Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Fading Suns 3, Game Mechanics 2

Fading Suns Third Edition (FS3) makes the basic mechanics of the game simpler and more intuitive to use than in the First and Second Editions (FS1/2). But we haven't stopped there. There were a number of subsystems in FS1/2 that caused confusion for many players and didn't quite work in the manner they were intended to. So we examined some of the 'pet dislikes' that I and others had with the system to see if they could be remedued. In the end, it was simply easier to dump concepts like 'accenting' and 'effects dice'.

In the interests of pursuing a system that required 'one die roll to resolve one action', effects dice no longer had a place in the game -- they simply slowed things down and added a (frustrating) extra layer of mechanics that new players had to learn. In all honesty, I'd gotten rid of effects dice in my own games years earlier, and it had gone a long way toward making the original FS1/2 VP system more playable.

Accenting was another matter, however. This was an optional rule that existed to make actions easier for those with low goal numbers, to increase the opportunity to score more VPs for those with high goal numbers, and to make goal numbers beyond 20 useable. But what really lay at the heart of the system was a general feeling that characters did not have enough of a chance to succeed on their goal rolls and to give a few high-powered characters greater successes. It was clear that accenting was a big sticking plaster over the core mechanics, and in the end we tore it off and threw it away.

To replace accenting we introduced skill 'synergy'. The basic idea is that characters may have other skills relevant to their current goal test, and they should be able to draw upon that experience to improve their chance of success. In FS1/2 this took the form of 'complementary actions', in which VPs from one goal roll were carried over and added to the result of a second goal test. However, this broke the system in two ways: first, players were making lots of rolls to figure out the result of a single action, and second, the VP count got silly very quickly.

So how does 'synergy' work? It's really very simple. If a character has another skill (or skills, up to two additional) relevant to his goal test, he gets a bonus to his goal roll. The bonus ranges from +1 to +3 per relevant skill, and adds to the goal number that the character is rolling against. However, synergy only works when a character has time to reflect upon his experience and therefore does not work during combat.

The end result of this process is a 'one action, one goal roll' which keeps everything fast and flowing so as not to interrupt a game session with tons of dice rolling. One roll, figure VPs ... done!