Your Harebrained Ideas?

Sometimes in game design I'll get an idea and me having the idea feels like this:

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For example, I've been ruminating on a concept for real time lockpicking, using a whole other dice mechanic I came up with that I call the Sequence Roll as a basis.

In a nutshell, the object of the mechanic is to make the difference between your roll and a specific combination, which would be a set of up to 7 target numbers for each of the 7 standard RPG dice, match each other.

So you'd roll 7Dice (easier instances would use less, like 3Dice), and you'd go through each in sequence (starting with a d4 and stepping up in size from there), doing the math to modify each roll so that the difference matches the target numbers, using a pool of points thats provided by your lockpick (better ones = bigger pool = easier time). If if the first number is 6, and you roll a 2, the current difference is 4; so you'd spend two points to bring the roll to 0, for a difference of 6.

And then a timer is introduced to see how fast the player can do this, no more than 10-20s.

Now, you can probably guess just reading it that thats pretty damn involved for lockpicking, and kind of weird. And you'd be right! I've long since abandoned it for that purpose.

But! I keep coming back to it as I think the mechanic would work well if it was both the entire game, but was paired with a game theme that lines up well with what Players are asked to do. Hence the game idea "Dread and Soil Samples" I'm sticking in my backpocket, which would basically be a tabletop astronaut simulator that would use a few different riffs on the mechanic to convey a visceral, if abstracted, spacework experience.

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Anyway, thats my harebrained idea? What are yours? Have you bought any out of theory and found success?
 

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kenada

Legend
Supporter
I’ve had a few in my homebrew system.

* * *​

In a thread here on armor as damage reduction, I described a system of handling DR as part of your HP. This was based on the observation that mitigation is a form of effective HP. It doesn’t give you actual HP, but it extends your time-to-live by an equivalent amount. If you’ve played a tank in an MMO, then you may have heard of this as a way to compare different forms of mitigation (including just gearing for more raw HP) to find the most effective solution.

I implemented armor HP per that post in my homebrew system, and we played with it for a while. It worked out okay in play, but any time the players needed to level up their characters or figure out HP, it was confusing as hell for them. They struggled to make sense of it or keep things straight. The player who invested in specialities to boost his character’s HP didn’t like how it indirectly caused his character to gain more stress due to needing more healing.

I ended up dropping it last session. The conversion was hasty, and it was marred a bit by the other change I made (described below), but I think straightforward mitigation is easier for players to understand. I still want to avoid some of the issues with armor as DR though, so I’m going to do a few things differently next session (see section three).

* * *​

Jon Peterson wrote an article about D&D in the news back in the ’70s. The particular group in the news story plays in a way where players also play the monsters. Instead of the DM in that game controlling the balrog, a player controls the balrog. Because it’s effectively just PvP, the players can play as hard as they want without having a feeling the DM is out to get them. Several sessions ago (recapped here), I noticed I didn’t have a way systemically of handling Natalia’s trying to push against Dingo’s misstatement. I thought implementing PvP-style rolls like in that article would solve my problem. I was wrong.

We ended up implementing the changes two sessions after that recap, which would be our last session. What I did was have everything used opposed rolls. The conceit was that I should be able to delegate anything I’m playing to another player, so it needs to be fair in that situation, and when I’m playing, I’m just a player. It felt so bad. Trying to “play” the environment for danger checks was weird. It made the flow of combat be clunky. The worst was when the party to tried to flee from a couple of ettins. They would roll to set the difficulty, and a couple of early good rolls just demoralized my players. So that’s out.

* * *​

Other than that, I really seem to want to do a 2d6-based system. I managed to unify skills, specialities, and proficiencies earlier this year. We ended up using 2d10 for a while, but the work I did to bring those all together under the same basic math worked out. The solution to the previous scheme is going to attempt to do 2d6 again, but I’ve finally conceded and will be applying factors to adjust difficulty instead of trying to force a status difficulty range. I’m not really sure why I’m so set on using 2d6, but I like playing with adding and removing dice.

Now that I don’t have armor HP, armor provides mitigation. There are four physical types (plus eight elemental types). Most standard armor has a mix of the four physical (ballistic, bludgeoning, piercing, slashing). When you use an attack action, you make a skill check as indicated (e.g., Melee Attack is <proficiency> + Strength). The difference between your roll and the target number is the margin of success.

After the margin is determined but before the damage roll is made, you adjust the margin by the target’s mitigation for your attack. Any remaining positive margin is added to the damage roll. Any negative margin reduces the dice. The goal is if you roll dice for damage, you should be dealing damage. (I haven’t decided yet whether an attack that naturally has a negative margin is a miss or reduces the roll like mitigation.)

Examples: Assume the weapon deals 2d6 damage, and your margin is +2.
  • If the target’s mitigation is +1, then you would roll 2d6+1.
  • If the target’s mitigation is +3, then you would roll 1d6.
  • If its mitigation is +4, then you would deal 0d6 damage (roll 2d6 and take the lowest).
  • If it’s +5, then deal 1 damage.
  • If it’s +6 or better, deal no damage.
 

MarkB

Legend
During one of those contentious discussions about firearms in D&D, I found myself thinking about an alternate AC system for an Old West setting, based on cover and speed.

The basis was that getting into cover would grant you bonus AC much as in 5e, only with higher values. And moving targets are harder to hit, so you gain AC based on how far you moved on your turn - +1 per 10 feet or the like.

And then there'd be specific classes / feats / builds that could be particularly agile to maximise their speed benefits, or to make better use of cover.

I never really took it much further than a thought experiment, though, as I didn't have any urge to create a more general setting of that type.
 

Richards

Legend
In my original 3.0 game with my two sons, their PCs (a male human cleric and a female elf sorcerer) got injected with a hallucinogenic poison by a pair of nagas with venomous tail-spikes.

I then took their character sheets away and replaced them with new ones, for a fictional game called "Time Lords and TARDISes," and their PCs were now Harry Sullivan and Sarah Jane Smith from the Tom Baker era of "Doctor Who." They were on a space station being chased by cybermats.

After a few rounds of that, I took away their sheets and handed them their new ones, from "Agents and Avengers," in which they were now running John Steed and Mrs. Peel in a warehouse fight against some cybernauts.

Then I replaced those sheets with ones from "Slayers and Scoobies," and they were now Buffy Summers and Xander Harris fighting a pair of vampires in a graveyard.

Shortly thereafter, their sheets showed their PCs to be Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in a rousing session of "X-Files and Xtra-Terrestrials," and they were being chased by a pyrokinetic mutant in a fireworks storage facility.

They soon turned into Ben Grimm (The Thing) and Susan Richards (The Invisible Woman) fighting off Doctor Doom in a game of "Super-Heroes and Super-Villains."

Finally, they were given their PC sheets for Simon and River Tam as they fled the medical authorities after Simon performed a brain scan on his sister to see what the Alliance had done to her in a game of "Fireflies and Frontiers."

Eventually, they venom wore off, I returned their original character sheets to them, and their PCs were back to their normal reality, where they were being swallowed by the nagas and had to fight their way out of their distended mouths.

Johnathan
 
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Hand of Evil

Hero
Epic
  • That races in fantasy are not just humans with bumpy heads and different skin colors. That they have their own traits and limitations that should be reflective in the game and not mixed with other races.
  • That learning and teaching should be a STAT and that the number limits your advancement and skill levels.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I don't have harebrained ideas.

My players have harebrained ideas that turn out to be right.

So, true story...

Years ago, I was running Deadlands. The party came upon a town that had just experienced a bank robbery. There were weird clues - the vault door hadn't been blown open with explosives, or the lock beaten - it was just forcefully removed. The robbers left a trail riding out of town that just.. stopped in the middle of the prairie, and so on. The prevailing theory was some sort of ghost bandits.

One of the players loves the wacky. No matter what character he's playing, he's going to spout some weird and crazy stuff, and we love him for it. This time, he said, "Well, what if they were robbed by a bunch of circus sideshow freaks - like, the Strong Man ripped the vault door off, and all that. And they have a dirigible, and specially trained circus horses that could be picked up and flown away. I just have to work out what the clowns would have done...."

The players, of course, dismissed this as his usual wacky nonsense.

This was, apparently, the best exercise of Poker Face I have had in my life, because he was exactly right, and I didn't let on. That was exactly what was happening, strong man, circus horses, dirigible, and all. And I know he guessed it, because he didn't own and hadn't read the book I took it from.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
So, true story...

Years ago, I was running Deadlands. The party came upon a town that had just experienced a bank robbery. There were weird clues - the vault door hadn't been blown open with explosives, or the lock beaten - it was just forcefully removed. The robbers left a trail riding out of town that just.. stopped in the middle of the prairie, and so on. The prevailing theory was some sort of ghost bandits.

One of the players loves the wacky. No matter what character he's playing, he's going to spout some weird and crazy stuff, and we love him for it. This time, he said, "Well, what if they were robbed by a bunch of circus sideshow freaks - like, the Strong Man ripped the vault door off, and all that. And they have a dirigible, and specially trained circus horses that could be picked up and flown away. I just have to work out what the clowns would have done...."

The players, of course, dismissed this as his usual wacky nonsense.

This was, apparently, the best exercise of Poker Face I have had in my life, because he was exactly right, and I didn't let on. That was exactly what was happening, strong man, circus horses, dirigible, and all. And I know he guessed it, because he didn't own and hadn't read the book I took it from.
I liked this because you rolled with it and kept your poker face. I once played in a Mage: the Awakening game where we were supposed to investigate these monster attacks. My first question when we arrived in the area was whether there were any golf courses nearby. My reasoning was since this was taking place in a suburban area, there would be houses nearby to raid for supplies and wooded areas where you could hideout and camp. The GM got a bit salty when I guessed exactly where the monster was hiding right from the start. 😅
 

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