Game Design Lessons #1: Multi-Valued Logic in RPG’s

19 Feb Game Design Lessons #1: Multi-Valued Logic in RPG’s

Immersion RPG uses 2d10It’s staggering how many pen and paper RPG’s there are out there. Ever since Gygax burst onto the scene forty years ago, we have had a lot of cool systems, ideas, formats and settings.

However, in most of the gaming systems that I have played, there has been little change in the logic system being used. But what is that?

Logic in this sense is taken from the mathematical or computer terminology, meaning the mathematics used to make something happen. In an RPG that means the numbers, stats, dice, etc., that we use to determine if an action is successful or not. For example, in the D&D or D20 system you add a skill bonus with a stat modifier and roll a d20, and you need the total of that number to get over the difficulty level of the action you are attempting.

Simple enough, and fairly effective. But funny enough, this is basically the same system as it was when Gygax began D&D’s First Edition. Sounds odd…haven’t we had like…4 or 5 editions by now? Yup. But they will always be the same in essence. And the reason for this is the logic system behind it.

In these systems, there is only 2-valued logic. You succeed or you fail. You hit or you miss. Every hit rolls the same amount of damage (unless there’s a critical). When damage is rolled, then there is a larger amount of possibilities, but they are still rather limited.

This is fine of course… unless you’re of the opinion that not every action is performed the same. In fact. no two actions are ever the same! Take a sword strike – you could hit really well. or only just nick your opponent and have little strength in the blow. Then again, you could only just nick him and still take a deep gash out of his leg. There really is an infinity of possibility – though there are some strong probabilities taking up most of that chance.

When it comes to combat, it seems a bit odd when you realise that even if you strike your opponent and beat his Armour Class by 20, you’re still going to do the same amount of damage as if you only beat it by 1. Wouldn’t the superior blow do more damage? Well of course in reality it would.

So how do you get more logic in there than this black/white, hit/miss, win/lose? And how do we make it still fluid and fun to play? After all, no GM should be forced to be a calculator during combat!

Well, there are some systems out there. World of Darkness is one such system, with up to 10-valued logic for most of its characters, though this of course varies from character to character. They have multiple d10’s, and each die needs to get over a difficulty level – such as 6, 8 or 10. This is a great system, though its only drawback is that stats can only really go from 0 to 5, which leaves somewhat less variety than would be optimal for a game with a lot of combat.

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And that’s where Immersion RPG comes in, with a sort of hybrid mix of both the d20 system and the World of Darkness system. In essence, with stats going from 0-10, and always two being combined together, we have a 20-valued logic system (which can certainly go higher)!

What does that mean for gameplay?

It means that when you succeed, you may only just succeed, with a paltry 1 success, meaning you will still have trouble with what you were attempting to do. Or you may manage to succeed properly with 5 successes, making your job sufficiently complete – or you may end up with 20 successes and make a masterpiece that is talked about for generations.

In combat this means that when you do that crazy leaping stab and succeed with an epic strike roll, you then get a suitably epic bonus to your damage roll. It means that the combats become gripping, because no longer will characters merely slug it out with each other – they are now part of something dynamic and powerful. No one can afford to simply “take it” all the time. No way! Think about what would happen if you were to stand there and let someone smash you in the face with an axe! It would…kill… seriously.

And of course there are plenty of other reasons for combat being a dynamic place. But all that’s in the rulebook. Which is free at the moment, for playtesters (you lucky buggers!). That’s several years of testing and designing right there… free. Come check out the most “logical” system out there! And send us feedback. We love it.

Til next time.

Oliver R. Shead


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