Monthly Archives: October 2013

Original D&D was skill vs armor on multiple tables – the multiple tables being to indicate that a 5th fighter had more melee skill than a 5th level wizard. Other systems use skill to hit followed by weapon vs armor to penetrate and do damage.

How could you combine this into a simple skill vs skill mechanic?

Traditional wargames have a CRT or combat results table that looks like this

The combat has a combat odds ratio calculated from the strength of the attacker and defender which selects which column to roll on and a single D6 is rolled for the result so a strength 10 attacking unit vs a strength 5 defending unit would roll on the 2:1 column.

For a game with levels the base odds ratio would be attacker level vs defender level so a 5th level attacking a 4th level would give a ratio of 5:4 and a 6th level attacking a 1st level would give a ration of 6:1.

To take class type into account the classes could be divided into three categories fighter, hybrid and magic user. The column used on the CRT could be shifted depending on the class type of the attacker and defender. Say a 3rd level is attacking a 3rd level that would produce a base ratio of 1:1. A fighter attacking a fighter, a hybrid attacking a hybrid or a magic user attacking a magic user would roll on that column. A fighter attacking a hybrid would shift the column one to the right and two columns to the right if attacking a magic user. A hybrid attacking a fighter would shift the column one to the left but one to the right if attacking a magic user.

The shifts would be:
Fighter vs Fighter – no change
Fighter vs Hybrid – one column shift to the right
Fighter vs Magic User – two column shift to the right
Hybrid vs Fighter – one colum shift to the left
Hybrid vs Hybrid – no change
Hybrid vs Magic User – one colum shift to the right
Magic User vs Fighter – two column shift to the left
Magic User vs Hybrid – one column shift to the left
Magic user vs Magic User – no shift

That could take care of class differences but still on one table.

(If the maximum column was 6:1 a level 20 Gandalf would still roll on the 4:1 table when fighting orcs up to level 3. The orcs would roll on the 1:4 table if the limit was 1:6)

(A level based game might need a CRT going up to 10:1 or even higher to compensate for this.)

The 6:1 column on the CRT might be something like:
6 – kill
5 – kill
4 – serious wound
3 – serious wound
2 – wound
1 – slight wound

The 1:6 column might be:
6 – slight wound (or even slight wound* the * signifying the ened to throw another 6 to cause the slight wound)
1-5 miss

Armor and shields

Armor could also shift the column, heavy armor moving it two columns to the left, light by one column maybe. Shields could do the same or reduce the die roll by 1. So two heavy armored guys of equal level might be 1:1 shifted to 1:3 by their armor.

Low levels attacking an unarmored high level hero would still be 1:6 to hit.


This could either reduce effective level, shift the columns or modify the die roll. This will need experimentation to decide what best can create the Robin and Marian type effect.


Multiple low levels attacking a high level at once could shift the column by one for each extra attacker so multiple low levels at once would be dangerous to a high level unless he covers his flanks and / or uses terrain to limit the numbers who can reach him. A 6th level vs six 1st levels would attack at 6:1 and likely take out one opponent every round. Each of the attackers would roll on the 1:6 column on their own but if three could attack at once that would shift each of their attacks two to the right so they’d roll on the 1:3 instead and if all six could attack at once that would shift the column five places to the right to the 1:1 column – much more dangerous for the higher level.

What kind of melee combat do i like in movies?

(Leaving aside boss monster fights and sticking to humanoid creatures for now.)

1) I like highly skilled fighters / heroes mowing down minions.

2) I like two highly skilled fighters finding it difficult to get through the other’s defenses.

3) I like a type (2) fight between two highly skilled fighters who are also in heavy armor to end up as a real slog (like the fight between Robin Hood and the Sheriff in the film “Robin and Marian”) because even when one of them does get a strike it is often negated by the armor.

4) I like a highly skilled (and particularly agile?) unarmored or light armored hero being able to take on a lot of opponents but only if he keeps moving and makes sure too many can’t get to him at once i.e. fighting on steps, in doorways etc.

Aside from the above i also want a melee combat system to be

1) As simple as possible as complication distracts from the story aspect.

2) Evocative – it needs to appeal to the imagination so complication above the minimum needed should only be there if it has an effect on the drama of the fight. For example I think separate rolls to hit and penetrate armor are more dramatic than a more simplified combined roll because it increases the tension.

3) Character attributes should matter as they personalize the combat

So thinking about this list i think what i’m looking for is a mechanic where the base chance to hit is calculated by comparing skill vs skill which is then modified by armor, number of attackers, stamina etc.

What should be the baseline for ranged combat?

A lot of games set the baseline to hit a ranged target at some kind of average chance and then modify it up or down. I think it would be better if it was set at a more specific baseline as then it might be easier to visualize. My recollection from my (very long ago) army days is that after some training most people – if they were stationary and aiming – could hit a stationary man-sized target at close range in daylight most of the time (and by close range i mean around 30 feet for handguns and 30 yards for rifles). This may be a bit off but it’s in that ballpark IIRC.

So the optimal conditions where a shooter will hit almost all the time are defined as:
– basic training
– stationary shooter
– stationary target
– aiming
– short range (defined here as 30 feet for handguns, 30 yards for rifles)
– man-sized target
– good light
– no concealment (fog or foliage)
– no hard cover
– unwounded

The base chance to hit would be set at this point. As this baseline is (mostly) set at optimal conditions then any deviation from this would involve penalties. The exceptions to this from the list above would be point-blank range and larger than man-size target both of which would get a bonus.

On top of these situational modifiers others would be:
– skill
– natural talent (dexterity)
– tech/magic (sights, built-in targeting computers, cybernetics, psionics etc)

Hard cover could be modelled in the same way as a smaller than man-sized target. Say there were penalties to hit along the lines of
– 3/4 human size
– 1/2 human size
– 1/4 human size
– tiny
then the same could be applied to the amount visible behind the cover e.g. a half-covered target could be treated as 1/2 size and a target inside a bunker as tiny size.

The next question is armor. If you have armor added into the hit roll then you can get situations where if a particular weapon has a bonus against a particular type of armor it feels like it is easier to strike one of two targets who are side by side but wearing different armor. That’s not what is happening but it feels like it and creates an immersion jolt imo. So i think armor protection should generally be checked separate from the hit. I think a separate hit and armor/damage roll adds a bit of dramatic tension also.

Armor can have attributes separate from the armor rating which effects hit chance.

Once a hit is achieved there is an armor/damage roll.


If a ranged target has a high dodge rating (due to a high Agility score for example) then should that apply as a penalty in ranged combat? I think no with two exceptions:

1) When advancing under fire in a situation where there is a lot of cover then a high dodge character can apply a penalty to their ranged attackers to simulate them running and diving from cover to cover.

2) A high dodge character attacked by ranged combat at point-blank range can apply their dodge bonus as a penalty.

This would be a situation where armor could have attributes which effect the hit roll i.e. heavier armors could limit the maximum agility of a character wearing it which would limit their maximum dodge bonus.


Ancestor worship is almost universal at an early stage of development among sentient species. Shamanism is generally practiced at the same time by individuals with the gift but shaman generally deal with animal or nature spirits.

Most people engaged in ancestor worship have little power and their ancestor spirits had little when they were alive and so not much as spirits either. They can’t do much but will try to gift some luck bonuses to their descendents using the power gifted by their descendent’s prayers. An ancestor-worshiping player who conducts a prayer ritual once a week can have a small luck bonus token they can use at any time.

Special Case

Some cultures practise an ancestor-worshiping version of shamanism/necromancy. Here the ancestor worship is more involved with each clan/house operating their own cult with dedicated tombs and gifted individuals within each house trained to become the equivalent of shaman/necromancers. These individuals have some power and make stronger spirits so their ancestors have more power also in a repeating cycle.

(Think the Dunmer in Morrowind.)

These ancestor shaman can summon ancestors to aid them in various ways. The first step is to create a focus like a spirit belt or spirit necklace which the summoned ancestor will inhabit and impart some bonus depending on their ability in life. A strong warrior ancestor might impart strength, an archer ancestor dexterity or archery skill, a hunter might impart tracking, a strong shaman ancestor might increase power.

(The ritual to summon an ancestor spirit generally takes place at night and the summoned spirit arrives before dawn.)

Initially an ancestor-shaman might learn how to make their spirit belt and summon one ancestor and later up to six, one at a time at first and later (after upgrading their spirit belt) up to three at once. The most experienced ancestor-shamans can also summon an actual spirit warrior to fight alongside them.

Ancestor-shaman cultures are often associated with necromancy by outsiders however generally such cultures will be extremely hostile to necromancers as ancestor-shaman cultures only summon *their own* ancestors and see the necromancy of other people’s ancestors as the ultimate blasphemy.

When specifying the ability or bonus imparted by a particular ancestor spirit to an NPC create a 2d6 table something like:

2-3: Hunter, tracking
4-5: Archer, Archery and DEX
6-8: Warrior, STR and END
9-10: Assassin, Stealth and AGI
11-12: Shaman, Pow, Magic Resist

The table will depend on the culture of the group and what skills, abilities they use most e.g. hunter might be the most common choice.

Early Colonization: Sequence

Taking the conclusions in “Historical Notes” as the template then an early colonization would follow a specific sequence.



1) Scouts
  • jump to unexplored system
  • set up basic scout outpost for refueling and repair
  • basic astrogation survey – can jump to unexplored system
  • full astrogation survey – mark space anomalies
  • investigate space anomalies
  • orbital planetary surveys
  • mark planetary anomalies
  • investigate priority anomalies
  • survey sites for settlement colonies
  • set up base for ground teams on potential colony sites
  • investigate everything around colony sites
  • if settlement or supply colony site accepted then colonial service takes over
  • if site of or route to secondary colony then maintain scout outpost
  • else withdraw

this sequence will generally be ongoing in multiple systems at once

large numbers of TL10 scouts are built early on and although some get upgraded a large number end up surplus leading to the phenomenon of “detached duty” scout in later eras.

there may be scores of anomalies marked in the surveys in each system but not all anomalies are investigated at first – space anomalies in systems designated for colonies are first priority and ground anomalies near colony sites are second – lower priority anomalies are just recorded and investigated as and when personnel become available.


Space Anomalies

Traveller doesn’t have much in the way of space hazards but my Jump-drive gravity handwavium allows for the possibility of maritime like gravity hazards i.e. space is like a sea of gravity and as such there can be gravity based

  • tides
  • storms
  • whirl pools
  • dead zones

etc. The first part of the scout service’s job is to find, explore and mark these space anomalies. This can be very dangerous and space is littered with scout ship wrecks.

Warhammer 40K’s “Rogue Trader” is a good resource for this.

So IMTU space maps – with all the gravity eddies marked – look a bit like old nautical maps.



2) Research

If an investigated anomaly merits further study it is marked for a research team. Initially the highest priority are anomalies related to exploration and colonization and these teams are usually academics recruited by the Scout or Colonial Service. This continues to be the case on the frontier but near the home world over time research teams are more likely to be funded by academic or commercial institutions. If there’s a potential military application the research team may be from the navy.

  • activate mothballed refuel/repair outpost if system explored but left behind as unsuitable
  • set up research base around anomaly
  • space station or ground station
  • research may be ongoing / automated after setup / mothballed if complete

Having lots of small mothballed government surplus bases makes them available to be sold or leased to non-govt groups later on.


3) Colonial Service

Once the first potential settlement colony site is decided on the colonial service takes authority over that system and the supply systems en route to it and work to turn it into a self-sufficient colony that could survive a home world catastrophe.

  • upgrade the scout outposts (E) along the route to supply colonies (C)
  • start shipping colonial service personnel and equipment to colony site (B1, B2)
  • start bringing in colonists to make colony self-sufficient (B3 to B5)
  • colonies generally can’t build or maintain orbital facilities yet so ships have to be able to land


4) Navy & Marines

In the early days the home world Navy is mostly orbital and planetary based with a few picket ships available to detect and destroy asteroids. The Navy has a lot of personnel but is focused on the home solar system and the number of interstellar naval ships is very low.

  • Destroyers
  • Colonial Cruisers (with colonial marines)
  • various supply ships

Stable settlement colonies often get a one or two “Destroyer” class ships for asteroid duty.

Naval security tasks are initially handled by the pre-existing Navy Shore Patrol (military police) and dangerous anomalies are initially assigned to Scout Service away teams but it soon becomes clear that some situations call for heavier weaponry and that leads to the formation of colonial marine battalions built around the colonial cruiser design.


Common Ships

The campaign starts at TL10 so limited size ships initially.

  • Scouts: 100 dton scouts and outpost ships, 200 dton planetary survey and supply ships, 400 dton mother ships.
  • Colonial Service: 200 dton supply ships and 400 dton colony ships
  • Research: 200 dton supply and 400 dton lab ships
  • Navy: supply ships, 300 dton destroyers, 400 dton colonial cruiser
  • Corporate: 200 dton yachts

large numbers of these TL10 ships are built early on and they eventually find their way into private hands as surplus e.g. the early 200 dton supply ships become the ubiquitous “Free Trader” design and the 300 dton “Protector” class destroyers are later upgraded to the “Gazelle” class close escort.

the colonial cruiser carries a complement of marines for “bug hunts”

ships are often used as first stage bases e.g. the scout service outpost class ship acts as a temporary base for scout surveys and the colonial service “Brood” class colony ship is designed to land on the colony site and provide power, admin, comms, shelter and security while the colony is developed.




This is the underlying foundation i like for an RPG magic system.

Everything has a spirit/soul: people, animals, trees – even rocks and waterfalls. Some of these spirits are too small to matter so the minimum 1-point spirit is a human, animal, tree. Non-living natural objects e.g. waterfalls, lakes, meteoritic rocks, generally only have a vestigial spirit.

Humans generally can’t use their one point of spirit power to effect things in the physical world.

Spirits can spend power in the spirit world to influence things *indirectly* in the physical world.

Humans can transfer their one point of spirit power to a spirit through prayer – consciously or unconsciously. (It takes about a week to recharge.)

Ancestors will often hang around after death for a generation or two to watch over their descendants. Ancestor spirits generally only have their one point of power which isn’t enough to do anything with in the physical world but ancestor worship transfers the worshipper’s power – one point for each – to the ancestor spirits to use. It’s still not much – say 1 point allows the ancestor spirit to cast a +1 luck spell on their descendant for a single task once a week – but better than nothing.

Famous ancestors – successful tribal chiefs or healers/innovators – may become venerated by a whole clan tribe and not just their own descendants. This transfer of power can over time create great spirits which eventually can even grow to become demigods or gods.

Unconscious prayers are possible also due to prayerful reactions to natural phenomena. Examples of these might be:
– reaction to a weird looking rock formation
– waterfalls
– lakes
– fascinated staring into fire
– fear of lightning
– fear of the dark/shadows
– fear of death
– fear of storms at sea
– sunrise over the ocean
– sunrise over mountains
– oak trees
– moon


This unconscious prayer also create great spirits and gods. “Fear of” reactions tend to create dark gods but not always. Gods spawned by “Fear of Lightning” often become war gods. Gods spawned by “Fear of Death” are very varied leading to necromancy on one hand and Bushido-like warrior cults on the other. Some great spirits are benign as a result of the reaction that spawned them e.g. most spirits/gods to do with dawn and sunlight – except those sun gods created by creatures that fear the sun. Moon gods can be a mixture: sexual, occult, things that happen at night. Spirits that grow out of other benign reactions e.g. oak trees providing acorns as food, will tend to be benign also (to their own local population not necessarily outsiders).

Some are mindless or neutral – the sea god doesn’t need worshippers because it is fed by fear of storms. It can be bribed to leave people alone but otherwise doesn’t care. Fire doesn’t need worshippers either – although it has them also – because it gets so many unconscious prayers. So the great spirit of fire is mindless and doesn’t care – but can be bribed.

A funny-looking rock leaning out over a mountain path which looks a bit like a monster at a certain angle and scares travellers into the cultural equivalent of crossing themselves will over time create a malign great spirit (which could be defeated and exorcized but would always eventually be recreated as long as the rock caused the same reaction to travellers in the future).

The power of the great spirit will vary with context. A small but beautiful waterfall in a remote location that has only be seen and received unconscious prayers from a small number of sentient creatures might only have a small nymph spirit. The spirit of a gigantic waterfall with a city at the base might be a demigod.

This will be the basis for most magic – rituals that involve gifting power to spirits in the spirit world in return for the spirits using supernatural means to help the giver in the physical world.

Lots of different forms of ritual magician.

– standard ancestor worship

– shaman working with animal spirits

– mediums contacting the recent dead
– alchemists manipulating the spirits of growing things
– hex wizards trading with spirits for curses and blessings
– artificers
– diviners
– priests

(Ritual magic will be very difficult by default (e.g 12+ success) but with a lot of modifiers for things like
– consecrated ground
– ritual markings
– specific times
– specific components
e.g. cutting a useful form of mistletoe might require 12+ on 2d6 but a druid that knows the correct ritual and cuts the leaves with a silver sickle in a druid grove at full moon while repeating a particular chant might get +8 so for them successfully getting the item would be a 4+. The difference between ritual magic and standard RPG magic is it generally has to be done in advance so it’s not *directly* combat magic – although a summoned warrior spirit ally might give you a bonus to your combat skills.)

1) Solitary ritual magicians need to build a personal relationship with one spirit at a time to turn them into a permanent ally. As they become more experienced ritual magicians can call different spirits without the first one becoming too jealous.

2) A priest officiating at a group ceremony gifts one point for each worshipper.

3) Gifted ritual components e.g. the spirit’s favorite food or gold or silver are effectively substitutes for gifting power.

4) In a lot of cases Priests are basically salesman getting commission from the spirit.

5) Evil spirits/gods will often view their worshippers as food. Their cult priests will bring people to worship and get them to gift their power. In exchange the priest will get a small cut. All the worshippers get is the god not hurting them – and not even that if the god is hungry.

6) Sacrifice is often done slowly to ensure every drop of the spirit is extracted for the god.

7) It’s possible for a priest to create a great spirit. If a charlatan can persuade a group of people to worship any object then bit by bit the transfer of their spirit to the object will awaken and grow the minuscule spirit within the object. The newly created spirit will often be submissive to the priest as the conduit for their new power or they might betray them and select a new more pliable priest.

8) You could view a Cthulhu-like cult as a kind of pyramid / ponzi scheme. The base worshippers give one point a week and in return get a 3-point of magical help in their life every three months or so so they’re at -9 over three months. The next level maybe get a 3-point of help every two months so they’re -5. The outer inner circle might get a 3-point every month and are only -1. The inner circle – maybe only the cult leader – give 1-point every week and gain 6. The rest goes to the god.


All this power flowing to and fro between the physical and spirit world – including all the combined minuscule amounts as every beetle and blade of grass is born and dies – is floating around like dust in the air. This is “mana” and the basis for scientific wizardry.

Wild wizards or sorcerors are individuals who can instinctively and naturally tap into this “mana” and use it to create magical effects themselves without spirit aid. This is powerful but dangerous and restricted. Sorcerors will tend to a specific aspect e.g. animals or fire or healing, and have a collection of spells from that aspect. They don’t learn spells they have a list available which they instinctively get as (if) they become more powerful. Sorcerors are often insane and tend to destroy themselves or get destroyed. Some of them may be possessed.

Wizards are those who study the underlying science of magic. (They know mana fuels it but think mana is separate from the spirit world when in reality it is spirit in transition between the two worlds – hence they think they are superior.) They don’t gain power so much as a) learn how to leverage their one point of spirit power more effectively so their one point is equivalent to two or four or six and b) learn how to draw mana from the surroundings. Wizards usually need a focus for this. Sorcerors do it naturally.

Because of this what really fuels Wizard power is knowledge. Knowledge teaches them how to leverage their limited natural power and knowledge teaches them how to extract the most mana from the environment. Knowledge also teaches them how to first create and then how to upgrade a focus which acts as a mana extractor and battery.

(Spellbook magic will involve spells and mana but the driving force will be knowledge measured by a Lore stat.
– example: At Lore 20+ a wizard might be able to leverage his one power point into two, at Lore 30, 3, at Lore 40, 4, at Lore 50+, 5 and plus one for each 50 lore after that so at Lore 400 he’d have 12. Similarly with extracting mana.
The wizard’s magic would be directly fuelled by power/mana but indirectly by knowledge.)

Character Creation (WIP)

The basic system in Classic gives too few skills for my taste and everyone is an admiral. The advanced version gives too many skills for me so re-jigging Classic a bit to get something in the middle.



Str, Dex, End, Int, Edu, Soc

roll 5 x 2D6

Edu is min(Int, Soc) at character creation, (treat Edu as applied Int)(later max Edu = Int+2)


  • 1s to 2, 6s to 5


Soc of 11 or 12 is family Soc, player starts as rolled Soc-1, mark as 11(10) or 12(11), first Soc+1 clears
Soc 11, Knight -> “Sir”, right to bear arms (sword and pistol)
Soc 12, Banneret -> “Sir”, as above plus bodyguard allowed right to bear arms and knight’s fee




Service Status is in order:

  • navy
  • marine
  • army
  • merchants
  • scouts
  • other

no draft, can attempt to enlist with one service and if fail then try any of lower status, can’t attempt lower status and then try higher status, “Other” enlistment is always successful


Service Bonus Stats

The stats which if 8+ give DM+2 for a particular service’s rolls.

  • Navy: Edu & Soc
  • Marines: Str & Int
  • Army: End & Int
  • Merchants: Edu & Int
  • Scouts: Dex & Edu
  • Other: Dex & Int


  • Navy: 9+
  • Marines: 8+
  • Army: 7+
  • Merchants: 7+
  • Scouts: 9+
  • Other: 2+


Basic Training

Skills given on enlistment at skill-0

  • Navy: vacc suit, steward
  • Marines: vacc suit, weapon
  • Army: driver, weapon
  • Merchants: vacc suit, steward
  • Scouts: JoT(space)
  • Other: driver, brawling



roll 7+ using service stats as DMs

if fail roll again, if fail again character dies else roll D6 and lose 1 pt from that stat (counting left to right)

if lose Soc then dishonorable discharge, player choice either player did it or injustice

if succeed then +1 skill choice



NCO promotion if not commissioned yet or commissioned promotion if already commissioned.

Promoted if beat survival roll by +3

promotion = +1 skill choice

(scout promotion = commendation, other promotion = reputation)



if promoted and not commissioned yet then roll for commision

roll 9+ (plus DMs from service stats)

commission = +1 skill


if not promoted then muster out


Skill Tables

Change Stat increase options to

  • “Phys” = raise one of Str, Dex, End by 1
  • “Ment” = raise Int or Edu by 1

So Personal Dev Tables

  • Navy, Merchants, Scouts: 2 x Phys, 2 x Mentat
  • Scouts: 2 x Phys, 2 x Mentat
  • Marines, Army: 2 x Phys, 2 x Mentat
  • Other: 2 x Phys, 1 x Mentat