Introduction and Overview

Introduction and Overview #

Goals #

These are what I hope Total//Effect will achieve.

Speed #

Reduce amount of time calculating totals, making secondary rolls, etc. as much as practicable without losing anything interesting. Enable movement through each quantitative step of a process as quickly as possible.

Modularity #

Make major systems that are defined as separable building blocks, such that a game can use various combinations to match its concept, which all use and engage with core mechanics. Define procedures that can be combined into said systems.

The majority of the content in this toolkit is organized into Subsystems. For any game using this system as its engine, the idea is that they should be able to take a few of these and combine them into something useful.

Configurability #

Define things like character features, combat abilities, etc. so they can feasibly be granted through different means depending on the needs of the game. Provide alternative uses and tweaks for subsystems and procedures so they can be repurposed for other means.

Each subsystem will have a lot of different aspects. In addition to games only using certain subsystems, they should be able to use parts of each subsystem as necessary. They’re also not intended to be siloed off from one another - rather, they should play into each other, either mechanically or narratively.

Worked Examples #

I’m going to be working through bits and pieces of 3 game ideas:

Valiant Horizon #

Heroic protagonists perform great deeds as they try to make a name for themselves.

Liminal Void #

Regular people in space in the 23rd Century are thrust outside of normal society and must find a way to first survive, then thrive with their newly-acquired skills and spaceship.

Machinations of Court and Frame #

Exceptional mecha pilots with mixed loyalties are thrust into proxy wars and byzantine power struggles.

These will be indicated like:

 

Examples #

Valiant Horizon #

An implementation specific to Valiant Horizon will be here.

Character-Oriented Subsystems #

The following subsystems can and should be important on a group level, but are more mechanically intertwined with individual characters.

Combat and Tactics #

This subsystem is about tactical combat between the group of PCs and a group of GM-controlled characters.

 

Examples #

Valiant Horizon #

This is prominent and expected in the combat-as-sport sense.

Liminal Void #

Physical danger, from combat or otherwise, is a risk. Combat is by-necessity rather than expected. Things like resource depletion, injuries over time, etc. matter.

Clashes and Dueling #

This subsystem outlines a process for one-on-one conflicts (though a whole group can contribute).

 

Examples #

Liminal Void #

This comes into play with ship combat.

Machinations of Court and Frame #

Duels are a prominent feature.

Assets and Burdens #

This subsystem covers character components related to personal challenges and tasks, as well as tools for generalized personal roll resolution.

 

Examples #

Valiant Horizon #

Skillsets are prominent, both personal and archetypical.

Liminal Void #

Skillsets come up as character background, but equipment comes up just as much in practice.

Machinations of Court and Frame #

Equipment comes up on the battlefield in the form of Frame capabilities.

Relationships and Bonds #

This subsystem defines ways in which characters' relations to other characters, concepts, and factions and how they’re created, molded, and destroyed.

Examples #

Valiant Horizon #

This is mostly interpersonal stuff related to bonds.

Machinations of Court and Frame #

This also has interpersonal bonds, but those are intertwined with faction relationships and the ways in which those conflict.

Group-Oriented Subsystems #

The following subsystems can and should affect individual characters, but exist more on the group level. These are usually fairly minimal in comparison: usually, they guide and provide the ability to use .

Reputation and Perception #

This subsystem is about perception of the groups of characters on axes relevant to the themes of the game.

 

Examples #

Valiant Horizon #

This comes into play as the starting motivation: making a name for yourself.

Factions and Power #

This subsystem is about major powers, how characters are intertwined with their actions and machinations, and how they can be used in interesting ways.

 

Examples #

Machinations of Court and Frame #

This is very prominent as the game is concerned with political maneuvering.

Groups and Organizations #

This subsystem is about characters being organized into a setting-defined group and how to map the challenges and responsibilities those can entail.

 

Examples #

Liminal Void #

Ship ownership, and being the crew of a ship, is where this comes into play.

Meta-Mechanic Subsystems #

These are subsystems related to things that pace the game, present plot points, and cause problems.

Income and Expenditures #

This subsystem covers earning, borrowing, and spending currency.

 

Examples #

Liminal Void #

Making and losing money is a major thread throughout the game.

Threats and Escalating Tension #

This subsystem is about both small-time slow-burn threats and plans, schemes, and events by major players.

 

Examples #

Liminal Void #

This is a potential narrative hook for your initial ship ownership as well as a way to inject urgency into things.

Valiant Horizon #

This is a matter of creeping doom and big enemies taking opportunities to enact their schemes or take revenge as time goes on.

Machinations of Court and Frame #

This ties in with factions and their motivations.