Everything to this point has been a discussion of the mechanics that Jim and I built for the game before it actually intersected with the players. After four sessions I have a laundry list of things I think we can change to improve play. Tackling these in the same order we have:
Stats, Skills and Qualities:
The six stats work just fine – they’re a pretty standard set, and the Willpower stat has enough going for it that it’s not just a point dump, especially for the Sparks.
Skills and qualities, however, are too complicated. First thing Jim and I found was that the lack of a Stealth Skill just threw us off. Having either acrobatics or crime work for that is a lovely idea but we kept asking for Stealth checks, and with us meeting only monthly none of the players remembered that it wasn’t on the sheet with that name.
Jim wanted broader, player defined skills – to be able to tell people to roll Dex + Soldier to perform field recon, but not allow Solider to work for sneaking into a hotel, for example. This is a much more trust based piece of gaming technology, but I think it works for this table.
The qualities list ended up being much more complicated than we needed. In character creation having Advantage Qualities let you spend some points from the quality pool to add points to the other three pools (stats, skills and drawbacks) just made character creation too difficult. The non bundled advantages generally do a couple of different things, so they feel broad and inclusive, but those things are often small and crunchy so everyone has to remember exactly what they do.
Worse, the GM has to have a working knowledge of all of the qualities, and know how to apply them to the relatively generic NPC stat blocks. That got to be cumbersome in play, especially when combat starts. All told it required more investment in mastering game crunch than we wanted.
My current solution is to break every PC down into their 6 stats and 6 Qualities – two Major, two Additive and two Drawbacks/Flags. Any test is going to be Stat + Relevant Major Quality + Relevant Additive Quality – Relevant Drawback/ Flag. Relevance is determined primarily by the player and GM based on circumstances. Sure it’s a high trust mechanic, but we’re all good with that.
The Qualities are mostly player defined, but to try to keep some balance I’m keeping much of the existing skill list (though I’m adding Stealth, taking out Acrobatics and doing a few other tweaks) and players pick 6 ‘skills’ that the first major quality covers, and 6 skills for the second major quality. Three notes:
First, any skills that exist in _both_ qualities are Synergies, where one half of the second quality is added to the first quality score for that skill;
Second, the second major quality can add the score to a stat at the cost of 3 skills.
Third, players can define a specialization for each quality to either allow it to apply to something outside its normal purview or gain a +2 bonus
For example: Bella has a Quality of French Pastry Chef which is defined as +5 with all Athletics, Brawling, Cooking, Mechanic, Notice, Profession tests. She has a specialization with Smell tests, so it’s +7. She has a second quality of Spark for a +3 with Cooking, Doctor, Mechanic and Constitution. Spark has the Specialization of applying to Influence rolls when in a Fugue State. Because Cooking and Mechanic are on both Qualities her French Pastry Chef is bumped up by half of her Spark quality (it rounds up to +2) so she has a +7 total.
The Additive Qualities are again player defined, but their main definition is that they can add to stats + skills, but they can also do other things. Bella, for instance has Obsessive Focus +3 (ignore 3 damage from blunt or burn attacks, +3 on rolls vs. fear) and Attractive +3 (Add to any social interactions, or +5 on rolls involving sex appeal).
Disadvantage Qualities give a direct mechanical penalty – Bella has Kitchen Focus, with a -4 on any inventing roll and -2 on any social roll outside the kitchen.
Flag Qualities are asking the GM to mess with their PC in certain ways, or promising to act outside of their best interest when things come up. Bella is an insecure perfectionist who craves legitimacy from people.