Born in COVID: Edge of Brilliance RPG

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Hello EN World!

I've been tinkering with homebrew RPGs for nearly a decade, but this one emerged spontaneously in the last year out of the fires of COVID. I wanted to share it for anyone who might be interested in playing, looking for RPG ideas, or whatever other reason!

Quick history of the game's creation:
When schools ran remotely last Fall, I ran a program giving kids a place to go to help with schoolwork, getting to online classes, engaging in group activities, etc. In January, the elementary schools re-opened, but Middle and High Schools held off a couple months, leaving me with half-a-dozen 6-9th graders. They usually got most of their work done mid-morning leaving the rest of the day open and they expressed an interest in RPGs. Most of them had never played one before and I wanted something simple yet crunchy with characters that would fit on an index card and utilizing d6s so if the kids lost them it was no big deal.

They also wanted to play a ton of different settings and, on various days, we bounced between Star Wars, fantasy, or superhero campaigns. The system, thus, had to be setting- and genre-neutral yet still feature simple rules that completely inexperienced 12-15 year-olds could track.

When schools re-opened, the kids didn't want to stop so I organized a regular game that we've been running ever since. The system's evolved from its humble index cards and d6 origins, but I've worked hard to keep the same simplicity and feel.

We've finished one homebrew fantasy campaign run in versions 0.2 to 0.3 and recently started a Dark Sun campaign running in the current v0.4.

Key Touchstones/Inspirations: Blades in the Dark, Exalted 1e, Dungeon World

Core concepts:
Abilities
are divided into 10 action verbs: Channel, Endure, Impress, Fight, Know, Move, Sense, Talk, Travel, Work. Characters gain one "★" each level to increase their capability in one ability but also must mark an "X" which makes them worse in another. Characters also pick or roll a couple +1/-1s among 100 specialties, refining their skill sets further. Characters start off not especially great or terrible at anything, but become more specialized level-by-level.

Dice rolls now utilize the core "4s System" I've used to run LARPS, one-shot RPGs at kids camps, and "mini-Mega Games" for years: each player has one d10 and rolls something related to 4 depending on the difficulty:
  • Easy: don't roll a 4.
  • Normal: roll 4 or more.
  • Hard: roll 4 or less.
  • Heroic: roll exactly 4.
  • Epic: roll exactly 4, twice.
For most rolls, only success/failure matters. For damage, progress, or other effects requiring a quantitative result, the actual number rolled becomes said quantity.

Traits are resources that can be spent to manipulate dice rolls. We use colored beads to track them since kids (and adults, really) love to have physical representations of the resources they are spending. We've used poker chips as well and coins, cubes, dice, or any other sore of token could work. Each character begins with a limited pool of each resource and increase these pools as they level up.
  • Edge(♦) grants a re-roll and represents skill, training, and talent. Most ★ benefits increase the effectiveness of spending ♦. It is easiest to regain.
  • Effect(☐) gives players various bonuses when using their assets (see below) depending on how much a character has leveled them up. It is easy to regain.
  • Strain(♥) modifies the roll's result by 1 per ♥ spent and represents toughness, perseverance, will, perseverance, and effort. It is harder to regain.
  • Brilliance(☼) reduces difficulty one step and represents passion, inspiration, grace, and heroism. It is hardest to regain.
Assets are distinct aspects of a character that set them apart: racial bloodlines (elf, dwarf, gray alien), unique descriptors (keen senses, huge, slick), equipment (magic sword, assault rifle, cybernetic arms), or companions (trained wolf, combat drone, implanted AI).

Players choose one asset to improve each level, increasing their pool or ratcheting up the benefits of spending while using that asset. As they level, they unlock more asset slots to make their characters more distinct.

Items represent all other equipment and include rations, weapons, armor, gear, ammo, medicine, drugs, crafting materials, cash/coin, and the like. If a character wishes to have something for a scene, they simply mark off one use of the relevant item: "I pull rope from my backpack" marks off 1 Gear. "I hurl a throw a javelin at him as he rides off" marks off 1 Weapons, "I pull out bandages to stop the bleeding" marks off 1 Medicine.

Higher quality belongings grant ♥, ♦, or ☼ when used. Every level, characters unlock an additional item slot, allowing them to carry more stuff.

Downtime actions allow characters to regain traits, craft/upgrade/repair gear, train/treat followers, scavenge, and work for a bit of cash/coin. Characters gain more downtime actions per session as they level up.

XP is based on a three questions asked at the end of each session covering both "meta" and in-game play. Basically, "did you help make the game fun for the group?", "did your character try to get what they want or did you play out the flaws that caused them to sabotage themselves?", and "did the group work together towards achieving something?"

Negative questions can reduce the XP reward: "were you significantly late?" and "were you generally distracted/disruptive?"

Group Sheet is new to v0.4. It gives a group identity and XP question that allows the group as a whole to level up. This grants a pool of traits that anyone in the group can utilize while they are working together and/or accomplishing goals in line with their identity. As the group levels up, they get additional identities.

It also contains their lair/hideout/base where characters can store extra items and safely leave followers and companions.

Here's the link to the Google Drive containing the current(nowhere-near final) rulebook, character sheets, group sheet, player aid, plus a sheet for followers/companions/supporting characters. I work on it a couple hours a week tweaking rules, fixing typos, rewriting for clarity, streamlining, re-arranging, etc.

Would love to hear any feedback, suggestions, or criticisms, especially if anyone runs a game using it!
 
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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Cool concepts, thanks for sharing! The XP and gradually-specialize systems are my favorite.

I have questions based on the forum post, not the Google doc:

  • Is the game backwards compatible? Or, if you're teaching it to some tweens whose eyes glaze over (probably when the 100 specialties hit), can you just decide to run the index-card version instead?
  • Do abilities relate to dice rolls? I don't have any dice with a star or X on them :(
  • How does limited equipment work? If I had a rope Asset/Item, can I use it only X times per day?
  • What does it mean to express an asset?
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Thanks for feedback/questions:

1) When teaching it, my spiel goes something like this: "Put a ★in a thing you're good at, roll and put an X in the thing you're bad at. Roll a couple times: those are things you're especially good at and a thing you're especially bad at. This token lets you reroll, this one lets you change your roll a bit, this one usually makes you succeed when you failed." Then they pick a couple assets, an item, and jump in.

Simplified D6 system: Use "3s system" instead of 4s. Have an index card with what ★ and X do they can look at. simplifies to count as ♦ but only when using assets. Drop conditions, instead lose ♥ instead of taking a condition, lose ♥♥ if a Hard or harder roll. Dead when all ♥ burned.

2) The dice system is the 4s system: roll a d10 and compare it to 4 based on the difficulty. In-game, 90% of the rolls are normal (4+) or hard (4-) so usually they have that down within a few rolls.

★ mostly increase the effectiveness of ♦. Xs have minimal effect until they have XX in an ability so it usually doesn't need to be explained until a few levels in.

3) Items used usually last for one scene. If you cross off a gear and say "I have a rope", that rope will last for the rest of the scene, though may last longer if you, say, tied it to a tree to climb down a cliff. If you draw a sword for one fight, then that scene ends and leads to another fight, it will still generally persist.

4) Expressing an asset means "I swing my magic sword" or "I use my elven eyesight to search for the fleeing orcs". Basically, if you're using whatever your asset is, you can use to get bonuses. This is also new to 0.4 and the tweens are just getting it about 4 sessions in. Generally, they mostly get the benefit of having a psychic sand squid around or having an obsidian sword so they don't have to mark a weapon each scene.

In my experience, people usually figure out what the ♥, ♦, and ☼ do plus how items work by the end of the first session. In the next couple sessions they get ★, X, specialties/banes, and conditions. They get and downtime next and by then pretty much have the system down.

I've never talked about this in writing, just in words so the questions are super helpful for helping me clarify.
 

Dungeon Delver's Guide

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