I am the Warden!!
Before I begin explain what may be perhaps the fundamentals of the Optional System, my monthly Friday game packed up our 4e books for the last time. We finished the latest adventure in the campaign and stopped using D&D characters, spending the last hour-and-a-half drafting up OS conversions of the same character. A rogue, a wizard, and a warlock have crossed sides and sketched themselves out for these experimental rules with the guys psyched to play them. C'mon, July, get yer arse here NOW!!
Now we must delve into the core of this system: options. For starters, let's take a look at how options work and the inspiration behind them.
Let's Talk Options
Options are the key to play this game. An option is any action - physical, mental, or social - attempted by any living creature in the game. When you swing a sword, you're using an option. When you walk through a doorway, that's an option. Drinking a beer? You'd better believe that's an option. Options can be as simple as buttoning your shirt or as complicated as invoking a god's wrath to open a portal to Hell.
There are different types of options, many of which we'll get into later on this week, but there are two important classifications of options: dice and automatic. Automatic options are those completed with little effort or concentration - you simply do them and never have to worry about whether or not you were successful. Drawing your weapon is one of the most common automatic options. Dice options require you to - wait for it! - roll dice to attempt. When you roll dice, it is always an opposed roll against the other player you're attempting to overcome or against difficulty dice. There is where it gets fun.
Each Team starts their turn with 1 option + an additional option per character on the Team. So a Team with 3 characters has a minimum of 4 options. When you succeed on a dice option, you gain a bonus option to use immediately after you raise your arms in the air and flaunt your victory. If you use your bonus option to make another dice option and succeed, you gain another bonus option, and so forth and onward. There is no limit to the number of bonus options your Team can receive on a turn. You just have to keep rolling better than your opponents and against the Gamemaster. When you run out of options, your Team's turn is done.
Bonus options are what makes this system unique and spectacular (if I might toot my own horn just this once). While granting players the ability to take "unlimited actions" may appear incredibly overpowering, I can assure you it is not as simple as that. This is why all dice options required an opposed roll against another set of dice. With a pre-determined difficulty number, a player will always know what their objective is. If jumping 10 feet up has a difficulty of 20, the player knows he can only accomplish the jump if he can roll at least a 20 and will plan his skills and powers accordingly to ensure his success. But if the target number changes with every single roll, there's no prediction as to whether or not a character can succeed. The objective of the player is to roll as high a number as possible and increasing the odds of success by adding additional dice from training, powers, circumstances and more. By this concept, a roll of 7 might also succeed. (This makes it crucial to understand the number rolled by any character cannot measure the strength of the attempted option. For example, if you do roll a 7 to jump over a cliff, that does not mean you barely reach the rocks on the other side and grab hold for dear life... though it's certainly fun to play it that way. A success is a success is a success.)
Initial playtesting reveals it is possible for characters to gain up to 5 bonus options at the maximum on a turn and this is not always the case. There is just as much likelihood of a Team botching every single roll and accomplishing nothing on their turn. The beauty of this method is there's no easy means to calculate probability, an element in almost every RPG. Nearly every game we've ever played crunched the numbers and built their system around the concept of probability to ensure a reasonable chance of success. Go back to 4e, for example. At its simplest level, you have a 55% chance of succeeding on your rolls in D&D; modifications such as proficiencies, magic items, feats and more increase those odds to perhaps 65% or maybe 70%... to me, that's predictable. After a while, the odds of calculating your chances of winning a fight can be measured simply be knowing what your enemies' AC is. Not here, not in my system.
Only The Beginning
There's a lot more to options, rest assured, but that is for another day. In Part 2 of Options, I'll tell you about the five (5) base options and how any character can perform a large number of actions with just those alone.