Or, to spell it out,Victorian Space Opera Cyberpunk Mythology. My brain has wandered back to the scifi rpg I have been doing half as a project and half as a thought experiment to get away from the typical mechanics and trappings that seem to be my go-to for tabletop game design.
As always I want to build a very simple and rules-light system. This time from the ground up instead of modifying another base system as I did with my old-school fantasy version of Risus. My unspoken goal with such systems is have a character sheet that can fit on a single index card. I hardly ever manage it, but it is a good goal to keep my efforts limited since I tend to like overly elaborate character sheets for my games.
I had two primary goals (more actually, but the rest didn’t work out in the first runaround of this idea) that I am using to build this system. One is that I like my scifi games to have skill systems instead of ability/class games. Just seems more ‘intellectual’ in the classic scifi tradition. My other starting assumption was I wanted everything a player needed for task resolution to be on their character sheet. So the gm calls for a roll and the player rolls and checks their sheet. So the skill levels on the character sheet become the task target numbers to beat when using that skill.
That second one was a bit tricky as it takes a lot of the mechanical gears and bolts of the game away from the GM. Even most story games tend to let the GM set the difficulty of the problems the PCs run into while gaming. I wanted a system where the Player Characters skill mattered more then whatever situation they found themselves in. The flavour of my game is ‘gentlemen adventurers against the untamed wilds, in space’ more or less and I figured that a good way to help set the mood was to have each character’s choices in skills matter more then anything else. So my main resolution mechanic is a d20 roll trying to get under the skill on the sheet. If you win, the problem is solved, if you lose you get damage. So far I am thinking that the GM can make events more complicated by calling for more rolls in more difficult situations, but that is still a work in progress.
As for the skill system I decided I wanted something where all the parts built on each other and had plenty of variety. The setup I am using at the moment has three tiers. First is the three basic attributes:Vitality, Intellect, and Grace. More or less what they seem to be, though I am using them in as broad an interpretation as possible, these are rated 1-10. Then there are the broad skills, of which there are 21 sorted by attribute and rated 1-5. Then each broad skill can have any number of player-derived specialities that go 1-5 as well. You add all three of these together(or just two if your character doesn’t have a speciality) and that is the number you need to roll under with a d20.
Example: Intellect (7) : Shooting (4) : Rifle (3) : 14 is the number to roll under.
Each time a attribute goes up, all related rolls go up. Same with broad skills.
I still have other work to do for damage and other details of course. After a unsuccessful first try at building this system I have tossed some of my other contradicting assumptions and now it all seems to be working together more or less.
As for the built-in setting, think Victorian age of the British empire. Only in space with creatures of mythology as long-lost cultures and civilizations of advanced cyborgs. So a Victorian-feel Space Opera with Cyberpunk Mythology encounters.
Example character sheet (incomplete):
- Vitality 5
- Intellect 7
- Grace 3
- Perception 10
- Vitality (5) : Fighting (2) : 7
- Vitality (5) : Fighting (2) : Rapier (5) : 12
- Intellect (7) : Shooting (4) : 11
- Intellect (7) : Shooting (4) : Rifle (3) : 14
- Grace (3) : Persuasion (3) : 8
- Grace (3) : Persuasion (3) : Logic (5) : 11