Krendel's Core Mechanic

For the inaugural post I want to discuss the core mechanic powering Krendel. What is it, how does it work, and what does it hope to achieve?  Let's start with that last item and  look at the philosophy that drives the core mechanic. This can be broken down into a few key bullets.

  • More results than "yes" or "no". Where binary results are fast, they are bland and can miss the intent of the player. If we expand results to include "yes, but" and "no, but", then we open a whole new dynamic and the storytelling can become more interesting.
  • One roll, and the results of that roll must not only tell you whether or not you succeeded, but how well. Fewer dice means faster resolution. 
  • The player's intent, not necessarily her declaration, should drive the result. No one at the table sees things the exact same way, and language, being what it is, means we don't always perfectly convey the intent of what we want. This means the results of any given action need to be flexible enough that we can tailor them to the result you want.
  • Wed narration to the mechanics. Part of this is giving the player, not necessarily the character, a measure of agency in how action resolve. Doing this helps involve the player even more. Once this happens, its not just a matter of doing X, but in doing X in Y fashion.
  • There's some additional influences, but these impact the core mechanic, but don't fundamentally change it. We'll touch on a couple of them at the end.

So how do you do all that? It is surprisingly simple. First, if there's any questions about what the player is trying to do, stop and ask them. Help make sure they taking the course of action that would reasonably help them realise their intent. Once that is settled, you need a target number. In Krendel's baseline  rules (i.e. not using any options), this target number is equal to four plus your effective skill level, but it can also be adjusted by bonuses and penalties. Then, using a d10, you want to get as close to the target number as possible without going over.

If 1D10 <= 4 + Skill, then SUCCESS!

If you succeed, then you get a number of successes equal to the number on the die. You then spend these successes to tailor the effect based upon the action you just performed. Here's an example that shows a number of variations:

Sam has an effective Melee skill of 4. So if she attacks with her axe, she has a target number of 8. She declares the use of jarring blow (a core power) to boost her attack, which takes a standard action. The boost costs her one power pool. Sam rolls a 7, and her target fails to counter. So Sam now has 7 successes to spend. So Sam may…

  1. Dump all 7 successes into damage for 7 additional points of damage.
  2. Spend 4 successes to regain her standard action and spend 3 successes to increase her damage. This lets her perform a new standard action. 
  3. Spend 3 successes to regain the power pool she just spent and drop the remaining 4 successes into her damage; or
  4. Spend 4 successes to regain her standard action and the remaining 3 to regain the power pool she just spent. Her attack then only deals her weapon factor in damage. 

If Sam’s weapon has special item qualities, then it may give her additional options for spending her successes.

Alright, so that clearly satisfies my one die and player intent goals. It also has a solid helping of the narration coupled to mechanics, as Sam is getting to dictate just how her attack shapes up. It even has shades of "yes, but" and "no, but". Yet, a failure (rolling above your target number) is still a "no", and "no"s can shut down your game. This is where we introduce the other half of the core mechanic: Using Failures.

If you fail a test, you can either accept the "no" or you can ask the Game Master for an alternate result. The player gets a minimal success or is shown an alternate solution, but this always comes with a cost.  In this way, the characters can surge forward or fail forward as they run into unexpected complications. With that, I've met the goal of expanded results and offered a further helping of narration wedded to mechanics. 

I mentioned some other influences, and you can find these in the resolution modifiers. For instance, Cooperation embodies the idea that I would rather the group have almost certain success by working together rather than face a risk of failure from its members acting independently. Similarly, Karma embodies the idea that the universe rewards those that act according to their nature.

So, why a d10? Folks just have an easier time doing math with small numbers, which means faster resolution. This is necessary when resolution is naturally slowed by offering players options. Plus, the high skill levels needed to make something like a d20 work made for uglier XP balance when looking at how you could spend your XP. Does this mean it can't be done with a d20? Of course not. I actually sketched up how to convert Krendel to either a d6 or a d20. It there's enough interest, I may do a post about that some day.

Thank you for reading. If there is a Krendel subject you would like me to discuss in a future post, drop me a line or leave a comment.