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Random Thoughts of a Game Developer

Archive for the month “August, 2010”

16 Bit Heroes – Two Sample Classes

I thought I’d post these – The Dilettante and the Mage. The Improvement Test tables indicate how quickly the class will advance with those abilities – the lower the Improvement Difficulty, the quicker they’ll advance. I’ll cover Improvement Tests in more detail when I’m working on the experience chapter, but essentially each level, you roll 5d10 for each ability. If you meet or exceed the ability’s Improvement Test Difficulty, that ability improves. The more you exceed the difficulty, the more the ability improves.

These are rough draft things, you understand. I just thought all five or so readers I have might be interested in seeing a couple classes, since they’re what I’m working on now.

If you’re holding out for information about Elements, I imagine I’ll be posting some in the not too distant future, but this is what I’m working on right now, so…


“Oh, sure – I know a bit about that.”

The Dilettante makes a career about knowing a little of everything. Most Dilettantes are a little knowledgeable about everything. They’ve experienced a lot of life, and found literally everything to be interesting – for a few minutes, anyway.

Dilettantes are great resources of knowledge and experience, although never as good as a specialist. Dilettantes can try an appropriate Ability roll at anything… with a penalty. The GM sets that penalty, but it should be at least -5, and the more specific and obscure the knowledge or activity is, the greater the penalty.

Dilettantes have neither strengths nor weaknesses. They’re okay at just about everything they try, but they aren’t great at anything. Their wealth of life experiences have left them sort of… okay.

Dilettante Class Ability: Jack of All Trades

Dilettantes never really bother to learn anything completely until they absolutely have to. They’re okay at everything off the bat, but when they decide they need to know something well, they can pick it up.

A Dilettante starts with no Skills. At 1st level, 3rd level, and every three levels thereafter (levels 6, 9, 12, and so on), he or she may make an Improvement Test against a difficulty of 25. If successful, the Dilettante learns one Skill of his or her choice. A Dilettante cannot learn any Tiered skill at a level above Tier 2.

Whenever using a magical weapon, armor, or shield he or she is not Skilled with, the Dilettante receives ½ (round down) any normal numerical bonus the item provides (so a magic Shield that provided +4 PD and 5r FIRE would provide +2 PD and 2r FIRE for a Dilettante who hadn’t picked up the Shield skill).

Dilettante Improvement Tests


1st Level Bonus

Improvement Difficulty



















(Note: For all other classes, in order to gain any benefit at all from the magical bonuses of magic weapons, armor, and shields, a character must have the appropriate Skill. Gaining new Skills is also much more difficult for other classes – just to help you understand how the Dilettante works…)

Read more…


Like Kermit and Fozzie Said…

It’s been a while since I posted anything… It’s been kind of busy around here. I have a sick girlfriend,  a crazy 2 year old, and more housework than I seem to be able to keep up with, so I haven’t had much time to work on my games. I have managed to come up with a class building system and a preliminary class list for 16 Bit Heroes – I’m not happy with it, though. Here’s the list:

  • · Barbarian (Tough but finesse-free warrior)
  • · Bard (Low level magic user who empowers his companions)
  • · Cleric (Masters of Defensive “White” Magic and the enemies of undead and demons – called White Mages in some games.)
  • · Dilettante (The true jack of all trades and master of none)
  • · Fighter (A Martial Artist)
  • · Hunter (Ranged attacking warrior/tracker/outdoorsman)
  • · Mage (A magic user who specializes in Utility or “Gray” magic)
  • · Psychic (Warrior who supplements his abilities with psychic powers)
  • · Sorcerer (A spell slinger who can enchant weapons temporarily)
  • · Summoner (Summons monsters to attack on their behalf)
  • · Thief (Exactly what it says on the tin)
  • · Warrior (Powerful and skilled melee combatants)
  • · Wizard (A magic user that specializes in Offensive or “Black” magic – called Black Mages in some games…)
  • I had a longer class list initially, but I cut some. I wanted to conserve space (class descriptions are taking about a page each, sans illustration), and because I didn’t want to spend forever doing classes. My problem is this: I cut some of my favorites. I cut them because of space and time constraints (which makes me feel like a Time Lord to say, so I guess it’s not a total loss), The classes I cut were variations on a theme, or were there because I thought they were fun. For the record, I cut:

  • Adventurer (Essentially divided up amongst Dilettante and Thief – but I still miss them)
  • Archer (a ranged weapon expert – too similar to the Hunter to keep… although I might swap the name and change the Class Ability and eliminate the Hunter instead)
  • Blue Mage (A melee combat class that has the ability to imitate the special attacks of monsters – cut because of the bizarre mechanics involved)
  • Druid (A spell caster with a nature theme; they would have powers similar to a Trainer (see below) as well, but to a much lesser degree)
  • Engineer (An inventor class that based its powers on creating new items for themselves – added a lot of mechanics I didn’t want to deal with, but it pisses me off to cut them, since I put them in specifically for a friend in the first place…)
  • Gambler (A class based on Critical Hits and random magical effects… I thought they might do better in a follow-up book)
  • Goof-Off (A completely pointless class whose only saving graces were their high Luck stat, their bizarre weapon and armor skills, and the fact that they were fun. They were taken directly from Dragon Quest/Warrior III©)
  • Merchant (A warrior merchant… if you haven’t played Dagon Quest© III or IV, you just won’t get wht this is truly cool)
  • PsiWarrior (The only class I’m glad I cut, since it covered the same ground as the Psychic)
  • Trainer (similar to the Summoner, except they would keep a collection of monsters who just hung out with them instead of being summoned for a single attack – try the Dragon Warrior Monsters© games for the Game Boy©, or Dragon Quest© V for the Super Famicom© to get specifics… or, hell, if you’ve played Pokemon© or Digimon©, you still probably get the idea)
  • Warlord (A Technique expert who specialized in buffing his allies)

I mean, these are good, in-theme classes… But I needed to have at least the basics covered. Which brings me to the point of this post (finally).

I know I don’t have a lot of readers, and Game Design by Committee is probably the worst idea ever conceived by man (genocide not withstanding)… but I thought I might spend the next couple posts talking about how Classes work, followed by class descriptions of my favorites of these, and ending up with a poll about which classes should be in the book, and which classes shouldn’t.

I can tell you right now which classes I’m not sure about including and which classes I want to restore from the cut (and I will, in a moment or two), but I’m very interested in what my few readers might think. I’m also interested in any additional class ideas you might have, which is why I intend to post the rough class creation rules I have right now. So, if you read the next few posts and have class ideas you want to contribute, you have the tools you’ll need to do so. I promise, it’s pretty simple.

For the record, I would personally like to see the following three classes make a comeback:

  • Blue Mage
  • Engineer
  • Trainer

But I won’t bring them back without  public outcry. In order to keep the final class count where it is, I would eliminate the following classes in this order:

  1. Dilettante (I love these guys, but at the same time, if anything can be dropped in favor of the above, it’s a class that’s too generic)
  2. Bard (I only include them in the first place because they’re a genre trope. I’d rather have them in a later book where I can address “Bard Magic” as it’s own type of special ability)
  3. Barbarian (They’re flavor-cool but execution weak; I’d rather have “barbarian” be an origin story for a character than a class itself)
  4. Mage (Alright – a specialist in Utility Magic is a neat concept, but who actually wants to play one?)

In the next few posts, I’ll make sure all the classes specifically mentioned get more description. But I encourage my five or six readers to read all of the next several posts (until the Poll shows up) to read everything I provide before they come to a final decision.

Anyway, it’s close to three thirty, and I need to get some sleep. Stay tuned. I promise my next post will happen within the next few days.

16 Bit Heroes Excerpt

I thought that, since I had posted multiple excerpts from Elements (most of which have been re-written by now) it might be nice to see a bit of 16 Bit Heroes. Now, I know that this post doesn’t go along very well with my last one (about posting on other topics, tra-la), but I’m feeling lazy today, and I wanted to post something.

This comes from the first chapter, which describes Ability Scores; this particular section is concerned with Ability Checks, and the various complications that can arise with them.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Ability Checks

Sometimes a character’s abilities are tested directly. When this happens, you roll 5d10 and add the result to the Ability in question; the higher the result, the better. Typically, you’re attempting to equal or exceed a Difficulty value, although you might also be attempting to exceed the result of an Opposing Check.

There are several complications to Ability Checks – Critical Success and Critical Failure being the most important. In the case of rolling against an Opposing Check, there’s also the possibility of a Draw. Sometimes you don’t even need to roll – a character can get by on competence alone. All four of those are discussed below. A final complication applies to a single Ability; when you use your Luck Ability, you take the chance of getting Bad Luck instead of good. That is also discussed below.

Critical Success

If you throw your 5d10 for a Ability Check and the result is within your Critical Margin (see Chapter 2: Vital Statistics, page ###) of 50, you have achieved a critical success. Examples:

Your character has a Critical Margin of 0. In order to gain a Critical Success, you must roll all 10s on your 5d10 roll, to get a natural result of 50.

Your character has a Critical Margin of 2. In order to gain a Critical Success, you must roll a 48, 49, or 50 on your 5d10.

Critical Successes outside of combat may or may not provide special benefits. Often, they’re just good for bragging rights – you get to describe your character not only doing what they set out to do, but doing it with style. If the GM decides there should be some tangible benefit, he or she will tell you what it is. Maybe picking a lock takes half the time you thought it would, or you manage to not only bend an escapable hole in the bars, but you bend them so far that everyone can slip out without making a sound. It’s up to the GM – or, if the GM says so, it’s up to you, but you only gain tangible benefits outside of combat with the GM’s say so. The only guaranteed benefit is that you definitely succeed at what you’re trying to do.

In combat is another story. If you get a Critical Hit on a target, you do not make a normal damage roll – instead you deal the maximum possible damage you could roll (so if you were supposed to roll 2d10+15 for damage, you would automatically deal 35 damage instead of rolling). You also ignore ½ the target’s Armor Value with that particular hit (so if you were attacking a monster with an Armor Value of 20, and you got the 35 damage noted above, you would deal (35-10) 25 damage, rather than the (35-20) 15 damage you would normally do).

Critical Failure

Of course, if you can critically succeed, you can also critically fail. If the result of your roll is 15 minus your Critical Margin or less, you fail at what you’re doing, even if the result totals out higher than the Difficulty. You have achieved Critical Failure, and something bad might happen to you. Examples:

Your character has a Critical Margin of 0. If your roll results in a (15-0) 15 or less, you have officially screwed the pooch and stepped out the door.

Your character has a Critical Margin of 5. If your roll results in a (15-5) 10 or less, your character has achieved Epic Fail; congrats!

Outside of combat, a Critical Failure often just means you screwed up in some embarrassing fashion or another. Unless the GM says otherwise, you can describe exactly how your character fails miserably; the more entertaining it is the better. Maybe your lockpicks break off in the lock, making it unpickable. Maybe you let out a thunderous fart while trying to bend the bars, possibly alerting the guards and certainly upsetting anyone else in the cell with you. The GM may decide that something really, really bad happens, but most of the time any inconvenience and embarrassment a player comes up with him- or herself will be better than an arbitrary punishment for a bad dice roll. Just remember – your character didn’t just fail, he or she failed in some epic way. Have the good grace to make it fun for everyone.

In combat, a Critical Failure means you not only miss, but the target of the action can take advantage of an opening the character has left for them by failing so miserably. Unless the opponent has the “Slow” creature attribute (see Chapter #: Beasties, page ###), they can immediately make an Attack against the character that failed so epically. If they hit, they can ignore ½ of the character’s Armor Value when determining damage. In addition, the character’s turn ends immediately, even if they still had an Action to perform.


In the case of a Difficulty, a tie means success. However, when two characters face off together, you can get ties, and it isn’t really fair to arbitrarily assign victory to one or the other. This is when the Draw rules come in.

Sometimes a Draw isn’t really a Draw – that is, it’s pretty easy to see who should come out on top. In the following circumstances, you don’t have a Draw, you have a marginal victory for one character or another:

· If two checks wind up with the same result, but one of the characters involved is within their Critical Margin, thereby deserving of a Critical Success, they win, but they don’t gain any special Critical Success benefit in combat. Outside of combat, the Player can describe some cool or skillful way they came out on top.

· If two checks wind up with the same result, but one of the characters involved deserves a Critical Failure, that character loses. There’s no Critical Failure unless the losing player wants to describe one – he or she just loses.

· If two checks wind up with the same result, but the Ability used to modify one character’s check is 5 or more higher than the other’s (and neither character deserves Critical Success or Failure), that character wins based on superior competence alone. Critical Success and Failure trump this rule, hands down.

· If one of the characters is in a state of Bad Luck (see below), that character automatically loses all Draws.

If none of the above three circumstances occurs, what has happened is a proper Draw. In combat, this means essentially the same thing as a miss on the attacker’s part. Out of combat, this means the situation should be described in such a way as to indicate that the characters tied. This may mean a repeat of the previous check, or some event that indicates the characters were equally matched. If they were racing, for instance, it might be impossible to determine the winner.

If a tie is absolutely unacceptable for some reason, each character gets an additional 1d0 to roll and add into their result. This continues until someone comes out on top.

Competence Alone

Sometimes a character is just so good at something that rolling is a waste of time. In such circumstances, the GM should let the player know that they don’t have to roll – the character can just succeed and things can move on. A player can choose to roll anyway if they like, to try of Critical Success while risking Critical Failure; that’s fine. Otherwise, the character just succeeds and things move on.

Competence only applies under the following circumstances. If the character meets one or more of the following qualifications, no roll is needed.

· The Difficulty is equal to or less than the relevant Ability + 10.

· The Opponent’s relevant Ability in the opposed check is less than ½ the character’s relevant ability.

· The Opponent is under the effects of Bad Luck (see below), and the character’s relevant ability is equal to or greater than the opponent’s.

Characters can also attempt a Minimal Competence Check. If they do so, they don’t roll; instead, they treat the check as if they had rolled 15 on the dice. GMs don’t need to inform characters when Minimal Competence will do – that’s the player’s decision.

Bad Luck

As previously mentioned, Luck can be used for a variety of things, including substituting it for any Ability in a check. Using Luck too often can result in bad things happening, however. A character’s luck can turn on him or her, putting them into a state of Bad Luck, which modifies how most of the above rules work.

Characters can enter into a Bad Luck state under the following circumstances:

· Rolling all 1s on any Luck Check

· Rolling a critical failure on a Luck check when Luck is being used as a substitute for another Ability score

While a Character is in a Bad Luck State, the following rules apply:

· If the character’s Critical Margin is reduced to 0.

· The character cannot benefit from Critical Success, but can suffer from Critical Failure.

· The character loses all ties against Difficulties and loses all Draws automatically.

· The character can no longer use Competence Alone to succeed at challenges – they always take the chance of Critical Failure.

· The character cannot use Techniques, Spell Effects, or Psychic Abilities that allow them to re-roll dice.

· The character cannot substitute Luck for other Abilities when making Ability Checks.

Getting out of a Bad Luck state is difficult. Typically, blind luck gets them out of it, the same way it got them into it. The following things will get a character out of a Bad Luck state:

· The character rolls three 7s any time they roll three or more dice.

· The character rolls five 10s any time they roll five or more dice.

· The character performs a great act of heroism, bravery, or virtue (GM’s discretion)

· The character finds a priest, druid, or other holy person willing to perform a cleansing ritual; such a ritual must be performed in a sacred or consecrated place, and requires materials or monetary donations equal to 1,000 gold pieces or more per level of the character to be cleansed (basically, the buy-out option should be available, but expensive – however the economy works in your game should be fine, as long as you keep that in mind). The holy person may demand a specific Quest instead of payment, if the GM is looking for a good plot hook.

Bad luck is a pretty harsh thing. Any Game Group might decide that it’s too harsh to include in their game; this is fine, but if a group chooses to do so, they should remove the ability to substitute the Luck Ability for any other Ability in all Ability Checks, perhaps limiting such things to once per day.

Change the Tagline, Save the World… or not…

As I have mentioned before (notably in yesterday’s post), I’ve come to the conclusion that my blog’s focus was a bit narrow. My older brother agreed, and he suggested the new tag line in a comment I read about an hour ago. He was right, and so were my feelings: as a Dev blog, this isn’t ever going to amount to much, and I can’t talk about my game development work on a daily basis because I’m often tired of writing about it after I work on writing it. It’s a strange thing to not want to always talk about something you love doing, but it’s hard to try to come up with something to talk about in the development process on even a weekly basis.

So, I’m re-tasking the blog. This is just the first of what I hope to be several changes to the blog. Hopefully, the posts will be more frequent, for one thing. You can still expect to hear about Elements and 16 Bit Heroes about once a week or so, but now I will feel comfortable posting here about other things without slapping “OFF TOPIC” across the top of the post. Heck, I won’t even need the Off Topic Tag anymore…

I’m not going to go back and edit previous entries to reflect the change. I dislike revisionist history and retcon, and so those pages will stay what they are: glimpses into the past. It’s silly to do that sort of thing on the Internet anyway, don’t you think? I mean, the most that sort of thing accomplishes is pissing people off, most of the time, right?

In any case, the quantity and diversity of content for the blog will broaden, although I cannot guarantee the quality will increase with it. Posts about my two development projects will be tagged as Elements and 16 Bit Heroes (depending on which I’m talking about), so it’ll be easy enough to find that stuff if that’s all you’re here for. I hope it won’t be. I hope you’ll like my various ranting on video games, comics, anime, geekdom in general, and the occasional foray into politics. But if you don’t, and you just want the dev stuff, find the project you prefer in the Tag Cloud or Subject Cloud to the right, click on that, and enjoy what you came here for.

I promise I don’t mind.

In the meantime, thanks for tuning in, and I hope to see you commenting in the future. New post later today, tomorrow, or Tuesday. See ya!

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