Saturday, 21 December 2013

More What is Break!! and some stuff on Aptitudes

I suppose I should address a potential elephant in the room; Is Break!! a retroclone?

Yes and no? I mean, not really in the end. It's easy to appear as such. The game built on a chassis of my favorite version of a popular fantasy game. My taste certainly runs in that direction, and I do a lot of rule hacks on my other blog. But like many recent games (Old School Hack or Stars without Number, for example) it is a new game built on the principles demonstrated by those older ones.

Admittedly, there are man deliberate parallels to D&D. This is partially for a bit of comfortable familiarity, partially because it makes the games vaguely compatible with some legwork, and mainly because I like those things and I feel like they work well. I just took them and ran with them in a direction that works.

Anyway, I suppose I should go on and talk about the game itself. I'll get to the subject I mentioned in the title.

(I'm going to be a sneaky Pete and bold things that I'll talk about in later blog posts.)

Aptitudes are a measure of a PC's general competency in a broad area. They are generally dictated by a character's Class and Traits, with their Quirks and Species occasionally coming into play as well. They start fairly low and get to a more then respectable level as the character goes up in Rank. They generally come up in three instances;

  • Checks, which are when a character is actively attempting something related to the Aptitude where failure is dangerous or at least significant.
  • Saves, when a character must quickly react to save themselves from danger, or at least mitigate it a bit
  • Contests, where one character's strength or skill is pitted against another active force, such as a monster or NPC adversary.
Since I'm blogging and not writing in the actual game book here, I'm going to digress a bit and mention that Aptitudes are a combination of D&D's Ability scores and Saving throws. I liked the broad application of the former and the fact that the latter scaled along with the character, so I thought: "Why not combine them?". The categories kind of line up with the five original saving throws, but I've broadened their categories in hopes to make them a bit more usable in general play.

The five Aptitudes are Might, Deftness, Grit, Insight and Aura. I'll go into the specifics in the actual game document, but obviously some classes specialize in one and suffer in others. Its also important to note that each is important in the end. Sure, you can try to skew your Checks a certain way, but Saves and Contests of each type will come up one way another. I like this because it means you can have characters with an odd set of traits for their class (Such as a Fighter with a penalty to Might and a bonus to Aura) and have them be simply more distinct, as opposed to less effective overall.

As far as resolution mechanics go, Checks and Saves use a "roll under" mechanic that should be familiar to anyone who uses Ability Checks in old school D&D. Contests use a slightly different rule, but it's still relatively simple. My hope is that by keeping their use simple, the game moves at a brisk pace while retaining clarity of result.

Alright, I think that's a good length for a blog post. Don't want to bore all you kind people after all! Please feel free to field questions below; this blog is foremost a conversation between myself, Grey and all of you fine readers.


  1. I like the idea of negating stereotypical stat distribution for classes and avoiding dull min/maxing.
    Creating an interesting/quirky character should be rewarded, not punished, by the rules.

    1. Exactly. The bonuses and penalties attached to a trait are more about distinction than optimization - they won't cripple or exalt a character.

  2. Also, I like the idea of building on the essence of something rather than borrowing the final manifestation. That sort of superficial steal-ovation is what led to gazillions of sub-standard Mario clones. A shallow 'homage' was my biggest fear for Break!! but this post has put me at ease. I really want Break!! to be much more than a retroclone or house rule edition of the red box and it sounds like Rey does too.

    1. To further use video game analogies (of which I am fond) we are trying to make something akin to _Shovel Knight_ rather than _Megaman 9_

  3. Do we need checks, saves AND contests? Could this (should this) be simplified further?
    I get the separation semantically (and indeed it makes it fun to illustrate) but is it needed mechanically?

    What about *Test* your [insert aptitude] for checks AND saves (roll under or whatever)
    And a *Contest* or *Pit against* (roll higher than your opponent)

    Then you only have two mechanically different types. The drawback I guess is if want modifiers that only affect saves and not tests, and so the distinction is necessary.

    hmm... glad I'm just drawing the pictures :-)

    1. The main reason that Checks and Saves are categorized differently is because that way I can have various modifiers that only effect one or the other. I.E "Divine Protection" will make you better at resisting dark magic, but it doesn't make you a more inspiring leader or orator.

      They also work a bit differently in practice. Checks can get bonuses due to people helping you out, or if you take more time to do them, etc. Saves are a split second reaction, and are generally only modified before the fact.

      I was originally going to call them both "checks" and refer them to reaction and actions, but I think that was a bit more muddled.

      Still, these are thoughts worth revisiting later on.

  4. When characters roll/choose their key trait (their core or defining aptitude) they could unlock a few aptitude specific skills/boons.

    This would really make your characters key trait significant in mechanical terms. An 'Aura' Warrior (boon: just cause) could then provide strategic/tactical opportunities to an 'Insight' Warrior (boon: identify weak spot).

    Would this approach be better than giving EVERYONE access to ALL skill but just letting aptitude modify the success rate?