Thursday, 30 June 2011

Options, Part 3

I am the Warden!!

We've made a lot of progress on options this week, but we're not done yet, class. But let's review before we carry on any further...

Options are used to attempt all actions in the game. There are two types of options: dice options require you to roll dice for your attempt and automatic options happen simply by describing them. There are 5 base options: Attack, Move, Quick, Pass, and Free. Whenever you succeed on a dice option, you gain a bonus option to use for any option available to your character.

These are the standards for all characters in the Optional System. And there are more. Options allow you to create your own unique individual as you spend training points to learn new options. For these additions, there are more uses, applications, and definitions for options. To keep things simple, I've listed them in alphabetical order.

Defensive Options
During the initial design phase of this system, I pictured all opposed rolls as a combination of dodges, blocks, and parries intertwined. As time went on, there was still something missing and so I turned to my old swordhandling class I took at Algonquin College in Ottawa. Defense is equal to offense in combat. Many feel a focus on one or the other is the way to go and common sense says defense lets you live longer, but you can't win if you only block and you'll get hurt or killed if you just lunge forward. Combat requires a fair balance between the two sides and using opposing rolls puts that concept on the table. But to design options only usable for offense just seemed a little counterproductive to that theory - there needed to be options adding to your defense as well.

Defensive options are unique in that they are delayed options. Take the Parry option for example. You can parry as part of your opposed rolls, don't get me wrong, but training your character to use the Parry option means you plan to do more than just bat that sword away with your spear: you plan to twist your attacker around and make a counterattack. To use the Parry option, you have to declare it on your turn but you do not roll it until you defend an attack of your choice after your Team's turn is done. All defensive options work like this. They cost attention and focus from your character in combat and hence you have to sacrifice an option from your Team to pull this maneuver off, but when you complete a defensive option, you gain the edge over your opponent and you gain a bonus option. When you pull off a defensive option, you regain control of combat and start gaining bonus options outside of your Team's turn. It can be tactically risky: if you fail to defend the attack with your Parry option, you've just wasted an option. But if it works...

Trained Options
What kind of RPG doesn't have skills? OK, what kind of modern RPG not emulating old-school material doesn't have skills? Some options can only be unlocked and trained after you've learned a particular skill. Other come from utilizing a certain weapon, undertaking a class, belonging to a certain race, and more. These are all trained options.

Options will come from numerous sources throughout the game and they require training points to unlock. Many weapons will have trained options attached to them, usable only when you have the weapon listed in your hands. Rogues have access to the Sneak and Hide options, wizards have the Spell option, and so forth. Some trained options can replace the standard options and reactions by automatically providing extra bonuses, just like the Charge option. While a regular charge can only be made as a stunt, the Charge option does it all automatically without the risk of a stunt.  Trained options are a healthy combination of class features and feats rolled into one.

All trained options are divided into subcategories (c'mon, I ask you again, what RPG doesn't break things into subcategories?) based on their source: item, skill, power, etc. This certifies your character uses the item or skill listed as part of the option.

Class Dismissed!
Like everything else posted to this blog, details and rules will change over time and termination will become tighter, but those are the literal options of the Optional System. Because she's a dice-heavy game, we'll talk next time about dice. Lots and lots of dice. ;)

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Options, Part 2

I am the Warden!!

Where were we? Ah, yes. Options. Yesterday, we discussed how options drive the Optional System according to your Team and bonus options. Now we're going to talk about the five base options, those available to every single character represented in this game.

Base Options
There are five (5) base options available to every character and can be used at any point and time on your Team's turn, regardless of training. Each of these options represents a core task applicable to any untrained character, such as farm hands, millers, barmaids, law enforcement, snotty noblemen, and more. Even animals have access to these options - that's just how basic they are.

Attack: Don't let the name fool you; this option is not always used for attacking another character. But yeah, it's predominantly used for planting your sword in their neck. The Attack option is the default option for rolling dice; any time you have to make a dice roll against difficulty dice or an opposing character, you can use the Attack option. The majority of options available in OS substitute the Attack option and provide additional benefits or access to greater reactions, functions, and more. The Attack option is the simplest version of the active dice roll: you roll dice against an opposing set of dice to perform an action.

Move: The Optional System does not use miniatures or maps. It doesn't make sense to build a system requiring minis when you can't manufacture your own. So we're going old school on this motherfucker. Simplifying movement, distance, and range for this game is another crucial goal to the final design and this is where the Move option comes in handy. When you spend a Move option, you do not move a set number of feet or inches; you move to a location within your line of sight. For example, you stand in the middle of a room with pillars standing at the far side of the room. You can reach a pillar in 1 Move option. It doesn't matter how far away it is - you just need to declare 1 Move option to reach it. To make it to another pillar, you must spend another Move option. Each Move option places you one step closer to reaching a target, meaning the only measurement of distance is the Move option itself. Move options can also be used for accomplishing jumps, climbing a cliff, swimming, and any other form of movement with a risk of failure, but when it comes to making it from Point A to Point B, you simply get there.

Quick: These options are NEVER dice options. You must have to roll for a Quick option, but it does take a concentrated effort to perform it. Drawing your weapon, opening a door, and all those other basic deeds you'd look like an idiot rolling for. It's like starting up a new video game where they say your character is the sole hope for salvation in the universe and then proceed to explain how to put on your pants. Because Quick options never require dice, you cannot gain a bonus option from these actions.

(Or can you? There's a little something called "stunts" which can help with that problem, but we'll get there another day.)

Pass: When we talked about Teams, the Pass option came up. Passing is the critical component of the Team structure and allows you to pass your bonus option to another member on your Team and use it as if it were their own. This option is an automatic option, just like the Quick option, though it can become any other option after it has been passed. (In our playtests so far, players have simply started calling out "Pass!" when they use this option. I still have a grin over that.)

Free: Hold on now, it's not as easy as that. This final base option does allow for those rapid-fire, easy-peasy things players have argued for generations over. Talking, thinking, and so many other things not worth getting into at the moment. Free actions are a great way to just say "Whatever, you can go nuts with those," but those games feature a 6-second timeline on their turns; their games incorporate an averaging concept to a character's turn where you roll an overall result for your series of thrusts, parries, and lunges. The Optional System has you roll for EVERY SINGLE stroke, gesture, and incantation, so having unlimited free actions cannot properly apply here without getting out of hand. Each option represents no more than 1 second of time. How many words can you get out in one second? Every Free option allows for 3 deeds, including one line of dialogue per deed, before you have to use the Free option as part of your Team's turn. This option will be entirely at the discretion of the Director, though we have used the principle that any words spoken directly to another character count towards a Free option. Of all the base options, I'm expecting this one to get the most tweaking over the next couple of years.

But That's Not All Folks...
Not by a long shot. All characters in the Optional System can use training points (we'll get to that too) to gain additional options. The purpose of these options is to provide players with unique opportunity, attack styles, and actions uncommon in their allies - it's a way to individualize your character. As a player, instead of learning how to achieve every single action like grappling, sneaking, spellcasting, and the like, all you need to read up on are the 5 base options and those you're trained in.

Next time, I'll go into option types, such as defensive options, and their uses throughout the Optional System.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


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.

Bonus Options
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.