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Shards: A P&P Homebrew System

This topic contains 18 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  M 5 years ago.

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    Back in January, during the tail-end of my winter break and the low-workload period directly following it, I powered through setting down the mechanics for an entire, original P&P RPG, which I am tentatively calling Shards. It can be found here:

    But, you might be asking, if this was done in January than why wait until now to talk about it? The answer to this question is not what you might thing. You see, I had been planning to do stuff with this system here pretty much right from when it started looking like I would actually finish it. However, I wanted to give it a few quality passes first through the use of people such as my Brother. As some of you my know, this was not a great idea, as it relied heavily on waiting passively for my Brother to actually look at my work. Well, one month later, I’ll pretty much gotten tired of waiting for him to get back to me, so I’ve re-formatted everything to fit Google-Docs and posted it all up there! Of course, this also means that those quality passes I was hoping for haven’t yet happened, but that doesn’t me they will not.

    You see, my intention with this project is to form a strong core to serve as a basis for a community-driven Roll Playing System. One that is well-suited to use on the internet, and has been streamlined for play without reduces character options. If I ever get it in a state wherein I am wholly happy with the results, I will probably creates a wiki or similar platform from which it can grow organically. But in the mean time, there’s a lot you can help with!

    First of all, while I feel the design of this project is overall fairly complete, the implementation is obvious not. Indeed, it’s full of holes that needs to be filled! It also has some questionable choices which need to be evaluated, to say nothing of mechanical balance. Frankly, I can use all the help I can get in identifying areas of concern and, better yet, possible solutions for them. I also have a short list of concerns I already have over areas where I’ve made a decision but find myself second-guessing on it. They are as follows:

    – Right now this system uses a lot of dice. It expects you to have a small pile of d10s, but you also use other types of dice for damage rolls. Would it be better to try and reduce the number of dice that are in use?
    – Damage is very non-permanent right now. I tend to like it this way, but it does present problems. Characters don’t really have any daily resources to expend right now. My attempt to remedy this was a wounding system, but I’m unconvinced that is the best solution. And even if it is, my implementation might be completely off! What are ways to complement or improve this?
    – Names! Names are hard, and I’m not good at them. I would love to hears some suggestions for names for various things!
    – Last but not least, tell me whenever you reach an area where you’re confused by what is (or is not) written! This can tell me if something is missing, but it also helps make sure that was isn’t missing is presented in a way that makes sense to more than just me.

    Sometime over the summer, I am definitely planning one running some one-off campaigns using this system. I also encourage others to do the same! Don’t be afraid to change anything you use either. Just make sure you tell me if you do; it might be that I like your version better than what I put in there.

    In any case, that is about where I am currently with this project. I hope you all enjoy it!

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!




    I’m a big fan of rpg rules and systems. I’m even bigger fan of picking them apart and would love to give this one a read.
    Couple of questions though.

    You’re cool with having your baby picked on? I probably wouldn’t say too many good things because those parts would already be awesome.
    Also, did you want the comments in private or on this post?



    I would not have posted it if I was not ready to receive criticism. Indeed, fleshing out and fixing up the various parts that need it is one of my primary motivations in having posted it up. As for whether or not you should do so privately, I’ll leave that up to you. It can actually be helpful to post it publicly though, as that way other people can comment on it. This is, after all, something that I quite literally threw together in my free time over about a month. I expect it to have a lot of things that need improvement.

    That said, make sure you tell me the things you like as well as those you don’t! After all, if you don’t tell me, I’ll have no way of knowing the things that I should keep the same!

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!



    I’ll got “some” comments after paging through the texts once.

    First off, you got some nice original takes on D&D 3.5 / Pathfinder style character systems, which I really enjoy. The hands down best part is the “build your own class” classette thing, you should definitely build around those. I enjoy the classettes but I’ll probably just take 7 physical strength and 3 “smash stuff” classettes in the end.

    As for the downsides on the current class system, I’m not convinced that choosing which of them to level had that much of an impact to justify the “complex” xp rules because your classes will always end up in 3-3-3 and the best way to get a ton of abilities quickly is to pick them in order. Perhaps you could either make the class leveling more automatic since there is little variation there anyway… for example levels 1,4 and 7 raise your primary classette, 2,5,8 secondary, and so forth. Or even that each levelup gains a little bit from each classette.

    If you do want to work around choosing between leveling different fragments of the class, and adding more classes as you advance, perhaps you should always have 3 classettes ongoing with maybe 5-10 levels each. When you max out a classette, you’re allowed to pick a new one to keep having 3 choises all the time… but you’re always allowed to ignore two of them, that way choosing between expensive high level classette and cheap low level one could still work.

    I thought your attack rolls were also bit confusing.. you start with… 3d10? Then you keep that up for 9 levels after which you pick 3 new classettes and your attack rolls instantly become 6d10? Perhaps there could be a more gradual rise for them, it could even be an ability raised by different classettes at different pace.

    I also thought that the classette abilities are hard to understand “Iron fist” gains +1 super duper monk power for each level of classette, but there are 4 levels labeled 0, 1, 2 and 3… so is the max +3 or +4? Similarly, archery classette can replace attack roll with skill roll, but from what I could understand your attack roll is 3d10 and your skill roll is 1d10, 2d10 OR 3d10 – not a good deal for the most ultimate classette ability.

    Another thing is what you hinted at yourself as well… you are rolling TON of high value dice, this does raise some worry with practical and balance issues:

    – If you’re not rolling a dicer script thats a lot of adding and rolling, gonna bog down things especially when your high level super characters start getting multiple moves per round. I really feel you should give up on the fistful of dice after a point (3-5 dice?), and just start adding a static bonus of half or less of the dice’s value.

    – D10 dice is going to have terribly high variation, things are going to get random fast, perhaps also toning down the size will make things less luck based – D6 would have the additional benefit or most people having dozens of them around the house.

    – Relating to the high dice value above, your stat effects have really minor effect. Difference between an idiot and a genius casting a fireball is 3d10+1 = 17.5 and 3d10+7 = 23.5, which is like 25%. This is bearable at first if you want everyone to be able to have a chance at things, but the difference will just lessen rapidly as you throw in more dice. HOWEVER, if you tone down the dice as I’ve mentioned above and make the stats matter more then you doom any kind of gish or bard character, that Hulk with 7 physical strength and 1 mental strength will just crush things each round, while your 4 mental, 4 physical strength bard will choose between a lame attack and crap fireball.
    One thing you can do in this situation is to have diminishing returns – either moving from 6 to 7 does less than moving from 1 to 2, or balancing out between mental and physical will cost -2 for every +1 one instead of -1, +1 – problem with this is the weird situation where munchkins do that and regular players will always be “strong and smart” or “tough and willful” or “fast and witty”.

    – Try to keep your actions similar to each other, when you’re doing something you’re rolling similar roll against similar target, that way you can mix and compare abilities and dangers together better. For example, there is always 1-5 dice, there’s always bonus to that, and there’s always a target number to reach for success. And if a suitable level 7 knitting challenge takes 30 or more knitting roll, then a suitable level 7 orc should take 30 to hit.

    I thought each stat having a mental and physical side was an unusual take. I commented a bit on it above but what I worry is that munchkins will make dump super powered characters, no one will want to balance and everyone will have equal ability on both mental and physical in all cases, or simply that your choises there will be flavor only. I think that dropping the amount of dicing will make these values matter but maybe there should be a diminishing return, only go for the ol’ 7-1 spread if you’re really after each small gain despite crippling losses in other fronts.

    Dinimishing returns may also help with skills, right now we might be at the Pathfinder “either you max out this skill each level, or you don’t use it”. With diminishing it could be more “dabble on 3 skills and manage with them in game or focus on 1 skill exclusive and expect a good results mostly always”.

    Your description of the mental and physical ability was very readable and you managed to introduce new idea quite clearly, so most things here are just nitpicking on the writing. (And since you’re a native english speaker and I’m not that means you might as well just skip over this segment.)

    A good analog/separation for your mental strength and mental dexterity could probably be coming up with a good plan vs thinking on your feet, but the description were pretty understandable already.

    The description for mental constitution could have a more real life example. such as keeping cool under pressure and sticking to things you commit to. (Or just saying willpower.)

    “You also can never put more than half of your total points into 1 attribute.”
    4 strength example is more than half of 7, which makes the phrasing a bit weird.

    Later I also found text: “However, you can increase a skill’s rank beyond the point where it exceeds the number of Classettes your character has.”
    Probably, this should say “can’t”?

    Also, sometimes you call your traits feats. Classic.

    Lastly, I think your combat skill says “your attack roll is always 1d10, but you’ll get various choises here”, which seems confusing since attack roll seemed to be “1d10 for each classette”, and I don’t really know if each classette means each you have (3 at start, then suddenly 6) or each level in each classette (1-9), or each classette that has higher level than 0 (1-3).

    Let us know if you’re rewritten the thing, I think you got some real porential in those classettes.



    Most of the description stuff is just typos. I’ll make a note to fix them.

    As for everything else, I’ll address them (and update my to-do list!) later tonight, since i need to go to work in a few minutes. Thanks a lot for the comments you’ve provided though. It definitely helps point out a lot of areas of potential contention.

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!




    Okay back. Addressing things more or less in order…

    The leveling up complexity for Classettes is a risk, but one that I think is worthwhile. You are correct in saying that most of the time, leveling up in a linear fashion is going to be preferred because it gets you more stuff sooner. But I like the idea of leaving the possibility open to go in hard on just a single Classette at the expense on the others. I also like that, long term, it is never a mistake to do so, as you still eventually end in the same place. I think it is unlikely I’ll change this mechanic, but it is definitely worthwhile to review it to see if I can streamline any part of the process.

    Also, with regards to getting something from everything each time you level up, that is definitely not going to happen. It would add more complexity and, more importantly, triple the workload when it comes to designing a Classette. For much the same reason I am unlikely to alter the number of levels in a Classette. There is definitely merit to the progressive approach you suggest, but it would require a fairly major paradigm shift relative to what I have now. Still, it’s something to throw onto the idea pile.

    I agree that Attack Rolls should have a more gradual increase than is currently the case. I haven’t figured out exactly how I’m going to make it happen yet, but it’s definitely on the list of things I want to improve.

    As for the dice issue, I agree that there should definitely be a cutoff after which you stop adding dice, but I’m not sure where it should be. Nor, for that matter, am I all that certain it should be a hard cutoff. A thing a soft limit (ie. One where instead of being enforced explicitly by rules was in place simple because it is difficult or impossible to circumvent) is ideal, but possibly not feasible.

    For the D10/D6 thing specifically, I actually originally was using D6 based on similar logic. However I changed to d10 as I was concerned that the D6 did not present enough variation in situations where you roll only a few of them. It is guaranteed that characters will have skills with fewer than 3 ranks for a huge chunk of the game and in this scenario it the variation of the D10 is actually beneficial. It is also worth mentioning that, as the number of dice increases, the randomness of the result decreases. Sure, it has a bigger range, but each die makes it more likely the total result will be closer to the middle of that range.

    Current Attribute values are definitely not balanced properly. And you have not even SEEN the chart I have that tells me what and how much each Attribute is used. I am however extremely hesitant to implement diminishing returns, as a linear grown appeals to me greatly. At the very least you are correct to say that it needs something to prevent people from just dumping everything into one stat.

    As for Skill Mastery, as the system is currently setup, you get enough skill points to max out 6 out of 17 skills (including knowledge and martial). This is means that a party of 3 characters can comfortably have 100% skill coverage. Furthermore, because of those last 2 skills, you will probably have at least an extra point or two lying around, which can easily be invested into a new skill. This also does not include skill bonuses from traits or Classettes. Furthermore, at least in theory, Skills already have a diminishing return on investment…is what I was going to say, until I realized I was measuring it on an exponential scale. Spoiler Alert: A linear progression will look to be diminishing on an exponential scale.

    In any case, the issue here is a very complete one to solve, and I’m certain I don’t currently know a good solution for it. Ultimately I think how the Skills are setup is going to come down to preference. That is, whether I ultimately want to optimize it for specialization or a spread. Clearly back in January my thinking was for the former, but I am for from certain this should be the case.

    Overall you bring up several important points. I want to avoid diminishing returns if at all possible as they necessarily add additional complexity.

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!



    Is there a particular reason you decided to go with an increase in dice quantity rather than dice modifiers like DnD uses? Dice modifiers maintains the same probability range, but shifts it keeping things even and predictable, while multiple dice increases the average value but have a constantly increasing range. I assume that greater volatility is what you are aiming for? Another method I have seen is the one used in World of Darkness. It runs entirely off of D10 dice. Rather than totaling dice values dice are either a success(8, 9, 10) or a failure(everything else). getting a 10 is a reroll for a chance at another success. Adding dice increases the likelihood of getting successes but the probability has diminishing returns built in. I would advise some caution if you plan on using this in world of darkness attack rolls and damage rolls are combined which can lead to unintentional overkill.

    Steam: Garayur



    Here is the thing with D&D: The D20 system is not particularly random. As the game goes on, you get larger and larger bonuses applied to the same dice rolls, to the point that a decently optimized character has often determined whether or not it has succeeded in a task before the payer has even rolled. This happens because the D20 system is actually optimized for low level play (let’s define this as 10 or less, though it can come up before level 10 with some characters).

    My stance is a little different. I think that, while a more advanced character should consistently do better than a less advanced one, it should not do so by a static value. Having a larger range is part of my attempt to address this, though obviously it is not a perfect solution. As is, while I think I have addressed the issue of automatic success, I have not yet addressed the other side of the coin wherein an untrained skill is often an automatic failure.

    That plus also, quite apart from the complex design philosophy above, a larger range allows for more swingy results, which tend to be more memorable and satisfying. Though a better critical system to emphasize this aspect is also something that needs work.

    Oh, and as an aside, I actually did originally consider a cascading dice system like you would find in WoD. However I eventually decided that it was not worthwhile as it both requires an even larger pile of dice than I’m already using and seriously slows down the act of rolling dice.

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!



    Lastly, I think your combat skill says “your attack roll is always 1d10, but you’ll get various choises here”, which seems confusing since attack roll seemed to be “1d10 for each classette”, and I don’t really know if each classette means each you have (3 at start, then suddenly 6) or each level in each classette (1-9), or each classette that has higher level than 0 (1-3).

    I’ve gone in and fixed a few typos, but I can’t seem to find the line that you reference here. Could you point out where you found it?

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!




    I wrote that thing from memory, but what I’m referring to is the Martial skill’s “Unlike other skills, it doesn’t have a rank cap. However, it always uses 1d10, no matter how high its rank is.”, I’m bit confused if it’s rolling d10 for some special manuever or if it’s an attack roll.



    Ah. Martial and Knowledge work differently from other skills, but that distinction is currently not as well defined as it should be. This is why the wording in that part is weird.

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!



    I’ve made a bunch of changes based on the feedback I’ve received thus far. The changes thus far are not comprehensive to that feedback, but I think I’ve addressed enough to bring it up. Here is the changelog, for easy of parsing:

    – Clarified how the Knowledge and Martial skills work
    – Clarified how Weapon Proficiency Works
    – Clarified how to overcome Armour Penalties
    – Moved Grappling to Combat Maneuvers
    – Added table of Basic Classettes to the main document
    – Added “Gaining New Classettes” Section
    – Changed the benchmark for when Advanced Classettes can be taken
    *Miscellaneous Clarifications:
    – Fixed various typos
    – Clarified how Armour Penalties work
    – Clarified how the follow action works
    – Clarified the Initiative thing, or lack there of
    – Added notes to unfinished sections for later-game mechanics
    *Attack Rolls now use a number of D10s equal to half the number of Classettes a character has, rounded up.
    *Finished the “Other Stuff” part of Power Sources Section

    *Fixed Various Typos
    *Changed HP so that you get more of it at level 1
    *Critical Hits/Strikes
    – Changed the conditions for a Critical Hit. The situation where Even-numbered rolls have better crit odds is no more.
    – Critical Strikes now explicitly do not guarantee accuracy.
    – Flanking now increases the chances of a successful critical strike
    *Defined a Base Movement speed of 2
    *Added Grappler and Grappled status effects
    *Expanded the description of the Combat Maneuvers Skill

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!



    I haven’t read your changes yet, and this isn’t stuff you’re looking for, but I thought I’d throw it out there in case it’ll give you some ideas.

    First off, if you do end up needing to expand your classes levels you don’t need to keep inventing new stuff for them, you can just cheat and spread them out. For example currently your monk style character would get on a levelup +1 attack, +1 damage and the ability to dragon-kick an orcs eyeball, or whatever monks do when they’re not being the best class. Instead you could just get stingy and give +1 attack on one level, +1 damage on another, special attack on third, and/or you could even squeeze in the attack rolls so they won’t all come on level 1. Either each classette has magic set point (halfway, end?) where they earn their attack roll dice bonus instead of a regular level up, or each class gains it sooner or later depending on their combat orientation, maybe they’d even learn it separately for magic and fighting, covering two levels more and making a distinction for combat or magic focus on the class. This could maybe encourage those uneven class selections to max out one type of attack roll early.

    Third thing I wanted to throw out there is not very practical. Your characters level up more on the range of results they can have than the set number they’ll reach, in your Xd10 case you might have to expect rolling a LOT of average scores constantly after the dice increase. If you feel that adding a static bonus from your statistics or such will pretty much end up being the only important thing at the start and meaningless in the end (unless someone’s got diminishing returns in the roll gains) you could have them measure if the dice you’re rolling is d6, d8, d10 or d12, throw in d4 if you want to really punish those min/max types. Of course, this idea is hideously impractical because it’ll just become an effective multiplier for the guaranteed result, normal character always rolls about 10.5, 13.5, 16.5 or 19.5, advanced one will roll 20.5, 27, 33, 39 almost constantly… of course, if you’re looking to keep the relations the same between the rolls that could work but you probably wouldn’t want that, also, it’d take a lot of damn dice.

    Of course, when you’re dealing with large amounts of dice you’ll always end up with close to same score, a fireball in D20 always does 35 damage, and it matters little if it once does 30 or 40. Maybe what you should do is base any bonus that comes from expected character advancement be a set bonus, like low level character can be expected to roll above 1, medium level character can be expected to roll above 30, a high level character can be expected to roll above 60 and so on. (So you’ll make orcs that take 10, 50 and 85 to hit or something.) Then when it comes to abilities unique to character you add the random, things like special class abilities and your stats increase the dice you roll, so when a medium level weakling tries to push a bourder hell get some challence rating of 40 and rolls his 30+3d6, while the medium level character with above average strength and the special “extra dice when pushing boulders” classette ability, he’ll throw 30+4d10, and will probably easily shove that boulder aside even if there’s a chance of humiliating defeat there.
    If you’ll just give both of them 6d10 dice and one gets +2 and other +6 then the other will always roll 35 and the other 39.



    First of all, since I neglected to address it earlier, @m, I am not going to inflate the number of levels a classette contains. It is no secret that I was highly disinclined to do so, but allow me to now elaborate on why it is undesirable. Aside from personal preference that is.

    There are two strong arguments against revising the total number of levels a character can reach. First of all, as is the case in what you suggest, it necessitates the creation of dead levels. What this means is that there are certain levels where you get little to nothing in terms of advancement. D&D (other than 4E) is pretty bad about this, and it is a problem that does not currently exist within Shards.

    Second of all, any redesign of the number of levels a character can achieve will necessarily require a resign of the skill system, of these 2 things are very closely linked. As the system is currently designed, skills have a 1-to-1 relationship with both the number of Classettes a character has AND the total number of XP that character has earned. What’s more, the only reason the conversion of skill levels into more dice works is because these number of fairly small. So even if one or both of these 1-to-1 relationships was broken or modified, it would still mean a major revision of the skill system was required.

    That all said, what I have done is revised the dice for attack rolls, such that you start off with 2D10 and (baring Epic Play) max out at 4D10, which I think will help alleviate problems. I have also been looking for a similar limit to place on skills, but have yet to find one that would not render at least some skill levels useless.

    And one more thing! I actually did consider the thing with increasing dice size, but I decided against it simply because changing dice like that is in practice pretty confusing to keep track of.


    Now that that’s done with, I’ve finished working on what I consider the first major revision. In this one my main goal was getting Attribute disparity completely in hand. That is to say, making sure that all of them are at least close to equally useful to one another. This was done chiefly by adding Classettes so that they are used for a similar number of attack rolls, though it still needs some fine tuning that will occur later. At this point, I am unlikely to personally add more Classettes until I start on the Advanced ones (though I’d love to see some made by other people!). Other things I’ve done include adding several new status effects, an item table and defining what renown is, among other things. You can see it here:


    Core Rulebook:

    Classette Booklet (since a lot of additions where here):

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!



    Finished the next revision. This one had a LOT of stuff in it, including a whole buttload of new Traits and redefining how armour works, among other things. However, it also has a character sheet now! You can get it from the link below!

    Also, now that I’ve made a character sheet, I was hoping I could get people to try to stat a character with it. Needless to say, this should help point out a lot of potential issues with regards to what I need to be more clear about in character creation.

    Change Log:
    *New* Traits Document:
    *New* Character Sheet:

    Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!

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