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Dr. Roboto
2011-12-04, 02:26 AM
Hello all,

I'm planning on making a Full Metal Alchemist tabletop RPG system, which will hopefully culminate into a freely available PDF. I've done a Google search and, assuming there aren't any super-obscure systems, this will be the first, as most others seem to have converted other systems for use. I'm seeking the help of the homebrewers here to create the system.

I'll be using the canon of the manga and the Brotherhood anime, but as I understand it, there shouldn't be too many differences between those and the 2003 anime.

A brief summary, sans spoilers, of the alchemy system for those who haven't read the manga or seen the animes. If you haven't, I heartily recommend them.
First, a quote from the title sequence:
"Alchemy: the science of understanding, deconstructing, and reconstructing matter. However, it is not an all-powerful art; it is impossible to create something out of nothing. If one wishes to obtain something, something of equal value must be given. This is the Law of Equivalent Exchange, the basis of all alchemy. In accordance with this law, there is a taboo among alchemists: human transmutation is strictly forbidden - for what could equal the value of a human soul...?"

Essentially, alchemy magic with high amounts of magic realism. Matter cannot be destroyed or created, and the kinetic energy comes from the movement of tectonic plates. Alchemy can be used to fix vehicles, radios, buildings, and the like, as well as build various structures; in one episode, a character built a fairly elaborate cage in seconds. Basic alchemy can be used in battle to create bludgeoning effects, to trap opponents, or to give a tactical advantage (one character uses it to build a wall to shield against fire) among many other uses.

One prerequisite of alchemy is the transmutation circle; alchemists must create a circle with geometric shapes within it to direct the energy. Most alchemists that are a threat in battle bypass this requirement, either by various "supernatural" means, or by having predrawn transmutation circles on gloves, tattoos, etc. Very powerful alchemy requires a large circle; there was a city-wide transmutation circle in the first episode of the Brotherhood anime.

Skilled alchemists often have specific skills unique to them, especially the State Alchemists, who are kept on retainer by the military. One can create a battery of cannons and chain weapons, another creates explosions, another makes fire, another makes projectiles out of the ground.

Additionally, there's Alkahestry, the China-expy's version of alchemy, which is more medically focused. It hasn't been very well fleshed-out, but it allows users to use transmutation circles from range, whereas alchemists need to touch their circles.
So before discussing the rules, I think we should pinpoint the themes of FMA. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Equivalent Exchange. You can't get something unless you give something else up. Of course, if more FMA media is produced, this might be overturned, considering Al's monologue to Mrs. Hughes at the end of Brotherhood.
Alternatively, you can make others give something up, as with the creation of the philosopher's stone or the carving of the blood crests.
However, good/selflessness is still rewarded, and evil/selfishness is punished. As Al said upon the series' completion, he and Ed had made many friends and allies throughout the series, something that they wouldn't have done if they had been too focused on getting their bodies. Father, meanwhile, is apparently sentenced to the FMA-verse's equivalent of Hell by Truth.
The willingness to get up when you're knocked down is always rewarded. Examples include Ed's successful transmutation of Al's soul, despite his injuries, Rose's (and Liore's) recovery from following Cornello to helping rebuild Liore, and Mustang's recovery from being impaled by Lust. "I think dedication is a talent all on its own" (Al)
Some things are intrinsically sinful/bad, despite your intentions. Izumi, Al, and Ed all had good intentions when attempting human transmutation, and they were still punished by Truth.
Speaking of sins; they can't always be forgiven, and should never be forgotten, but revenge shouldn't be sought.
Death is tragic and should be avoided (See Al's angry tirade at Ed after being attacked by Scar the first time), but must be accepted. Both the "One is All/All is One" (Essentially the Circle of Life) concept and the impossibility of human transmutation show this.
War is hell, and creates monsters. See the Ishval flashback, and Scar's backstory. "Even [Hawkeye] has the eyes of a killer." (Mustang)

If I've forgotten any themes or other important details, please let me know.

Miscellaneous musings on rules:
I'm thinking that the character creation should be point-based, or, at the very least, should have a flaw system, wherein flaws give the same number of points as their equivalent benefits, showcasing Equivalent Exchange.

How should automail be handled? Chance of breakage on a successful critical hit on the character? Chance of breakage on a critical failure by the character? Considering the variety of automail, rules on it should be fairly extensive; Ed has faster but lighter punches with the cold-weather automail, and both Paninya and Buccaneer have weapons concealed (or not) in their automail.

Basic conflict resolution? I'm thinking perhaps a 2d6 system, but I've always had a bias towards that. Thoughts?

Alchemy rules? I'm wary of making the rules too restrictive, since alchemy's most useful aspect is its versatility (for example, Ed's transmutation of Greed's shield), but leaving the rules too open to interpretation might lead to GMs being taken advantage of by resourceful players, and leaving non-alchemist PCs in the dust.

Speaking of non-alchemists, how should firearms be balanced with melee? Perhaps PCs and important NPCs should get bonuses to dodging, in a Feng Shui-ish Mook system? Barry's body, Wrath, and Kimbley could pretty much dodge bullets despite having normal bodies. The bonus shouldn't be so great that the PCs can walk up to heavy artillery; Al and Ed ran from Cornello's chaingun.

It seems like FMA doesn't need a social system. There aren't really any big social scenes that affect the plot, beyond essentially PC-PC interaction.

It seems that the majority of roleplaying systems split stats, for the most part, into attributes and skills. Does this fit with FMA, and, if so, what attributes are worth noting? Definitely Willpower/Determination, since that seems to be a theme. But what else? The standard Strength/Dexterity/Constitution, or should those be collapsed into two attributes, or split into more? What about Intelligence/Charisma/Wisdom? I'm wondering whether Charisma is even needed on an attribute level; it could be a standalone skill, or not mechanically represented at all.
So what are your thoughts on this? What would be the most fitting basic dice mechanic? What should be done about alchemy? Anything I forgot to mention?

Togath
2011-12-04, 07:14 AM
for the base dice mechanic, it really depends on how often you want the result to be average, a 2d6 system's average is 7.5, with a slight bias towards high results, d10, d20, or d100 systems have averages of 5.5, 10.5, and 50 if I remember correctly, but also have fairly even chances for receiving a result of any amount, finally, a 3d6 system has an average of 10.5, and is the system with the heaviest bias towards an average result.

I would probably say a dice mechanic with neutral odds of any result on a roll would probably be fairly good, so a d10, d20, or d100(2 d10's rolled together to get a result from 1-100, or to get a percent).

For stats, I would probably not make charisma a stat, as there are many arguments as to how to handle charisma in rpgs, and whether it should measure appearance, personality, or force of will(force of will as charisma has always seemed odd to me, as will power has nothing to do with being charismatic)

For firearms vs. melee I would just make firearms standard weapons, the games balance will be fine, making them normal weapons also helps to keep melee weapons useful, just donít go overboard with the damage from the firearms compared to damage from melee weapons(at least not without having your character specializing in firearm usage).

For alchemy, perhaps having a system of seeds which can be combined into more complex abilities or attacks, while also having some use by themselves could be good, starting with simple but useful utility abilities and gaining more specialized and powerful abilities as you gain levels(while still having the weak ones improve as well[such as one that grants a bonus to an attempt to use a skill of some sort having a scaling bonus to that skill]), in addition the bending system here (http://sites.google.com/site/avatard20/bending-version2.0) is a fairly good example of a system that uses scaling ability seeds to give a character a set of versatile abilities, and may help you come up with ideas for your system.

DeusMortuusEst
2011-12-04, 11:44 AM
Doesn't Alchemy require a different circles depending on what effect that you're striving to create. That way you can make a system where simple/low-level effects are quick to draw while later stuff might require complex or extended actions and the chance of failure are greater.

A circle that has been incorrectly drawn might simply fail or cause an entirely different effect. Aside from that I like the idea of seeds. :smallsmile:

Dr. Roboto
2011-12-04, 05:00 PM
I would probably say a dice mechanic with neutral odds of any result on a roll would probably be fairly good, so a d10, d20, or d100(2 d10's rolled together to get a result from 1-100, or to get a percent).
Why do you say that? Do you think that fits FMA well, or do you just like equal odds rolls?


For stats, I would probably not make charisma a stat, as there are many arguments as to how to handle charisma in rpgs, and whether it should measure appearance, personality, or force of will(force of will as charisma has always seemed odd to me, as will power has nothing to do with being charismatic)
Do you think that social skills should be mechanically represented at all? If a GM wanted to move the game into the court-intrigue heavy country of Xing, it might come up a bit.


For alchemy, perhaps having a system of seeds which can be combined into more complex abilities or attacks
Good call. I'll look into that.