Gaming Steampunk TTRPG

Dev Diaries – Secondary Considerations

A character in my steampunk ttrpg system (which I really need to come up with a name for soon…) is defined by four primary attributes: Fortitude, Dexterity, Wits and Charisma.

Of course, those alone aren’t enough to describe each character’s specific variances and abilities. They will have professions and skills that describe a little bit more about who they are and what they do, but they will also have secondary characteristics.

These themselves fall into two categories: status characteristics, and pool characteristics (I am most definitely not going to expose these terms in the rules themselves, they are just my ‘work in the margins’ terms for these things as a I continue my system design).

Status characteristics

Status characteristics will represent a character’s physical and mental health, and will go up and down as gameplay progresses.

All of the player characters in the game will be human, and I don’t want to implement scaling and exponential stat growth in the system. As such, all characters will start off with the same values for the two main status characteristics: health and calm.

Playtesting and further design decisions will inform what the limits of these are, but for sake of argument just now, I’m assuming that each of them has a maximum of 10 and a minimum of 0, and that each character starts off with a value of 10 in each.

Taking damage, trauma or shock in the game will decrease one or both of these characteristics, and I’m planning on having 1-3 ‘checkpoints’ on each characteristic ‘track’, which will have an impact on rolls that the characters make.

Draft thinking is along these lines:

Health checkpoints

  • 10 (Healthy)
    no mechanical impact
  • 7 (Wounded)
    -1 to all rolls that depend on Fortitude and Dexterity
  • 4 (Injured)
    -2 to all rolls that depend on Fortitude and Dexterity;
    Unable to move more than one range band per turn (more on range bands coming later)
  • 1 (Unconscious)
    Unable to act, move, speak
  • 0 (Dead)
    In a world of aether and weird science, death may not be the end…

Calm checkpoints

  • 10 (Calm)
    no mechanical impact
  • 7 (Shaken)
    -1 to all rolls that depend on Wits and Charisma
  • 4 (Stressed)
    -2 to all rolls that depend on Wits and Charisma;
    Unable to use ‘tricks’ (again, more on those coming later)
  • 1 (Uncontrollable)
    GM has control of the character
  • 0 (Lost)
    The character is irrevocably broken (unless aether / weird science can find a cure…)

Pool characteristics

These ones are less developed and defined, but I know I want characters to have a pool of points in certain things, to represent their affinity with aether (magic) and weird science.

My early thoughts are that these will be pools of points that function similar to spell slots or charges, dictating how many times a character can ‘tap into’ the powers of aether and science each day, or instead affect a character’s chance of success at operating some gear-laden gadget.

Different professions will have different pools. A scientist will obviously have a large number of ‘weird science’ points, whereas a channeller will have a comparable amount of ‘aether’ points. Some professions will have zero values in these characteristics, meaning they can’t tap into them at all, or at least can’t until they choose a development feat as part of character growth.

With my playing card / trick mechanic, characters will also have a ‘hand size’ value as a secondary characteristic. This will default to 5 for most professions, but some — such as the vagabond — will start with six, and others — like the priest — will start with four. Again, hand size can be increased with development feats, but this whole area of mechanics requires the most playtesting, so is also most likely to change.

For now though, those are the secondary characteristics I anticipate using. Together with the primary attributes I’ve homed in on, the game’s character’s are now beginning to take shape …

  • Fortitude
  • Dexterity
  • Wits
  • Charisma
  • Health
  • Calm
  • Aether affinity
  • Science affinity
  • Hand size

Next (and affecting the starting values of some of these things), comes a character’s profession. Expect a world full of airship pilots, weird scientists, adventurers and more, coming soon…

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