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Modiphius > Mutant Chronicles Playtest Discussion (CLOSED)

Mutant Chronicles 3rd Ed >> Design Philosophy & Goals

posted Mar 03, 2014 16:13:45 by KingYnnen
Greetings to all you Mutant Chronicles fans interested in the on-going development of the Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition Roleplaying Game. I'm Jay Little, the lead designer for MC3. What exactly does that mean? In addition to designing the core mechanics to handle things like skill tests, combat, and rules for the Dark Symmetry, I also help define the design goals -- how the rules will reinforce and support the vision Chris Birch and the crew at Modiphius have for this edition.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Some of these play a larger part than others. And some are subject to change over the course of the game's development. Whether or not individual players agree with some of these goals, hopefully it provides more context for some of the decisions being made. And rest assured, no decision is being made lightly. Here's a look at some of those goals:

Faster Combat Resolution. Near the top of the list is a more streamlined, quicker to resolve combat system. The combat should be simple enough to understand the high level concepts, but deep enough to offer a lot of variety and provide plenty of strategic options to the players. Combat needs to retain a dangerous edge and incorporate hit locations, several levels of wound severity, and the ability for the GM to more easily manage NPCs.

Cinematic Pacing. The action should be fast-paced and action-packed, even when not in combat. This is done with an easier to learn and teach core mechanic and skill test resolution system. The flexibility of the system allows GMs to spend less time trying to figure out finite rules for every type of situation and instead focus on setting the scene, providing interesting complications with Dark Symmetry, and keeping the action focused on the player characters.

Player Agency. The MC3 system allows for a wide variety of possible outcomes for just about any task. Players have the resources available to them to influence the story and allow their characters to shine in the spotlight. Some of these resources are overt, like Chronicle Points, while others are more subtle, such as the ability to purchase additional d20s for skill tests or the option to use chained actions to accomplish more during a combat round. Players, and their characters, are more empowered.

Streamlined Character Information. There are hundreds of roleplaying games that feature more attributes and skills. Some popular systems feature upwards of 50 - 75 - even 100 attributes and skills. Emergent play in those systems often results in a very small sub-set of those attributes and skills receiving attention. Many systems often feature "dump stats" for attributes that clearly offer less value than others, or skills of such tight, narrow focus that few, if any, players learn them as it takes away from improving what are seen as "core" skills, reducing everything else to a secondary (or lower) role.

All of the options available to a character should feel important. While a player may wish to focus on one sub-set of character options -- such as combat or diplomacy -- it is feasible for a player to branch out and pick up some training in other areas. When skills are too numerous and too specific it actively discourages "cross-training" by rewarding a small cluster of skills which a player knows will be used rather than having to guess which -- if any -- other skills would occur often enough to make acquiring them cost-effective.

Another goal along these lines: a player should be able to pick up any character sheet -- his own, another player's, or a pre-gen at a convention -- and get a feel for that character's strengths and weaknesses.

Lower the Barrier to Entry. Mutant Chronicles is in a unique situation. Not only does it have legions of existing fans from its previous RPGs, tabletop games, and video games, it's a setting that has a ton of appeal to whole new generations of players. The system should be approachable to new gamers looking to just get started with their adventures in the Mutant Chronicles, while also providing depth and a host of options to veterans of the setting and previous editions. The more people excited about playing MC3, the stronger the line can be.

More G+N, Less S. There is an indie-style based approach to classifying roleplaying games as the GNS Theory. It posits rpgs can be broken down into three general approaches - Gamist, Narrativist, Simulationist.

Gamist rpgs provide the rules and structure that reinforce the "game" part of roleplaying games. There are clear sets of rules to follow, mechanics which provide a framework for advancing the story, and advice for both players and GMs to on how to "play" this style of game and promote a fair and balanced experience. Narrativist rpgs place the focus squarely on the story and immersion, providing a depth of background and setting materials, and tools for players and GMs to tell, advance, and shape the story for everyone's benefit. Simulationist rpgs wish to faithfully recreate specific levels of detail and may focus heavily on simulating aspects other games handwave or simplify. A simulationist game is concerned with providing a realistic, authentic experience.

Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition is far more Narrativist and Gamist than Simulationist, for several reasons. The setting is so rich and the variety of stories that can be told within the world of Mutant Chronicles, a narrativist approach makes sense to allow everyone in the group to contribute to an exciting story the group will be talking about for years to come. It's gamist in its approach to resolving mechanics in a simple, effective way that is easy to understand and allows several ways for action to unfold, but also resolves quickly enough that it allows players to spend more time on the story, as well as allowing for a multitude of "builds" and approaches are viable and fun to play. It is less simulationist, preferring to have a number of systems operate in similar ways rather than specific rulesets for every event. Ammo is treated in "loads" rather than tracking individual bullets. Close combat is based on Agility, rather than a weighted combination of Agility, Awareness, Physique or other factors.


So there's a look at some of the design goals. These are not absolutes. They are flexible and can change as Chris and the development team -- as well as all of the playtesers -- provide more and more feedback. So keep playing, and keep sharing your thoughts and ideas!

[Last edited Feb 10, 2016 00:04:05]

If life is a game... I need new dice.
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23 replies
thenifoc said Mar 03, 2014 18:41:43
I would say gamism is more concerned with balance than is suggested here, playability is a concern but solid rules that are difficult to exploit are part of gamism.

I like what I am reading however, I've never been too impressed with the older incarnations of MC-rules sets. This looks like a vast improvement. I was afraid of a lot of legacy rules, i.e. a system that is meant to look just like the old ones, but this looks new and interesting.
KingYnnen said Mar 03, 2014 18:53:18
Great point - it's true, Gamist views can often be about character balance, parity and equality with regards to whether it is with builds, abilities, or playing styles... or in providing a consistent ruleset that cuts down on the number of "edge cases" or exploits some players may use to "win" an RPG. I'm less focused on Gamism as a method to win / solve a roleplaying game and more focused on providing short- and long-term goals and objective fulfillment, and rules that actively encourage player agency -- giving players and their characters plenty of options, both in building their character concept and in its execution at the table.

Also, I'll point out that while I find the GNS model interesting, it's just a tool, a way to provide context for discussion. It's not right or wrong, it's just one lens you can use to view roleplaying games.
[Last edited Mar 03, 2014 19:00:50]

If life is a game... I need new dice.
MattiasDavidsson said Mar 03, 2014 19:00:25
While I do not have an issue with the path you are taking the new Edition in terms of the mechanical usage of dice and such I do feel that the attributes per se has been givven a far to heavy role.

Having a high Coordination automatically makes you good at all ranged weapons, while a low score makes you less good. As much as I agree with that the attribute should impact the skill I do strongly disagree with the fact that the attribute in the Beta rules so far has completely replaced the importance of skill value with the importance of a high attribute.

Seeing a trick-shooter from texas with beergut larger then life shoot hole in hole in less then 6 seconds I cannot but think "That guy got some serious skill". He does not have an coordination above avarage, he might even have it below, but his dedication to the revolver shows throu his skill. It is his training with the gun that makes him good with it, not his inherant attribute. And since 3rd Ed betarules is all about attributes I just think you made a huge wrong turn.

A major aspect in playing roleplaying games is that of becoming better at what you do. If that is by leveling or gaining experience of collecting points in certain skills it all falls down to the same basics. You create a character, you play with it and it gets better at what it does. This is not really possible with the beta rules. If your coordination is 5 you will always be the lackluster at guns. If you would have had constructed a skillsystem that would have allowed a character to train Rifle so that he could be just as good as anyone else dedicated in the fine arts of shooting stuff in the face, this would not have been a problem. The problem is that since attributes are the most important score on your charactersheet it boils down to "what do you got, hand how much you got in it?"

Say I want to create an clerk. I choose to prioritze Mental Strenght and other "non combat" attributes and start playing. After awhile me and my group have experienced a ton of action. I more or less picked up every gun there is and then some and I got enough experience in them to last any man an entire war. So have everyone else in the group. But since I choose to dump my coordination I will still be crap in comparison to my groupmembers that choose to max it out. No amount of combat, training or the like will ever change it and it is just daft.

"Sorry, you cannot excel in this skill since your attribute that governs it is crap". Noone want their character to stand in their own way of advancement.

I really do miss the older Roleplaying games where you could create an character and it would not matter that much what attributes you got, you knew you could get better and you always had that "If I survive long enough I can be really good at this or that". I simply do not see that in the MC Betarules. I only see an attribute-wall of predetermined fail/success based on how one prioritize at creation.

Do not get me wrong. I do not say that the mechanic within the rule is bad. 2D20 versus a Target Number based on Attribute score + Skill level. Its nice, easy and fast. I do have an issue in the overimportance of attribute when it should be the other way around. Skill should be what matters to determine how skilled you are, not how strong you are initially. A stronger character do not jump better, climb faster, swim better just because he is strong.
thenifoc said Mar 03, 2014 19:16:57
@Jay: It is absolutely a tool, not a set of laws, and I didn't bring it up to refute any point you made, just bringing it up as I feel that balance has a great deal of importance. Not that everything has to be perfectly balanced, but rather that

@David: You do realize that there will with near certainty be a way for characters to raise their Attributes as well don't you? I assume they will be raised by spending XP, exactly like you would raise a skill. So that guy that starts out uncoordinated, he will not stay that way if he practices his shooting. And yes, a stronger man will jump higher, run and climb faster and swim better, that is why Olympic athletes in these sports tend to be very fit. There is of course a cut-off point where the energy requirements of large muscles means that you are not able to jump higher any more, but look at sprinters, their legs have amazingly strong muscles, rock climbers develop forearms and calves mostly, ripped as fuck.
KingYnnen said Mar 03, 2014 20:21:08
@thenifoc - no worries, I was just expanding the point to make it as general purpose as possible for all those folks for which the GNS model and theory are new.

If life is a game... I need new dice.
thenifoc said Mar 03, 2014 20:31:36
Sorry Jay, I was writing a reply which included an explanation and got lost along the way. Note to self: Don't keep writing forum responses while on the phone.
As I was saying, not everything needs to be balanced, but if there are three choices that cost as much to invest in and two are decent and the third one just sucks, get rid of the third one. Including stuff that sounds cool but the system disagrees is pointless. Parity and balance are important, but it's difficult to create absolute balance without removing choices, and that is boring too. As long as there isn't stuff that is broken I'm good.

BTW: I liked what you did with WFRP3 and Edge of the Empire, so I'm expecting a lot from you here as well ;P
KingYnnen said Mar 03, 2014 20:57:18
The Relationship Between Attributes & Skills

I think most people would agree that there is some sort of relationship between attributes and skills in both gaming terms and perhaps in real life. In games, we're able to quantify that relationship based on how these two characteristics interact or influence actions. In the MC3 Beta, Attributes generally range from 6 to 12, with 8 as a rough average for a fairly typical unmodified human being. With an Attribute + Expertise target number formula, that means for a generic skill test, the attribute is weighted more than the skill.

Endless arguments could be made for or against this. Is someone with 20/15 vision naturally better at noticing something than someone with 20/200 vision? Sure. But is someone with good hand eye coordination better at juggling? Not if he hasn't really practiced how to juggle... What's more important to melee combat - Agility, Strength, Awareness? There are countless examples.

In the MC3 Beta there is a lot more to skills than just raising the target number. Skill training in MC3 comes in two forms: Expertise and Focus. Expertise is a rating of +1, +2, or +3 which represents improved knowledge and growing familiarity with the general applications of the skill. Expertise is added to the attribute to determine a skill test's target number. Focus ranks are rated 1, 1-2, or 1-3 and represent the critical success range for a skill. It represents greater "finesse" with a skill, the experience and training to get the most out of a skill's nuances.

Even Expertise and Focus don't tell the whole story. Skills also have Talents related to them. Talents are knacks, tricks of the trade, or special abilities based on one's training with a skill. Some talents require a certain Expertise or Focus rating to acquire. These talents may increase the critical success range, offer bonus dice, generate momentum, or otherwise improve the quality of skill success.

There's even more to consider. Is the character spending Chronicle points? Is he purchasing extra d20s for the roll? Is he carrying over momentum from a previous action? Does he have the gear and equipment best suited to completing the task? Is he critically injured? A lot can influence a skill test, and the Beta only provides an overview of the entire skill test resolution system.

Is Adam Anderson with Agility 10 inherently better at Acrobatics than Brant Barton with Agility 6? If neither of them have any training, then yes. If Brant Barton with his Agility 6 invests in +3 Expertise and 1-3 Focus, his Acrobatics tests are now TN 9, with a sizable resource investment. Meanwhile Adam Anderson with his Agility 10 has TN 10. Is Adam still better than Brant at Acrobatics? That's arguable, and situational.

If both characters need to attempt a Daunting D3 Acrobatics skill test, It is impossible for Adam to succeed without investing a Chronicle Point or purchasing extra dice -- plus he has to contend with the potential consequences for attempting a skill test without training. Meanwhile, Brant has a chance to succeed with just his 2d20 and virtually guarantees success with a Chronicle Point, since the natural 1 automatically triggers his Focus and grants a bonus success... Plus, Brant has access to talents Adam simply cannot acquire because (despite his Agility 10) he lacks the pre-requisites.

If Adam invests in expertise, focus, and talents for Acrobatics, he can exceed Brant's ability -- and if that's important to the player, he'll pay the associated costs to take advantage of a naturally higher base attribute.

If life is a game... I need new dice.
JaySun said Mar 04, 2014 14:37:51
I am very impressed by the ruleset you have created so far. It’s consistent (with the always roll low concept), it’s fast, it’s cinematic and it’s impactful.
I especially like the chronicle points and dark symmetry mechanics, as they provide a very creative tool for players and GM alike to shape the world while the story unfolds. Especially the chronicle points help to avoid the disastrous consequences of botched dice rolls that plague most other systems using dice mechanics.
Keep up the good work. I am looking forward to see the rest of the concept mapped out.

“Seeing a trick-shooter from texas with beergut larger then life shoot hole in hole in less then 6 seconds I cannot but think "That guy got some serious skill". He does not have an coordination above avarage, he might even have it below, but his dedication to the revolver shows throu his skill. It is his training with the gun that makes him good with it, not his inherant attribute. And since 3rd Ed betarules is all about attributes I just think you made a huge wrong turn. “

That statement is just plain wrong on so many levels. Why would you thing that said shooter has a below average coordination, when he clearly has great hand-eye coordination? And I ask you again, like in the previous thread, why do you think a shooter with palsy could be become a great marksman without overcoming his palsy first?
I don’t know why you are so adamant about attributes not playing a large role in skill success tests, when every single excemple in real life scenarios shows the clear opposite being the case.

“A major aspect in playing roleplaying games is that of becoming better at what you do”

With six levels of progression and a whole layer of talents, it seems there is plenty of room for improvement in the beta rules.

“Say I want to create an clerk. I choose to prioritze Mental Strenght and other "non combat" attributes and start playing. After awhile me and my group have experienced a ton of action. I more or less picked up every gun there is and then some and I got enough experience in them to last any man an entire war. So have everyone else in the group. But since I choose to dump my coordination I will still be crap in comparison to my groupmembers that choose to max it out. No amount of combat, training or the like will ever change it […].”

And that’s just the way it would be in real life as well, except, you would increase your coordination, thus gaining a higher attribute value. It seems that at every single point of your argument you assume that attributes are final in their rating, when we don’t even have rules for experience points and advancement, yet. To quote you: “that’s daft”.

“ A stronger character do not jump better, climb faster, swim better just because he is strong.”

Actually, yes they do.

Quark said Mar 04, 2014 14:40:07
@Jay: Great interview on Mophidius Calling! You all seemed very passionate about the rules!

I get your point on the talent trees, and the increased difficulty for unstrained skill roll. I still feel expertise could be increased to +5 or so (while requiring a huge amount of XP), but I guess we'll have to wait for the talent trees, and above all characters creation to see how it is balanced.

Keep up with the good work, and thank you so much for discussing the rules with us.
[Last edited Mar 04, 2014 14:41:40]
KingYnnen said Mar 04, 2014 15:39:58
Hey All -

First, let's remember that we're talking about game preferences and personal opinions. Some post may assert some things as fact, but that's largely irrelevant. I'm not looking for the best way to simulate and accurately re-create real world skill use -- that would be overly complex and may not be the best solution for one of the most important factors of all: creating a fun, flexible system that resolves actions quickly.

Re: skills, more time and thought went into the skill system than just about anything else. And I still keep mulling over characteristics and skills, and have been researching skill use in a dozen or so other roleplaying games. I really like the current system MC3 uses, because "design by threes" is a strong approach. It creates consistency and provides enough options to be interesting without too many to be overwhelming... It's a great starting point and provides a pretty stable baseline to build from. However, design by threes is a tool, not a constraint.

For a while now, I've been considering expanding skill training slightly to allow characters a greater degree of customization and differentiation. This is accomplished by what I call Signature Skills. A signature skill represents a level of training that only a select few can achieve, and they are only available through dedication. A character would have access to only a small handful of signature skills to reflect the amount of hard work and intense training required to achieve such an elite level.

For the vast majority of the population, all skills cap at three levels of training, which means +3 Expertise and 1-3 Focus. However, when a character acquires a signature skill, his training cap *for that skill* is increased to +4 Expertise and 1-4 Focus. Among his signature skills, a character can choose one, and only one, for which the skill cap is set at +5 Expertise and 1-5 Focus.

He still needs to invest the proper resources (such as XP) to raise the actual training to that level, but it allows a character to specialize even further in a handful of key skills if the player wishes.

So how would a character acquire Signature Skills? That's a great question. Right now, my thought is there are a few ways, including several which would occur during character creation. For example, a character may acquire a Signature Skill as part of a lifepath result. Or the character's main affiliation (with a Mega-Corp or service like Luna PD) would allow a character to choose 1 of N possible signature skills related with that affiliation.

I'm certainly not ready to make any wholesale changes at this point, but it's something I'm strongly considering going forward, and I'm keen to hear what playtesters think about the current system as well as the idea for Signature Skills...

If life is a game... I need new dice.
Quark said Mar 04, 2014 16:00:39
I, for one, really like that signature skill concept!!!
Looking foward to see that in the next beta :)
MattiasDavidsson said Mar 04, 2014 17:47:44
I suggest that if one does not have feedback on the system itself one should not take upon him/herself as to try and explain it unless you actually design it. There is to much fanboyism in just arguing against a concern someone has about the rules only for the sake of argue.

If everyone can, with experience, gain the same values in attributes as everyone else, then all characters will end up having the exact same score. Unless you can advance an attribute endlessly. Same goes for skills, given enough time and everyone can just use a single charactersheet and all players play that character.

To me, and my group, it felt like there was very little feel of advancement.
Azathoth said Mar 07, 2014 03:52:12
The signature skill concept is great. I like the idea of it being chosen by lifepath. That way instead of everyone having just combat signature skills you can have some interesting things like Sherlock Holmes level investigators and legendary con men.

On a related note, I was never a fan of the concept of lifepath being related to the character's starting age and hope that changes. I was always a fan of the old Mekton/Cyperpunk style lifepaths. I did like how the MC corporate books introduced different lifepaths for those characters though. I'm excited to see what this edition's lifepath is like.
KingYnnen said Mar 07, 2014 15:56:51
Sorry for being incommunicado for a bit. I'm hammering away at the core rules documents, integrating a number of updates an changes based on both playtester feedback and more internal development. In addition to clearing up some existing rules, particularly in the combat section, I am also working on GM information, character creation / lifepaths, and experience / character development.

The goal with character creation is to allow players to make several interesting and important decisions over the course of the creation process that will have a big impact on their character -- from affiliations and relationships to training, education, and socialization. Choosing some paths will shut down others or create tension, rifts, or reputations.

In a broad analogy, two people ask for help and you can only help one of them. Not only do you gain gratitude from the person you aid, you may gain the enmity and spite of the person you chose not to help.

If life is a game... I need new dice.
MattiasDavidsson said Mar 07, 2014 21:40:08
That is really good news! You have no idea how happy that make me reading that
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