Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NUGGET System

Though Dungeons and Dragons was the first role-playing game I came into contact with, it was White Wolfs Storyteller System (Old World of Darkness to you who remember) that I first actually played. Since then, I have had a great affection for game systems that were light on the rules and heavy on the atmosphere. Such games focus more on interesting characters and the world in which they live, using rules to maintain balance.
So, in the spirit of such "Rules-Light" games, I will occasionally be detailing small (1-2 post) standalone game setting using the NUGGET system. This simple and easy to learn game system is brought to you by the folks over at Silver Branch Games and is completely free. You can download this game system here, but for ease of reference I have posted the rules system below:

NUGGET SYSTEM
NUGGET is a simple set of roleplaying game (RPG) rules. A group of people sit around pretending to be imaginary characters having adventures in a fictional setting. Each controls a player character (PC), except one who takes the role of Game Master (GM), setting up situations for the PCs and controlling the other characters they meet (non-player characters, NPCs). The players say what their characters do and the GM tells them what happens next. The story progresses through scenes of particular actions at a location. You.ll need pencils and paper and about 10 six-sided dice.

Basics
Characters are described with Advantages and Disadvantages compared to an average, untrained person. If a task is neither trivial nor impossible, you roll a "pool" of a variable number of dice to see whether you succeed. The pool is made up of the Base Dice that an average person would get, plus one die per Advantage (Adv) from a Skill (knowledge and training) and an Attribute (natural talent), minus one die per relevant Disadvantage (Dis); e.g. Research + Brains.
Base Dice (BD) set difficulty. Just rolling your Advantages is BD 0, a task that needs a professional. If anyone can have a decent try it.s BD +2 (probably the commonest). If only the best can pull it off it.s BD -2 (subtract 2 from your Advantages). Near-impossible tasks are BD -4. The GM can give an extra Adv or Dis for special situations. If you end up with no dice it.s just too hard.
Count each die that shows 4, 5 or 6 as one success. A single success means you just barely do it, though not very well; 3 successes is a good, solid result; 5 or more successes is truly impressive. No successes (all rolls 1, 2, 3) means failure. If they.re all 1.s that.s a fumble: you messed up and the GM describes the awkward consequences.
Exceptional success can be handled in one of two ways. For a realistic or gritty style run the game lid-on.: if all dice come up as 6.s you get one extra success. For high-energy, unpredictable action run it .lid-off.: each die that shows 6 can be rolled again for a possible extra success, and further 6.s give further re-rolls.
Opposed rolls happen when two characters come into conflict - a physical fight, interrogation, haggling, armwrestling or a chess match. Both characters make appropriate rolls. The one with more successes gets their way, and the difference tells you how decisive it was. Ties usually go forward (dramatically!) to another roll.

Making a Character

Attributes
These describe natural talent at general kinds of things. As NUGGET is very simple there are just four:
Brawn - strength, toughness, stamina
Agility - speed, coordination, flexibility
Brains - noticing, remembering, working things out
Will - determination, self-control, charisma
Most people are rated at 0, the average point. Some are talented at +1. A few are exceptional, rated +2. Some are particularly poor, rated -1. Player characters are well above average. You have 2 points to raise Attribute levels. Spend both on one at +2, or split them between two at +1. If you take one at -1 it gives an extra point to spend.

Skills
These are areas of knowledge, training and experience, like Fighting with Swords, Piloting Starships, Chemistry or Investigation. They go in levels 1-4: Basic, Professional, Expert, Master. NUGGET doesn.t give a list, so you.ll have to name your own, neither too broad nor too narrow.
Write down your Occupation. This is what your character spends their time doing - Space Smuggler, Doctor, Private Detective, Barbarian Warrior, Schoolgirl, etc. It gives 1 level with a cluster of Skills, and you don't have to list them all: whenever it makes sense for an action to fit within the Occupation you get an Advantage on the roll (but use a specific Skill if you have one written down).
Pick one Core Skill that.s central to your Occupation (e.g. Medicine for the doctor, Sword Fighting for the barbarian, Pilot Starship for the smuggler) and write it down separately as level 2 (professional).
You also have 4 levels of Skills to allocate as you wish.
They can be new hobby Skills (the doctor might be an amateur stage magician), or you can increase specific Skills from your Occupation - your work is your life!

Finishing off
Write down 1-3 Goals - things that are important to the character, which could be people, objects, organisations, principles or things they want to achieve.
Write down your Initiative bonus: the total of Agility and Brains Advantages and the levels of your highest Fighting Skill. (Disadvantages subtract; it can go negative.)
Write down your Physical Resistance (2 + Brawn Advantages) and Mental Resistance (2 + Will Advantages). These scores are the number of dice you'll actually roll (BD 2) - it speeds things up if they.re handy.
Write down Destiny Points, with space for it to change over time. You start with 1 point.
You have ordinary items of equipment to allow you to perform your Skills - beyond that it depends on the game.

Combat
Initiative. When it comes to high-speed action, things happen in rounds: chunks of time a few seconds long divided into 10 phases. At the start of a round everyone rolls one die and adds the result to their Initiative bonus.
The GM counts down from 10 to 1, and your initiative total tells you when you can take your action (e.g.punching, throwing, shooting). After phase 1 the next round starts, until the fight is over. A total over 10 means you can act once on 10 and again on the remainder (e.g. 14 => 10, 4), up to 10, 8. A total less than 1 means you.re too confused to take an action this round. You can also do one simple thing for free each round any time after you're ready for your first action (Phase 1 if you can.t act) - e.g. drawing a weapon, picking something up or running a short distance. More involved actions like all-out sprinting take an action. You can delay an action till later in the round. Characters acting on the same phase go in order of Initiative bonus. You can defend against an attack at any time; one roll counts against all attacks in that phase.
Attack and defense. Attack rolls use the relevant Skill plus Agility, usually BD +2. Defences, like parrying or dodging, are similar but use any close combat Skill (e.g. not Gun), and against projectile weapons are BD 0 to BD +2 depending on cover. If the attacker gets more successes it.s a hit and does damage; otherwise it misses.
Damage. Add the difference between attack and defense successes to the base damage, below. Hand-tohand attacks add Brawn Advantages as well.
0 unarmed
1 knife, small club
2 sword, big club, axe, spear, arrow
3 big sword, polearm, handgun, SMG
4 rifle, shotgun
6 machine-gun
8 tank gun

The target rolls Physical Resistance to withstand the attack, with successes taken away from the total damage. (A fumble adds 1 to damage!) Read the result off here:
1-2 Hurt
3-4 Injured
5-6 Injured and Unconscious
7+ Injured and Dead

Note Hurts and Injuries on your character sheet : they build up and give penalties while they last. Hurts are bruises and cuts that slow you down - each subtracts 1 from Initiative for future rounds and takes 5 minutes of rest to disappear. Injuries are serious wounds - each takes 1 off Initiative and gives a Disadvantage for all rolls except Resistance, and takes a day of rest and care to recover.
.Unconscious. and .Dead. are self-explanatory. Someone with medical supplies can try first aid: roll Medicine + Brains, BD 2. Each round the patient and healer do nothing else, one success can be spent to heal a Hurt.
Combat details. Any armor worn subtracts from damage: 1-3 points for archaic types, possibly up to 5 for modern types. Firearms with spray/burst firing give an Adv to hit. Shields give an Adv to defend. Surprise, e.g. if an opponent has successfully sneaked up, means no defence roll is possible. Unseen opponents turn attack and defense into Fighting + Brains rolls, BD 0.

Special rules

Weird stuff
This includes things like magic and psychic powers. NUGGET doesn.t try to cover these. The way they work makes a big difference to the feel of a game, and that needs detail. One simple way is to set them up as Skills, rolled normally but costing a physical or mental Hurt for fatigue unless a success is spent to be good enough to avoid it. The players and GM need to agree how much or little these can do. Possibilities include .Telepathy., .Moving Objects., .Fire Magic. and .Illusion.. Mind-based attacks use Brains with Will as base damage, or just a roll with Will.

Destiny Points
These are a mixture of karma, luck and self-esteem, given by the GM during play and spent to direct the character.s path. Use counters for Destiny during a session and write it down at the end. Gain a point for doing something cool like beating an enemy, performing a dangerous stunt, or just making everybody laugh. Gain a point if the character takes an important step toward one of their Goals in a scene - but a point can also be taken away if a Goal is seriously thwarted, like your beloved aunt getting hurt or the Empire taking over your base! (If you are already at zero and would lose a point, the GM gains one to a general pool for the opposition.) Spending Destiny. Spend one to make a roll again and keep the result you prefer. If the GM allows it, spend one to be unconscious instead of dead (some games should be dangerous, but usually heroes can survive all sorts of harm). Buy a new level of a Skill between adventures for (new level x 5) Destiny Points. Specific games may have further uses, like establishing a minor, plausible coincidence, or getting one die to roll when you have none.

Opponents
In general, give opponents the abilities they ought to have rather than trying to balance points. Minions are lowlevel riff-raff with an Occupation and low or no Attribute and Skill bonuses. Put them all on initiative (3 + bonus).
Even one Hurt takes them out of a conflict. Henchmen have higher stats and are taken out by an Injury or 3
Hurts. Major villains work like PCs, with abilities as good or better, plus other advantages like henchmen or fiendish devices. They start with Destiny - often one point per PC - and can get more for advancing their plans.
Animals, monsters, aliens etc can have Attributes beyond the normal range: up to +4 and down to -2. This is most common with Brawn, related to size.

Threats
Apart from combat, characters get exposed to all sorts of things that can do them physical or mental harm, like fire, poison, falling, or terrifying monsters. They're all handled the same way: the GM gives a damage rating from the table below, which is opposed by the appropriate Resistance and applied as above.
1 Irritating
3 Painful/Tiring (desert)
5 Damaging (ordinary fire, drowning)
8 Deadly (strong electricity)
10 Extreme (space, deep ocean)
Record mental damage separately: Hurts and Injuries add to those from physical damage, but heal
independently. An .Unconscious. result from a Threat gives an impairment lasting about a scene, e.g. blinded by a flash, fleeing in mindless terror. .Dead. gives a permanent condition - curing it could be a story seed.
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I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light
-- Henry Vaughan