack after a successful attack), Cleave (quick attack against another adjacent enemy if one is dropped), Feint (draw opponent into an attack, leaving an opening), and others.
Each card will display the number of increments it takes to resolve, i.e., the countdown, the amount of base damage, the number of times ablation can be used during the countdown, and any conditions or modifications based on the situation or Facet values. As an example, the basic Move card allows a character to move 1 hex in 1 increment. If the character’s Adroitness or Force exceeds 6, they can move 1 additional hex. If both exceed 6, they can move 3 hexes.
I’ve already decided that character races will not influence the Facets. However, a character’s race may influence the IP Cost of certain cards. As an example, an Elf proficient with Longbow may gain up Quick Reload for less IP than other characters. The IP cost and any discounts and/or requirements will be shown on the card.
This also applies to “higher level” abilities. An advance feat like “Dual Target Casting” will have certain requirements to obtain. If the character already has “Target Discernment,” “Dual Target” might cost a little less.
I’ve just subjected you to over 5,800 words of brainstorming and thought process. Through this, I’m sure you have a better idea of how my mind works, as well as the thought that goes into building an RPG system. I’m just one person, however. Crack the cover of nearly every RPG book on the shelf at your local game store and you’ll see an extensive list of names. I’m not so egotistical that I think I can create my own game without input, help, and feedback from others. Please! Let me know what you think. Right now, I have no idea when I’ll be ready to bring this to a table and see how it works. That’s the real test. At any rate, I think I made great progress today.