Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Star Wars m20 rules, part I: Chargen

I'm actually working these out on my wiki, but I may move them, since my wiki isn't really Star Wars related.  In any case, I'll cross-post stuff here.  This is mostly taken from the draft 1 Star Wars rules on the Microlite website, but I have tinkered with it a bit, so it's not exactly the same.

The second draft of rules is more detailed than I wish--I actually think the first version got it closer to right.


This Star Wars variant uses m20, an extremely flexible and rules-light approach to the d20 engine of game design. It's more or less compatible with d20, i.e., if you really wanted to, you could use d20 material with m20, although the d20 material is very rules-heavy in comparison. My description of the rules assumes a passing familiarity with both the notion of roleplaying and the d20 system specifically, at least, so it leaves a few assumptions unstated. But the core conceit of m20 vs. d20 is that m20 favors a handwavey approach to the game rather than a rigorous one, one that favors rulings over rules, and one that favors a narrative, fast approach for those who enjoy the "collaborative storytelling" aspect of RPGs much more than the tactical gameplay (which is almost entirely eliminated.) The approach is to follow the d20 engine as much as possible, but taking out all kinds of detailed information in favor of collapsing back to a much simpler approach, and multipurposing existing mechanics into a much broader array of uses.

Star Wars Character Generation

Characters in Star Wars m20 have three stats, Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), and Mind (MND.) To generate stats, simply roll 4d6 three times. Drop the lowest die from each roll to get a "high 3d6" and apply the scores as desired to the three stats. The stats are in traditional D&D format, i.e. 3-18, but what really matters is not the score, but the bonus. Each stat bonus is equal to the stat's value minus 10, and then divided by 2; rounded down. First level hit points are equal to your STR score (not STR bonus.) Your AC is equal to 10 + your DEX bonus plus any armor, race or class bonus.

A more "heroic" swashbuckling approach would be to allow the players to roll four stats, at 4d6, and ignore the worst one. This gives two levels of insulation from bad rolls, and should increase the average stat considerably. If desired, instead of rolling, you can take the standard PC array of 16, 13, and 11, but this must be decided before stats are rolled, if so. In fact, in best practice, the GM would apply that concept to all characters rather than having some characters take the standard array and others roll. NOTE: This is the standard PC array, but it also applies to "heroic" NPCs or villains. Standard NPCs have a standard NPC array of 10, 10, 10.

Characters in Star Wars m20 have access to five skills--Communication, Physical, Subterfuge, Knowledge, and Use The Force (or simply Force.) The skill rank for every character is equal to your level plus any class or race bonuses. A skill check is made by rolling a d20 and adding both your skill rank and the stat bonus applicable (your GM will tell you if it isn't very obvious) against a DC set by the GM. Saving throws are treated as skill checks, i.e., a Fort save would be (usually) a STR + Physical, a Reflex save would be DEX + Physical, a Will save against a Force power would be MND + Force. The GM, again, will tell you what applies, but those are general guidelines. Slicing a computer, to give another example, would probably be MND + Knowledge.

Only Knights can use the Force in terms of actually using Force powers. But all characters have rankings in the skill anyway, if nothing else, to use in resisting certain Force powers (which, as in d20 opposed skill checks, require both characters to make a check against each other.)

All of the skills equate to a few skills on the standard d20 skill list, but they are "collapsed" into fewer skills. So, for example, Communication is equivalent to Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, etc. while Subterfuge can be used for such varied uses as Hide, Move Silently, Disguise, Forgery, etc. For the most part, it should be obvious which is the skills on this simplified list apply to any given situation, but as in all things, defer to the judgement of your GM.

There are four classes in Star Wars. All begin at level 1. There isn't really a mechanism to multiclass, so pick your concept, pick the class that best suits it, and run with it. Given how rules-lite the system is, each class is easily flexible enough to accomodate a lot of variety in concept anyway. I can't imagine ever playing a game that went higher than level 10, so for my purposes, it's an effective level cap for each class (and for the game itself.) As always, NPCs don't necessarily always follow these rules. Then again, it's not really my intention that PCs could ever really be Yoda or Palpatine equivalents, so they almost certainly break the rules by being higher level than PCs can be.

Each class provides a class ability and a skill modifier.
  • Soldier: Soldiers get Combat Bonus and +3 to their Physical skill checks. The Combat Bonus is +1 to all attack and damage rolls. This increases by an additional +1 at level 4 and level 8.
  • Scoundrel: Scoundrels get Sneak Attack and +3 to their Subterfuge skill checks. The Sneak Attack allows the Scoundrel to add their Subterfuge modifier to the damage roll against an unsuspecting foe. Usually this will require an opposed DEX + Subterfuge check first, and only applies to the first attack if it doesn't kill everyone involved in the combat right away.
  • Expert: Experts get one Affinity and +3 to their Knowledge skill. An affinity is a broad area of expertise, and any task (subject to GM approval) that falls under the heading of this affinity can be re-rolled if it fails the first time. Affinities are as follows: Piloting, Medical, Nobility, Droids, Starship repair, Galactic geography, etc. These are merely samples; you can think of others if you like. Be sure and keep them broad, but not too broad--the examples above are good samples.
  • Knight: Since Jedi are not the only Knights (see setting info) this class applies to any light-saber and Force using character type. Knights get Lightsaber training and +3 to their Force skill. Lightsaber training allows the Knight to use the Soldier's Combat Bonus ability, but only when using a lightsaber. It also allows them to add 1/2 of their character level to their AC if unarmored. In any round after being shot at with an energy weapon, the Knight can deflect a missed attack back at the attacker (treat as if the Knight made a ranged attack) but cannot take any other action (other than Move) that round. If the Knight also does not move and "fights defensively", he can also use this ability to add an additional +4 to his AC against blaster attacks only, increasing the number of attacks that he can deflect (since, of course, the higher AC should mean that more attacks will miss.)
Pick a race for your character. Because in Star Wars, all races tend (mostly) to be just people in funny suits, any characteristic can apply to any race if desired (subject to GM approval.) But feel free to try and play your race to type, or at least to construct it to type. Picking a race is an a la carte option in m20 Star Wars. Rather than picking a race and applying preset bonuses, you can decide exactly what being a member of a given race means. The system for constructing race bonus is to use two Racial Template Points (RTP) and add them to your character at creation. One RTP is equal to:
  • A +1 Stat bonus (requires taking twice to get a for sure +1 to the bonus, of course.) This could also include a +1 to AC as natural armor, even though AC isn't a "stat" per se.
  • Two skill points (i.e., +2 to one skill of your choice, or +1 to two skill bonuses of your choice.)
  • A special trait or ability (usually an affinity, as described above in Class. If a character has an affinity for both race and class, allow them to reroll twice! They clearly really want to be good in that area, and are spending character generation capital to do so at the expense of something else.)
Subject to GM approval, some races may give up the equivalent of a RTP to spend it somewhere else, but I wouldn't do much of this. Otherwise, however, players are strongly encouraged to play around with this race system to create the customized version of their character that they want.

That said, here are a few sample races that are considered "default."
  • Human: +1 to all skills (except Force.)
  • Cereans: +2 to MND
  • Duros: +1 to DEX and Pilot affinity
  • Gamorreans: +2 to STR
  • Mon Calamari: +1 to MND and Swimming affinity (can swim with as much fanfare and skill as other characters can walk)
  • Trandoshans: +1 to STR and +1 to natural AC
  • Zabrak: +1 to DEX, +1 Physical and +1 Knowledge
  • Wookie: +3 to STR, -1 to MND (NOTE: Uses the rule above that I recommended against doing much of. But a few exceptions is fine.)
Droids can also be created using the rules for RTP. Droids cannot be Knights, and have no Force skill ability. They do not recieve stat increases upon leveling as biological characters do, but in return are immune to mind-influencing powers and several physiological conditions which are problematic, if not fatal, to biological creatures (such as lack of atmosphere.) They never age or die as long as they are maintained. Here's a few sample droid types:
  • Protocol droid: +4 Knowledge
  • Combat droid: +1 to DEX and +2 to Physical
  • Astromech: +2 Knowledge and Piloting affinity
  • Super battle droid: +2 STR
  • Keep in mind that droids seen in the movies are a combination of their racial traits and the equipment that they're built with, when creating NPC droid opponents. Super battle droids would have heavy armor, while regular battle droids would not, but that's a case of their built in equipment, not their racial stats. PC droids should be allowed similar flexibility (as can PCs of other races, of course. Equipment is an important part of modifing stats in any d20-like game.)
Droids must make a Fort (or Reflex in the case of an area effect, such as a grenade) when hit with an Ion attack. If they fail, they will be shut down. To reactivate a droid, they usually just need to be switched back on. A damaged droid with access to a repair kit (and in some cases, someone else to make the repairs, but usually they can do it themselves) heals like a normal character. Another character using a repair kit treats it as if it were a medical kit on a biological character.

Level Advancement
In general, characters advance when the GM says that they do, rather than against some formula of antagonists defeated. I expect in normal play to treat advancement as happening once every 4-5 sessions, but that can be speeded up or slowed down to taste and depending on the desired length and scope of the campaign overall. As I mentioned earlier, I do not anticipate ever having a campaign go higher than 10th level, so it becomes an effective level cap on the game and on characters.

Every time a character levels, he gains the following advantages.
  • +1d6 to Hit Points (feel free to roll twice and take the better result. Getting a crocked hit point roll really sucks.)
  • +1 to all attack rolls
  • +1 to all skills
  • On levels divisible by three (3, 6, and 9) add one point to STR, DEX or MND (except for droid characters.)
  • Remember that soldiers gain an additional +1 to attack and damage at level 4 and 8.

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