I’m sorry for the radio silence from my end lately. In part, it comes from a busy winter, and in part, it comes from my innate laziness toward the end of projects.
Anyway, here’s what’s coming in the next month or two. I’m nearly finished with the project—I only have a dozen or two more pages to finish in RPJ Sci-Fi.
LaTeX is made for this kind of thing—not RPG books exactly, but typesetting in general. I don’t have to worry about exact placement of elements on the page nearly as much, and can easily move sections around as I close in on final publication.
Minor core mechanic changes
RPJ has a dual heritage: the crunchier games of my youth, with pages upon pages of detailed equipment listings, and the story-forward games I tend to prefer now, with their more straightforward mechanics, fail-forward mentality, and storytelling tools. Why? Story-forward games put a heavy emphasis on GM creativity, which is great, but can be taxing. Mixing in some cruch—stats, pre-made NPCs, balancing tools—makes for an easier GM experience overall, and lets the gamemaster focus more on interesting consequences to actions than on working out how the world fits together in general.
Because of RPJ’s first parent, it’ll never be quite as simple as games with a pure story-forward heritage, but I think RPJ as it exists in your hands is pretty decent at smoothing over the rough edges from simulationist philosophy. It also has a number of mechanics which flow from and feed back into storytelling. (There’s a new one later on in this post, too.) Where it fell a little short was in the fail-forward mentality of the core dice mechanic.
A pass/fail rolling system with critical successes and failures has four possible outcomes: ‘yes and’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘no and’. This is a little unsatisfying from the story game perspective, for two reasons:
- ‘No’ and ‘no and’ are nearly identical in terms of story consequence, and personally, I’ve always found critical failures hard to reckon with. Straight-up failure on its own is enough of a downside. Why pile on with something else?
- RPJ, with its simulationist tendencies, leans on the idea that characters who are good enough to do a thing should succeed on most attempts at that thing. That’s satisfying for the players, but pure success is less satisfying for the story-forward gamemaster.
So, the core mechanics now no longer include critical successes and failures. Instead, they generate five possible results, based on whether any single die rolled shows a 1 or a 6:
- Yes and: you succeed with a minor extra benefit. (This is much more common than a critical success, so there’s no need to make it nearly so flashy.)
- Yes: you succeed.
- Yes but: you succeed, but with a drawback or at a cost.
- No but: you fail, but the opportunity is not altogether lost.
- No: you fail.
The chance of an ‘and’ or ‘but’ is independent of a character’s skill level. You’ll still succeed at things you should succeed at, but you might bump into a consequence or a benefit—a wrench in the works, based on your circumstances.
Factions and influence
This mechanic from RPJ Sci-Fi had never quite gelled in my mind until this edition. Where it was vague before, it now has a clear purpose in driving storytelling. Factions have a life independent from the players, with rules for interacting, expanding, shrinking, and fighting, and influence lets players buy into those factions’ assets and plans. It’s a cool system, and I’m looking forward to getting it released.
Honestly, I’m looking forward to getting the whole thing released. I appreciate your patience over these long months. Soon!