Let's Read Sword World 2.5!

Iosue

Legend
The next step in character creation is buying levels in skill packages. As mentioned in the previous post, your origin gives you an initial skill package (or two, in my case), and 2,000-3,000 initial XP to buy additional levels. The cost for a level in a skill package depends on whether its on Table A or Table B. Table A skill packages are your primary combat skill packages. It costs 1,000 XP to buy one at Level 1, and another 1,000 to upgrade to Level 2 (the maximum at character generation). Table B skill packages are utility and support skill packages. It costs 500 XP to buy at Level 1, and 1,000 to upgrade it to level 2. Further progression follows these tables, expanded on later in the book. Table A skill packages are generally more powerful in combat, but Table B skill packages advance quicker. A very old school D&D design element.

To continue, we will have to jump ahead to the Skill Package section, which is actually the first section of Part 2 - The Rules. Here we find the Skill Packages split up among three categories: Warrior Skill Packages, Magic-user Skill Packages, and Other Skill Packages. Your Adventurer Level is the same as your highest level skill package. Skill Packages do not get the full-page treatment you see in class-based systems. In fact, the entirety of the Warrior Skill Packages, Magic-user Skill Packages, and Other Skill Packages each fit onto one A5 page.

Our Warrior Skill Packages include the Fighter (table A), Grappler (table A), Fencer (table B), and Shooter (table B). The Fighter is the front line combatant, getting access to virtually all weapons, and having no restrictions to armor. The Grappler is a martial artist; they have limited selection of weapons unique to their class, and they are greatly restricted in available armor. But they start with two powerful special combat abilities: Extra Attack and Throw. Extra Attack lets them spike damage, while Throw is a damage-inducing throw (like in judo) that also leaves the opponent prone.

The Fencer is your typical lightly armed agility fighter, and despite the name, they are not restricted to just fencing swords. Every weapon and armor has a minimum strength to use, but the Fencer's strength is considered halved for purposes of weapon and armor selection. For example, my character's Strength is 14, but when selecting armor and weapons, I can choose only those that have a minimum strength requirement of 7 or lower. This naturally restricts me to the light weapons and armor, but of course just what is restricted will depend on each character's ability score. The advantage, though, is that Fencer's crit more easily than other classes, and that can be a major boon.

The Shooter represents all ranged weapon combatants. That is it, but that is all. You must have the shooter skill package to use ranged weapons.

In the Magic-user Skill Packages, we have the Sorcerer, Conjurer, Priest, and Magitech. They are all table A skill packages. Sorcerers use True Word Magic, casting spells with incantations. This is your standard fireballing wizard. Conjurers use Manipulation Magic. Their magic is more indirect, providing buffs and support. Priests use Holy Magic for recovery and support, as well as fighting undead. The Priest must choose one god to devote themselves to, and get special magic related to that god. Magitechs use Magitech Magic (natch). In Rulebook I, it's sole purpose is to power the magictech Gun weapon, which fires various kinds of bullets, including healing.

In the Other Skill Packages we have Scout, Ranger, and Sage. They are all Table B. Scouts map on pretty well with the prototypical D&D Thief. Investigation, stealth, disabling traps, disabling locks, etc. The can wear any armor in theory, but heavy armors will penalize many of their useful skills. But its killer app is its bonus to initiative. Since Sword World uses side-initiative, but everyone rolls and the highest result is taken, this is extremely advantageous for the whole party. Rangers have similar investigative and stealth skills, but applicable only in the natural environment. What makes them distinct is their access to herbal medicines and potions. Sages, being loremasters, are very good at knowledge checks. In particular, before a fight, everyone makes a Monster Knowledge Check to see if they know a monster. If they pass a certain level, the GM must show the players the monster's data. They get to see it all: to-hit bonus, evasion bonus, damage resistance, the works. If the Sage passes the Check at a set higher level, then the whole party gets access to a particular bonus against that monster. (Reading this, I recalled playing 4e with players here in Japan. Just like in Sword World, he would have us make knowledge checks at the start of every encounter, and if someone rolled particularly high, he would show us all the page in the Monster Manual. "That's a bit meta," I thought at the time, but now I suspect the group was simply playing in the style they were accustomed to.)

The effects of the Skill Packages are defuse. You don't really get a list of special features, or even a clear note of restricted weapons and armor. How are Scouts and Rangers good at hiding? Anybody can hide. It's not until you get to the section on Action Checks, look at the Hide Check, and see that it's Scout or Ranger Level + Agility Bonus. Or you look at the Evasion Check and see that it is Fighter or Grappler or Fencer Level + Agility Bonus. As there are 37 distinct Action Checks included in the ruluboo, this puts a fair amount of burden on GM to either remember the components of all the Action Checks, or else refer to a list of Action Checks, or else the burden is on the player to remember what Checks they can add their Skill Packages to, or else put it on their character sheet. I used an official character sheet to make this character, and it reminded me of 4e character sheets, when I had to be sure to dot the i's and cross the t's, and make sure all the necessary calculations were done.

With consideration to buying skill package levels, the book offers some advice: the general theory is that one wants 2 levels of either the Warrior or Magic-user Skill Packages, and at least 1 level of an Other Skill Package. It also says that if you have the Fencer or Shooter Skill Package, it's probably best to take two levels of an Other Package as well. Other combinations are perfectly feasible, but it cautions against taking only levels in Other Skill Packages. Following this advice, I spend my 2,000 XP to raise both my Fencer and Scout Skill Packages to Level 2.

Next up: Languages and special combat abilities!
 

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Iosue

Legend
I feel like I'm getting a little bogged down in the character generation, so let's see if we can't wrap it all up in fell swoop.

I don't know how much it tends to come up in actual play, but like D&D Sword World puts a lot of emphasis on language. All races can speak and are literate in the Common Trade Language, plus their own language (a local dialect, in the case of the human). Tabbits don't have a language, but all are literate in the Magitech Civilization Language (they can't speak it). Runefolk can of course speak, read and write the Magitech Civilization Language. Sorcerers and Conjurers can speak, read, and write the Magic Civilization Language, the language of magic. Characters who can choose additional languages (generally Sages) can choose from the languages of any of the good peoples, the old civilization languages, as well as the languages spoken by the monsters. My character is Human, so he only knows the Common Trade Language and the local dialect.

(Americans may feel the Human is shortchanged with only knowing their local dialect, but Japan, not unlike Britain, has a wide variety of dialects, which can get fairly opaque if you're from a different region.)

Next come Special Combat Abilities. SCAs fill the same essential roll as feats in WotC-era D&D. Every character gets one at the start of character generation, and then another at odd-numbered adventurer levels. In addition, the Grappler gets an automatic SCA at first level, and the Ranger, Scout, and Sage get an automatic one at level five. In other words, those are class (er, skill package) features that are simply categorized as the other more generic SCA.

I'll go into more detail when we reach the SCA part of the book, but here what I really want to comment on is how well this is presented. I hate selecting feats. I hate paging through all these disparate effects, getting analysis paralysis, and always having this nagging feeling of insecurity that I'm making a bad choice. And that's after years of gaming and having experience with GURPS!

What Sword World does is, in this character generation section, they have tables listing only the feats selectable at character generation. The tables are split up by "Always-On SCAs," "SCAs Activitated by a Declaration," "SCAs that Require a Main Action", and "SCA Automatically Obtained by the Grappler Skill Package." The tables include the page number for the full description of the SCA, and a one-line summary of its effects. Then! There is also a table for "Recommended SCAs." For each skill package, they provide one or more recommended SCAs, with a blurb for why you might want to take that SCA. For example, "Fighter - I want to dispense damage. - All-out Attack I." "Fencer - I want to fight while helping my friends. - Decoy Strike." The Fencer also has: "I want to deal a deadly blow. - Deadly Blow I, which moves you up 1 result on the damage table, increasing your chances to crit. That's the one I chose.

Next comes Purchasing Items. All characters start with 1,200 gamel (G), the currency of Raxia. The lists are located later in the book, but a handy table notes what general items each Skill Package needs to buy. Some things, like the Magic-user's Focus, are listed on this table along with a price (100 G). The equipment lists in the Data section of the book are copious! This is a game that likes shopping. 25 different kinds of blades are offered! The heaviest one that my character could use was a Katzbalger. What the hell is a Katzbalger? thought I. Turns out that it's a Renaissance-era arming sword with a distinct kind of hilt. Awesome!

There are lists for things you can wear on each body part. Choose from different kinds of headwear, neckwear, handwear, and footwear! It occurred to me that, historically, people in the west have come into fantasy RPGs from literature, so we tend to forego this kind of minutiae. But since Japanese people come into fantasy RPGs from manga/anime and similar visual media (even light novels have a strong visual component), being able to engage in this kind of customization of their character's appearance is very appealing.

I get my character his Katzbalger, soft leather armor, a buckler, adventurer's kit, Scout tools, and for appearance, a belt, knee long cloak with hood, and boots.

The last part of the process is the final calculations. I have to calculate my Life Resistance (generic save vs. physical effects/damage) and Spiritual Resistance (save vs. magical effects/damage). HP is Constitution score (15) + Adventurer Level x 3 (2x3 = 6), so I start with 21 HP.

Next I have to calculate certain Action Check Packages. Since my Scout Level is added to a whole bunch of different checks using different ability score bonuses, I calculate these and write them out on my sheet in advance. The "Skill Check Package" is Scout Level + Dexterity bonus, for doing things like picking pockets, opening locks, and the like. The "Athletics Check Package" is Scout Level + Agility bonus, for doing things like acrobatics, stealth, etc. The "Perception Check Package" is Scout Level + Wisdom Bonus for doing things like detecting hidden things, danger sense, and so on. I also calculate my Monster Knowledge Check, because that's going to come up a lot, and my Initiative.

For Movement, I can move my Agility Score (in meters) in 1 round (10 seconds), or three times that if I sprint (All-out Movement). Finally, I fill out my weapon and armor data, and I'm good to go. All the remains is the character profile, which is the same process as in simple character generation. My character's name is Alistair, he's an 18-year old male, and for his history I rolled "I've vowed something to myself." "I've experienced a fear I cannot forget." And "I was born in a wealthy house." For my reason for adventuring, I rolled "I'm rebelling against my parents," which seemed to fit pretty well.

I've attached a PDF of the official character sheet I used to generate the character. It's in Japanese, but I think it will give you an idea of how relatively complex it is. That said, its complexity is partly in service to facilitating the calculations for character generation. A good deal of it (particularly the numbers on the left) is not needed to play. In fact, in their Starter Sets, Sword World has included character cards remarkable in their clarity and brevity.
post_image_836c95e0-b6c4-4a03-a836-e39965620459.jpg


I like that! All the necessary information on a card less than 5' square, you add little item cards for weapons and armor when needed, and all the bonuses are quickly referenced. Once you know what information you need, it's not so hard to write up a character on a page of notebook paper.

So that's character generation in Sword World. Now we get to the nitty gritty: the actual rules of play. We start next time with Action Checks, the base mechanic of the system!
 

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Iosue

Legend
Now we move to the thickest sections of the book, the Rules. The chapter actually starts with Skill Packages, but since we covered that during character generation, we'll move on to Action Checks.

Action Checks are the basic mechanic of the game. In function they are just like the d20 checks of D&D. The GM sets a target number, applicable skill package(s), and applicable ability bonus, and the player rolls 2d6, trying to beat that number, adding the relevant skill package level and ability bonus. Let's say Alistair wants to climb a wall. The GM says its a climbing check, which is Scout or Ranger level + Agility bonus. I roll a 7, and add my Scout Level (2) and Agility Bonus (3) for a total of 12. The target number is 11, so I succeed.

In most cases, if a character doesn't have the relevant skill package, they can still try, but it's a bare roll with no bonuses.

Double 1's are automatic failures, and double 6's are automatic successes. These are called 1-zoro and 6-zoro, respectively, from the Japanese word soro-u, meaning "to be together, to be uniform." If you roll an 1-zoro, you immediately get 50 XP, to represent learning through adversity.

Target numbers can go from 5 (even an unskilled person will succeed most of the time) to 21 (even skilled and capable person will need to have some luck). In addition to the target number, the GM may set situational penalties or bonuses to the roll. The generally go from -4 to +4. Both generic and specific lists of common penalties and bonuses are provided for reference.

Some checks are opposed. The most prototypical example is the to-hit check vs the evasion check. If it's a matter of two people doing something at the same time, it's just a normal check with the high roll winning, and ties resulting in a tie or a reroll. But some rolls have an active and a passive aspect (like to-hit vs evasion). In that case, ties go to the passive side.

In practice, the majority of checks will use the checks described in the book, but if a check is required that is not in the book, the GM can decide on the relevant skill package and ability score. This section also includes advice to the GM on adjudicating Ranger skills, which are only usable in a nature environment. The pre-set checks are ordered in the book by relevant ability score.

Dexterity - These are all Scout/Ranger checks: Hiding Traces, First Aid, Open Locks, Pickpocketing, Disguise, and Setting Traps. There is one more check that applies to everyone: the to-hit check. This check uses the to-hit bonus that all characters have (calculated by adding Warrior Skill Package level to the Dexterity bonus).

Agility - With two exceptions, all Scout/Ranger checks: Break Fall, Hide (both transitive and intransitive), Acrobatics, Climbing, and Following. The exceptions, like the to-hit check, rely on bonuses everyone has: the initiative bonus and the evasion bonus. Initiative adds levels in Scout, while evasion adds levels in a Warrior Skill Package.

Wisdom - Much more variation here.
Scout/Ranger checks: Tracking, Detect Abnormality, Listening, Sense Danger, Deep Search, Weather Forecasting, Avoid Traps
Sage checks: General Knowledge, Research, Civilization Appraisal, Monster Knowledge
Ranger/Sage checks: Sickness Knowledge, Medicine Making
Scout/Sage check: Treasure Appraisal
Scout/Ranger/Sage check: Map Making
Magic-user Skill Package: Wield Magic

Now come checks that everyone can do, adding their Adventurer Level to the ability bonus.
Constitution checks: Life-or-Death (death save), Life Resistance (save vs physical effects/damage)
Spirit check: Spiritual Resistance (save vs magical effects/damage)
Wisdom check: Truth-or-Lie
Agility check: Jumping
Strength checks: Climbing (like the Scout version, but takes 10 minutes to the Scout's 1), Arm Strength (for lifting, carrying and other feats of strength).

As mentioned in my previous post, because so many checks can only be done by the Scout, Ranger, or Sage, grouping all of these into Action Check Packages helps with easy reference. For the Scout and the Ranger, Dexterity checks fall under the Skill Check Package, Agility checks fall under the Athletics Check Package, Wisdom checks fall under the Perception Check Package. Sage characters additionally get the Knowledge Package. This redundancy is not, of course, how you would design a check system from the ground up. As I understand it, these packages are a new innovation of 2.5 (or the inclusion of a supplementary rule in the new core rules). Compatibility with legacy mechanics can be a harsh master. But at least this way some of work is taken off the GM, while those that are comfortable with the old system can still use that.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
One question. Well, actually two.
  • Checks against a static difficulty (no opposition) also require you to roll over. If you had rolled an 11 in your example, that would be a failure. Am I understanding that correctly?
  • You mention that most checks can be attempted even if you don’t have the package, but you also note that many can only be done by Scout, Ranger, or Sage. This seems contradictory, so is it a correct assumption the former refers to checks in play (versus the various checks in the rules that only certain skill packages can attempt)?
I also wanted to say I’m really enjoying this thread. I’d heard of Sword World and picked up Goblin Slayer TRPG because it was supposed to be based on it (though it also seems to be doing its own thing), but I’ve not really tried to read the fan translation except to try to assess how closely Goblin Slayer TRPG follows Sword World. Alas, I doubt Goblin Slayer TRPG and Konosuba TRPG represent the birth of an RPG line at Yen Press (being presumably tie-in games released for manga series they already publish), so an English version of Sword World seems incredibly unlikely.

I also find this thread interesting because I’ve been working on a homebrew system that started with Moldvay Basic (well, Old-School Essentials, but that’s basically the same thing). One of the big developments was the introduction of specialties and how those have become pervasive across the system. It’s (plus some other things are) an interesting bit of convergent evolution (being similar to but different from skill packages as I understand from their description).
 

Iosue

Legend
Yay! A question!
One question. Well, actually two.
  • Checks against a static difficulty (no opposition) also require you to roll over. If you had rolled an 11 in your example, that would be a failure. Am I understanding that correctly?
That is one of the non-intuitive parts of design. In a normal, unopposed check, you need only match the target number. In a contest where there is no active/passive aspect (for example, initiative), a tie means that the in-game result is a tie, or else there is a re-roll. It is only when you have a contest where somebody is initiating an action (i.e., is active) and the other person is resisting it (i.e., is passive) that ties go to the passive side. The most common example of this a to-hit roll (active) vs. an evasion roll (passive). That's also a kind of hiccup for a D&D player, where matching the target's AC is a success. One way to think of it is that so-called "passive" rolls are like saving throws in 5e. The initiating person's action is a priori successful, and the passive roll is an attempt to negate it.
  • You mention that most checks can be attempted even if you don’t have the package, but you also note that many can only be done by Scout, Ranger, or Sage. This seems contradictory, so is it a correct assumption the former refers to checks in play (versus the various checks in the rules that only certain skill packages can attempt)?
Ostensibly, any check can be attempted by any character. The problem is that only those with the relevant skill package get to add their level and ability bonus. Those without the package must succeed purely on the result of the dice (with possibly some bonuses or penalties supplied by the GM). GM guidance for setting target numbers is that 9 is tough for unskilled people, and 11 is roughly an even chance for a skilled person, so most target numbers are going to be in that range. (Remember that on 2d6, the most likely result is 7.) This effectively gates off checks from those who don't have the skill package.

In my initial glance through the list of checks, I thought that more of them would have diverse relevant skill packages. But on a closer look, they were almost entirely Scout/Ranger checks, with a few knowledge checks for the Sage, and a couple of unique cases (to-hit and evasion checks, available to all Warrior Skill Packages; Wield Magic, available to all Magic-user Skill Packages). I did make one mistake in my previous post: the way I wrote it, it looks like non-Warriors can add their Agility bonus to to-hit and evasion checks, and that everyone could add their Agility bonus to initiative. On further confirmation, these are indeed intended to be bare rolls by everyone without the relevant proficiencies.

I also wanted to say I’m really enjoying this thread. I’d heard of Sword World and picked up Goblin Slayer TRPG because it was supposed to be based on it (though it also seems to be doing its own thing), but I’ve not really tried to read the fan translation except to try to assess how closely Goblin Slayer TRPG follows Sword World. Alas, I doubt Goblin Slayer TRPG and Konosuba TRPG represent the birth of an RPG line at Yen Press (being presumably tie-in games released for manga series they already publish), so an English version of Sword World seems incredibly unlikely.
No, not likely at all. I can't blame the publisher though. I find it quite interesting, but I don't think there's anything that would really grab an audience in today's market. Even in Japan, it's got history and inertia helping to maintain its spot as the top domestic RPG, but many folks find it a bit old fashioned.

I also find this thread interesting because I’ve been working on a homebrew system that started with Moldvay Basic (well, Old-School Essentials, but that’s basically the same thing). One of the big developments was the introduction of specialties and how those have become pervasive across the system. It’s (plus some other things are) an interesting bit of convergent evolution (being similar to but different from skill packages as I understand from their description).
How do specialties work in your homebrew?
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
That is one of the non-intuitive parts of design. In a normal, unopposed check, you need only match the target number. In a contest where there is no active/passive aspect (for example, initiative), a tie means that the in-game result is a tie, or else there is a re-roll. It is only when you have a contest where somebody is initiating an action (i.e., is active) and the other person is resisting it (i.e., is passive) that ties go to the passive side. The most common example of this a to-hit roll (active) vs. an evasion roll (passive). That's also a kind of hiccup for a D&D player, where matching the target's AC is a success. One way to think of it is that so-called "passive" rolls are like saving throws in 5e. The initiating person's action is a priori successful, and the passive roll is an attempt to negate it.
I see. That’s interesting. I would be inclined to do it the other way (the defender sets the difficulty, and the attacker is trying to overcome the defender). I guess that’s my experience with different games speaking! It’s why that approach seems a bit confusing but probably makes sense to the game’s primary audience (since they have different experiences that I have had with different games and their resolution systems).

Ostensibly, any check can be attempted by any character. The problem is thatonly those with the relevant skill package get to add their level and ability bonus. Those without the package must succeed purely on the result of the dice (with possibly some bonuses or penalties supplied by the GM). GM guidance for setting target numbers is that 9 is tough for unskilled people, and 11 is roughly an even chance for a skilled person, so most target numbers are going to be in that range. (Remember that on 2d6, the most likely result is 7.) This effectively gates off checks from those who don't have the skill package.
Ah, okay. That makes sense. You could attempt those things, but you’d be really bad at doing them, so you probably wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure whether you meant e.g., Ranger checks were just not possible; but it seems like the answer is yes, but you are just making a roll with no modifiers.

No, not likely at all. I can't blame the publisher though. I find it quite interesting, but I don't think there's anything that would really grab an audience in today's market. Even in Japan, it's got history and inertia helping to maintain its spot as the top domestic RPG, but many folks find it a bit old fashioned.
I’m curious what the state of the art would be in Japan as far as TRPGs go, but that might be a topic for a different discussion.

How do specialties work in your homebrew?
I’m going to separate this into a couple of spoiler sections since I expect the answer will be a bit lengthy/rambly. I’ll start with the history then into the specifics. I should note I’m currently on a break between sessions, so I’m going down a bit of an experimental path with things (i.e., it’s not been tested). The goal is to remain compatible with Moldvay Basic, particularly with monsters and adventures (e.g., so I can just swap out the combat matrix for mine).

My homebrew system got its start while I was running Worlds Without Number. I personally would have rather run Old-School Essentials, but my players liked the character customization. My first pass was just a mashup of those two systems with OSE classes layered on top of WWN’s own classes and skill system and foci. That didn’t last because I wanted everything to be OGL-friendly, and trying to retroclone WWN wasn’t in scope.

In my first version, I used a modified WWN skill list and 2d6 to adjudicate skills using PbtA-style degrees of success. This skill list has continuously be refined down to a smaller and more focused list. The goal I was trying to solve was providing mechanical support for different actions in a consistent framework while also allowing open-ended OSR-style adjudication. I didn’t want to see characters be prevented from trying something that should make sense for being an adventurer. This resulted in my first attempt at specialties.

The way they worked initially is your class would say something like, “If you Exert to Move Silently, roll 3d6 instead of 2d6”. It was meant to capture the different class skills from Moldvay Basic without denying other characters the ability to try things. It turns out, this distinction was too subtle for my players, and they found it confusing. They would think they could roll 3d6 all the time for that skill.

That was in May or so. At this year’s Origins, I got to play Konosuba TRPG. One of the things it does is have a list of “skills” with ranks. That was it! Instead of having those specialities attached to skills, they were additional skill-like things you could do that were unique to your class. So while everyone would have the standard skill list, you would have class-specific skills that I called specialties. Now the thief would just have a Move Silently speciality.

It was at that point, I realized I could also replace foci (which I had taken to calling feats) with combat specialities. That puts almost everything into the same basic advancement framework. If you have Power Attack +2, you can do that as an action (at −2 to the attack for +4 damage). You get specialities from your ancestry, background, and class. I don’t provide a way to take them as bundles, but otherwise “skill packages” sounds very similar.

As noted above, you gain specialities from your ancestry, background, and class. These are out of a general pool. They are meant to be thematically appropriate for each, so a barbarian has specialities related to outdoors stuff, a thief has ones for skulking about and the like, and a magician has ones for doing magic stuff. One difference is you get some and pick the rest from a list of thematic ones. If you don’t care about crafting, you don’t have to take those specialities on your magician. Ancestries and classes also have a thematic feature. Thiefs get backstab. Barbarians can’t use magic. Mao never land prone when they fall. Og ri have a high stress tolerance, giving them 50% more stress. Stuff like that.

After character creation, you gain or increase specialities as you level up. There are three types of specialities: combat, non-combat, and magical. Expert classes gain a bonus non-combat, warrior classes gain an extra combat, and mage classes gain an extra magical speciality. A few differences I see (based on what’s been described) is I don’t weigh the different types of specialities differently. You pick the same number regardless and pick from all as you see fit past character creation. If you want to make a sword mage, you can pick fighter and take the appropriate speciality to cast spells. In fact, spells are just specialties. They have ranks, and they work similar to other specialities, but they cost mp.

The thing that is in flux right now is the dice mechanic. There was a dice thread here a while back that made me realize that 2d6+mods versus a static difficulty range (for PbtA-style effects) was broken for my modifier range. I changed it to 3d6 (still d20 in combat), but it turned out to be trivially broken. The thief has +5 and gets a complete success on average, which makes things a bit boring when complications from partial success are part of the core engine of play. I’m currently exploring a return to 2d6 with checks and opposed rolls.

The other thing that seems different is I let the players decide their approach, and that sets the attribute used with the check. This is particular important when helping. I have something I call “subjects” which are things your character knows. I was originally doing an OSR-style “you know what your background and experience implies it does”, but that was too broad, so I had my players write down three things, accidentally reinventing wises from Burning Wheel. Anyway, you can use your subject as your approach in a skill check. A few sessions ago, the cleric wanted to help out in camp, so she used her experience in the army and working mess to help the cook with her check (allowing her to use Intelligence and help when she had no actual cooking speciality to contribute).

My current work is seeing if I can pull basically everything else into the speciality system. Right now, I have combat skills (Brawl, Shoot, Strike), base attack bonus, and saving throw progressions. I actually ended up at similar saving throw categories to what Sword World has (Mundane and Magical plus Death), which I was leaning towards making defenses you would roll to resist a spell. I already have casting rolls, but it just applies a modifier to the roll. In the revision, it would be a contested roll. The big thing to solve is how to handle proficiencies since I don’t want to punish players for being able to use multiple weapons (especially the fighter, who I want to use anything as a weapon). There are also some other things I’d like to do like mitigation-based armor and elemental affinities. The latter in particular though are definitely inspired by JRPGs. I mean, there’s going to be a dancer class and there is a cat people ancestry. Of course JRPGs and anime are an influence. 😅

So to summarize, the direction I’d like to go is 2d6+attribute+rank for all rolls (where for checks the attribute is determined by the PC’s approach). Many tests would be against a static difficulty (based on the quality of the target) with degrees of success defined by the margin. When there is opposition, you’d make an opposed roll against their resistance roll (with ties going to the attacker, probably). Degrees of success are still a thing, but they could have different meanings For attacks, the margin would contribute a bonus to your damage. I am thinking something similar for spells except the margin would add extra dice. (I know Goblin Slayer TRPG does something like that based on your casting roll, but it’s against a static difficulty to cast the spell. I don’t know what Sword World does for magic.)

I’d also like to use d6s pervasively if possible because it makes scaling effects up and down nicer than having to explain what it means to “increase” a die size (especially once you get past platonic solids into Zocchi dice). So a light weapon would do 0d6 (meaning roll twice and take the lowest), a 1-handed weapon would do 1d6, and a 2-handed would do 2d6. I have no idea how the math works on that (especially including the margin of success as bonus damage). I need to work on that and do some testing.
 

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
Thanks so much for doing this! The art is really pretty!

Question for you, if you are able to answer: how much of the appeal of this is the exotic setting (basically, Occidentalism)? It's already gone in its own direction (gunners, rabbit people, robots), but the human fighter appears to be wearing Western-style armor and carrying a longsword rather than a katana. (I'm trying to figure out if otakuism is commutative.)
 
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Iosue

Legend
I see. That’s interesting. I would be inclined to do it the other way (the defender sets the difficulty, and the attacker is trying to overcome the defender). I guess that’s my experience with different games speaking! It’s why that approach seems a bit confusing but probably makes sense to the game’s primary audience (since they have different experiences that I have had with different games and their resolution systems).
Since the designers originally started with D&D, I don't think it was so much the effect of different games and their resolution systems, but that when they went with their 2d6 system, they had to decide what to do with ties, and since resisting magic fell under the saving throw system in D&D, they went with that as the base. The swerve, as it were, was that they then applied that to the to-hit roll, as well.

Ah, okay. That makes sense. You could attempt those things, but you’d be really bad at doing them, so you probably wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure whether you meant e.g., Ranger checks were just not possible; but it seems like the answer is yes, but you are just making a roll with no modifiers.
Exactly.

I’m curious what the state of the art would be in Japan as far as TRPGs go, but that might be a topic for a different discussion.
I don't have much direct experience with Japanese TRPGs (the only Japanese group I've played with played 4e), but from what I can gather, state-of-the-art in Japan these days would be:

Scene-based session structure
The use of dice rolls or cards to provide each character with internal complications
Quick/light character generation

Basically, the J-TRPG community revolves around two moons: Call of Cthulhu and one-shot sessions. Because it is difficult for Japanese groups to get together on a regular weekly basis, they tend to get together maybe once or twice a month for long (4-5 hour) one-shot sessions. So scene-based play is preferred, as you can go opening -> middle -> climax -> coda, all in one session. And because in Japan TRPG = Call of Cthulhu, they like character-effecting external mechanics like SAN. Players might be creating characters at the start of the session, and it's not expected that characters will carry over to another session, and that's reflected in the character generation mechanics.

Incidentally, currently the top TRPG sellers on Amazon Japan are the Novi Novi TRPG games (note that the first released version was Novi Novi TRPG: The Horror, rather than the fantasy version). I think this provides a pretty good idea of state-of-the-art in Japan.

All the above, btw, have certainly had an effect on Sword World, as well, as we'll see in the Game Master section.

Thanks for the write-up on your rules. Skills really are the white whale of RPG design, aren't they?
 

Iosue

Legend
Thanks so much for doing this! The art is really pretty!

Question for you, if you are able to answer: how much of the appeal of this is the exotic setting (basically, Occidentalism)? It's already gone in its own direction (gunners, rabbit people, robots), but the human fighter appears to be wearing Western-style armor and carrying a longsword rather than a katana. (I'm trying to figure out if otakuism is commutative.)
Well, you have to remember that Sword World came out of a group of people who were originally SF/Fantasy enthusiasts and translators. So, initially, in the 1980s, there was probably some element of interest in the "exoticness" of western fantasy. But, in the years since then, it's been so mingled up in the influences of Japanese CRPGs and manga/anime that I don't think any high schooler who picked up Sword World 2.0 in 2008 would have found it in the least bit exotic.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I don't have much direct experience with Japanese TRPGs (the only Japanese group I've played with played 4e), but from what I can gather, state-of-the-art in Japan these days would be:

Scene-based session structure
The use of dice rolls or cards to provide each character with internal complications
Quick/light character generation

Basically, the J-TRPG community revolves around two moons: Call of Cthulhu and one-shot sessions. Because it is difficult for Japanese groups to get together on a regular weekly basis, they tend to get together maybe once or twice a month for long (4-5 hour) one-shot sessions. So scene-based play is preferred, as you can go opening -> middle -> climax -> coda, all in one session. And because in Japan TRPG = Call of Cthulhu, they like character-effecting external mechanics like SAN. Players might be creating characters at the start of the session, and it's not expected that characters will carry over to another session, and that's reflected in the character generation mechanics.
Ah, interesting. That’s how Konosuba TRPG structures its sessions. It even has the flow chart. I’m also reminded a bit of games like Blades in the Dark. I wonder how that would fare? While it’s oriented more at campaign play than one-shots, the structure (info gathering → score → downtime) is similar and fits nicely into a session.

Incidentally, currently the top TRPG sellers on Amazon Japan are the Novi Novi TRPG games (note that the first released version was Novi Novi TRPG: The Horror, rather than the fantasy version). I think this provides a pretty good idea of state-of-the-art in Japan.
The description of that sounds kind of like Fiasco.

All the above, btw, have certainly had an effect on Sword World, as well, as we'll see in the Game Master section.
Looking forward to it! I’m curious where Sword World falls since the one game I have related to it (Goblin Slayer TRPG) doesn’t seem very explicit in its session structure.

Thanks for the write-up on your rules. Skills really are the white whale of RPG design, aren't they?
It’s certainly been one of the bigger (and unplanned) time sinks. Skills weren’t even meant to be very prominent, and now the skill system is going to drive basically everything. I at least seem to be in a good place now. Iterating and having a group of patient players has been very helpful. Anyway, it’s time to chase the next one (how to make progression work). 😂
 

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