View Full Version : Homebrew Persona System

2008-12-18, 07:32 PM
I wanted to do this after playing Persona 3, and playing Persona 4 has restored my interest. This thread will document my attempt (and request for assistance) at making a rules system intended to emulate the style of Persona 3 and 4.

My current objective is to create a solid, detailed outline of the avatar (persona) class system. I have not decided whether or not player characters will have classes of their own, nor have I decided much of anything beyond a basic idea of abilities and classes.

Please refrain from posting until I make a second post in this thread, said post will be used as a table of contents. The post following the table of contents will concern avatars' classes, and will encompass almost all of my thoughts on the system so far.

2008-12-18, 07:44 PM
Table of Contents

On Avatar's Classes... (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5501101#post5501101)
On Character's Signs...

2008-12-18, 08:16 PM
I wanted to do this after playing Persona 3, and playing Persona 4 has restored my interest. This thread will document my attempt (and request for assistance) at making a rules system intended to emulate the style of Persona 3 and 4.

My current objective is to create a solid, detailed outline of the avatar (persona) class system. I have not decided whether or not player characters will have classes of their own, nor have I decided much of anything beyond a basic idea of abilities and classes.

Please refrain from posting until I make a second post in this thread, said post will be used as a table of contents.

My current organization of classes has the three “types” of abilities found in Persona each assigned to two different classes. The categories I decided upon are: physical, magical, and buffs/debuffs. So, what I ended up with was offensive and defensive versions of both. Here’s how I wrote them on my notepad:

Physical damage – double damage (“power charge” skill ingame)
Physical defense – upgraded resistances

Magical damage – double damage (“mind charge” skill ingame)
Magical healing – elemental protection (“wall” skills ingame)

Debuffs – ailments (poison/enervation/confusion/etc)
Buffs – ailment cancellation and elemental evasion

The distribution of boons has me slightly worried, though. Elemental protection (Red Wall vs Fire, White Wall vs Ice, Blue Wall vs Lightning, and Green Wall vs Wind) is a buff, not a healing skill… read on for thoughts exclusive nature of things. Debuffs don’t get a special ability with the current spread. On the other hand, I’m happy with the first three “categories,” although I’m not personally fond of the charge skills. The way charge skills work—for those who haven’t played the game, or haven’t gotten far enough in one of them—is, I use “Power Charge.” My next physical attack will deal double damage. To me, doubling my damage in my next turn by (using SP) and wasting my turn isn’t exactly efficient.

Here is a more fleshed out look at each class, currently:

“Warrior” (Physical Damage)
First Skill: Bash/Cut/Stab – this attack does “light” physical damage. This harkens to the first tier of physical attacks in P3/4, I would like to preserve physical damage types, even if they were removed in Persona 4.
Second Skill – Choice;
-Pierce – This attack deals light physical damage and ignores 30% of the target’s armor.
-Cleave – This attack deals light physical damage and can hit another enemy adjacent to you or your target.
-Slam – This attack deals light physical damage and knocks the enemy down.
-Combo – This attack deals light physical damage anywhere from one to three times to the enemy.

After this, the attacks would continue in tiers, and the Warrior would eventually learn Power Charge.


“Wizard” (Magic Damage)
First Skill: Fire/Ice/Earth/Air – This deals light elemental damage. I don’t like Wind/Lightning, personally, although an element could easily be swapped for another, based on popularity.
Second Skill: Area of Effect Spell – This is the same as the first spell, although it hits all enemies within your area of effect. Cost scales based on targets, but is more efficient than the first skill as long as there are more than two victims.

As with the warrior, the spells would continue in tiers, and eventually give the Wizard access to Mind Charge.


Healer (Magic Healing)
First Skill: Direct Heal – As Persona’s Dia, a basic direct healing spell. Healing spells will always be cheaper than Damage spells, to provide more incentive to use them, and more longevity to the party.
Second Skill: Party Heal – As Persona’s Media, a basic party healing spell. Is more efficient than healing the entire party singularly as long as there are more than two members.

The skill I devised to give to healing would also have tiers of its own, and two versions of itself. Regeneration is in Persona, but is rather hard to get on a persona you actually want to use. Regeneration is taken in tiers, and becomes more powerful for each tier invested in a specific variation, one regenerates health at the beginning of each of your turns, the other regenerates “SP” at the beginning of each of your turns.


Saboteur (Debuffs)
First Skill: Debuff 1 (Attack/Defense/Agility) Decreases target’s attribute by an amount for a set time. Is cancelled by the buff that affects the same stat. You choose an attribute when you chose the skill. For example, Alex’s Debuff 1 is Debuff Attack.
Second Skill: Ailment 1 (Anything but Poison or Enervation)
Third Skill: Debuff 2 – Gain another debuff skill.
Fourth Skill: Area of Effect Debuff 1 – Does your first debuff’s effect to everyone within your area of effect. As with other AoE skills, is more efficient once you affect more than two targets.
Fifth Skill: Draining Effect (Poison or Enervation), Poison drains a character’s health by a percentage at the end of each of that character’s turns, and cannot kill a character. (subject to change) Enervation drains a character’s SP by a percentage at the end of each of their turns, can reduce SP to 0.

Progression continues.


Support? (Buffs)
Buff 1 (Attack/Defense/Agility) – Choose one attribute when you gain this ability, you are able to increase that attribute by an amount for a set time. Cancelled out by the same debuff.
Cure Ailment – Cures all ailments on the target other than Dizzy, Poison, and Enervation.
Buff 2
Cure Ailment (Party) – Cures all ailments on the party other than Dizzy, Poison, and Enervation.
AoE Buff 1

I’m debating how well a character of this class should be able to combat a Saboteur (Debuffer), since that is their primary use. The benefit of having a Saboteur on your team is that your opponents are in serious trouble if they do not have a character of this class.


I’d like to think that abilities need to be kept exclusive. The reason being, is because I’d like to have avatars (persona) be multiclass. For example, the Main character in Persona 4’s default persona, Izanagi seems—to me—to be a Wizard/Saboteur/Buffer. I’m motivated to encourage multiclassing because It allows players to make their own “classes” with what is given to them. I’m not hellbent on having (forcing was my original plan) multiclassing in the system… I just think it fits. Multiclassing, how I invisioned it, would have avatars feature a primary class and two secondary classes. I was waiting to develop this notion until I had expanded upon the system more and had a better idea of how everything else works.

The reason I’m not assigning numbers to abilities is because I have no point of reference. I don’t know how much damage 25 damage is, and whether or not it can kill a level one character.

Please, tell me what you think.

2008-12-19, 02:40 AM
I'm at a loss concerning abilities and dice.

I want a character's speed to be a consistent number. The reason behind this lies in how I wanted to handle many abilities' ranges. The first ability I gave a range was one I called Martyrdom:

Martyrdom -- If at any point in time, an ally within your range of movement* would receive a killing blow, you may take that character's place. In order to do so, you must first move that character to an open adjacent space or knock that character down, then occupy the space that they were threatened in. A character may attempt to prevent you from saving them.* If you successfully move an ally or knock them down, you become the recipient of the attack. If an attack you would receive from Martyrdom would kill you, you instead fall to 0 health and become unconscious, you are stable.

Of course, this is extremely wordy, and I'm sure some of the abilities functions would be understood with a fleshed out rules system, but I tried to make its function understandable by itsself.

* Both of these items reference things that reference abilities. I would like for a character's movement range to be based off of his or her abilities. Shoving an ally out of a fatal attack's way and them resisting obviously requires a contest of sorts. Dice would likely be involved here, and stats would definitely modify them.

Now, to prevent characters from absolutely focusing on one ability, I made the decision to include a character's movement range in their spellcasting range. The thing is, I'd like to not make this range exclusively speed based, as it requires the mage become fast if (s)he wants to have a decent range to his(her) spells.

What do you think (about the classes, and) about having speed be a factor in spells' ranges? What about abilities and dice? Should I just use another systems abilities and dice? Should I be trying to convert another system?

2008-12-19, 02:27 PM
Unfortunately, I haven't played any of the games to which you refer, but as far as mechanics are concerned, a movement-based ability would presumably involve something requiring you to touch or assault your target. You can add additional stats if you want characters to be able to affect things without running up to them. I have yet to see a game system where a character's skill at magic does not directly correlate to their magical power, and this is an element I dislike about many magic systems. A 'finesse' stat applicable to magic users should be fine as a basis for ranges for other powers.

(I've spoilered the rest - it degenerates into analysis a bit, and could be viewed as a bit patronising, sorry...)

No system can ever be perfect, and there are plenty of people around who may be willing to help you homebrew a system of your own (OK, more likely critique, but still...), so the homebrew option is probably fine. You may need to run a combination of PbP and RL games to get a feel for the balance and so on, but if you have the time then it is certainly possible to create a system that accurately represents what you want.

You are right to avoid allowing players to concentrate on one stat, as many systems, in particularly in-house CRPG systems, can be easily broken this way - an example being a Strength-20-at-1st-level half-orc build in Arcanum which could one-shot any opponent you faced before reaching the town. Fallout 1 and 2 were not immune to this, either.

There are a number of mechanics which can (hopefully) limit this kind of thing. MAD is a decent mechanic for limiting this problem, and maintains some flexibility, while hopefully limiting the min-maxing options available. This can take a lot of work to build into your system, because if it goes wrong, it seriously goes wrong. Some players also have their own reasons for disliking it.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay incorporates a careers mechanic, where increases are capped at a certain value (in WFRP, it's usually initial score + 10% or similar). This takes a lot of work, as you need to design many careers. You then limit a character's choice of starting career to the weakest ones you've designed, and when they are near the top of a given career they can try to move onto the next.

Another technique, and possibly the most effective, is simply to use 'level' as a cap on the attributes that you can raise using your available points - similar to the 3e skills system. To do this successfully, a reasonable cap should be about 10% / level, plus some fixed base. Apply this to everything that increases a skill, possibly with an additional limit to capitalisation on magic items and the like (which is usually much more realistic and much more elegant than certain CRPGs' 'you must be 13th level to use this item'). This gives many of the benefits of careers but without the problem of tying players down to specific fluff. Rather than 3e's 'you get 6 skill points per level', an easier method is to hand out stat points over time and raise the bar when players are generally close to the limit. This should work nicely with a MAD system.

As for dice and associated mechanics, there are three common methods - 'roll low', 'roll high' and 'bucket'. In 'roll low', you usually use a number of dice and try to roll equal to or less than a target number. This can run into the dangerous realm of tables if you have two people both trying to achieve something at the same time. 'Roll high' usually needs more maths than 'roll low' - you roll some dice, add them up, add a modifier and compare to a target number. If you equal or exceed the target number then you pass the test. If someone is trying to stop you, they make a similar check and your target number is their roll. The 'bucket' method is an interesting take on this, where an attribute indicates how many dice you roll, and there is a target number which determines which dice are kept. If you have enough dice left, you succeed. I've never played WoD or Shadowrun, so I can't really evaluate this technique unfortunately. I'm not sure how much I can help you choose a mechanic here, however.

2008-12-19, 03:43 PM
Assuming I factor a character's movement range into a character's spellcasting range, I would like to incorporate "every other" attribute group as well.

In other words, what I'm thinking of right now is a World of Darkness-esque attribute system, having Physical, Mental, and Spiritual categories for attributes. In said spread of attributes, speed would be solely a physical endeavor, and channeling one's avatar would be a spiritual endeavor (which I am looking to incorporate the other attributes into).

I don't know why, but there is some sort of aversion I have to going through with the WoD-based attributes. I really like WoD, but have never played it, I don't know why I'm afraid of using its abilities. That said, I do like how WoD does its abilities, and how it uses dice (it uses the "bucket" dice method you mentioned, I believe you know this).

Somewhat akin to attributes, I'm deciding how many "vital stats" I want players to have. When a player is reduced to 0 health, he falls unconcious, once he reaches a certain negative number, he is dead. This is, of course, inspired by 3(.5) Dungeons and Dragons, which can't be helped, as it was my first Roleplaying system. I like the idea of struggling to keep an incapacitated character alive, and leaving room for diehard characters (and injured characters at lower health values). Obviously, one wants a way of tracking how alive their characters are, this is, of course, health. Persona tracks your magical stamina via SP, it has no bearings on your character's performance, it just determines whether or not you can cast a spell. I'd like for having no SP to have some sort of effect on a character, perhaps disabling all bonuses given by a persona (even a Healer's regeneration, for the sake of making the state detrimental). The third vital stat that I'm thinking of is one I'm unsure of. In Persona (3/4, at least), using a physical attack (such as Bash) costs its user HP. I don't like that, while it forces the user to make strategic choices between damage/staying alive, or forcing another character to heal them, it also shafts melee classes when magic classes have a second resource for (often more) damage. My proposition for a third ability is "Stamina," which would determine how fatigued (or energized) a character is. Many things, ranging from sprinting to using one's avatar for physical prowess would drain this stat.

Speaking of fatigue, and also referencing my preservation of Piercing/Slashing/Bashing damage versus simply Physical damage, using a weapon for an "unnatural" damage type (for example, hitting someone with the flat part of a sword) would cause fatigue. This keeps weapons from trapping you to one type of damage, but might defeat the purpose of incorporating different elements of damage.

Weaknesses in Persona 3 and 4 were the key to success. Of course, the main character in both games is able to switch persona (and thus abilities) on the fly. Hitting an enemy with a damage type they are weak to knocks them down. Knocking an enemy down also gives the character "1 More" turn. So, if you are able to--in "one" turn--exploit every enemy's weakness, you effectively win most battles. When all enemies are knocked down, a party member prompts you to use your extra turn (for knocking the last enemy down) for an "all out attack." An all out attack has the player's party cartoonily charge the enemies, creating a cloud of dust and ending with massive damage being dealt to every enemy. I would like for Weaknesses to play an important role in the system, but not be so powerful. I'd rather reduce the amount of encounters and make them more "epic" (or challenging might be a better word), than have the party run through encounter after encounter taking no damage by wiping out enemies in one turn. That said, I do want to incorporate knocking enemies down into the system, but have said effect be a result of severe damage (from a weakness?) rather than simply an attack that they are weak against. It is also worth noting that many enemies were not weak to physical damage, because a critical hit (only melee attacks can score them) also knocks an enemy down (and thus provides the attacker 1 more). (Ha, one more kind of sounds like "win more," if you stretch it.)

I believe the primary obstacle I'm having is finding pieces (ends, if you will) of the system to design, I believe that if I make them first, I can tie them together (via means, to complete my analogy). Do you think I'm doing it backwards, or do you think I'm doing a good job of trying not to be overwhelmed? What else do you think I can design? Obviously, I'd have to make an outline-esque thing as I did with classes, as there are many parts of the system that are missing. Perhaps I should list what I want the system to be able to do, and that could inspire suggestions?

2008-12-19, 06:35 PM
I don't think you are designing your system 'backwards' - I don't think homebrewing an RP system has a right or a wrong way about it. Few people set out with the intention of creating a generic system, so most people are going to have to develop an idea of what their system should allow characters to do.

The number of basic attributes is always a difficult question. Games with many attributes can become quite complex, while those with few attributes can become too abstract to represent a real person. Personally, I think it is a matter of style - many writers like to fold attributes together to leave something close to AD&D attributes. Personally, I would like to see more attributes and (hopefully) get a more realistic combat system where brains can help a fighter as much as dumb muscle.

IIRC, WoD is supposed to be very narrativist, like Ars Magica, so it will function on a different paradigm to AD&D and its successors. You can still adopt a similar attributes system - I actually think that that will still make the game better.

Every game system usually has its own way of balancing magic - D&D has Vancian spellcasting; Call of Cthulhu has magic points, failure chances, permanent attribute drain AND insanity; WFRP has failure rates, nasty side effects and separation of spells, prayers and rituals; and 'that other game' has once-per-encounter abilities and WFRP-style separation of spells, prayers and rituals.

I would suggest combining failure chance and magic points for the spells, and actually just leaving it at failure chance for the melee techniques - this is vaguely realistic, and also means that melee and magic will have niches, even if those niches are the same as in everything else. This probably isn't faithful to the games, but is nice and easy to balance

You can also use similar mechanics for resolving magical and mundane abilities. With your melee system, allow the player to repeat attacks using Stamina points - many of your characters appear to fuse magic skills and mundane skills, but I'm sure a melee focused character will still appreciate a 'go nova' option. I suggest using eight attributes, scaled from 1-100, in the WFRP style but taking another leaf out of 4e's book by removing WS and BS, instead just using the most appropriate attributes to a given combat technique. All skills, combat rolls etc. are then resolved by a percentile method. In combat, melee attacks and maneuvers cost nothing, but extra attacks and re-rolls cost Stamina. All magic costs SP, and really exotic spells and melee attacks are assumed to blend magic and mundane and drain both your Stamina and Magic pool for the day. You spend experience points to acquire new spells, combat skills and secondary abilities, or to try and improve stats using a Call of Cthulhu style system.

To deal with the ability to assume multiple personae, you could restrict the available spells and exotic maneuvers by persona, and give each persona some inherent techniques and a bonus to one attribute. All personae would probably still have the same basic abilities - dodges, parries etc. You can also 'exert' your character to gain an enhancement from your persona or to run, jump better or swim better, probably still using the re-roll mechanic. Alternatively, you could probably change persona by using an ability that a given persona favours - in which case you could probably gain a minor buff while channeling that particular persona.

Of course, it's your system, so you have no obligation to use any of those suggestions.

For the stats, if you provide an even number, some can be allocated as aggressive and some as more resistance - you could even just incorporate damage absorption chances as additional stats in the old AD&D style.

Alternatively, you could use a WFRP style Damage/Toughness system: d10+Damage - Resistance = number of wounds taken from hitpoints. Instead of hit locations, you could just provide a number of damage resistances - so to be weak against, say, fire, you just drop the monster's Fire Resistance. Damage Bonus and Toughness (base Damage and Resistance) are derived from appropriate stats - e.g. Strength and Fitness. I think 20 total stats including these is probably a decent limit. That gives General and three energy types for damage, plus Wound Resistance for cutting/stabbing damage. You also get a Stamina, a Health and a Magic stat.

I still don't know how the core percentile stats would be divided into Mind, Body and Spirit groups though. Mind - Instinct, Willpower and Thought; Body - Dexterity, Strength and Fitness and Spirit - ? I can't really remember much WoD lore, unfortunately.

2008-12-20, 11:54 AM
In advance, I'm sorry if I overlook any of your points in this response, feel free to inform me. I read your entire post last night, and am responding today as I glance at said post.

To start off, I would like my system to be small and simple--not condenced, just small. (Already, I'm starting to address points out of order.) I am only familiar with Dungeons and Dragons 3(.5) (d20 System)'s attributes and New World of Darkness' attributes. I like both, and don't think I could pick a favorite, although I do think they both have their own niches. Dungeons and Dragons, to me, seems more like a game, where as World of Darkness feels more like a roleplaying experience. While both systems support roleplaying and gaming, I think each does one better than the other.

In terms of size, Dungeons and Dragons' abilities are fewer than World of Darkness'. The ratio is two to three, six to nine. I think it can be agreed upon that World of Darkness has a more realistic (or gritty, at least) feel to it than Dungeons and Dragons. While I want to believe that there are a few reasons, I think the presentation alone is enough to account for my claim. I suppose the main reason I'm having trouble with taking one of these systems and running with them is because I'm not sure how gritty I want the system to "ship." Of the two, I believe World of Darkness provides a better template for what I'm looking for.

Well, magic is something that all characters should have a good chance of using in some way. Two thirds of the classes I presented have "magical" abilities. Combine that with multiclassing (regardless of how many classes one is allowed to take), and most characters end up with at least a few spells. In other words, it's not as if magic is intangible and/or out of a fighter's reach unless he makes a conscious decision not to have it. One's ability to successfully create magic (now addressing spell failures) would have to do with how in-tune one is with one's own avatar. A heavy theme of Persona 4 is running away from yourself, and Persona are supposed to be a reflection of the character that possesses them. So, if a character does not accept himself, and is thus not in-tune with his persona, he will have trouble controlling his persona. This could be applied to both physical skills and magic, and could be manifested in a skill or an attribute.

You suggest eight attributes, scaling from 1-100. What eight attributes do you suggest? I'm personally afraid of such large numbers, but that's because I've never seen a "pen and paper" system use said numbers. To be honest, I'd like to avoid big numbers as much as possible in favor of small, easy-to-crunch numbers.

While it might seem more incremental than realistic, I'd almost like to preserve levels and getting certain abilities at certain levels. I would be willing to give this thought, but the best way I've come up with organizing skills (from all of one's classes) directly involves levels.

I'm going to have to cut my reply short here, I should be able to come back with another one later today. Feel free to respond to this one before then. To anyone else, don't be afraid to jump in, snap my neck, and leave (in proverbial ninja fashion).

2008-12-20, 02:02 PM
Sorry, I should have explained that better. The idea I was suggesting is based on the D&D attributes, with the addition of Agility and replacing Wisdom with Power and either Perception or Instinct (whichever you feel sounds coolest).

The percentile attributes system is usually quite small and light, and the numbers are actually quite easy to crunch. It can be difficult to incorporate levels into this style however - it is usually assumed that you will just hand out points or advances to specific abilities and then incorporate some limiting mechanic.

If you don't want to use the percentile mechanic, I would recommend Ars Magica style stats, which are similar to 3.0 stats except for the fact that you only use the modifier (instead of Strength 18; giving a +4 modifier, you have Strength +4).

I would still advise limiting numbers based on level, and limiting outside bonuses based on the bonus you get from your own skill increases, if you want to keep levels - this usually provides a decent system for preventing min-maxing.

As for the gritty realism thing, 3e can be a decent simulation in its own right (as evidenced by d20 Call of Cthulhu, for example), as long as you forgive the clear fact that all real-world problems can be attributed to the lack of orcs to slaughter...

However, the attributes you use don't really have any bearing on the gritty realism/GRIMDARK levels of your game - even if you don't want your game to be anything like New World of Darkness, yoinking its attribute system isn't going to force it into the same pidgeonhole.

2008-12-20, 05:01 PM
It could be that I neglected a portion of your post, feel free to point it out to me. I believe I actually touched on all of your last points, and just had a bit of a ramble left. I'm sure whatever was on my mind will come out sometime later.

Concerning attributes, I may change my mind, but I think your helping me to a gray area that I'm happy to be in. I believe the appeal of WoD's attributes is that the abilities are organized and play off of one another. Each facet of the character (Physical/Mental/Social) has three subdivisions ("Power"/"Finesse"/"Endurance"), which makes for logical assumptions as to what one would need to have to do something. For example, one might need to be both mentally and physically quick to react to an ambush. In other words, the fact that the abilities have counterparts in each category makes the system very "clean." Dungeons and Dragons, on the other hand, has several abilities which all encompass a variety of things. I think D&D's approach is more exaggerated, and suits a high fantasy setting more.

Here are abilities I think need to be present:
Strength: It's relatively necessary to measure a character's strength, especially when combat is probable.
Intelligence: While somewhat questionable when it comes to RP, a good DM can use a character's intelligence to aid them in certain situations. Intelligence is not the primary factor for channeling one's avatar in this system.
"Faith": While this might not be the best term because of connotation, I think it is literally the most appropriate. Faith would represent a character's faith in general, not only how devout a character is to a religion, but how much faith the character puts in their avatar, themselves, and/or anything else. This would be the primary attribute for channeling one's avatar.

...and here are other abilities that probably should be present:
Endurance: How hardy a character is, how healthy the character is. Directly related to health and stamina.
Dexterity/Finesse/Agility: While each word has it's own specific connotations, they are all very similar. What would differentiate two of these if they were both present?
Luck: I like the idea of having a catch 22 ability, but incorporating luck without being overpowered is difficult. How do you think I should implement luck?
Charisma: Do you think this stat is necessary? Couldn't most social abilities be reflected through skills? What should modify the skills if charisma is not present?

Is there any ability I'm overlooking?

Concerning leveling. After thought, I think I've decided that using a universal point buy system might be the best approach. I want persona to be able to multiclass, and using this approach, you can simply buy into class abilities of various classes. I know I've seen a similar system in a couple of games, where you can level up as a certain class, then get abilities in those classes, I could adopt this philosophy.

Each avatar is categorized somehow, and that restricts its class choices. The main characters of Persona 3/4 are of the Fool arcana, and are thus able to manifest persona of every other arcana, each other character (who I would prefer players to be, honestly)--barring a few "special" characters--are only able to use their own persona. Characters' persona can possibly ascend into a greater form in Persona 3/4, but remain in the same arcana.

I'd like for my system to be compatible with Persona, but not exclusive to it, so I'd like to base my avatars off of a different mythology than tarot cards. In spite of this, I'll use tarot cards for an example:

An avatar of the chariot arcana has three classes available to it: Warrior, Guardian (Physical Defense), and Buffer. Avatars of the Magician arcana, have Warrior, Wizard, Healer, and Trickster available to them.

Magician might seem like a better choice because of, well, choices, but if I invest in four classes, I'll be less powerful (but more versatile) than a character who invests in three. In order to learn skills from a class, you have to have a certain number of levels in a class to learn them.

I'm starting to get on a bit of a roll here, and am finding myself rambling quite a bit. I'll stop here and see what you think. Again, if I missed any of your points, just let me know.

2008-12-20, 05:08 PM
Will comment more when I read everything, but for now let it be known that I am very interested in this idea.

2008-12-20, 06:05 PM
I'm not sure if 'two-axis' systems (where you break abilities down into Physical/Mental/Spiritual and then Strength/Agility/Social) are always that easy to design.

I like the idea of a Faith/Confidence/Conviction stat, although I suspect that the end result in most games would be referred to as Power or Willpower (basically because religious connotations are usually considered bad news in a hobby which tends to be accused of satanism on a regular basis). Dexterity usually refers to a character's skill at using something in their hands, while agility usually refers to (in RPGs) ability to move quickly, or to react quickly.

With the idea of combining two abilities on a check: definitely go for it. If you can get every ability related to combat and significant in combat, you should end up with a balanced system - characters of equal experience levels should be on an equal footing. And you are right, dodging something requires you to think quickly and move quickly, as well as be lucky.

For Pen & Paper usage, I suspect that the only real way to have a significant 'Luck' stat would be to have a separate Points system, where you generate a number of 'Luck Points' depending on your Luck ability. You could then provide a few ways for characters to use the points.

I definitely agree on not having Intelligence as a primary factor in channeling - outside of D&D, it isn't usually used, instead your magical ability is based on something more like willpower, maybe with Intelligence used for finesse-related checks and so on.

If you have additional 'traits' available - similar to 3.x feats and flaws, then Charisma is completely unneccessary - I think it tends to be overlooked in many groups. You just provide traits relating to appearance or personal charm. If you have binary skills, you can even put 'charisma' skills into the game - GURPs and WFRP have both done this sort of thing.

You seem to have caught the most common abilities, although I think a general strategy tends to be to have separate Agility and Dexterity - defense is tied to Agility, all attacks to Dexterity and damage to Strength. This helps to increase MAD.

A common combat system involves permitting a player to either Dodge or Parry attacks (missile attacks can be dodged, and parried if you happen to be a badass, jedi or a sheer god-damn post-epic avatar of awesome). Usually a Parry uses your character's skill with the weapon while Dodge is a separate skill. A successful defensive roll completely negates one attack against you, but you usually have a maximum number of uses per round - this means that you get quickly slaughtered in combats with multiple opponents, which is usually appropriate (outside of one famous roleplaying game where 'low-level' characters accurately model most heroes in films).

2008-12-20, 07:23 PM
Concerning the word choice of "faith," I feel it is the most appropriate term. If this system (miraculously) becomes developed and renown enough to see print, I will consider swapping the word for "conviction."

I would like to have every ability to have some sort of influence on combat, but this is of course difficult to do. I will keep tally of each time a skill is used in combat, and use that chart to determine how significant abilities need to be outside of combat to make them worthwhile.

I used very generic names for the physical attacks provided to avatars, and I'm thinking about spicing them up and making them weapon-indifferent. I think that I will have damage types be relevant to combat and characters, but not affect avatars. Thinking on this is making me rather uncertain, how physical do I want avatars to be? I can't make avatars so powerful that there is no reason to invest into your character. I think it can be agreed upon now that character bonuses should be "cheaper" for purchase than avatar bonuses.

I think we agree that combining abilities to determine bonuses is the way to go. What are the bonuses added to? Obviously rolls, but what are we rolling? For the sake of simplicity, I am going to assume that 10-sided dice are being used, but this can be changed (and the numbers scaled) to suit any type of die.

It should be noted that I mentioned charisma as a catch-22 social attribute. Should there be an attribute that represents a character's personality, or social prowess?

When you mention "luck points," you make me think of D20 modern's action points, I believe they're called. Where your character gets X action points per level that can be used (individual points are never replenished) to affect dicerolls. Perhaps a character can just spend a small amount of experience to get a luck point that can be used universally to add a certain amount to a roll? What if luck was used at the DM's discretion? I suppose luck should be considered later. Perhaps as a variant that suggests less forgiving gameplay.

Search/Spot/Listen/etc.: I hate having these skills separated. Yes, I understand that some people have better hearing than others, and some see better than others, and some are better at looking through desks(?) than others... but it is difficult to make a well rounded character that has room for 3+ extra skills not to be aloof. Assuming I have a skill reflecting this (and I intend to), I plan to incorporate all of them into Alertness. If a character has sharp eyes, he'll get a bonus to looking for things that are far away, or will be the only person who gets a chance to spot something in the distance.

Social attributes, in or out? What about social skills? What attributes should the social skills use? How should social skills affect players?

While I'm against forcing a player to do something, it is possible for someone to convince their friend to do something they wouldn't normally do. In fact, someone's friend has a better chance of successfully changing their friend's mind than an acquaintance. Of course, I don't think my friends could convince me to charge a dragon, nor could anyone else. How should I draw the line for "PvP" diplomacy?

On the topic of diplomacy, or moreso interaction, Persona 3/4 uses a "Social Link" system that provides the player with bonuses to fused persona. What that translates to is, being close to someone of the chariot arcana allows you to make more powerful persona of the chariot arcana. Taking this into consideration, the DM could use Social Links as restrictions on a character's avatar's growth. Here's an example:

Monte has recently awakened to his ability to channel his Wizard avatar. He has been learning under Jason, whose avatar is mostly a Warrior. Monte and Jason get along very well, and as such, Monte will be able to invest experience in the Warrior class. However, Monte's player wants to increase his avatar's power as a Wizard. The DM hasn't introduced Monte to another character who has a wizard avatar, so he allows Monte to invest experience in the Wizard class by spending time alone, reflecting upon himself. Assuming Monte knew another Wizard avatar and was on good terms with him, he would already be able to invest in his avatar's power as a wizard.

Of course, this could be expanded upon, based on whatever mythology was adopted into the system. In order for Monte to become a more powerful wizard, he needs to spend time with a... Pisces, or a person of the Magician arcana. Essentially, what I'm getting at here, is that the DM could restrict a character's avatar's growth by requiring (friendly) social roleplaying, or by having his or her character have an epiphany alone (provided there are no supplementary characters available).

Sure, it's a leap, perhaps backwards, but you mention using intelligence as finesse in spellcasting. I like this idea, and the check to successfully "manifest" an avatar and use its abilities could be Faith + Intelligence + Channeling(?).

One more thing, before I go off and do Christmas stuff. Willpower or Mettle, or both? I just like the sound of mettle, perhaps it should be a feature obtainable by "Guardians" (physical defensive avatars that I didn't outline)? Willpower is a more generic, thus essentially better, term. The reason I say generic is better, because what if you have a weak mettle? That sounds silly. :P

I'm not sure when I'll get back on, maybe later tonight, likely tomorrow night. Thanks for the feedback, lesser_minion, and I'm looking forward to yours, Tengu_temp. Anyone else is welcome to comment as well, of course.

2008-12-20, 08:41 PM
I think my general take on abilities tends to be a slightly stricter 'limiting factor' system, where usually the weakest of a few applicable abilities is the governing one. This impedes min-maxing and also makes sense in terms of realism. I generally like to incorporate an 'Instinct' stat into my homebrew, generally because it obeys the Rule Of Cool.

Regarding your comments on Spot/Listen/Search - I also like to have a Perception stat and not bother with any awareness skills. If you are trained in a particular field, you get a bonus to Perception checks pertaining to that field - e.g. your knowledge of Engineering might help you spot an unstable structure, while your skill at stealth in turn helps you realise when someone else is being sneaky.

I was thinking of an Action Points regenerate per day or week mechanic - while the per-level mechanic works, I'm personally not a fan of it.

A charisma attribute generally represents a mix of qualities about the character, usually things which don't change with appearance (a low charisma character can actually be incredibly attractive physically but perceived as vacuous and shallow).

I think finesse rolls should be kept separate from power rolls - otherwise it breaks the whole idea of separating a character's skill at handling magic from their overall magical power. You use a finesse roll as an attack roll, and maybe to avoid being hurt when blasting your immediate surroundings with the 'eldritch invocation of utter and complete magical hellish mythic eternal fires of agonising death and damnation with cherries on top' spell.

Because of balance issues in a combat focussed game, I think that charisma and related things should also be excluded from the main balancing mechanisms that you apply to stats - i.e. you let players pick their charisma/personality/appearance scores. This does risk a certain stereotypical kind of female character cropping up, but I think it at least cuts the possibility of min-maxers neglecting their IC social skills and appearance in order to overcharge the brutality element.

I personally like d10s as a principle die type, so I think that should be fine. d10 + ability + skill vs. target number as set by GM or vs. someone else's check is probably an OK mechanic. You can use an Ars Magica-style system for handling noncombat skills, which gives more of a reward to players who manage to use such skills creatively (it eliminates the Skillmonkey role, but I suspect that pure Skillmonkey is never going to be balanced at high level play).

2008-12-21, 12:14 AM
To the first block of your most recent post, minon: are you referring to something like how WoD uses the lowest of your Wit and Dexterity to determine your defense?

I didn't think about using skills to augment perception, that is a good idea. I believe Dungeons and Dragons tried to do something similar to this with synergies and such.

Perhaps luck could "regenerate" every scenario? Or maybe even every session? I suppose it ultimately is up to the DM, but I want luck to be more heroic than redundant. Even a lucky person's luck should run out, I think. Investing in luck essentially allows you to be less conservative with your luck, is what I'm looking for. Being caught without luck (assuming a group decides to use it) should be relatively dangerous, especially for newbie characters.

Well, I suggested mixing intelligence and faith for manifestation, that was probably a bad example. I agree with you that finesse and power should be separated (similar to how DnD checks for a hit, then checks damage), but I was trying to figure out how to incorporate intelligence into "spellcasting." To be honest, I am wondering whether or not to even include intelligence in the spellcasting process. I suppose I mostly fear intelligence becoming an inferior attribute.

I see what you're getting at, and I am on your side. You've convinced me that charisma shouldn't be an attribute, but I'm wondering how to influence social skills. Perhaps Charisma could be a sub-ability, somewhat like how I described luck. "Charisma's" function would be to provide a universal bonus to persuasive skills, but is much more expensive than investing in, say, intimidation.

Most game systems provide (player) characters with a set defense. In a Dungeons and Dragons book of variants I looked through, I saw one that allowed the players "defense rolls." In other words, enemies had both an attack score and a defense score, players would roll attacks against their defense score as usual, but would roll defense against their attack score as well. This keeps the players active, and I like the idea. This variant inspires me to always have both parties contesting, I feel as though it's a more realistic representation. Alternatively, on each of a character's turns, (s)he could roll his(her) defense at the beginning of their turn to keep the defense score fluctuating, but not absolutely tentative. Including defense rolls (instead of a static 5/10[D&D]/whatever) can make combat a lot more fatal.

For a mythos, I'm considering using the American (I believe) zodiac as the system's default.

I believe I'll be able to squeeze one more post in tonight, but don't hold me to it.

2008-12-24, 02:40 AM
I haven't gotten any feedback since my last post. :(

Does anyone object to the usage of the western zodiac as the focus of this game's mythology? I have to do some reading before I actually assign anything to any of the signs.

Also, before I can designate anything to the signs, I have to set some standards. This, of course can be decided after I have a bit more knowledge of the signs, but I should have an idea of them before I dive into the mythos.

The elements that Persona 3 and 4 use are: Physical (Slashing/Piercing/Bashing in 3), Fire<->Ice, Wind<->Electricity, Light<->Dark, and Almighty which ignores any form of resistance. The "<->" symbol I devised is used to represent that said elements generally are opposed and weak to one another. In other words, a Fire persona is usually weak to Ice, and an Ice persona is usually weak to Fire. This is not a rule, by any means, it just usually is the case.

The elements that I think I will use are: Physical (not sure about separated types), Fire, Ice(Water?), Air (Storm? [Wind+Lightning]) and Earth. I'm not sure about Light/Dark and Almighty.

Persona 3/4 has "Hama" and "Mudo" as the base words for the Light and Dark skills (respectively), they use the same sorts of prefixes and suffixes to determine whether or not they affect all enemies and how powerful they are. Hama and Mudo are both chance attacks, either they kill you or they don't. Each tier of the skill has a better chance of killing than the last, I believe the rates are 25%, 50%, then 75%. Withstand Light and Withstand Dark are available, I've never used either, so I don't know how they work. I assume the skills leave you with 1 health instead of 0 when one of the attacks affect you. Also, as with other elements, your Persona may be Strong (St), Weak (Wk), or possibly even able to Nullify (Nul) Light/Dark attacks (other elements can actually be Absorbed, giving you health if you are stricken by said element).

I don't like the idea of "percentage kill" attacks, especially not in the actual games. When the protagonist of either game's health reaches 0, it's game over, whether or not your party members are dead or alive, and in spite of the fact that they may be able to resurrect him. Of course, if revival is in the game (which it is likely to be), anyone can revive anyone, the game won't stop if one character is dead. If I use Light and Dark, I will likely use them as almighty damage forms. In other words, the only protection from light damage is resistance, and the same goes for dark attacks. Should I allow characters to dodge said attacks? Then again, that makes Light and Dark powerful spells, perhaps I should make a class dedicated to them? Should these be available to all signs of the zodiac?

I don't know if I end this post on a good note, I'm really tired right now. Apologies for any weird wording, I'm making lots of typo's. Feel free to ask for clarity in a response, I'll try to explain myself better tomorrow night.

2008-12-24, 10:40 AM
I think you are probably right about the no-save or die effects - they seem a bit overpowered. The nastiest CRPG attacks I've heard about are Zanmato and Mega-Death from Final Fantasy X (Zanmato automatically annhilates the enemy, but the only thing that has the move hardly ever uses it except against weak enemies; Megadesth instantly kills 1-3 members of your party - and if three die, it's game over and you have to reset the game). I doubt either could ever be appropriate for pen-and-paper.

Putting the light and dark effects as lots of damage might work, or offer them as a 'finishing effect' - make them more effective against low health enemies. That gives some measure of balance, but the spells will still be hideous if used at the right time.

I think you should be OK just splitting the physical damage into crushing and cutting/stabbing - I don't think it will be necessary to distinguish them further. That gives as possible damage/elemental types:

Cut Smash Fire Ice Storm Stone Light Dark

I think it might be more interesting to avoid the whole opposing elemental types system - instead personae and monsters could have a specified elemental weakness. It just avoids the whole stereotype of Fire vs. Water and Air vs. Earth. I think the Almighty damage might be a bit annoying in a game where you are trying to incorporate all of these strengths and weaknesses - even at a reduced damage output compared with a properly exploited weakness, it is a bit annoying to be able to throw around guaranteed damage spells. For the Light and Dark effects, each would clearly affect a certain group of types - I'm actually thinking along the lines of giving each creature a weakness to one, both or neither. If they don't have the weakness, they can't even be affected, but otherwise you can either tie most of the buffs and debuffs to light and dark, or you could just have them deal truckloads of damage.

If they are meant to be the most powerful elements, I would probably suggest offering them to everyone - 3.x is a good demonstration of what happens when the same character gets all the best abilities.

2008-12-24, 05:24 PM
I am not sure how to differentiate Light/Dark from the other elements, but then again, I don't really know how the "basic" elements work.

As far as opposed elements, there is no "rule" that says that a persona that uses fire attacks is weak to ice, it's just the best assumption to make. In other words, if I see an enemy use Agi (fire), it's safe to say he is weak against ice (although he may have no weaknesses, or even be weak to--say--wind.), and that should be the first thing I try to hit him with. Not that I should skip a character's turn because (s)he can't use Bufu (ice), I should go ahead and use whatever elemental attack they have, for the sake of knowledge.

If, for example, Pisces (I keep using this one because it's my sign, thus the one I know the most about) would likely have Water/Ice as its element, and it is safe to assume that it would be weak to Fire, or perhaps Air.

For now, these are the names that I will use, for the sake of keeping each element with its own letter:

Cut and Bash (Physical)
Fire, Ice, Earth, and Storm (Elemental)
Light and Dark ("Spiritual")

For defense against the categories, I'm thinking about giving each category its own form of defense. In other words, Faith may protect you from Light/Dark, where as Intelligence (unlikely) may protect you from elemental damage, and Strength protects you from physical damage.

Thinking about it, I think that Intelligence should be a part of one (if not multiple) forms of defense, as I can't see it having too much of a function in combat. Perhaps a character's Intelligence (modifier?) plus another attribute could be the composite defense bonus against physical and elemental damage? No matter how smart a human is, I don't think that will help them against divine intervention.

2008-12-25, 06:14 PM
According to my research (which is currently restricted to Wikipedia), there are a few categorizations of the Western Zodiac (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_astrology). (More ellaborate look ath astrological signs as a whole (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrological_signs).)

---Cardinal, Mutable, or Fixed---
Signs are either cardinal, mutable, or fixed. Now, you might think I'm making a bit of a stretch here, but keep in mind we're talking about mythology. ;)

I'm thinking that I will associate cardinal signs with the two "magic" archetypes of avatars, Wizards and Healers.

For this reason, these signs are considered forceful and dynamic, initiating action and providing leadership.
Yes, I'm making a stretch, but magic is indeed forceful. With that, the cardinal signs, Aries (Fire), Cancer (Water), Libra (Air), and Capricorn (Earth) are the four caster signs.

The other extreme is fixed, so I will have the two fighter types belong to the fixed signs.

Fixed Signs are associated with stamina, perseverance and strength and said to be, by nature, inert. However, they are also associated with inflexibility.
I'll stretch inflexibility slightly as an excuse for them not being able to use "magic" initially. The fixed signs are Tarus (Earth), Leo (Fire), Scorpio (Water), and Aquarius (Air).

That leaves the middle section, mutable, up for grabs, along with the support classes.

They supposedly adapt very well to new situations, possess much flexibility, seldom have any particular agenda and are perfectly happy to fill in an assigned role.
The chosen quote points out that they are flexible. While, the support classes are just as tied down as the others, their abilities are more likely to work across the board than damages which are susceptible to resistances. The fixed signs are Gemini (Air), Virgo (Earth), Sagittarius (Fire), and Pisces (Water).
---Cardinal, Mutable, or Fixed---

---Fire, Earth, Air, and Water---
I'm not changing the names I've given to my elements (right now, at least), It's just that the elements have their names in the Zodiac already. Fire is the same, Earth is, too, but Air is Storm, and Water is Ice. I think you could figure that out, but just for clarity's sake. Treat the previously mentioned terms as synonymous (for the sake of this post).

I'm not going to go into detail on the elements, but just know that these signs will have this element as their primary focus. Also, as a FYI, Fire and Air are considered masculine, and Earth and Water are considered Feminine. I would like for there to be some options among the signs, but I would also like for them to have their own set factors. I'll decide what is malleable and what is not at a later time.

Links are to Wikipedia, as a head's up:
Fire Signs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_Sign)--Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius
Earth Signs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Sign)--Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn
Air Signs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Sign)--Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius
Water Signs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Sign)--Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces
---Fire, Earth, Air, and Water---

Wikipedia's article on astrological signs also mentions positive and negative signs and also the different social categories. I'm not sure whether or not I'll incorporate this information into my system, particularly the social categories (as there is no page dedicated to any of them). It is possible, that in my next semester of college that I can utilize the campus' library to research the zodiac more thoroughly. Currently, the system is stable enough with my current knowledge. Fluff can always be added after the system is established, and hopefully used to influence the playing of the game without mechanical bearings.

I'm going to stew on what I've got so far, and hopefully by tonight or tomorrow (during the day) I'll be able to post a rough outline of what the signs will symbolize mechanically.

Here's an example of what I'm thinking of doing:

Primary Element: Air
Primary Class: Buffer or Debuffer (Mutable sign)
Primary Attribute: Faith or Intelligence (An example, I haven't even locked down the attributes yet.)
Antithesis: Earth or Fire (Just an example, I'll try to find a pattern for this.)
Prohibited Class: Wizard or Fighter (Associated with justice, perhaps I should prohibit defensive classes? Not even sure about prohibiting classes, perhaps I should prohibit one definite class?)
Bonus: Some flavor-related buff.

What do you think?

2008-12-29, 05:15 AM
Okay, here's the spread I said I would have. I didn't get around to working on it until now.

You should notice that I do not list weaknesses. The Western Zodiac is rather symmetrical, and there is a consistent order to it. In the descriptions that I've looked at, Fire and Air get along (but dislike Earth and Water), and Earth and Water get along (but dislike Fire and Air). So, I'll make a character's weakness their creator's choice between the two opposites. In other words, a Fire or Storm avatar can choose Earth or Ice as their weakness, and an Earth or Ice can choose Fire or Storm as their weakness. I just noticed that Fire and Storm both start with consonants and Earth and Ice start with vowels.

I'm still at a toss up concerning the division of physical damage and how to deal with Light and Dark, and their respective weaknesses.

Native Class: Each avatar will start off with one ability, you start off with no levels in any class. However, you take one skill from your native class as though you did have a level in it. Thus, you start the game with one first-level skill from your native class.
Bonus: This is rather vague, but here's a basic idea of what bonus I think the signs should have. I haven't made a final decision, but I think I might combine aforementioned bonus abilities.

Native Class: Wizard
Bonus: intelligence

Native Class: "Guardian"
Bonus: stamina

Native Class: Saboteur
Bonus: movement speed

Native Class: Healer
Bonus: defense

Native Class: Warrior
Bonus: strength

Native Class: "Support"

Native Class: Wizard

Native Class: "Guardian"
Bonus: extra attack per round

Native Class: Saboteur
Bonus: dexterity

Native Class: Healer

Native Class: Warrior

Native Class: "Support"
Bonus: faith

You'll notice that Virgo, Libra, Capricorn, and Aquarius have no bonuses, I haven't decided and would accept suggestions.

Scorpio has a bonus to attacks per round, I am going to limit a character to so many attacks in a given round. This will lead to something similar to Dungeons and Dragons, but will combine attacks of opportunity and full attacks. A character will be able to perform so many attacks per round (determined by something, but limited by attacks per round), and then is able to use any unused attacks throughout the remainder of the round based on circumstance. Perhaps weapons should reduce the number of attacks a character can make in a round, larger weapons being more taxing? Things that attacks per round can be used outside of your turn could include "attacks of opportunity," parries, and/or reposites. Each attack you make after your first (perhaps during your turn) suffers a cumulative penalty. As such, a Scorpio's bonus attack per round might not get her far early on (as she can't really hit anyone with it as a follow-up attack), but later--when she has a larger bonus to her attack--it can become a serious boon. Also, I start Scorpios in the direction of Guardians, so perhaps the extra attack can be used defensively on another's turn.

Thoughts? I've been talking to myself for a little while now. :P