Tables to the Rescue!

One challenge we’ve had with creating a setting that is independent of any particular system, or systemless, as we call it, is ensuring that the parts that make something cool translate to whatever game mechanics a GM chooses to employ. That means everything from character skills and traits to the difficulty of an encounter, an NPC, or an entire supplement.

After much debate and various angles of looking at the concepts, we’ve come up with two character tables and a three difficulty tables for illustration. Don’t worry, the difficulty tables include two that show how we got at the one that you’ll actually use for gauging how hard a situation is. You don’t need all three.

So what are they? The character creation tables show off Level of Ease (LE) as it pertains to a skill your character has and the degree of an Innate Trait (IT) that your character has. Skills are things you have to learn to do, where traits are those things that are natural part of you. As in spear chucking and athleticism respectively.

The difficulty tables started out with one showing the relationship of the percentage chance of success a character at any given level of experience would have of success in any given situation given its inherent difficulty. A character that’s a rookie pitted against another rookie has a 50% chance of winning the slingshot match. One that’s against an apprentice has a 30% chance. We assigned percentages for 36 match-ups.

After doing that, we still weren’t quite where we wanted to be. Our goal was to have an at-a-glance mechanism to convey difficulty. The percentages were not short enough, and required too much thought for someone who worked eight hours, came home to take care of the house, and only has 20 minutes left before the gamers are going to arrive. Enter the next table: odds!

On that, we got a bit closer to something that was quick to spot and comprehend. Sometimes folks just find odds easier to deal with than percentages. When you start dealing with things like 13% chance of success, it’s a lot different than when it was 50/50. That wasn’t quite tight enough, though. What we were going for was really a difficulty rating, which odds are not.

Having two tables in front of us, both essentially saying the same thing, we were able to distill that down to single digits that had meaning attached. We finally had our Difficulty Rating (DR). And now you have it, too!

Difficulty Rating Table
The Difficulty Rating Table helps GMs apply the appropriate mechanics from their favorite systems to our setting. A 0 denotes that the situation requires negligible effort for the character(s) to overcome it.

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