Dragonstar: The Serpent's Teardrop
The Window System
The Window roleplaying game system as written by Scott Lininger is designed primarily as a storytelling tool. Its dice mechanic is intended to provide a simple conflict resolution with varying, but not outlandishly different levels of competence. The core conceit of the system is that each ability a character has is described with an adjective. That adjective relates to a particular type of die. When a resolution is required in game the corresponding die type is rolled. Results less than 6 or less than the roll of an opposing die are considered successful. Hence “better” abilities are assigned “smaller” die types.
Weakness in the system seems to derive from what it considers a strength; the lack of structure. This is intended to allow for more creative storytelling and to prevent hamstringing the game with too many rules. However the looseness has also had detrimental effects, including players being confused by lack of definition, test results being more unpredictable than would be expected, and difficulty refereeing disagreements.
The following is an attempt to codify some changes made in an ongoing game that uses a modified version of the Window RPG. These modifications intended to partially answer those perceived weaknesses.
Below is a chart showing the standard Window competency ladder with examples of the competency at right. The addition of a competency level between D12 and D20 evens out the curve and the additional “unskilled” category gives a better model for tests truly out of reach. The table below that gives percentile chances of characters succeeding against adjusted difficulty numbers for reference.
|D4||Incredible||Unbelievable||Grandmaster||Unequaled||Stupendous||Superhuman||An ogre carrying a lead-lined and full treasure chest.|
|D6||Very High||Remarkable||Master||World Class||Amazing||Prodigious||A wise old dwarf extracting the finest vein of mithral.|
|D8||High||Very Good||Natural||Elegant||Talented||Highly Skilled||An elf performing a practiced and liked dance.|
|D10||Above Average||Good||Professional||Proficient||Skilled||Practiced||A trained warrior using a common weapon in battle.|
|D12||Average||Fair||Competent||Decent||Common||Not Bad||A common citizen doing an average task like hunting.|
|D16||Below Average||Unreliable||Amateur||Beginner||Struggling||Mediocre||A human student attempting basic elvish cooking.|
|D20||Low||Bad||Poor||Weak||Untried||Rough||A sorcerer giving up his wand for an axe in a fight.|
|D30||Abysmal||Terrible||Bungling||Incompetent||Pathetic||Disastrous||A poxy thief trying to con his way into a high society ball.|
|D100||Unskilled||For unrelated or unknown tasks that require particular skill||A stupid ork fixing a reactor meltdown with no manual.|
New Rule: Taking the Average
Characters, when attempting to succeed at a test while under no pressure and with time to guarantee success may instead of rolling the dice take the average of their competency die’s largest and lowest total (round down where necessary). For example, a scientist with a biology skill of Above Average (d10) may take a 5 on a test (ROUNDDOWN/2) to study the new alien microbe. In most normal situations this would net a success, beating the usual difficulty number of 6. Note that equipment modifiers (see below) are not included in the average calculation.
As currently written equipment and gear in the Window works much like anything else. Make a statement about how good the piece of equipment is, then use the adjective to determine a competency rating and assign a die value. While this works on some level to simplify the system, it also makes equipment more difficult to “use” alongside or with a character’s abilities. As a result, competency should only be assigned to equipment if it’s effect is autonomous from a character’s personal involvement. This might also mean some pieces of equipment have multiple statistics. For example, a gun may be highly accurate which assists the users ability to hit a target (probably shown by a modifier as described below) but the damage the bullet does when it impacts the target has less to do with the person who pulled the trigger and more to do with the power of the weapon itself.
New Rule: Equipment Target Numbers
Certain types of equipment may have fixed target numbers associated with some of their properties, rather than competency rungs. While using die rolls is more dramatic it can also provide exceedingly uneven results, so for some pieces of equipment the competency should be shown as a fixed number (usually the average of the die value it would otherwise have been assigned).
New Rule: Equipment Modifiers
In order for pieces of equipment and gear to better “assist” the characters who use them, it may be better to have them provide modifiers to the characters’ ability rolls rather than having competency levels of their own. Sample modifiers (to the die roll result) are listed in the table below. Modifiers may be “split” if a piece of equipment is used for multiple actions at the same time.
The troll has a heavy club made of stone. It is difficult to swing (+2 melee) but does quite good crushing damage (-1 to a Strength test for damage).
The assault rifle has reliable (-1) aim when firing single shots which do a good amount of damage (d10). However, when fired as a burst it has effective stopping power (d8 damage) but sacrifices it’s reliability (+1).
The starfighter Xenobird has a good AI (d8), remarkable maneuverability (-3 piloting), incredible speed (d4), accurate laser cannons (-2 firing, d6 damage), but a fragile chassis (TN 8 for damage).
The hacker’s datacom has a highly protected system (d8) with unequalled (-4) speed and power. However, the hacker usually runs a constant deep datanet search for his ex-girlfriend using up some processing power (-2) so often only has a part of the CPU available to him during hacks (-2).
New Rule: Initiative
Who acts first is a big one. In general rolling a stat like Perception or Agility (perhaps dependent on the action the character is engaged in) should be good enough. However which one of those stats could become a point of contention, so creating an Initiative statistic that has a competency that it equidistant (round “down”) between the competency of those two stats may be advisable (i.e. PER d8, AGL d12 = INIT d10 or PER d20, AGL d6 = INIT d12 or PER d10, AGL d10 = INIT d10).
New Rule: Action Delay
Inspired by the combat rules of the Silent Winter Campaign on Obsidian Portal
Specifying combat actions and how long they take goes against the freeform style of the Window, but could be necessary dependent on the genre being played. A suggested method is below:
- Characters roll initiative, lowest initiative goes first
- After taking an action that character adds the actions “delay” to their initiative score
- New total is their next initiative score
- Next character (in initiative order) takes an action
This may mean that a particularly fast character taking simple actions may act more than once before a slower character.
New Rule: Types of Actions
|Move||Reduce or extend the distance between you and your enemies in the combat.||10||Engage||Engage a nearby enemy in close combat.||10|
|Reciprocal||Engage an enemy that has engaged you.||10||Escape||Disengage and move from enemies who have engaged you (pass test or provokes a free attack).||20|
|Switch||Switch your engage between enemies who have engaged you and attack (pass test or provokes).||10||Avoid||Avoid enemies who are trying to engage you (success prevents engagements until next initiative).||20|
|Attack||Make a melee strike against an engaged enemy.||10||Backstab||Engage and attack an enemy that is unaware of your presence (-2 bonus to hit / damage)||20|
|Charge||Move to, engage, and attack an enemy at distance.||20||Sneak||Move around the battlefield without being noticed (requires test to be successful).||40|
|Shoot||Make a ranged attack against an enemy in the combat.||10||Cover Fire||Make a ranged attack against an enemy (success adds 10 to their initiative if moving/fighting).||10|
|Snipe||Make a ranged attack against an enemy who is unaware of your presence (-1 bonus to hit / dmg)||20||Cast||Cast a spell or perform other magic related to your skills (effects may occur at end of the delay)||20|
|Skill||Perform a short term action related to one of your skills (i.e. treating a wound)||30|
- Actions names are generic. If a character wants to do a backflip across the battlefield and land on the back of the charging rhino and stab it, great. Sounds like a “Charge” with a backflip test added in.
- Most actions are a +10 delay, but a few are different.
- Characters can opt to hold their action on their initiative count and “interrupt” the count at any point following that.
- Some characters may be able to reduce delays based on their skills and/or abilities. As a rule of thumb, if they have an ability that speaks directly to how fast they can react, they roll that ability and add the result to their initiative rather than a standard delay (i.e. a gunslinger with “fast draw” (d6) has initiative 8, wants to draw, rolls a 3 on their ability, therefore their next action is on 11 allowing them to shoot before their opponent who goes on 14).
- Combatants must be engaged to make melee attacks on each other.
- A combatant can only engage one opponent at a time, but can be engaged by up to 4 enemies. * For each enemy beyond one a character is engaged by they get a +1 penalty (up to +3) to every test in the combat (attack, defend, cast, escape, etc).