Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Girl Genius AND a system mechanic conduscive to the use of High Science within a randomized simulationist exercise (coloquially "Roleplaying Game")

I now have both TPBs of Phil Foglio's Girl Genius. For those not familiar with the comic, it tells the exploits of Agatha Heterodyne, a budding superscientist in a Europe ruled by superscientist monarchs. It's sort of like Adventure! and the Sons of Ether from Mage: The Ascension meets Castle Falkenstein.

Its a setting that'd be just perfect for an RPG. So...I propose the following little fiddling with the Mage system.

Characters do not have levels in Spheres. Rather, they have effectivly access to all levels of all Spheres. Mages are referred to as Sparks. The trait Spark replaces Arete, and is a trait that runs on the sheet from 1-10, but can theoretically go higher. A starting level Spark has the trait at 2, and each additional level costs 3 Spark Points. There are two kinds of "spells": Machines and Daring-Do. Machines are external objects that can function outside of the Spark's presence and can do virtually anything. Daring-Do represents astounding feats of physical and mental prowess. These are represented by two seperate Spark Pools. At character creation, a player also has 20 Spark Points, and no Freebie Points. Spark Points, however, work something like Freebies:
Spark Points
+2 Attributes (1SP)
+3 Abilities (1SP)
+3 Backgrounds (1SP)
+5 Machine Pool (2SP)
+1 Daring-Do Pool (1SP)
+1 Spark (5SP)

The Machine Pool
The Machine Pool is a pool of points used to build devices, equal to the character's (Spark+Intelligence+Science)x4.

The Base Effect of a given machine is equal to the total level of Spheres involved, multiplied by the cost of the highest Sphere (so a lightning gun that performs a Forces 3 would cost 9 points). A Spark cannot spend more points on a given Effect than five times his Spark score. A machine can hold more than one Effect, though each Effect's cost is calculated seperatly.

The Activation level governs how many dice are rolled to activate the power. The Base Activation rating of a device is 1. Each MP spent after this raises the Base Activation by an additional level, to a maximum of the builder's Spark.

The base time to formulate a machine is a day, the base time to build a machine is a week. These times can be lowered as such:
1MP=formulate in 12 hours/build in a day
2MP=formulate in an hour/build in 12 hours
3MP=formulate in 10 minutes/build in an hour
4MP=formulate in 1 minute/build in ten minutes
5MP=formulate in a round/build in a minute (sort of like a super-McGuyver)

The base difficulty to use a machine is 8. An Efficient machine reduces the difficulty by one for each MP spent, to a minimum of 4. An Unefficient machine lowers the overall cost the device by one for each additional level of Difficulty, to a maximum of Difficulty 10.

If the machine can deal damage, it deals damage as per the Spheres used. If it deals Aggravated Damage, buy Prime 2. Prime is not required to power a device (so lightning guns don't need it to produce lightning blasts from "nothing").

A machine has a Use Pool of 5, meaning that it can be used 5 times before it has to be repaired. Each MP spent grants another 5 uses. 5MP spent allows the device to use its abilities without fear of running dry. If a machine fails in over half its uses, it breaks when it runs out of Uses and must be rebuilt. A botch costs 5 uses and counts three failures.

Machines start at size 5 on the following chart. A device has a base of 5 Stability Levels (Health Levels). Each point of size by which it is decreased lowers its SL by one, lowers the difficulty to conceal it (base 10) by 1, and raises the difficulty to hit it (base 6) by 1. Each size by which it is increased grants an additional 4 SLs, makes it impossible to conceal, and lowers the difficulty to hit it by 1. Each point by which its size is altered costs one point.
1-a large bug
2-a coffe cup, a pistol
3-a human infant, a rifle
4-a human child, a large rifle
5-an average human, base size of a device
6-a gorilla
7-a car
8-an elephant, a cannon
9-a passenger airplane, a zepplin
10-a city block, a fortress

Calculate all the costs together and subtract from the Spark's Machine Pool. This is for when the Prototype of a given machine is made. Take the final cost and divide it by 4, this is the total cost to duplicate the machine afterwards. Machines can be fixed by Sparks other than those that build them, and their designs can be copied, though at the full normal cost, by other Sparks as well.

I'll work up some special rules for Clanks and Constructs and post them later on.


Daring-Do represents feats of incredible physical and mental prowess as performed by Sparks. When Gilgamesh fights Agath's Clank in Beetleburg, he performs a rather incredible act of Daring-Do by kicking the Clank's components in such a way that he reverses its programing. He and his father then run across the city at great speed, without breaking a sweat, yet another aspect of Daring-Do.

A character has a Daring-Do Pool (DP) equal to his (Spark+Wits+Stamina+Charisma). Daring-Do can be used for three different purposes.

1) One point of Daring-Do can lower a given difficulty on a 1-for-1 basis, lowering it by a maximum of the character's Spark rating. This can apply to gadgets as well, representing the character's luck and ability to "kick it and make it go faster". This can also be used offensivly to raise an opponent's difficulty, costing 2DP per +1 Difficulty (to a maximum of 10).

2) An Effect can be used. The Effect MUST be what Mage: The Ascension would class as Coincidental, and cannot use a Sphere with a rating higher than 3. The cost is equal to the total number of Spheres involved. The character then rolls his Spark trait to determine how many successes were gained. There are some rare individuals who can use 4 and 5 dot Sphere effects under Daring-Do (martial arts masters with a withering touch, psychics who can astrally project, etc.), but are quite, quite rare. The total cost of the Effect is equal to the sum of all Spheres involved.

3) Daring-Do can be used identically to Dramatic Editing in White Wolf's RPG, Adventure!. For those not posessing this fantastic volume, negotiate with the ST just how many DP it would cost for a stroke of luck ranging from finding a spare para-chute just before the airship goes down, to the Clank that's about to kill you conveniently running out of power just before it strikes the final blow.

That's All for Now

Yeah...that's about it for now. I'm tired, and this has been a really long post. But I hope that this brief system digression has been of some interest. On my next post on this I'll formulate rules for Clanks, Constructs, vehicles, and the Gadget trait so you can have some funky gear starting from character creation.


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