JRPGS (Jewel’s RPG System)

I ran a game for my youngest child, Jewel, this weekend. She’s eight, and in the second grade.

Now, just like her older sister, she has been immersed in Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying concepts in general for her whole life. Hitpoints, mana, elves, orcs, swords, sorcery – she’s seen it all in video games and movies. Ever since she saw me buy the D&D Basic Set for her older sister Megan, she’s been asking if she could play Dungeons & Dragons.

And I’d been putting her off, for two reasons. First, she couldn’t do the math. Second, she really didn’t have the attention span.

Now that she’s eight I felt she was ready to experience roleplaying in some fashion, but I still didn’t want to let her play Dungeons & Dragons. Why? It’s just too heavy and confusing for a young roleplayer. In order to play that particular game she’d need to be able to read and do math at a much higher level than she can now.

But I felt that she was more than ready for the roleplaying experience itself, especially since she would have her older sister helping her along. What I needed was a simple, easy-to-understand roleplaying system. My goals were:

* Based on 2D6; I didn’t want to introduce polyhedral dice yet
* Low modifiers to make the math easier
* Fast-playing. I mean, really fast-playing. No charts or tables for the players.

Now, I had written up what I thought was a pretty good system based on the old Traveller rules. It had rules for buying stats and skills and general task resolution. I asked Megan to read it and she said something brilliant. She noted that high stats gave bonuses and low stats penalties when buying skills, and asked the question, “Why are there skills at all? Why don’t we just add or subtract those stat bonuses when we’re trying to do something related to that stat?”

“Well,” I huffed, “it would mean that someone with a high Intelligence, for example, would be able to do everything Intelligence-related well. They’d be able to program a computer, solve a Rubik’s cube, do theoretical physics…”

“Oh, please,” she retorted. “You effectively pick what you’re good at when you pick your class. If you’re trying to do something very different from your class description then you’d get a penalty. There isn’t any real reason to have skills; they just make things more complicated.”

I’d already had a nagging suspicion that the system I was coming up with was more complicated than it needed to be, and buying skills was one of the worst parts. Megan’s one question allowed me to greatly reduce the complexity of the system without it being any less fun. She is definitely my daughter.

I hereby present the system for your perusal and critique.

JRPGS (Jewel’s RPG System)

Characters

Characters consist of five stats – Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Intelligence(INT), Endurance (END) and Personality (PER). Stats range from 2 to 12. Characters start with 7 (an average score) in each stat and players take away and add points to stats until they’re happy with what they have. Every point of a stat above 7 gives a bonus and every point below 7 gives you a penalty. Characters have (END * 3) hitpoints and (INT * 3) mana points to begin with.

Examples:

I asked Jewel what kind of character she wanted to play and she said a wizard (of course). To make things even easier, I asked Jewel what two stats she felt would be most useful to her character and she picked Intelligence and Personality, surprising me. Then I asked her what two stats she wanted to give up; she chose Strength and Endurance. So I simply gave her a +2 for the ones she picked and a -2 for the ones she gave up. I gave her three times her Intelligence in mana and three times her Endurance in hitpoints so, she ended up with this:

Name: Nyan
Race: High Elf
Class: Wizard

STR: 5 (-2)
DEX: 7
INT: 9 (+2)
END: 5 (-2)
PER: 9 (+2)

Hitpoints: 15
Mana: 27

Her sister Megan wanted to play a rogue, and she juggled her numbers herself to get this:

Name: Dahlia
Race: Half-Elf
Class: Rogue

STR: 7
DEX: 10 (+3)
INT: 4 (-3)
END: 5 (-2)
PER: 9 (+2)

Hitpoints: 15

Task Resolution

The basic throw to succeed at a task is 8+ on two six-sided dice. Based on the type of task you are resolving, you will add or subtract whatever stat bonus or penalty the DM thinks is relevant to that task.

For instance, Jewel’s spellcasting would pretty obviously be an INT-based task, so in order to successfully cast a spell she would roll two dice, add her +2 INT bonus and try to roll 8 or higher.

The GM can make tasks more difficult two ways – they can assign penalties or they can have tasks be opposed. Penalties are fairly obvious, so let’s talk about opposed tasks.

An opposed task is one where another character is trying to stop you. A good example would be attempting to lie to someone convincingly. You would roll a Personality task to do so – if you roll 8+ then you have spoken well and there’s a chance the other character will believe you. But then they roll against their Intelligence. If they also roll 8+ then your attempt fails – they’re too smart for you.

Combat

I initially thought about having all combat rolls be opposed – a player would roll a Dexterity task to see if they hit, then the enemy would roll a Dexterity task to see if they could dodge the attack. I realized this would be slow and frustrating (I could hear Jewel saying “But I hit!” in my mind).

So melee attacks are Dexterity tasks; succeed and you hit. A basic attack does 1d6 worth of damage. If you have a Strength bonus, you add that bonus to your damage. Damage can be reduced by wearing armor; one point of armor negates one point of damage from each attack.

Magic

This required the most work and imagination on my part. I absolutely did not want a huge list of spells with their effects cluttering up everything so I gave Jewel a basic attack spell and a sleep spell and went from there.

What I did was allow her to tell me what she wanted to do, and then based on how effective that task was I would assign it a mana cost of 1, 2 or 3. (If I felt it was too game-breaking, I didn’t allow it at all.)

She would then roll an Intelligence task to cast the spell. Her attack spell would do the same damage as a weapon attack – 1d6 – plus however much mana she used to cast it.

Armed with this system, I was ready to run Jewel’s first roleplaying session. Since this is already a bit long, I’ll save that for the next post…

Remember Me

Why hadn’t I heard about this game before?!

Wow, this just feels like an amalgam of my favorite games. Third-person action like Prince of Persia/Assassin’s Creed/Splinter Cell. Combat reminds me of Batman: Arkham City. Hacking your enemies? Syndicate.

And puzzles! Puzzles where you screw around with people’s brains!

Hopefully that’s just a starter puzzle and the ones in the game get tougher and less directed.

In short, this game is out real soon (June 4) and I hope to have another Xbox 360 by then. It seems like a good game that might fly under a lot of peoples’ radar. And hey, new IP is always good.

Now Arriving At Your Destination

So, last Friday around 5 PM we pulled into The Lakes at Deerfield Beach, an apartment complex here in Florida. Weary, exhausted, we went inside and signed some papers and handed over a huge wad of cash…and became the proud renters of a beautiful new apartment.

Then we just had to get all the stuff inside. We had called ahead and hired some movers but we’d told them that we would be there at 1 PM and we were really, really late.

But they were still there and they moved us in. I tipped them big; it was a lifesaver.

Then it was a matter of juggling finances (and ending up having to borrow some money) so we made our March rent on time. Then it was just time to wait until I started working.

And yesterday I went to my new job for the first time. Everyone there seems very nice, the corporate culture seems laid back (and I need that after General Motors, honestly). The work looks like something I can do.

Here’s a thing though…I hadn’t slept much the night before (I do have an anxiety disorder, after all). So by lunch I was dragging.

So I had a Coke.

(gasps from the audience)

Yes, I deliberately drank caffeine for the first time in over four years. Other than the small amounts of caffeine in chocolate, I had not consumed any since my heart problems started in October of 2008.

Now, I had already asked my doctor years ago, and he had said that a caffeinated soda a day wouldn’t hurt me. In fact, a doctor once put me on modafinil, a much strong stimulant than caffeine! (I didn’t realize what it was at the time.) But I was afraid to do it until today. Today, I felt like it was necessary for me to be at my best.

And the worst part was, it worked. I felt great! I got lots of stuff done. I felt like things might be okay now.

I was kind of half-hoping that it wouldn’t work, so I could tell myself, hey, I tried it, it doesn’t work, no need to be tempted any more. But it did.

I guess programmers really are machines that turn caffeine into code. So I guess I’ll be having a (single) soda each day to fuel that.

I just have to be careful. Now, there is still no clinical research showing that stimulants cause heart attacks, but when you tell the paramedics that you drink a lot of caffeine and are taking pseudophedrine and they look at each other knowingly, that’s evidence enough for me.

Wow, this got off course. The upshot is, we’re here and it looks like we’re staying. My first-day jitters are over and it looks like, for a while at least, I’m going to be working for a living and we’ll be getting back to what normal people consider normal.

Thank you to all my friends and family who helped us. It really does feel like waking from a nightmare.